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Customer Experience Happens To You Not Because of You…But It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way

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Earlier this year, I was asked to write the foreword for a new book focused on experience marketing and CX. The opportunity appeared while I was in the throes of researching and writing my (not yet announced) book. As hard as it was to pull away from it, I must admit that it was a welcome distraction.

So, I stopped what I was doing and read the manuscript for Connect: How to Use Data and Experience Marketing to Create Lifetime Customers by Lars Birkholm Petersen, Ron Person, Christopher Nash.

As usual, the deal was that I would be allowed to publish the foreword upon the release of the book. And viola…here we go!

Customer Experience Happens To You Not Because of You

“You cannot create experience. You must undergo it.“ – Albert Camus

Many strategists realize that the world is only becoming more connected, not less. Yet many executives still wonder when all of this crazy texting, selfie-taking, snapchatting, lunch tweeting, shenanigans is going to finally fizzle out. I don’t know about you, but I’m already dusting off my rotary phone and digging out my floppy disk collection just in case we do decide to go backwards.

Not really.

You get it. I get it. Do we really need yet another pep rally to celebrate our like-minded perspectives and passion to bring about change. Yes. In fact, we need to really ourselves to march the importance of the changing customer right on up to the C-Suite to drive home the importance of customer-centricity for not only the benefit of people but also the future of our business as well as our place in the market.

See, customers in all of their connected glory are evolving with or without us. At the same time there’s a mind-boggling lack of urgency and a resulting scarcity to support, resources, and budget to understand and engage this rising connected customer.

Ladies and gentleman, we have ourselves a customer experience imperative. But before we go any further, I must press pause for a moment to share something stark yet commonsensical; technology isn’t the answer. That’s right. Even though we’re faced with radical changes in customer behaviors, expectations and preferences as a result of technology, to lead the next generation of customer experience does not begin with technology. It starts with people.

As such, the opportunity for customer experience requires elevated discussions where organizations assess current experiences against a vision for what they can and should be. For example, is today’s customer experience a byproduct of our brand promise? Do we deliver against our stated intentions and is that experience reinforced at every touch point?

Approaching customer experience in this fashion takes what is typically today a bottom-up approach and shifts decision-making to a top-down model. And we all know that true transformation comes from the top. The difference though is that implementing customer experience initiatives with both, top-down and bottom-up strategies sets the foundation of which customer-centricity can build and flourish. One is directional, the “North Star” if you will, where customer experience initiatives map against a vision for how brand promises are enlivened and reinforced before, during and after transactions. It sets the standard for investments in technology, engagement, insights and pilots. It also sets the standard to follow and benchmark to measure against for all those who are responsible for the experience, wherever and whenever it’s formed or affected.

The result is a brand promise that’s measured by the experience customers have and share. It ladders up the importance of customer experience transcending it from a functional role to that of an enterprise-wide philosophy.

Good intentions are just the beginning, but it’s not enough.

Let’s assume that businesses, for the most part, want to do the right thing. After all, they’re making increasing investments in CRM, social, mobile, digital, et al. With spending comes sincerity and intention, right? After all my years of advising executives and researching the evolution of markets, I can honestly say that executives seem to care. I can’t say that I’ve ever heard anything from executives indicating any intention of dethroning the customer as king.

I can’t imagine sitting in a boardroom and hearing leadership reveal a new direction of anti customer-centricity…”Team, we just don’t care about our customers. And to be honest, we could care less about their experience. We believe this to be a shorter, sweeter path to profitability and earn outs.”

Depending on which definition you align with, customer experience is often characterized by the perception a customer has after engaging with a company, brand, product or service.

If customer experience is a critical pillar to build relationships and business outcomes, why is it that we are still fighting the good fight? If so many executives agree that the future of business lies in customer experience, why are we spending this time together right now? What’s the point? The answer is that there’s a disconnect. The link between aspiration and intention is separated by vision and action.

To my surprise (well, not really), Oracle found in its research that only 37% of executives are actually beginning to move forward with a formal customer experience initiative. Considering that businesses race along with the speed and agility of a cinder block, I’m sure that even this initial group of leading businesses will not make significant progress to establish a competitive edge someday soon. But some companies will aggressively invest in CX and innovation in products, processes and services and that will set the stage for disruption.

Why?

The customer landscape is shifting. It always does. This time, however, the door to Digital Darwinism has been kicked off its hinges. Technology and society are evolving faster than the ability to adapt. Consumers are becoming more connected. As such, they’re more informed. With information comes empowerment. And with new found connectedness and power, customer expectations begin to shatter current sales, marketing, and support models.

Social, mobile, and real-time each contribute to a new reality for customer experiences and engagement. This isn’t news. In the previously referenced study, Oracle found that 81% of executives agree social media is critical for success, yet 35% don’t support social media for sales or service.

Businesses either adapt or die. Ignoring it hastens Digital Darwinism. Jumping in without understanding or intention is a moonshot without aiming for the moon.

This isn’t just a channel strategy.

This isn’t just a technology play.

This is a shift toward a new movement where customer experience now screams for us to “Create Experiences!”

Indeed, customer experience happens with or without you.

The customer experience imperative needs you to make the business case.

In your organization, people are talking about customer experience right now. But for some reason it’s just not a priority. Actions don’t reflect promises. In CX, you must create a sense of urgency to accelerate to match or outpace the speed of market transformation. Without doing so, a sense of urgency will be created from the outside-in.

It’s not just about the customers you have today; those who are not already your customers represent your future growth.

Connect is the ultimate tool to take advantage of the new marketing revolution, where the customer is in control.  You’ll learn to transform your customer’s experience, create lifetime connections with your customers, and jump ahead of your competitors.

When we take a new approach to engagement, customers feel the difference.

Nothing begins without you…and that is why you are the hero and this is your journey. The future of digital marketing and customer experience is in your hands. Feel it. Design it. Advance it.

If you don’t lead it, who will?

About Connect

Connect is the ultimate marketing guide to becoming more relevant, effective, and successful within the new marketplace. Written by a team of marketing experts serving Fortune 500 brands, this book outlines the massive paradigm shift currently taking place within the industry, and provides the insight and perspective marketers need to stay on board.

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