David Angelow, a colleague here in Austin, says “differentiating by experience is one of the most successful ways to create an advantage and put distance between your brand and that of your competitors.” A study by Forrester found that companies committed to customer experience (CX) have higher brand awareness, higher average order value, higher customer retention, higher return on spending, and higher customer satisfaction rates. So, when customer experience goes awry it can be extremely detrimental. In fact, Vision Critical estimates the overall impact of bad customer experiences in the United States alone is more than $537 billion per year.

Reveal the Root Cause
You need a process to find and stamp out the root of recurring customer experience problem.

It’s common for an organization to address customer experience failures as they occur. But what do you do when the issue persists and surfaces among a variety of customers? How do you escape the vicious cycle? You need a process to find and stamp out the root of the problem.

Pinpoint the Problems with Your Processes

A process known as 3X5Why that we used in my years at Motorola to address quality failures can also be applied to “breaks” in other areas, such as Marketing and Customer Service. The 3X5Why method is used to address non-conformance issues. To paraphrase supply chain expert John Casey, this is a method to identify causes and help you see issues that broadly affect the overall process. The benefit of this approach is that it changes your focus from reacting to individual issues, to fixing the processes that cause the break or failures.

The goal is to understand and tease out the root cause for three primary dimensions:

  • How did the problem occur? (“specific process break”)
  • How did the problem escape detection? (“detection failure”)
  • What occurred in the system that enabled the specific process break? (“system malfunction”)

For each of these three dimensions, sometimes referred to as “legs,” you employ a technique that repeats the question “Why?” As you ask “Why?” each time, you are creating a chain designed to lead you to the core reason for the problem.

For this approach to work, you need to keep the logic straight. One way to make sure the logic holds is to insert the word “therefore” into the chain. Starting with the last “Why?”– your fifth one – add the word “therefore” between each step (see the figure below). If the logic chain holds in reverse, then it is probably solid.

Ultimately your chain would look something like this:

Reveal Customer Experience Problems
Work the 3X5 Why Process in Both Directions to Identify the Root Cause of Persistent Customer Experience Issues

Make Customer Experiences Better With 3X5Why

One concern we hear frequently is that there is “low conversion” from demo to purchase. Let’s use this simple example to illustrate how you might apply this process to address a customer experience issue.

The first “Why?” focuses on the specific process break. You might frame this question as: “Why are the conversions from demo to purchase so low?” Perhaps the reason is that the demo is too generic.

The natural next “Why?” might be: “Why don’t generic demos work?” This leads us to the answer: “The customer wants to be able to use their own data to demo the product.”

Next up: “Why do customers need their own data for the demo?” Continue in this fashion, answering each “Why” until you have teased out the root cause, and then make sure the logic chain works in reverse.

Then, you can tackle the remaining two legs and see what issues bubble to the surface. Such as:

  • Because demos are pre-canned, customers struggle to apply the demo to their specific situation.
  • This problem escaped detection because the belief was that pre-made demos are acceptable, but this doesn’t accurately reflect the customer buying process.
  • The push to have customers demo the product – the primary measure for opportunity qualification – allowed the problem to persist.
Root Cause of Poor Customer Experience
Stamp out the root cause of recurring customer experience issues.

Once you map this out, you can address each issue and make the necessary changes. Breakpoints such as this one can occur anywhere along the customer journey – at the early stages of contact and consideration and in the later stages such as renewal and adopting the next iteration of the product or a new service.

It may be necessary to patch a break quickly to address a specific customer issue, such as changing out a product at no cost or providing free technical support. However, if a break continues to occur across multiple customers, then it is important to understand the root cause on all three dimensions to keep the problem from persisting.

This process takes some discipline, but positive customer experiences are critical to retain customers, grow the value of customers, and increase your rate of referrals.