In my previous blog, I discussed why customer experience is important and what the indicators are that your organization needs to transform itself and its customer experience. In this follow-up blog, I cover how an organization transforms to provide a better customer experience as well as lessons that we’ve learned from our consulting work.

Q: How does an organization begin to transform to provide a better customer experience?

A: Transforming customer experience requires a strategy — a vision for what an organization wants the experience to be and a plan to make it happen. Customer experience professionals whom Forrester surveyed identified the lack of a clear strategy as the biggest obstacle to customer experience success. To overcome this obstacle, Forrester recommends a three-phased approach.

In practice, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach for transforming customer experience. And it’s not just the customer experience that needs to change. Oftentimes, so does the organization itself. It depends on the current situation as well as the nature and scope of the transformation needed. For example, does an organization need to reinvent to compete and lead in a rapidly changing sector? Is it trying to escape commoditization and build the competencies to stay ahead of the pack? Or is the challenge to repair critical customer journeys and better orchestrate customer experience management across functions?

Regardless of what an organization needs to achieve with its transformation, the three phases of the transformation process remain the same:

  • Assess. Understand how customers perceive their interactions with your organization, what their key pain points are, and what their desired customer experience is. In addition to this data about the experience itself, you’ll want to assess your organization’s level of maturity in the critical competencies every organization needs to master to manage experiences and improvements in the future.
  • Envision. To set a strong vision for a loyalty-building experience, you’ll need to determine what the ideal experience looks like that addresses customers’ needs and wants. A compelling customer experience vision aligns with and reinforces an organization’s business strategy, brand promise, value proposition, and capabilities. The vision also serves to align groups across the organization to make it easier for them to work together.
  • Enact. To get from your current-state to your future-state vision, your organization will need a road map, including roles and responsibilities. You’ll also need to consider how to develop the necessary capabilities to deliver on the customer experience vision (such as customer data, analytics, and systems for personalization) — and determine the costs and benefits. Further considerations include how to build the competencies to put the customer at the center of decisions, design, and metrics. Transforming to become more customer-centric often requires culture change that improves customer empathy. Leadership and the appropriate cross-functional management structure will be needed to roll out the transformation road map as well as to coordinate ongoing management of customer experience.

Q: What are the key lessons learned?

A: They include the following:

  • Get an in-depth understanding of customers. Rich customer understanding is the foundation of any customer experience initiative, especially transformation. Example ways to get customer understanding include ethnography, analytics that predict which attributes and emotions will drive loyalty, and customers in a room who identify pain points and cocreate their ideal experience with the organization.
  • Get the right people onboard. No customer experience transformation will move forward without cross-functional participation and C-level support. When C-level support is lacking, a good starting point is to find and fix problems at the customer-journey level. But find-and-fix mode is fairly reactive. You’ll want to build the case, using proof points from successful early efforts, to move into a more proactive, transformation mode.
  • Define and align on a results-oriented plan.  Spending the time and resources upfront on planning and alignment will help your organization move much further, faster.
  • Validate the initial customer experience vision with customers. Then, iterate as needed.
  • Show employees their role in customer experience. Most employees want to support good customer experience. They’re just not sure how. Translate your high-level vision into a set of blueprints that everyone can understand and that articulate the employee behaviors that will bring the vision to life.
  • Measure what you want to manage. Connecting the dots between desired outcomes, desired customer perceptions, and operational metrics helps focus the entire organization on what matters most.

Transforming an organization to become more customer-centric isn’t easy, but organizations that deliver a poor or even average customer experience must act now — or risk falling further behind.

Want to learn more about the CX work we’re doing at Forrester?  Register to attend our upcoming CXDC Forum to hear new thought leadership and stories from industry leaders, and to connect with a Forrester team member to learn how we can help.