This post is part of a series on the four components needed for a CX organization to be successful. An introduction to the concept can be found here, and look for briefs on the moving parts (VoC, Process Engineering, and CX Culture) coming soon. Here we’ll kick it off with a discussion about aligning your CX strategy with your overall corporate strategy.
CX practitioners, and especially more-so leaders, talk a lot about aligning CX strategy with overall corporate strategy. Sometimes, though, we think it’s just as easy as putting the Customers first, or centering “all” our decisions around the Customers’ experiences.
Well. I’ll only passingly mention the risk that we’re just saying those things (after all, they do sound catchy, don’t they?) and start from the presumption that we’re all honest and earnest when we say that we endeavor to truly value our Customers—that it’s not just something you say. (If, for what it’s worth, you or your organization are simply paying CX lip-service, it’ll be tough to make anything else in this sphere work properly.) But even if we’re sincere about it, what does it mean?
I once had a VP of Customer Support somewhat exasperatedly tell me, “Well, Z, we could just give each Customer a Ferrari and they’d be happy, no?” I said, “Well, at least now we’re negotiating!”
The point is, it’s not simply about building out a CX team, saying you’re Customer-focused, or even imploring all the folks in your organization (front-line or not!) to think first of the Customers or any of that. The way I see it, aligning your CX strategy with your corporate strategy is about ensuring that every experience your Customers have with your brand enhances your brand’s promise. It’s not about being all things to all people; it’s about matching up understandable expectations with reliable experiences.
Consider a luxury branded company. Whatever good or service they provide their Customers ought to be of the highest quality and lowest effort to acquire or use. Think pampering. That’s what a luxury brand means to its Customers. Are Customers willing to pay a bit more for this? In a word, sure. It’s not a license to gouge or be careless with cost, of course. And surely you’ll want to deliver the highest possible luxury at the lowest cost (to you and to your Customers) that’s reasonable. But someone who prefers a luxury brand is likely willing to pay more for it. Part of your brand promise comes with that understanding. Conversely, those who are just looking for the basic utility, or are even trying to save on a purchase or experience are not going to be in the market for a luxury brand in the first place. Match your Customers’ experiences at every step with that Brand Promise.
And speaking of that, consider on the other hand (of course, it’s a spectrum, but this is only for demonstrative purposes), the value or bargain brand. If your Brand Promise to Customers is that you’ll save them money on their purchases from you, they’re likely to expect that the quality of your product or the level of your service is going to be a bit less than that of your higher-end competitors. And they’re fine with that. Now, analogous to the luxury brand, there’s only so much quality you can sacrifice. Safety will always be a non-negotiable, and functionality as well: Just because you’re able to sell your widgets at $0.75 on the dollar, a savings of 25%, if they wear out, due to poor quality, twice as fast as your competitor’s widgets (because after all, you’re not a ‘quality’ brand), by a factor of 50% you’ve blown up your bargain brand! You have to have the long-game in mind.
So the goal isn’t to re-write your corporate strategy, more infused this time around with Customer-centricity in mind. Fortunately, your corporate strategy is probably quite Customer-focused in the first place…it probably references the value proposition and the esteem in which you hold your Customers as well as an aspiration for that esteem and trust to be reciprocated (as a result of having earned your Customers’ business). As such, the seed is already there for a Customer-centered strategy. But just because reference to your Customers already exists in your founding values and principles as an organization doesn’t mean you don’t have to revisit your approach from time to time. In fact, CX can be a good vehicle for this sort of introspection: read your mission and vision, your values, your founding principles…Then walk in your Customers’ shoes and ask yourself if those fundamentals are coming through. If not, maybe you do need a refresh or a reorientation.
The bottom line is this: true CX and corporate strategy alignment occurs when your organization’s Mission and Vision statements are lived out in the experiences your Customers have with your brand every time they encounter it. If every one of your Customers were to see those etched in the marble in your lobby or hear a (five words or less!) brand promise from your marketing department and honestly say that their experiences are what they’d expect from those words, then you’ve got it.
And it won’t even cost you a Ferrari for each of them. Unless, of course, that’s your brand!