Why are so many customer experience programs being suspended?

Mikhail Dubov is the co-founder and CEO of the Unified Customer Intelligence platform, chattermilla.

Investing in customer experience is irrefutable. Many stats, including 50 listed in a businesskinda.com article, prove this fact. Among these stats is one that shows that “companies that are leaders in customer experiences outperform laggards by nearly 80%.” The article also states that better customer service can help generate up to 5.7 times more revenue.

The importance of understanding customers and building businesses around customer experience is then crystal clear. And yet I see that in many organizations customer experience programs are being de-prioritised; in some cases they are suspended altogether. As baffling as this may be, there is a reason why this could happen, but I would say this is not a reason why leaders should accept it.

Companies flying blind when it comes to CX

Data from a recent McKinsey research of more than 260 customer experience (CX) leaders from US companies tells us a lot about why customer experience programs are not prioritized. In short, most CX programs don’t understand customer needs and the value of investing in customer experience. The four flaws the report finds categorize most companies as limited, reactive, ambiguous and unfocused in how they use CX.

At heart, leaders know that focusing on customer experience is the right thing to do for growth, as the research suggests. But if there is often no direct evidence within their organization to confirm this, there is no alignment around the customer and there is very little insight into the process. This makes it very easy for leaders to suspend distressed CX activities, especially as we collectively tighten our belts and evaluate budgets in our organizations.

So, what’s the solution? How can business leaders refocus their efforts on their customers and achieve better results?

Need for leaders to see their customer reality

Let’s take a closer look at McKinsey’s Future of CX data and how to solve some of the key challenges and get a better grip on your organization’s customer reality.

According to McKinsey, only 16% of leaders conclude that surveys empower them to address the root causes of performance. What does this tell us? We either can’t understand what customers are telling us in their survey feedback, or we collect so much survey data that it becomes nearly impossible to extract meaningful information from it. I think the key to solving this problem is to rethink how we handle customer feedback.

The number of tools used to collect feedback is increasing in most organizations. We are in a situation where we have many different products and millions of pieces of unstructured data. And it’s no wonder so many leaders can pull head or tail of their customer data when there are so many sources to analyze and not one single source of customer truth.

However, instead of rushing to cancel our plans for these technologies, I think it’s better to make the most of what you have (after all, most of these technologies are built to provide value in one form or another) and uniting them to create a single source of customer truth. Because if you can do this, you are much more likely to see the benefit of your CX investments.

Then there’s the matter of analyzing thousands, if not millions, of pieces of unstructured customer feedback. Unstructured feedback is difficult to process and analyze effectively. Every leader knows this. No team, no matter how large, can work their way through these levels of customer feedback without some help. That doesn’t mean you should collect less customer data. It means you need a better way to analyze it effectively.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is key here, and these tools can analyze your unstructured customer feedback data at a scale that humans, however talented, are capable of. As a result, with a high degree of accuracy, you can quickly analyze data and access real-time information based on what your customers tell you, highlighting critical CX gaps that need to be addressed throughout the customer journey, be it your products, experiences or logistics and business operations. Many tools are available for this.

Using these tools can help you duplicate what works and understand what ultimately drives customer retention and growth. This intelligence isn’t just helpful in making sure your CX programs succeed; it’s valuable business intelligence, period.

Ways to apply these ideas

• Businesses should ensure they have the technology in place so that they can listen to their customers through survey tools, public reviews, app store reviews, customer support tickets, social media, etc.

• Find ways to meaningfully analyze data through technology that can unify this data and perform the analysis at scale both accurately and quickly.

• While I believe AI platforms are the best solution, you may also be able to hire a team of analysts and taggers to do this work. Just understand that manually tagging customer feedback can cause bias.

If you want to be a company that leads the way in customer experience and outperforms others who lack customer experience, you need to invest in the tools and strategies that will help your CX programs succeed.

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