Inside the CX Masterclass

Just the other day we held a virtual roundtable with CX rockstar Matt Watkinson. Matt is the best-selling author of The Grid and The 10 Principles Behind Great Customer Experiences. We called the event “The Leader’s Guide to Customer Experience”.

Among the delegates were organizations ranging from very large to comparatively small. Sectors included banking, telecoms, IT services, logistics, luxury goods, utilities, construction and software.

Here’s what happened:

First, everyone got introduced. And, despite the diversity, there were many shared challenges and objectives, such as:

  • How to balance customer priorities with business priorities
  • Correlating CX metrics with business outcomes
  • Pivoting CX resources quickly despite teams working remotely
  • Dealing with fewer physical touchpoints and a greater emphasis on digital, post-Covid
  • Giving different personas the best service despite each group having different needs
  • Developing reward and recognition programs for customer service excellence
  • Applying customer-centric metrics and tools for employee engagement
  • Maximizing response times and remedial actions while scaling up
  • Keeping the human element of CX in the context of accelerating digital transformation

Matt led the discussion by outlining core CX principles arising from his latest work with leading brands around the world. Much of this is summarised in his excellent “Leader’s Guide” paper you can read here.

Matt is currently busy writing his third book so it was a great opportunity to pick his brains and get a hot take on the latest issues impacting CX trends.

Our top 5 takeaways from the session were:

CX is a means, not an end

If your objective is to make CX ‘great’ then this probably isn’t going to be enough to enable tangible benefits. In fact, lots of CX programs aren’t delivering actual value because they weren’t designed to.

Matt picked up on the tendency for CX programs to fixate on customer retention and churn reduction. Do companies do this just because it feels right? Or because it’s identified as something that will drive growth in that business?

CX programs must measure things that correspond to a business goal and the specificity of the project. For example, increased uptake in a self-service channel in order to reduce cost of interaction. Or reduced contact centre enquiries that don’t result in orders, to increase conversion.

In terms of measuring ROI, it’s far better to have a goal like “let’s remove all errors from this kind of interaction” than “let’s make people happy”.

Avoid the satisfaction trap

Customer satisfaction is unquestionably important. At least, it’s worth measuring. Why? Because low satisfaction drives people away.

Lots of companies are relentlessly focused on driving up their CSAT/NPS metrics. In almost all cases they are driven by the assumption that this will magically translate into bottom-line benefits.

Matt encouraged some reflection on what satisfaction actually is; a perception of value and its relationship with expectation. Looking more closely, there are lots of things that impact on a customer’s satisfaction. The quality of customer interactions (typically what constitutes much of a CX program) is a small part. On that basis, it’s almost impossible to logically deduce that a CX team made the difference in CSAT metrics going up.

The upshot is that satisfaction doesn’t measure customer experience. Moreover, what drives satisfaction and what drives growth and often not the same.

The ‘trap’ happens when you’re left to justify why satisfaction is going up while revenue is going down. Matt cautioned businesses putting excessive focus on keeping existing customers happy. Especially when this is at the expense of attracting new customers with something new and different.

Make execution the strategy

Matt spends much of his time consulting with business leaders on CX strategy and implementation. He often discovers organizations where vast resources and timescales have been spent developing CX strategy with very little to show for it.

Delay is particularly problematic because, in CX, you are in a constant race against time amid rising expectations. The longer you take, the less value your programs generate.

Incremental approaches can yield better results, faster while stimulating innovation. By starting with delivery – even on just a small aspect that needs fixing – you can “show people you’re serious” and create a continuous improvement workstream. This in turn informs vision and strategy, builds a roadmap for generating delivery capabilities and leads to more ambitious projects.

Find your experiential signature

Debates about CX tend to be quite vague about what the ideal customer experience should look like for a specific brand.

This, warns Matt, undermines the potential to deliver ROI on CX because customers will simply not notice improvements or shift their perceptions.

Ideally, a brand will identify a specific quality that it wishes to accentuate. This can also be described as ‘living the brand’, where everything the organization does contributes to a consistent external perception.

The objective is to occupy a position in the customer’s mind that is associated with a distinctive emotion or recognisable feeling. For example, when a brand demonstrates an insane attention to detail, extreme trustworthiness or a reputation for giving customers complete control. It could be something as straightforward as the feeling of being relaxed.

All this helps customers recognize when improvements are made.

Manage expectations better

Setting the customer’s expectations hardly ever happens. This is a huge problem when it comes to affecting how customers perceive your business and the experience they get.

Matt explained what Leonard Berry calls “The Zone of Tolerance” within an imaginary framework for each customer’s expectations. Between what is considered ‘adequate’ and ‘ideal’ is a forgettable range of experiences. Therefore, shifting a customer’s perception of value (their experience) within that band is largely pointless. You should seek instead to bring those experiences below adequate into being forgettable, and make forgettable experiences memorable by being ‘more’ than ideal.

This all sounds rather daunting until you realise that most of the things that influence human memories are trivial and require almost no cost. The trick is to closely examine customer touchpoints, then optimize them with thoughtful touches that help customers create memory.

Matt used the example of a local barber he visited who cleaned his glasses before returning them: “I can remember nothing else of my haircut except that”. And another at the Beverly Hill Hotel where, at lunch, a waiter presented him with a napkin the same color as his trousers!

It was great to have Matt on board for this special event. We had amazing feedback from the masterclass participants and look forward to reading his new book when it comes out next year!

In the meantime, why not try Customer Thermometer – send yourself an example here…