The World Changed and So Did the Importance of CX

Even before COVID smothered the planet, technology was transforming the business world, inspiring innovations in consumer and business interactions as well as generating entirely new business models. Then COVID hit and we entered a period of unprecedented upheaval from which we have yet to emerge. During this period, customer experience (CX) has become the lodestar for business, the means by which businesses align their purpose and practice with consumer wants and needs, and the means by which they maintain and grow stable relationships. CX strategy has become central to brand survival because while the world around us has changed dramatically, businesses that understand, anticipate, plan for and meet their customers’ needs will be better equipped to weather the storm.

CX measurement doesn’t lead to CX improvement…but it should

Customer surveys remain the mechanism through which businesses learn how well they meet customer expectations, so given the growing importance of CX it’s no surprise that in an October 23rd ENGINE’s Caravan survey of 1,000 US adults, more than half reported that they had received a CX survey within the last month by three different organizations, on average. The good news is that those asked for their opinion gave feedback on 2 out of 3 occasions. The bad news is that too often consumers felt that the surveys they took did not ask about the things that mattered most to them, and few expected much to change as a result of participating; a quarter felt that the surveys they took missed important aspects of their interaction with the brand in question while just 30% felt that completing the survey was time well spent, and only a fifth believed that the business concerned would act on the feedback they gave.

And to add insult to injury, over a third of survey takers reported that they had been coached by staff from the surveying brand on the survey answers they should provide, a number that rises to 50% among customers of auto dealers, and around 45% among customers of insurance companies and financial institutions.

Many organizations measure CX merely to check the box or maintain their data trend. While it is critically important to keep a pulse on your customer’s interaction with your brand, it is even more important to act on what you learn and to show those customers that your organization is committed to improving their experience. US consumers receive more surveys than ever before, organizations must ensure that customers feel it’s worthwhile when they invest the time to take a survey, otherwise the vital flow of insights will dry up.

The survey experience is meaningful to customers when:

  • The right questions are asked

  • Action is taken on what’s shared and

  • Customers hear and see that the organization listened

There is plainly a problem when just 30% of consumers feel that their survey experience was time well spent and a quarter feel that some important dimensions of their brand experience were missed. When survey questions fail to address the most important aspects of a customer’s experience, the most common reason is an incomplete understanding of the customer journey from consideration to purchase. Valuable CX insights are built on a foundation of rock-solid journey mapping, which is where ENGINE always starts our own journey with our CX client partners. That way we know from the start that our client’s CX program covers the things that matter most to their customers and determine the strength of their relationship with the brand.

Gaining good CX measures is a pre-requisite to action and action is the primary reason that any of us ever invest the time to share feedback – we expect that our voices will be collectively and individually heard and that appropriate action will follow, if necessary. Our CARAVAN survey revealed that this is also an area in which improvement is necessary; just a fifth of CX survey takers believed that the business they shared their opinion with will act on what they learn attention is needed, surely a statistic born of experience. While it’s plainly true that a business can never please everyone, it’s also true that most can make a meaningful impact on customer experiences if they choose to do so.

Improving CX is not an easy task. It takes cooperation across many if not all areas of an organization. But if you are in an organization that is committed friction free customer experiences, values customer feedback and takes action to deliver positive changes, then tell your customers. Issue a press release or better yet create a marketing campaign that highlights your organization’s improvement efforts. Customers who have remained loyal will eventually notice the changes organically, but proactive communication will likely improve attrition in the interim.

CX age does not guarantee CX maturity

Customer experience surveys were around in the 1970’s and 80’s, grew more common during the 1990’s and are now ubiquitous, as illustrated by the number of surveys our CARAVAN respondents received in the last month. But the experiences noted above clearly also illustrate that decades of experience doesn’t necessarily result in a mature, well rounded CX program. The challenge for any business intent on pursuing a customer centric strategy is to know which stage of CX maturity their efforts have reached, and where to focus in order that they move to the next level.

To provide that guidance, ENGINE codified the maturity of CX efforts across a range of industries identifying five CX maturity segments, which consider eight central elements of CX effectiveness, including corporate culture and structure as well as people and processes. At the entry stage, businesses in the “Awakening” segment have key team members lobbying for a greater customer focus and while occasional CX measures might happen, the importance of CX to the business is not yet fully appreciated or embraced. At the other end of the spectrum, in the “Designing” segment, organizations have committed to providing consistent CX, CX goals are formally recorded and communicated throughout the entire organization, the organization is committed to addressing underlying issues that negatively impact CX, hiring practices and subsequent employee training are directly connected to CX and channelled to deliver maximum positive impact on future customer experiences.

Crucially, mature CX businesses act on what customers tell them in ways that become apparent to every customer, something that only a third of US adults in the CARAVAN survey recognized from their own experiences. So, even though most businesses now recognize the importance of CX only a few have so far fully embraced it and experienced the benefits that it brings, and there are many – CX maturity is not just about making customers feel good; ENGINE also demonstrated a clear and strong link between CX maturity and financial results.

Delivering great customer experiences drives long-term business success and at a time when consumers are more empowered than ever before, it’s essential for every business to appreciate their unique position on the journey toward customer centricity and CX maturity. In fact, doing so is already long overdue.

ENGINE is ready to help you plot your organization’s unique path toward CX maturity. Take our complimentary assessment here. Your results will be delivered within minutes. 

Written by Andy Turton, SVP at ENGINE Insights.