CX starts with people, however it requires a data-driven mindset and a corporate culture based on agility and collaboration. And, of course, leadership teams that live and breathe customer centricity.

Transparency, empathy, breaking down silos, leveraging every channel and tool to make the customer’s voice heard in every department of the company: These are the pillars of an effective CX strategy which can establish long-term relationships of trust, according to Michelle Batt, Customer Experience & Business Transformation Thought Leader, who has led multinational organizations in culture transformation and CX work. How can customer experience stop being treated as a project and become a “mode of being” for a brand?

2020 was a crazy year in many aspects. What is the one learning that brands should take note of regarding customer experience?

Brands must re-think, re-map, and re-design the customer experience, given the evolving needs and expectations of customers. Even once we “emerge” from the pandemic, things will not return completely to a pre-Covid state. This is necessary across all brands, industries, for profits, non-profits, etc. Customer expectations have shifted drastically over the last year and our response must also shift. In order to stay competitive and drive the best possible results, organizations need to go back to basics with the important practice of customer journey mapping. As a starting point, bring the leadership team together to discuss and align on a renewed vision and strategy for the business, key milestones and how you will measure success.

This can be done with no problem in a virtual environment (always better in person, but we have done this successfully utilizing a variety of online tools). Then, I urge all organizations to bring a cross-functional team together to collaborate and map (or re-map) the customer experience across the entire customer lifecycle. Bring voice of customer data and metrics, whatever you have, to help with both of these conversations. These types of exercises can be done as fast paced efforts, utilizing design thinking and agile approaches and tools (who has time for traditional meetings!). As a result, your people will feel more engaged, better understand the customer and they will together design solutions to sustain or rebuild the customer experience. Ultimately, you will be better prepared to decide on organizational priorities and investments for 2021.

During the panel discussion at the CX Summit Conference you stated that “CX needs to be engrained into the mind and the heart of all the people within the organization”. What are the main pillars of a strategy that can lead an organization to embrace this kind of culture?

This is so critical. CX is not just a project, it is a discipline, a way of working, a way of being. In terms of strategic pillars, I see this as a triangle or pyramid with people at the top (this includes all people, from leadership to the front-line to back-office support), voice of customer and other data/metrics and processes in the middle section, and systems/digital tools at the bottom (to help enable CX delivery).

Beyond these strategic pillars, in today’s environment, I also believe that in order to be successful in CX, leaders need to focus now more than ever on 3 strategic actions: engaging, sharing and collaborating. Engage not only the external customers but also internal customers and other stakeholders. Regularly share customer stories and data in meetings and communicate them across the organization. And, last but not least, bring employees from across the organization together regularly to collaborate on everything, from journey mapping to analyzing root cause and designing solutions for customers.

What is the role of leadership in this journey?

Leaders need to not only talk about CX being a priority for the organization but need to live and breathe it. This means ask questions about CX and the customer in meetings with their teams. It means doing and showing to the organization the importance of CX being in the center of strategy. It means ensuring CX success indicators are a part of the discussion and are woven into measurement and performance management processes.

Leaders have an even greater role now during the pandemic in helping to sustain and even rebuild employee and customer engagement. There are 3 key communication skills and emotional intelligence practices that are needed now more than ever before: clarity, transparency and empathy. I wrote about this in 2020 to share examples of what this means. Here is a link to my article. A great example of for us in utilizing these communication skills was Marriott International CEO Arne Sorenson’s March 2020 video message to customers and employees. He recently passed away so it’s especially important to honor him now and share his inspiring leadership.

Which are the most common mistakes that companies make when planning or executing their CX strategy? Are there ways to avoid or correct them?

One of the biggest mistakes I have seen is to analyze and take action on a business problem occurring in one area of the business without engaging a cross-functional team to drill down to the root cause of the problem and collaborate on a solution. An example of this is focusing on customer complaints from calls into your Customer Service area, reviewing the complaints with the service team and attempting to identify solutions. Addressing this and other problems in a bubble, or siloed approach, may improve some things but will not solve the problem. Most customer issues are related to challenges across the customer lifecycle.

A downstream problem is likely a result of a combination of challenges, including some upstream in the sales and marketing area. Bringing customer data and «problems” to a cross-functional team will not only help you root cause the issues and develop potential solutions, but will also drive greater employee engagement. I have seen some beautiful, magical things happen when we engage and collaborate.

Another potential mistake is focusing only on customer surveys and an NPS score. It has always made me crazy (actually angry!) to see brands asking the NPS question (Are you willing to recommend us…) first in a transactional survey. That is certainly not the most important question for a customer. And now especially during the pandemic, this is a ridiculous question, certainly to start with. There needs to be greater emphasis on a variety of listening methodologies to capture and understand the voice of customer. Let’s not forget our front-line employees are a very rich source of voice of customer (more cost effective too!).

In which ways can a data-driven mindset contribute to the human-centric culture of an organization?

Bringing customer and business data to the table makes our efforts tangible. Data and insights should be shared regularly across the organization to help engage people in our CX work. The best way to do this is with storytelling. Tell stories from the customer perspective, using real customers and insights from the data. Let leadership teams and all employees watch a customer video, listen to segments of an interview or a customer service call recording to help with this storytelling. Most important here is to use data as an “enabler” or a complement to our human intuition. Success in data science and data-driven CX is based on a combination of data analytics and human engagement. I discuss this in a recent article on Success in Data Science. We must remember that CX always starts with people.

According to your point of view, which is the most dynamic trend that will determine the next day in CX?

Obviously, data analytics, machine learning, AI and digital everything are shifting how organizations build strategies and operate day to day. We need to leverage all of these tactics and tools; however, it is important to remember that these are not the experience, they are simply the “enablers” of the experience we design and deliver. Again, I believe CX starts with people, and we need to keep that at the forefront of all of our strategies. As already mentioned, we need to engage, share and collaborate, and the “enablers” will help support our strategies to help our brands win in the marketplace.