According to the latest Customer Experience in Marketing Survey 2017: Greater Expectations, Greater Challenges, in two years 82 per cent of B2B CMOs expect to mostly or completely compete on the basis of CX, compared with 76 per cent for B2C marketers.

Meaning that competing on price and product or a combination of both is becoming much less important. This is big, really big, because creating great customer experiences will require tenacity, dedication, long term thinking, integration of data, collaboration and a cross company approach where everyone is involved. No. Mean. Feat.

I have spent much of my working career helping clients create, plan and evaluate customer strategies and most commonly how to increase sales and how to retain customers. Most discussions were about which prices to offer, which bundles to create or scrap, how much volume should be offered etc.

Of course some of the more forward thinking and service orientated companies were focusing on creating great experiences for their customers but many discussions were more around the user experience (around a product experience, the web experience or the customer services experience etc. in isolation) rather than the total CX as such. That said a large chunk of discussions are now focusing on creating great customer experiences (but product and price is still a very hot topic).

But what exactly is CX? Gartner defines customer experience as: “The customer’s perceptions and related feelings caused by the one-off and cumulative effect of interactions with a supplier’s employees, channels, systems or products.”

Or in other words it is all of those touch points that customers have with your company and your brand – from the beginning of their customer journey to the end. From pre-sales to sales to post-sales to interacting with the website, the digital experience, the customer services department and so on. And scarily, a recent survey from *PwC suggested that over 30 per cent of consumers stop interacting with a brand they love after one bad experience, yes your read it correctly, just ONE bad experience!

So where are you going to start? My esteemed colleague Ed Thompson talked about the 5 stage CX maturity model at the Gartner CX summit in London the other week. And it sums up the journey that companies take to become CX winners:

Level 1 (Initial): The focus on improving the customer experience is fragmented. Processes are ad hoc, disconnected and disorganised. There may be multiple individual advocates, but they have little awareness of each other, no formal strategy is in place, and there is limited acceptance of the importance of customer experience maturity across the organisation.

Level 2 (Developing): A voice of the customer function has been established, and a vice president of customer experience may have been appointed. An audit of existing activities has taken place. Gaps have been identified, requirements for improvements have been assessed, responsibilities have been assigned, and an implementation plan is in place.

Level 3 (Defined): A vision has been outlined and management buy-in secured. Goals, practices and performance metrics are fully defined. Processes are standardised, integrated, documented and implemented. Formal governance and a compliance model are in place.

Level 4 (Managed): A customer experience metric has reached parity with profitability in terms of importance for executives, and all employees are focused on its improvement as much as on profit. Customer experience improvement has been systematised.

Level 5 (Optimising): The culture of the organization has changed, so that employees do the right thing without being asked, given incentives or pressurised. Employees are empowered to take action and innovate. A culture of alert defense of an excellent customer experience has taken hold.

Thus the idea here is to move from the initial level which can be described as chaotic and into a more orderly view of CX but most importantly understanding that to be a true CX champion the focus should be, truly, on the customers and making sure that they have as seamless customer journey as possible.

Not focusing on CX isn’t an option especially as we said that 82 per cent of B2B CMOs believe they will be mostly or completely be competing on CX in two years’ time. The journey there is not likely to be a smooth one or for the sake of argument let’s use one of my favourite quotes from  Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) “It is going to be a bumpy ride!” so strap yourself in and get started!

*This article is reprinted from the Gartner Blog Network with permission. 

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