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It is 7:30 in the morning at the Forrester Customer Experience conference in New York City and Kerry Bodine, her shoulder length brown hair bouncing to accentuate each new point, is enthusiastically explaining how the decrease in butterflies in Zion National Park is analogous to customer experience problems in companies around the world.
Even at this early hour, the analogy makes sense.
Kerry is pacing the front of the room, underlining her findings with a presentation filled with big pictures and few words while showing us how Sprint, Vanguard, Holiday Inn, Virgin Mobile, and the Mayo Clinic have all created significant ROI (In two cases, in the billions of dollars) by systemically addressing customer experience issues and the stories are absolutely fascinating! That, and her early morning enthusiasm, is totally infectious.
Facing the audience with arms held wide Kerry continues, “The development of Zion National Park in 1918 brought in a flock of visitors which, as an unintended consequence scared off the cougars, which led to an increase in the deer population, which ate the cottonwood trees, which caused the banks of the river to erode leaving large areas of gravel where wildflowers could not bloom and so the butterflies mostly disappeared.”
“In short…an unhealthy ecosystem.” She says animatedly pointing to the slide on the screen.
“This chain of events may seem obvious now but it took scientists decades to determine the root cause of the butterfly problem. That’s because natural ecosystems consist of complex interdependent relationships that change over time.” Kerry says and is pointing to a slide entitled, The Six Essential Customer Experience Disciplines, which are explained in detail in a new book by Kerry Bodine and Harley Manning entitled, Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business.
And here the butterflies turn into business.
“If you are trying to solve customer problems without understanding your customer experience ecosystem you might as well be air-dropping butterflies into Zion National Park. You are going to spend a whole lot of money and end up right where you started”.
“If you have customers, then you have a customer experience ecosystem!”
In an advance copy of Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business, it tells of how Megan Burns, Forrester’s lead analyst on customer experience maturity, uncovered six disciplines by reviewing Forrester’s customer experience research going back to 1998 and also studying programs at firms that got high marks in Forrester’s Customer Experience Index.
For those practitioners on the customer experience journey, it offers a way to organize everything they have to think about into manageable chunks.
Without giving too much away, here’s a high level overview. The book, of course, goes into much greater detail:
The Six Essential Customer Experience Disciplines
1 Strategy Practices
You’ll want to define a customer experience that describes the intended customer experience and also aligns with the overall company strategy and brand attributes.
2 Customer-Understanding Practices
This is where you get out from behind that desk of yours and find out what customers are really thinking about all the touchpoints with your company. Create surveys, conduct interviews, mine calls, email, and social media posts. Go talk to real customers.
Also, gather input from employees about their experiences with customers and their role in delivering the customer experience. You’ll want to start collecting allies across your organization.
3 Design Practices
Create a Customer Journey Map and identify all the touchpoints with your customers. Do not do this by silos or business units for two reasons, 1) your customers don’t think of you in this way and 2) because you will likely find that your problem areas are in the “white space” between silos…places where the dots are not connecting well in your organization.
Remember to co-create with your customers during this process of developing the customer experience ecosystem. Use iterative ideation, prototyping, and evaluation of the complex interdependencies and do it together. You are on the journey together.
4 Measurement Practices
Here you will want to define a customer experience quality framework that aligns with how customers judge an experience and then measure how customers perceive their experience. You will want to model the relationship between drivers of customer experience quality, perceptions, and business outcomes.
5 Governance Practices
Start here by defining a consistent set of customer experience standards across your company and, if possible, include alignment with the customer experience strategy as a criterion for evaluating project funding and prioritization decisions.
6 Culture Practices
You’ve heard this before but communicate, communicate, communicate. Talk to employees, customers, partners, and shareholders about the importance of customer experience. Use informal and formal reward structures to highlight successful customer-centric behavior.
Everyone in your company is on your customer experience team. Everyone.
So, What About Customer Experience?
Towards the end of the presentation Kerry leaned in, spread her hands on the table in front of her, looked up and declared, “Customer experience leads to profits…but only if you treat it as a business discipline.”
I knew from my experience in retail that this was true and I am looking forward to see how deeply companies embrace the customer experience work that needs to be done. We all know expectations are high. We all know the customer is in control. We all know there is work to be done.
But is this customer experience thing just a fad? Is it just the latest catch phrase in a game of business buzzword bingo?
Let me ask you this then, “Are your customers just a fad?”
Didn’t think so.