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2019, the Year CX Became More Tangible?

The goals of customer service organizations have stayed remarkably stable over the years. Practitioners are asked to meet a few operational key performance indicators (KPIs) such as service levels or average handle time (AHT) while lowering costs. When the issue of customer experience (CX) rose to the top of the corporate agenda a decade ago, they added a measure of customer satisfaction (CSAT) to the KPI roster. However, for most customer support departments, the need to improve CX didn’t bring an incremental investment budget or relief on the cost reduction front. However, what may look like a gloomy picture is changing.
Paying Lip Service to CX?
Let’s be clear, enterprises have been making investments to improve CX. Some companies like T-Mobile went as far as completely rethinking their customer service operations. Subscription businesses have all created customer success departments. For most enterprises, a CX focus starts with a cultural shift, often transformational. It involves company-wide change management, which is hard to put together and difficult to operationalize.
The Rise of Chief Customer Officers
Enterprises begin their CX journeys by assigning a leader to “own” the experience across departments and divisions. While they may give this role to the CMO or another C-level executive, many have created a dedicated chief customer officer (CCO) or a head of CX position. The role usually operates across the functions of the enterprise. A CCO is in charge of defining the CX strategy and driving company-wide programs, such as awareness and training. This executive is seldom tasked with operational responsibilities such as customer service and support.
CX Management Emerges
One of the first steps for these leaders has been to establish a consistent measurement of the experience across departments and touchpoints. Universal metrics such as Net Promoter Score (NPS) and Customer Effort Score (CES) have become popular. To dig into the experience gaps, enterprises have been implementing comprehensive voice of the customer (VoC) and survey programs. A new type of software, CX management, has emerged. It collects feedback from customers across all interactions in order to understand the root cause of issues, and then to prioritize and manage corrective actions across departments. SAP’s flamboyant Qualtrics purchase for $8 billion one year ago put the limelight on the category, which now includes over 90 providers.
Unifying through CRM
CX transformation is a daunting task. So companies are concentrating their efforts on specific customer journeys. Some banks, for example, prioritize new customer onboarding, including their initial steps to ensure they can make the most of what the institution has to offer. Focusing on customer journeys requires consolidating customer profiles and interactions across several departments. Enterprises have invested in CRM software, making it both the largest and the fastest-growing enterprise application software category. Capturing all the customer interactions has always been the Holy Grail of customer-centricity. While many would argue it is elusive, CRM can provide a solid system of records and reduce fragmentation. These investments came together with the digitization of back-end processes.
Change Ahead
I am now seeing CX triggering specific projects in the customer service and contact center space. What I mean by that is that experience is the primary objective of these projects, not one goal or an expected byproduct. Turning their attention to customer service is a logical next step for companies on the journey I described. But there is more to it. There is a better appreciation of how much consumer expectations for service have changed in the digital world. The yardstick is set across industries by companies like Amazon and Apple. New digital entrants are disrupting many industries with offers that are increasingly becoming experiences rather than products. Peleton doesn’t provide a high-end indoor bike but a workout experience. The same is happening in many other sectors such as fintech, insuretech, and healthtech.
CX Investments Coming Your Way?
These CX-driven projects are inducing several changes. First, they are flipping the traditional omnichannel model from supporting every channel as yet another touchpoint to guiding customers proactively to the right channels based on what they are trying to accomplish. Second, they place an emphasis on assembling comprehensive customer contexts, creating a movement similar to customer data platforms in the marketing space. Eventually, more enterprises are choosing a do-it-yourself approach with highly customizable software such as low-code, Amazon Connect or Twilio Flex contact center, or conversational AI platforms.
For many years, pundits, vendors, and service providers have touted the opportunity for customer service to evolve from being a cost center to become more strategic. It may very well be finally happening.
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This post is written on behalf of BCStrategies, an industry resource for enterprises, vendors, system integrators, and anyone interested in the growing business communications arena. A supplier of objective information on business communications, BCStrategies is supported by an alliance of leading communication industry advisors, analysts, and consultants who have worked in the various segments of the dynamic business communications market.