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Jimmy Chou (SingleStone) Posted by Jimmy Chou (SingleStone) April 27, 2015

Most Customer Experience Projects Will Fail.

Here's how yours can win.

Customer experience (CX) is all the rage. No surprise either as traditional sources of competitive advantage have disappeared. Product differentiation is short lived. Low cost, efficient manufacturing and distribution are givens. Information is free.

Meanwhile, customer expectations continue to rise due to unprecedented customer access, voice and power. A focus on customer experience is certainly a smart move, yet many organizations do it wrong.

3 typical mistakes made on customer experience projects

Corporate CX initiatives usually start with a broad, top down mandate to improve customer experience. A barrage of well-intentioned activity ensues across the organization. In short order, a portfolio of projects is planned across different functional areas.

Website redesigns, mobile apps, Web Content Management systems, customer listening, service delivery, call center technologies and countless other projects kick off. Great fanfare, enthusiastic announcements and launch celebrations are made. But what happens when these projects end?

We’ve seen 3 key points of failure with this project-driven customer experience approach:

  1. Lack of customer experience owner – The website, mobile app, or whatever the project, languishes without further improvements to the customer experience it was meant to drive. Each project has an owner, but no one owns the experience.
  2. Lack of an end-to-end view of the customer experience – The customer experience improvements actually end up detracting from the overall customer experience because the projects result in unforeseen downstream adverse impact. In other words, projects are run in silos, with little consideration of the whole end-to-end experience.
  3. Lack of CX vision – Eventually, additional projects kickstart another cycle of design and development but without building on the work of the prior project. Projects beget projects without a clear sense of the “why.” We can do better than this. But first we need to think about CX differently:

Customer experience is not a project. It’s your business.

The purpose of a business, at its most basic level, is to deliver value to the customer. Without customer value, there is no business.

Customer experience is how your customers perceive their relationship with you in each and all interactions throughout their customer lifecycle. Customer experience is your meta-product. It is your business. Not just a project.

When you shift your mindset from thinking about customer experience as a series of projects to one where customer experience is your business, a few key things become apparent:

  • There Is no finish line - You’re no longer executing on one project after another with start and end dates. Instead, you’re managing the time and resources necessary to build delightful and engaging experiences across a continuous spectrum of value-driven improvement opportunities. Your portfolio of unintegrated projects gets replaced with a comprehensive CX roadmap with milestones and a spirit of continuous learning and improvement.
  • The sum of the parts is greater than the whole - You start building a customer experience ecosystem that’s customized to your customers’ and business’ needs. When CX is your meta-product, you systematically align all the cross-organizational areas of your business to the customer journey. All your processes, technologies and people come together to deliver on an overarching customer experience, with special focus on those moments that matter most to your customer. When you decompose your business into parts that come together, it becomes easier to make investment decisions on specific areas that drive the most value.
  • Customer value is the true measure of success - Your definition of success inherently changes. Success in the project mindset is measured by the triple constraints of scope, budget and schedule. In this new world, success is measured by the value created for your customers and the corresponding value to your business. They are one and the same. 

A tale of two projects

To understand the difference between thinking about customer experience as your business vs. a project, let’s walk through a case study for a Web Content Management (WCM) implementation.

The two approaches yield two very different experiences and outcomes…

It’s easy to see which scenario drives the most long term value.

When customer experience is your meta-product, all decisions made about processes, technologies, interfaces and people are guided by what’s best for the customer and what’s best for the business. The two are directly connected.

There is no end to the CX product. It lives and thrives with continuous and iterative improvement. It is your business.

The most important factor to success? Take the first steps

Shifting to a CX business mindset is a transformational journey. It doesn’t happen overnight. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and fall right back into the project mindset you’re trying to get out of.  The thing to remember is:

“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.”

– Zig Ziglar

So start at the beginning.  Start small.  In fact, you can start right now with these 3 first steps:

  1. Talk to your customers…yes, actually get out there and talk to them!
    • What do your customers value about you?
    • What are their key needs?
    • What are some challenges they experience?
  2. Map the journey from your customer’s perspective and highlight the moments that matter.
    • How are you performing at those moments?
    • What processes, technologies and people influence these moments?
    • What are some quick wins to improve your performance at these moments?
    • How does this connect to our business results? Near term? Longer term?
  3. Fix it…and keep fixing it.
    • What cross-functional areas need to be involved to improve your performance?
    • How does what you’re working on influence or impact other moments that matter?
    • What’s next after you fix it?

What do you think?

Let’s continue the conversation in the comments below.

 Jimmy Chou is a principal with SingleStone, a consultancy specializing in the creation of end-to-end, people-focused customer experiences. He leads SingleStone's vertical focus on the financial services and insurance industry.