The corporate world is very excited about the promise of improving customer experience, with an eye toward creating better financial outcomes. A Gartner Study found that in 2016, 89% of companies planned to differentiate themselves primarily based on their customer experience. A noble aspiration certainly, though striking when you consider that many companies have very limited customer experience management programs in place. As such, it is unclear how these companies would determine how their customer experience measures up.

Let’s say you work at a company that wants to get beyond this hurdle and create a successful customer experience management program. It sounds simple enough—wouldn’t you simply call up a vendor who can design and field studies that provided your company with voice of the customer information? Yes, this is part of it. However, there is a large gap between successfully collecting customer data and operating an effective customer experience management program.

There are three key questions that an organization must answer for itself to launch a successful customer experience management program that will prosper for years to come. Answering these questions honesty will provide the organization with a sense of whether it is ready to make the large commitment that such a program entails. These questions center upon a company’s firm belief in the importance of its customer experience and the willingness to put resources behind this, a shared vision of what this customer experience should look like, and a commitment to using data for the express purpose of improving the customer experience.

Does Your Company Have the A Firm Belief in the Customer Experience and the Resources to Back it Up?

While most companies find it socially desirable to “talk the talk” of a belief in CX, this does not count as a firm belief. Many companies still function from a very operational perspective that takes limited account of the customer and that fails to fully comprehend the connection between the customer experience and successful financial outcomes.

As MaritzCX’s CXEvolution model makes clear, for a company to succeed on CX, the company needs a pervasive shared cultural belief throughout the organization that CX is a key organizational belief. Further, without resources both financial and human dedicated to this belief, a company’s best intentions and strongest beliefs about CX will fall flat. In short, a customer experience management program that is successful is going to take not only a strong belief in the importance of the customer experience but the resources to back it up. Thus, if a company determines that its belief in CX is not a strongly held value and is unwilling to invest in improving it, the chances for such a program’s success are limited.

Does Your Company have A Shared Sense of What the Customer Experience Should Look Like?

Another essential aspect of a successful customer experience management program is a shared belief in what the company’s approach to the customer experience should be. At MaritzCX, when we speak with clients and ask them what they want their customer experience to look like, many appear confused. This reaction is very useful, because it forces CX leaders at a company to reflect upon their company’s core beliefs about what their company is, what it seeks to accomplish, and how it wants to treat its customers.

While most feel they would like to treat their customers well, what that means is often different among leaders in a company. Further, many have not had the opportunity to think about what they would like the customer experience to look like. This is not an easy question to answer and involves bringing CX leadership together to reach a consensus.

In companies that start a customer experience management program that do not have a clear sense of what the customer experience should look like, there is often frustration that the best surveys and data analytics cannot overcome. The problem becomes more pronounced in situations where there are opposing factions in a company who have starkly different goals for the customer experience, who may work at cross purposes and create an environment where improving CX is nearly impossible.

Is Your Company Willing to Use Customer Experience Management Program Data to Make Positive Change on a Sustained Basis?

Along the way, many customer experience management programs either disappear entirely or become largely irrelevant. Though unfortunate, this fact is not surprising. The reality is that keeping a customer experience management program vital and useful is hard work.

Without continuous encouragement from the highest levels of an organization to use the data generated for making meaningful changes in the customer experience, members of an organization tend to become apathetic about survey results. It is essential that a customer experience management program have a strong leader or leadership team who serve as evangelists for the program. They need to report on program results regularly and take them seriously, and they must use the information to devise strategies that will make meaningful positive differences in the customer experiences that are visible and good for the bottom line. In short, they need to demonstrate why the program is successful and useful, and they must not stop doing so for any extended period.

Leadership must also insist that employees learn about a customer experience management program through training. As new employees come in, they need to be provided this training and also, as the program evolves, employees need to be kept abreast of changes. In the ideal case, every employee should know what he or she needs within their positions to make the desired customer experience come to life. This means that providing solid customer service become second nature to all employees and this enables the company to succeed in its CX goals.

Unfortunately, without this commitment to using CX data for positive change, and strong and consistent belief in the program at the highest levels, programs may end up having a relatively short shelf life.

A Strong Belief and Unifying Goal in CX Keep Customer Experience Management Programs Alive

When a company takes the plunge of putting a customer experience management program in place, the investment is typically dramatic in scale. It usually involves large investments in surveying, training, devising new CX strategies, etc. Companies typically go into a new program looking optimistically forward and confident that they will make their CX better than it currently is.

Unfortunately, all too often companies have not carefully considered the three topics we have just discussed and determined if they are ready to make such a deep commitment. Without a strong belief in the importance of customer experience and proper resourcing of a customer experience management program, such a program is doomed to fail. Further, without a unifying goal of what a company wants its customer experience to become, a program can become fragmented and inconsistent and fail to accomplish key goals. Finally, without strong leadership who insist upon the importance of a program and insist that all employees internalize its key tenets, and who can successfully demonstrate program efficacy, a program often ceases to be a dynamic force for positive CX change within an organization.

At MaritzCX when customer undertake the beginning of a new customer experience management program, we strongly encourage them to let us interview key members of the team who will lead the CX effort to obtain their thoughts on the issues we have discussed here. We find that doing so helps organizations to better understand the challenges they might face in creating, launching, and successfully running a program for a long time to come. Our experience suggests that by asking them to confront issues of belief, resourcing, thoughts about what the company’s CX experience should be, and their willingness to support a program on a strong and consistent basis, they gain great awareness of the challenges their organization faces in creating a successful program. This increases their odds of overcoming these obstacles. Unfortunately, without taking the time to delve into these issues, we have seen companies that have launched programs with the best intentions, only to see them fail.