There is a difference between strategy and tactics when you’re trying to solve a business problem. Most people jump straight to tactics and implementation, because it is the concrete stuff, the stuff that we can start doing now. Too few business people step back and think about the larger strategy. However, strategy is essential to ensure that all your tactics are not a waste of time.
Customer Experience Strategy was the subject of a recent podcast. We determined that when it comes to strategy, organizations could benefit from the answers to the following questions:
- What is a Customer Experience strategy?
- How do you build one?
- How do you implement it?
- And why are they important?
There is an excellent metaphor in the late great Stephen Covey’s book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People about the difference between management and leadership. However, it also has implications for tactics and strategy. Let me explain.
Imagine that you are building a road through the forest. You are working out how to take the lumber down and haul it away. You are thinking about how to feed and hydrate your team. You are working through daylight schedules and sleeping arrangements.
Those are tactics that you are managing.
Now imagine a person gets a ladder, climbs up above the forest canopy, and looks around. They call down, “We are going in the wrong direction. We need to build the road this way instead.”
That is leadership coming up with a strategy.
At the beginning of the year, Forrester, an influential research and advisory firm, said that Customer Experience was “flatlining,” stagnating. Effectively the report said that the changes people have made over the past three years hadn’t had any effect.
Part of the reason for these results in Customer Experience is because people are building that road in the forest, chopping the wood down, and improving the efficiency of the machine. They are dealing with the day-to-day issues, but they haven’t set the direction of the road in a way that drives value.
The irony is, is that all of the effort that they put in is wasted or certainly not as efficient as they should be. However, setting the strategy and then chopping the wood down and improving the efficiency of the machine while moving in the right direction is.
So, How Do We Go about Defining a Strategy?
Most of the clients we begin working with in our global Customer Experience consultancy need some help developing strategy. They think they need tactical solutions, but they don’t. Most haven’t defined their strategy. In other words, they haven’t taken the trip up the ladder over the top of the canopy.
We help them by asking them to answer two key questions:
- What is the experience you want to deliver?
- What drives value for your organization?
What Is The Experience You Want to Deliver?
When I was Senior Vice President of Customer Experience at British Telecom (BT), my boss called me one day and said, “Colin, I’d like you to improve the Customer Experience and I’d like it to for the least amount of cost.”
I went back to my office and the first thing I thought was, “What’s a Customer Experience?” Mind you, this was 20 years ago before Customer Experience was a thing. The second thing I thought was, “What’s the experience that we’re trying to deliver?” It is still embarrassing to admit that I didn’t know even after all this time.
“No problem,” I thought, “I’ll ask the team.”
So, my team came in and I said, “Hi, guys. This is a bit embarrassing but I don’t know what the experience is that we’re trying to deliver. Could you tell me?”
So, then I asked around the organization. What I learned is that there were a lot of opinions but all of them were different. The problem was strategy had not been set.
I remember this story when I work with clients. At BT, we were so busy working on the day-to-day tactics but we hadn’t defined what those tactics were going to do. We were like the crew working to build a road in a forest, all work and no direction. To help clients avoid this situation, we start by having them answer this question first.
What Drives Value for Your Organization?
The second key question that comes into it, is what direction do you want to go? Obviously, businesses want to make more money, have more loyal customers, and improve their customer satisfaction scores and all those other ways we measure progress toward our goals. These are the value that all the tactics are meant to earn. That means that your strategy should include a way to drive these values.
Now, I know these questions sound obvious, but here’s the rub. In our experience as global Customer Experience consultants, most organizations don’t have the answer to those two questions.
A Homework Assignment for You
So, here’s something I would advise you to do. At a team meeting, ask people to write down the answers to the two questions. It is critical that they write them down individually. Then, put the answers on a flip chart.
My guess is that you will end up with 27 different responses. Why? You have 27 different answers because you have 27 different views. Furthermore, if it was an interdepartmental meeting, there will be different views based on the department where the person works.
It is essential to distill these 27 down to one that everyone agrees upon. It will help align tactics to move the strategy forward.
We Have the Answers, Now What?
One of the first things that you have to develop is what we call a Customer Experience Statement (CES). The CES is an articulation of the experience that you’re trying to deliver.
We worked with Maersk , the largest container shipping company in the world to develop a CES and a related Customer Experience Strategy. The result of the exercise was that Maersk wanted three things:
- They want their customers to trust them.
- They want customers to feel “cared for.”
- They want them to feel pleased.
So, next we did research on how to get Maersk there. We needed to know what emotions customers needed to feel to get that trusting relationship that make them feel cared for and pleased.
At Beyond Philosophy, we undertook research a few years back to determine which emotions drive and destroy value. We call it our Emotional Signature® research, which not only determines what emotions drive and destroy value for all organizations, but also shows you what emotional engagement you have presently with your customers. In some ways, it is the ladder that gets you to the top of the canopy in the forest.
The next phase is journey mapping using behavioral science. Now you design experiences to deliver the values in your CES. Perhaps more importantly, you can also start to measure it.
Don’t Forget the Training
One essential thing to remember in this process is that your front-line team needs training. You need to help them identify how a customer is feeling coming into the experience. You also want them to know how to manage that to the emotions you determined drive the most value for your organization.
Without specific training, you might have a lot of people with a lot of different tactics they are using because that’s what they think will help. In other words, you need to train people on how to identify how the customer’s feeling coming into the experience and how to make them feel like the way you want walking out of the experience.
Maersk undertook this entire process with us. The result was they improved their Net Promoter Score® by 40 points over a 30-month period that led to 10 percent increase in shipping volumes.
There are lots of ways that create a good Customer Experience or a pleasant Customer Experience. However, these experiences don’t necessarily increase trust or whether people feel cared for. These are very specific goals and high-level strategies.
Unless you know what the strategies are, you could “improve things,” but in ways that your customers don’t care that much about or at least that don’t increase value to the company.
Often, people get caught up in the day-to-day without taking the top level view of life. However, if you don’t take the time to climb the ladder and look around, you could end up wasting a lot of time and energy that gets you nowhere. To hear more about The Secret of Creating Effective CX Strategy in more detail, listen to the complete podcast here.
Hear the rest of the conversation on The Secret of Creating Effective CX Strategy on The Intuitive Customer Podcast. These informative podcasts are designed to expand on the psychological ideas behind understanding customer behavior. To listen in, please click here.
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Colin Shaw is the founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s leading Customer experience consultancy & training organizations. Colin is an international author of six bestselling books and an engaging keynote speaker.
Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter @ColinShaw_CX