16 May 2014
Peter Bogaards
Peter Bogaards

Four guiding principles for CX excellence

Similar to operational, financial or strategic excellence, customer experience (CX) excellence is an organizational competence, capability or capacity. In the 21st century, organizations with a high degree of CX excellence are more successful than others. They focus not only on the needs, expectations and dreams of customers, they also tend to have high levels of employee engagement. The level of CX excellence can be determined for all kinds of organizations, both profit and not-for-profit. While CX excellence for commercial organizations may result in increased profit, growth and shareholder value, for government agencies it reduces costs, increases trust or builds on renewed connections with citizens. But what are the principles guiding organizations to CX excellence?

After reading Alain Stephan’s post outlining his four guiding principles for CX excellence to enable, engage, empower and educate customers and employees, we started to think about our own guiding principles.

Assess management and design decisions on their impact on customer experience

Making decisions in management and design implies selecting the best one from a range of options. All options may impact the customer experience, directly or indirectly. And sometimes decisions are made for financial reasons only; there’s nothing wrong with that. But in deciding what to do and what not to do, the impact on the experiences of customers must be clear, understood and agreed upon.

Every decision impacts the customer experience, positively or negatively. In some cases a negative impact on the CX has a positive impact on the business (or appears to do so). Triggers to make design decisions for products, services and communications can be technological, managerial or financial as these are important dimensions in leading an organization. Whatever happens in these dimensions influences the way customers experience the organization, the brand and its products and services.

Start service delivery and innovation by specifying excellent customer experiences

To deliver the best services possible implies a laser-sharp focus on the experiences of customers participating in the service. As products and service organizations like Apple, Virgin and Airbnb have proven, people are willing to pay for the experiential dimension and not just for size, price, or feature sets.

The experiential dimension of the products and services of these companies is connected with the cognitive, perceptual and emotional characteristics of people in the best possible ways. They show that organizations can achieve strategic business goals and set themselves apart from their competitors by delivering excellent customer experiences.

Easy to say, but difficult to make it happen in real life. A focus on customer experience is not a single project. It requires a shared understanding, commitment and mindset. CX excellence is also redefining the relationship between organizations and their employees and customers.

Innovation often implies new ways of ‘getting the job done’. Determining what this job is and posing fundamental questions of why things are as they are can be seeds of innovation. Increasingly, renewed answers are based upon emerging technologies and can deliver upon genuine human values, leading to products and services that were previously unimaginable. There are powerful examples of products and services as renewed answers which are transformative for people and markets, like Tesla, Intuit or Amazon.

Focus on structural, systematic and scalable ways to provide sustainable customer experiences

Processes, procedures and activities only contribute to better customer experiences when they are structural and systematic, instead of being ad-hoc and event-driven. Design and systems thinking need to be behind every action of an organization. Design thinking entails a holistic approach which is human-centered, focusses on the ecosystem of the organization and delivers new improvements for product and service experiences. Systems thinking provides a focus on all systems (not only information systems), contributing to the overall performance of the organization, including feedback loops. These loops are based upon observation, analytics and testing, and provide the necessary input to adjust organizational behavior.

Starting small and then extend is the kind of scalability necessary. Starting big and ambitious has proven to be a recipe for failure. Validate early and fail often is the motto. The movement of Agile design, delivery and deployment appears to be better suited for the kind of permanent change organizations are facing. With this focus on processes, organizations in general and their employees in particular can deliver the best customer experience in the long run.

Create a human-centric culture, for customers, employees and others

Human-centeredness is an important characteristic of organizations which deliver experiential value. With a focus on humans, organizations foster strong customer relationships based upon understanding their customers’ physical, psychological, and sociological characteristics. Empathy for people is the foundation of such a culture. This doesn’t exclude paying attention to and delivering upon business needs and objectives – it just sometimes means formulating these in a different way.

As we have described before there is a direct correlation between employee engagement and customer satisfaction. The more engaged an organization’s employees, the more satisfied customers they have and the more excellent customers experiences there are. Therefore, organizations need to pay attention to the well-being of their employees a.k.a. the employee experience. Requesting feedback internally, taking this feedback seriously and acting accordingly increases the engagement of employees significantly. So, it pays to focus on the employee experience as well. Give employees freedom to act. Employees need more independence, responsibilities and an environment for talent development.

These four principles to achieve customer experience excellence will help CX professionals at strategic, tactical and operational levels establishing a shared understanding, commitment and language. The principles will guide defining, implementing and adjusting a CX vision, strategy and foundation specific for every organization.

About the author

Peter Bogaards (a.k.a. @BogieZero) is the editor-in-chief of our blog BiRDS. Peter also works as a curator and coach at Informaat experience design. He has been an online content curator avant-la-lettre in various UX-related fields for almost three decades, choosing what he thinks is interesting, relevant or remarkable to share.

Customer experience (78), CX excellence (8), Employee experience (5)