Why has your Customer Experience (CX) become stagnant?

Here are 5 Reasons.

As a new year rolls around, many brands have been busy – for a while now – thinking about their 2018 goals and strategies. Sure enough, they completed these same processes and planning around the same time last year…and yet, in their latest CX results Forrester “revealed a CX leadership gap”.

We remembered writing about this problem towards the end of 2016, where brands were trying to improve their customer experience, yet were not seeing the return on their investment and efforts. Sadly, some of the reasons identified then are still rife today.

So it got us thinking the other day when discussing 2018 CX strategy with some of our clients – why are we here yet again? What other reasons exist? Why is it that they found that “twice as many brands sank as rose”, and, the “number of brands in the excellent category fell to zero”?

While we suspected why CX was becoming stagnant and organizations known as “leaders” are becoming harder to find, we posed this question to a few members of leadership at several different organizations and their responses validated our thoughts. Here are the top 5 reasons we found.

1. The first few “CX” steps were well known and easier to implement.
The fact is, once you spend some time understanding your users, your customers, and their journey, you are almost guaranteed to see some improvement as the insight brings an awareness and knowledge that you cannot help but use when you take action.

Some steps we saw many complete as they started a more focused CX strategy were:

  • Understanding their audience – whatever they called it, from profiles to segments, gaining an understanding of your audience and their needs will almost certainly help increase the level of insights and uncover some of their top pain points. This awareness alone, while having some positive impact, will be limited in value, as utilizing this insight to drive creation, in-moment customer service decisions, and other elements of Customer Experience is much tougher.
  • Mapping their customer journey – this activity became very popular, and much like
    audience insights, enabled the discovery of experience gaps and pitfalls, as well as
    creating more awareness and understanding. However, once completed, several
    organizations did not get maximum value from it – turning it into more of just a checkbox item in their strategy, instead of benefiting from the full power such a tool can provide.
  • Gathering data points – many organizations started collecting data using one of the
    many now available systems made for tracking multiple data points. However, again, the impact was limited. While organizations now had this data, the difficulty was in making sure they had the right data – both data that validly measures the elements directly impacting the experience, as well as data that enables convergence for innovation opportunities. Not to mention, having people and processes that enabled this data to be used in the right way at the right time.
  • Using technologies for faster responses – be that social, texting, or chat-bots, more
    organizations were looking at implementing these channels for customer support. While this may make interactions faster and show that they are embracing other channels, impact was still limited as many didn’t fully understand what adding these channels meant as part of an optimized (for business and customer experience) omni-channel support experience strategy.

2. Addressing some of the major pain points was the low hanging fruit.
Through some of the insights gathered in the activities above, some major patterns in
complaints were fixed, which of course leads to a jump in CX, however, moving past this stage can be tough.

Once you address the major issues, for example, your customers want a certain option and you provide it – there will always be more things they want. While listening to and addressing your customers thoughts is great – it can become a reactive cycle instead of proactive and purposefully responsive when done for too long. Granted if you were lagging you will need time to address the experience detractors, however, in parallel, organizations were not moving to a more proactive way of being.

True CX leaders have listening to and understanding the true needs of their customers already embedded into their process. This allows them to meet the needs in the right way – as opposed to always playing catch up.

While customer expectations may rise, staying on top of meeting the needs, making it easy, and making people feel positively are all keys that need to be naturally a part of the way the organization works – through all of an organization’s behaviors and actions.

3. There was a peak due to a certain action – but it was not sustainable.
Similar to the last point, working from a reactive nature can lead to responses that only satisfy for a brief moment, instead of finding a solution that leads to sustained happiness and loyalty. We see this in other areas too, such as Employee Experience, where an action is taken or a perk introduced to increase scores, “but over time the effect wears off and scores go back down. The more this cycle repeats itself…People begin to recognize the short-term fixes for what they are”.

These types of actions may be a “band-aid” or bring some temporary customer satisfaction that distracts them from the other issues with the experience they are having – however, it doesn’t fix the actual issue, so when it resurfaces or the momentary positive feeling wears off, those CX scores go back down.

4. To really lead in CX – it takes a mind-set and behaviors that are naturally in the very fabric of the organization.
Beyond the checkboxes and action plans, fundamentally it comes down to your way of thinking in every little part of the business – from employee experience, to processes, enablement, and leadership.

One thing is clear, when you interact with those companies and organizations that excel in creating experiences, you just simply know. You can feel it in their products, their way of being, their offices, their employees – everything just feels like they are an experience-focused company. This is a critical difference. It takes a company-wide focus on the customer to be able to make the right decisions at the right time, as every level and function is responsible for creating and delivering the right customer experience. Moreover, it takes employee enablement and empowerment to bring their very best selves to everything they do. True CX leaders understand the important role of their employees, and, understand that having employees genuinely connected to the brand and culture leads to individuals who are “motivated to deliver their best for the company and will also represent the company’s brand to the consumers”.

5. To unlock the real value of data you have to measure the right things.
We all know that metrics drive behaviors and actions. Unfortunately, while making a step forward and starting to measure customer experience, many still didn’t understand the different kinds of metrics or the ways to utilize the data involved as a part of a cohesive strategy. There is a difference between only trending one specific dimension of how a customer feels, and measuring the components and attributes that impact the customer experience.

Customer experience is large arena and the right metrics need to mirror the complexity of customer needs and business reality, so that businesses can understand and act. You need to understand what exactly impacts whether a customer will feel positively or negatively about their whole experience with you, and, at each moment.

In Summary
As Forrester says, “without real leaders, only four types of brand remain” – Languishers, Lapsers, Locksteppers, and Laggards….which L are you? While there are many questions to ask as you plan away, to not find yourself in the same place next year, or worse still, falling down the “L-Chain”, remember to consider a couple of things:

  • Do you have the right environment, behaviors, and mindsets coming together so that
    Experience Design is just the way you do things, or are you treating it as checkboxes?
  • Do you have a true understanding of what is needed by your audience? How you can make their life genuinely better, or are you in a process of “want-engineering”?
  • Are you in a reactive fix it mode and seeing temporary peaks, or are you in a more
    proactive mode?
  • Do you truly understand the components that impact the experience your employees, customers, and users, have? What evokes positive and negative emotions?
  • Do you genuinely care about your people? Their genuine passion, growth, and


Sarah Deane

Author: Sarah Deane

Sarah Deane is a passionate advocate for, and expert in, Experience Design. Sarah’s background includes positions that span the Experience Design domain from strategy to design, testing and delivery. She has worked on a variety of experiences such as software and applications, hardware, services, retail, CX and workplace design and is the Founder of effectUX

effectUX focuses on educating, enabling and empowering individuals and businesses to practice Experience Design thinking through a range of training, workshop and consulting services. They specialize in connecting the human element with technology and business practicality to optimize their clients’ Experience Ecosystems, in tangible and measurable ways.

Sarah holds a Masters in Engineering with a focus on Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence and published her first book on UX in September 2014. Written as a UX primer and a how-to for anyone looking to implement UX in their own industry, 4HourUX provides rapid insight into understanding, developing and applying UX strategically.

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