Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Top Zero Customer Experience Trends for 2018

I love the holidays, but I hate "trend season." You know, how every blogger, agency, and media site has to publish its forecast for the hot trends in marketing and business. I saw a headline today that promised the megatrends that would change your business in 2018. I've got news for you: If there is a "megatrend" that will impact your company within 12 months and you are not already aware and acting, it is already too late for you.

Of course, I get particularly frustrated with the breathless headlines promising sexy trends in customer experience (CX), my area of focus at Gartner. These sorts of articles typically fall into three different categories: The obvious (Frictionless experiences become more vital!), the optimistic (VR will change everything in 2018!), or the misguided (Snapchat is essential to your brand's CX!)

This year, I'd like you to ignore these articles. Why? One reason is that most of these essays are full of hot air, intended not to educate but to ignite a sense of FOMO and sell the writer's services. More importantly, chances are your company is not getting the basics of CX correct, and the focus on hot trends and tech only obscures your best opportunities to improve your brand's relationships with its customers. By all means, monitor how emerging technology (such as IoT, VR/AR, voice-activated devices, chatbots, and AI) is evolving, but do not lose sight that technology must serve your customers and their desired experiences, not vice versa.

To see the real hot trends (really just the good, basic building blocks of CX success), please continue reading on my Gartner blog. And if you're a client, you'll find links to relevant research notes that can help your 2018 planning.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

What is Customer Experience?

Photo by ANDRIK ↟ LANGFIELD ↟ PETRIDES on Unsplash
In the two years I've been at Gartner, I've had hundreds of calls and meetings with clients about customer experience (CX), and I am regularly struck with how misunderstood it remains. CX is a hot topic in business today, which is evident not just from the many articles and blog posts you see but because 61% of marketing leaders now report their companies have a CXO (Chief Experience Officer) or an equivalent role (although most do not report into the CMO).

I have shared Gartner's definition of CX in the past, but I think the issue is that so many people get lost in the tools, processes, and execution. I think a metaphor might help here: You can run for all sorts of different reasons, and how you plan and evaluate your running will depend on your purpose. If you are a sprinter you will plan, evaluate and execute your running effort differently than if you are a marathon runner than if you are merely running to improve your health or lose weight. In other words, everything--your gear, goals, metrics, and plan--is determined not by the running but your reason for doing so.

In the same manner, companies already do many (perhaps all) of the things often associated with CX. Your organization already has people dedicated to improving acquisition and awareness, to increasing sales, to responding to customer needs and to developing products, so why does it also need people dedicated to the discipline of CX? You cannot answer that question unless you first understand what customer experience really is and what it does. In other words, everything--your gear, goals, metrics, and plan--are determined not by the activities but your reason for doing so.

So, let's review that definition again, but this time, focus not on the process but on the why. Customer experience management is “the practice of designing and reacting to customer interactions to meet or exceed customer expectations and, thus, increase customer satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy.” Every part of that definition is important, but the most critical part is the reason why--to lift customer satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy.

Like the running, what defines CX is not the processes--since you can use personas, journey maps, voice of the customer data, and customer insight to achieve all sort of different business outcomes--but in what you wish to accomplish and how you intend to measure. If you are not investing in, focusing on, goaling, and measuring your effort against customer satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy, then you are not really doing CX.

To understand why you must focus on the customer before the experience and how being customer-first/company also drives long-term business results, please continue reading this blog post on Gartner.com.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

No, Every Employee Isn't a Marketer, Salesperson or Service Rep Edit article Published on August 22, 2017

I hate it when I see people say things like "Every employee is a sales person," "a marketer," or a "customer service rep." The intent may be to emphasize how every employee must be committed to customers and company goals, but organizations specialize into departments, teams, and roles for a good reason.

We do not need every employee doing every other employees' jobs. Instead, we need leaders who foster a smart organizational structure, set the right goals, and encourage strong customer focus. And we need engaged, empowered employees who bring deep expertise to their interactions with customers.

The problem with encouraging every employee to act like a marketer, salesperson or service rep is that it can force employees out of comfort zones and create a misalignment of metrics, rewards, and goals, all of which diminishes efficiency, increases risks and reduces business outcomes.

For example, what happens when every employee is a "sales person?" You get service reps who do not let people cancel their cable subscription because they are rewarded for something other than responding rapidly and comprehensively to customer needs. Or bank tellers who receive bonuses for opening accounts customers do not need, diminishing customer trust and brand reputation.

What happens when every employee becomes a "marketer"? Employees may take it upon themselves to represent the brand without authority, training or oversight, resulting in incorrect and disjointed messages. This raises risks, as employees cannot be expected to understand FTC rules around disclosure of material relationships, the legal subtleties between lawful and unlawful product claims, or the regulatory restrictions of marketing in some industries.

And what happens when every employee is a "customer service rep"? Employees, with the best of intentions, can take it upon themselves to answer customer questions in social media, resulting in incorrect or conflicting answers and creating confusion as to the appropriate channels in which customers can expect efficient and accurate support.

No, every employee is not a marketer, salesperson and service rep. Brands are strongest when each employee is held to the expectations of their unique role, delivering the specific outcomes expected. Of course, that does not mean that employees cannot be trained and even encouraged within carefully prescribed limits to assist and support sales, marketing or customer care, but that must be done prudently to ensure every employee is committed first and foremost to the deliverables of their role.

Marketers market, helping prospects become better informed about brands, products, and services that deliver necessary solutions and producing awareness, consideration, qualified leads and sometimes sales for the brand. Salespeople sell, assisting customers in higher-consideration verticals to make the right purchase decisions for their unique needs and delivering profitable customers that are prepped for long-term brand success. And customer service reps offer support, helping customers to use the product or service they purchased, resulting in customers who are satisfied and loyal. If marketers, salespeople and service reps do their jobs well, the result is a powerful, relationship-building experience for customers and profitable growth for brands.

In football, if all the players on the field believe they are the quarterback, then every play will be chaos and the team will lose. Help your employees to understand their role, reward them for the proper outcomes, foster high employee engagement and collaboration, and encourage a customer-first mentality, and your organization will move downfield efficiently and score more points.