By: James grieve

Summer 2018 Issue

Customer experience should represent the core value proposition and reflect the health and brand strength of an organization. It’s essential for a business to always focus on customers and consistently amaze them with experiences that exceed their expectations. In turn, they will respond with repeat business and loyalty.

Many of us learned at business school or in the workplace that return on investment is a key decision-making factor. While this is an important metric that considers critical success factors when utilizing resources to produce desired results, another factor can have costly consequences: inaction, or the cost of doing nothing.

As it relates to an organization’s customer experience initiatives, doing nothing can have profound long-term negative influences on both reputation and future business.

A culture of inaction and indecisiveness is a step backward, and the complacency of doing nothing leads to vulnerability. It leaves organizations blind to new opportunities to attract customers and grow the business. Organizations can find themselves left behind while more progressive competitors move ahead with new ways to differentiate themselves. A company’s reluctance to implement customer-focused strategies is directly linked to its failure to understand the economics of customer relationships and the potential value associated with consistently delighting customers.

Financial metrics such as product and service preferences, portion of budget, pricing, referrals, and relationship longevity enable organizations to make informed decisions that shape their long-term strategies.

Moving senior leadership to a new approach – often a heavy lift
The difficulty with convincing companies to change their strategy to refocus priorities on the customer is twofold. First, many feel there is no need to change an existing business model. They point to historic revenue growth, product awards, analyst reports, and sheer company size as evidence that they do not need to change to meet the needs of customers. They feel that declining revenue and increasing customer attrition is a sign of the times that affects entire industries.

Second, many organizations believe they are already running customer-centric enterprises. They point to customer satisfaction surveys that illustrate they have nothing to worry about. Regardless of what these organizations believe, failure to demonstrate care for customers with great experiences will open the door for those customers to be tempted by competitive offers and search for exciting alternatives.

Designing and deploying a customer experience strategy can no longer be considered as a 'nice to have', but should be viewed in the larger context of an organization’s long-term sustainability and overall success. Successful customer experience strategies should focus on delivering differentiated value to customers, increasing customer loyalty, and maximizing revenue. Failure to implement a customer experience strategy comes at a very high cost.

Those costs can manifest as potential additional revenue not realized, or as the loss of existing revenue streams. Managing customer experiences is part art and part science. Companies that do not offer superior customer experiences will not realize additional revenue from customers they might otherwise have received, had such experiences been delivered. Furthermore, these organizations stand to lose business from existing customers through attrition, price discounts and lower spending on activities designed to attract and retain customers.

Only by looking at a customer experience strategy through the lens of economics of relationships will organizations place customer experience strategy at the top of the corporate agenda, and with it, the highest sense of urgency. The inability to deploy customer experience strategies in a timely manner and communicate their importance throughout the organization puts the organization at risk of becoming redundant or irrelevant and ultimately stagnate its growth.

A strategy for C/X improvements starts with developing a framework for success
In my experience, one common theme separates successful companies from the rest: having a deliberate approach. Successful organizations do this because they think about the people at the receiving end of their decisions.

Their intent is to improve the lives of the people providing and receiving their services, and they do so consistently and purposefully. I often encounter clients that are trying to 'boil the ocean', a term describing organizations that go overboard by unnecessarily undertaking an impossible task or making a project difficult.

Here’s a simple three-phase customer experience framework that can help a company get started.

Phase 1: Understanding
The objective of this phase is to help organizations develop the right strategy to serve its customers effectively and consistently. This is where a consultant learns about the client’s organization, its people, suppliers, distributors, operations, organizational structure, processes, strategy, and customers. By listening to key stakeholders both inside and outside the organization, we learn what they do, how they work, and why they do what they do.

Phase 2: Exploring
The objective of this phase is to develop best practices and products to improve the overall customer experience. Armed with an understanding of a client’s capabilities, capacities, competencies, and its customers’ expectations, test innovative and sustainable ways to make them stand out from the competition. Constantly testing assumptions and iterating new ways of doing things with the end customer in mind reveals new business opportunities and guides decision-making.

Phase 3: Materializing
The objective of this phase is to help clients execute successfully, every time. Unlike other tactical approaches that improve departmental silos of functional areas of business such as marketing, operations, or customer service, customer experience takes a holistic view of the operation and executes strategy based on the findings of the Understanding and Exploring stages. Applying a well-researched, thoroughly tested strategy and complementing it with a disciplined emphasis on execution saves clients valuable time and money, and most importantly, consistently delights its customers.

Following this three-phase approach enables organizations to design and deliver customer experiences from the customers’ perspective. The benefits are vast because it consistently guides the direction for organizations’ customer experience efforts, improves decision-making, and drives accountability.

James Grieve is a Certified Management Consultant and Senior Business Advisor at Catalyst Strategies Consulting, a customer experience consulting firm in Kelowna that combines design, strategy and functional business expertise to create experiences that customers love. For over 20 years James' consulting career has been well balanced among: strategic planning, marketing strategy, project management, change management, B2B and B2C sales, customer experience design, and business development, with emphasis on building, nurturing, and sustaining client relationships.

He can be reached at