Lots of things are critical to delivering a great customer experience (CX). For instance, do you really understand your customers or simply do a great job of segmenting them? Do you actively encourage employees to provide feedback and recommendations on CX issues? And do you consistently get back to them on actions taken as a result of their feedback?
The truth is, you need to excel at all these practices to deliver exceptional customer experience. But even if you do, it may still not be enough. Ultimately, you’ll only excel at CX if you’ve properly aligned your CX strategy with your overall company strategy.
Forrester recently surveyed 52 Australian and New Zealand businesses, and of those surveyed, 98% believe that their companies are committed to improving CX. But only one-third have a CX strategy that’s actually aligned with the overall company strategy. Forrester's clients can access the full report here. That gap, the one between the priorities of the company strategy and the priorities of the CX strategy, is the business equivalent of the Bermuda Triangle; not all ships that enter will find their way out.
Whether you call them consumers, businesses, patients, citizens, or something else entirely, winning, serving, and retaining those customers must be a primary goal. And how can you achieve that goal? Ensure your CX strategy is actually aligned with the organization’s strategy. If you are one of the almost 70% of companies that have not aligned their corporate and CX strategies, you are like that ship trying to navigate the Bermuda Triangle on a very dark night, without a compass or charts.
In 2014, TeliaSonera International Carrier (TSIC) engaged Forrester Consulting to help assess its activities around customer experience and build a road map for its burgeoning customer experience program. TSIC is an international provider of telecommunication services with headquarters in Stockholm and offices in 14 other countries. It has grown from being the largest IP network in Europe to one of the top two global carriers powered by the Internet backbone, as ranked by Internet performance analysts DYN.
I had a chance to sit down with Simon Dodsworth (SD), VP of voice and mobile; Rickard Bäcklin (RB), VP of brand and marketing; and Linda Bennet-Jansson (LBJ), CX manager, to discuss their relatively young customer experience (CX) program.
What is the mandate for the CX program at TSIC?
RB: It’s an important part of a longer journey. Back in 2011, we initiated a bold transformation project within TSIC. To redefine customer demands in the wholesale space, we looked beyond the internal club of network people, focusing on the future end users and the demands they would put on us in the carrier industry.
In 2007, I wrote a report about how to measure customer experience (CX) across an entire enterprise. At the time, I could find just three companies — three! — that were actually measuring CX this way. Everyone else I talked to said that their companies had no CX measurement or that they measured CX in a piecemeal way, touchpoint by touchpoint. They desperately wished that executives would see the value of measuring and managing CX at an enterprise level but admitted their leadership just wasn’t thinking that way yet.
Fast-forward to 2014 and things look a lot better in the world of CX. Leading companies in every country and every industry are making CX a strategic priority, investing millions to improve how customers perceive their interactions with the firm. It’s great to see, but I have to admit . . . I’m not willing to declare victory just yet.
My concern is that these improved customer experiences won’t stay good over the next five years. There remains a risk that this flurry of improvement projects will fade into memory, allowing dysfunctional CX practices and processes to revert back to their old ways.
To keep that from happening, companies need to do more than fix broken customer journeys or redesign average ones. They need to increase their level of CX maturity by creating self-sustaining systems (human and technological) in each of the six disciplines that characterize great CX companies — strategy, customer understanding, design, measurement, governance, and culture. But are they?
Earlier this year, I spoke with Kathleen Cattrall, interim chief experience officer at VCA Animal Hospitals about the company’s customer experience transformation efforts. VCA is a publicly traded company (fittingly, its NASDAQ ticker symbol is WOOF) that owns and operates more than 600 pet hospitals in the US and Canada. Its work to create more customer-centric hiring processes features in my latest report, "How To Hire And Onboard Customer-Centric Employees."
Kathleen and her colleague Aaron Frazier were gracious enough to answer a few more questions about their progress in building a more customer-centric culture and what they’ve learned about creating great pet-owner experiences. Here are some of their insights.
Q. How did VCA know it needed to improve customer experience? Was there a “burning platform,” or did someone senior at the organization decide it was time to make a change?
A. Art Antin, co-founder and COO, was the real visionary here. VCA was approaching its 25th anniversary, and Art was frustrated with clients visiting less frequently. Our customer retention rate was lower than VCA wanted to see. Complaints were escalating, and they all pointed to a poor customer experience. Art said, “We’ve spent 25 years becoming the leader in veterinary health services. We’ve accomplished more than any other company in that regard. We need to focus the next 25 months on improving our customers’ experiences with us.”