UPDATED 14:15 EST / NOVEMBER 19 2019

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CX leaders are crushing the competition — here’s how to be one of them

When inking routes through their digital-transformation maps, companies ought to ask: Where do they all lead? At least one end goal should be renovated customer experience. If digital-experience initiatives don’t ultimately help draw, gratify and hold customers, what are they good for? Probably not a lot — so why are many companies cooking DX on the front burner while customer experience sits in a deep freezer?

It isn’t lack of usable data or that reasonable improvements would devour labor or money, according to Annette Franz (pictured), founder and chief executive officer of CX Journey Inc. Many companies possess the raw means to begin CX investigations and foot them along to sound conclusions; but the last mile toward CX action is simply unpaved in many organizations, she added.

Anyone anywhere who buys stuff knows that companies have data about customers. In 2012, e-survey company Mindshare Technologies Inc. said that it conducts over 60 million surveys per year. Email, telephone, mobile application, in store — they’re doling out surveys wherever respondents may roam. “Every single company, every single business, interviews or surveys us to death. They have all this great feedback — but they do nothing with it,” Franz said.

Is this because customers don’t provide any information on which to act? No — they typically provide rich details about what they like and dislike. In fact, 87% of survey-takers would like a say in a company’s future offerings, according to a study from Vision Critical Communications Inc. “Customers want to tell them: ‘You’re doing this well, but, this is not going so well, so please fix it because we want to continue doing business with you,'” Franz said. 

What executives, marketers, and sales people in their right minds would put this data on the shelf? Many do so just because they lack the infrastructure and the top-down mandate to effectively act on it, according to Franz. “They don’t have the system in place to actually then take what they learned and go do something with it,” she said. 

Franz spoke with Jeff Frick (@JeffFrick), host of theCUBE, SiliconANGLE Media’s mobile livestreaming studio, during the Comcast CX Innovation Day event at the Comcast Silicon Valley Innovation Center in Sunnyvale, California. They discussed the importance of CX in business and why even digitally up-to-date companies fall short (see the full interview with transcript here). (* Disclosure below.)

This week, theCUBE spotlights CX Journey in our Startup of the Week feature.

DX’s experiential end game

Digital transformation is the integrating of digital technology into business to upgrade internal processes or the experience of customers. Constantly connected customers are one energetic driver of digital transformation. Their laptops, mobile phones, and tablets keep a kingdom of purchasing options and reviews at their fingertips. Brick-and-mortar stores may require a car trip and offer a biased sales person as the adviser to the shopper. Online buyers can read reviews from consumers just like them, pay for an item, and log off in minutes while sitting on their sofas.

People increasingly expect to interface with all kinds of businesses and organizations through digital mediums; this is why the experience offered through those media is becoming the top criterion by which they rate them. Indeed, 81% of companies who deliver customer-experience excellence outperform their competition, according to research from Peppers & Rogers Group.

This is reflected in the stock market. Customer-experience leaders generated a cumulative return almost three times greater than that of CX laggards, according to a recent study from Watermark Consulting. The study looked at the S&P 500 performance of companies from 2007 to 2017. “This study underscores not just the benefits of customer experience excellence, but also the risks of customer-experience mediocrity. Many companies excel at frustrating their customers, and what we’re seeing here is, eventually, they pay the price for that,” said Jon Picoult, founder and principal of Watermark.

These findings are making their way into the C-suites of digitally striving companies. Almost half of businesses cite improved CX as a key objective of their digital-transformation projects, according to PwC. How are they making out so far? Well, according to research from Qualtrics LLC, 60% of companies think they’re providing a good mobile experience; but just 22% of consumers agree. Which is to answer: not great.

People are the missing ingredient

These companies are floundering because they make poor use of customer feedback, and they’re stuck on traditional metrics, according to Franz. Her company CX Journey offers coaching, consulting and workshops on how to “put the ‘customer’ in customer experience and at the heart of business.” She advises clients to put people first — before metrics, product and even profits. This means getting inside customers’ minds, parsing their actual words and sentiments for direction. They have the data. What they need is commitment from the top — that means “having the CEO say: ‘Listen, we’re doing this, and when we listen to our customers, we’re going to act on what we hear,'” Franz said. 

Then, they need to take the customer data and feedback and lay some practical stones along that last mile to action. This requires a holistic, human thought process — not just staring at pie charts; it requires real-world elbow grease. Companies need to ask: Who is the customer? What is his or her problem? How do we whisk them to the solution with as little friction and as much gratification as possible?

The development of “customer personas” and “journey mapping” can get companies out of number crunching and into the visceral experience. Journey mapping allows companies to walk in the customer’s shoes — from login to logout, phone pickup to hangup, etc. — and ask: What could be better?

Do they have to blow them away at each and every touchpoint? Mercifully, they do not, according to Franz. “We don’t have to delight customers at every touchpoint. I know that’s counter to what a lot of people might say or think,” she said. “My thinking on that is that most businesses cannot delight at every touchpoint, and they certainly don’t. I think we need to meet expectations, and the only way that we can do that is to listen and to understand and then act on what we hear.”

High-yield CX’s low-hanging fruit

The frilly notion that CX must ceaselessly delight does not bode well for the many companies struggling to rate anywhere north of average. Through her consulting work at CX Journey, Franz meets executives that are just hobbling together CX rudiments. And she once had a boss who admitted that he couldn’t spell CX. Considering how “primitive” a lot of companies are at the basics — listening, quickly executing on feedback, etc. — some improvement across them would give them an appreciable boost, she said.

She offered a personal anecdote about a company with which she recently dealt to illustrate this point. “I was supposed to set up an account, and I couldn’t. I tried different browsers. It just wasn’t working. First I tried to call, but I got stuck in IVR hell, and then I sent an email. The email that I got back was an auto-responder that said, ‘We’ll reply within five business days’ — five business days,” Franz said, laughing.

Can your business guarantee a response within four business days? If it can, it already has these guys beat. 

Watch the complete video interview below, and be sure to check out more of SiliconANGLE’s and theCUBE’s coverage of the Comcast CX Innovation Day event. (* Disclosure: TheCUBE is a paid media partner for the Comcast CX Innovation Day event. Neither Comcast Corp., the sponsor of theCUBE’s event coverage, nor other sponsors have editorial control over content on theCUBE or SiliconANGLE.)

Photo: SiliconANGLE

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