Stop Telling Your Employees to Own the Customer Experience

When everyone owns the customer experience, nobody owns the customer experience.

Several months ago, I was leading a session on the customer experience in the contact center and the question arose, “Who’s responsible for driving CX initiatives in an organization?” My answer at that time, based on ICMI’s own research findings, was that there is much ambiguity in an overwhelming majority of organizations when it comes to ownership of the customer experience.  For some, it’s owned by the contact center director, for others it’s marketing, and for a very small few, it’s driven by a dedicated “Chief Customer Officer”, or the like.  

Most often, customer experience is viewed as a shared responsibility, employees are told to “own their customers”, and the actual experience becomes incredibly fragmented throughout an organization. There is no vision, no guidance, and no authority when it comes to defining what customer experience “looks like” and ensuring that the right people, processes, and technologies are in place to support it.   This should not come as a surprise, as research from numerous firms has consistently shown that customers are not satisfied with the experience provided by most companies today.

So, what can be done about this?  More importantly, what can YOU do about this?  If you’re in the contact center, my expert opinion is that you’re THE ONE who can do the MOST about your organization’s CX.

I was recently invited to attend Forrester’s 2015 CXNYC which, as you can probably assume from the title, was a customer experience forum hosted by  Forrester in New York City. The main event lasted two days, with a series of presentations by Forrester analysts and executives from companies such as Dollar Shave Club, Birchbox, and Virgin Hotels.  One of the most interesting, yet perplexing, parts of the entire event for me was that practically every speaker (especially the keynotes) mentioned the critical role of the contact center in delivering a great CX and yet, there were no sessions specifically geared toward contact centers.

Even more enlightening were my conversations with individual executives who had not previously considered the contact center as a key source of insight and authority on the customer experience.  Despite this ignorance of what us contact center professionals have been saying for years, it’s evident to me that senior organizational leaders are finally realizing the greater value of the contact center.  What it seems that they have yet to realize, however, is that the contact center should be the one who owns the customer experience.  Here’s why:

Forrester revealed the key areas of the customer experience as Emotion, Advantage, Design, and Culture and there is just one place in the organization where they collide, the contact center.  ICMI has long stated that the contact center is the “Hub of Communication” and today they become the Hub of the Customer Experience, particularly as interactions become increasingly digital and the need for delivering a seamless omnichannel experience rises.

Let’s take a quick look at the contact center as it relates to each of these key CX areas.

CX+Emotion: The contact center interacts with thousands of customers on a regular basis and has the potential to gather insight on their needs and emotions across any channel, throughout virtually all points of their journey.  Effectively leveraging this data requires a formalized voice of the customer program, comprehensive survey program, and the processes in place to share information throughout the organization. The contact center is the closest touch point to the customer and it is their obligation to document and respond to their customer’s emotional landscape.

CX+Advantage: The customer experience can be a competitive advantage and driver of revenue when customer loyalty drives revenue.  In other words, if your customers are free to shift to a competitor (which, online commerce has spawned seemingly infinite choices), then the customer experience matters significantly.   The contact center is most often the delivery point of the customer experience, so for organizations with a potentially transient customer base, in particular, it is essential to have agents who are equipped with the knowledge, tools, and authority to deliver an excellent customer experience.

CX+Design: While the user experience (UX) may cross mediums and departments, the contact center is a focal point throughout the customer’s journey.  Effective journey mapping is accomplished by gathering key stakeholders (including customers) from throughout the organization and, while this part cannot happen successfully within the contact center alone, the contact center should lead the charge in developing a comprehensive journey map.  In addition, the tools, technologies, and capabilities required for gathering a 360-degree view of the customer experience and ensuring that it can be easily reported and acted upon must be part of the customer experience design.  Here again, the contact center should drive the partnerships with IT, finance, etc., to ensure that they are properly resourced.

CX+Culture: Customer experience success can only happen when its importance is recognized, adopted and modeled by all leaders at every level of the organization.  It’s the role of the leaders to educate, inspire, and enable their employees to embody the desired values and characteristics of customer experience excellence.  Where better than the contact center to be the breeding ground for this culture, as their close proximity to the customer and ability to change and adapt enables them to quickly test and respond to customer ideals.  While the contact center may have been initially designed to mitigate cost, today they exist to be the epicenter of customer insight, innovation, and inspiration. It is the contact center that holds the key to our future success as CX-centric organizations.

When the contact center owns the customer experience, it’s a win-win for the customer and the organization alike.  Organizations are able to maximize a highly efficient resource for robust insight, nimble adaptation, and direct customer impact, which customers are treated to highly trained, well equipped, aptly abled experts who know them better than they even know themselves.  And that, my friends, is the future of the customer experience.


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