For the past decade, consulting firm Forrester has built a strong case around customer experience as being the channel to connect companies with buying behavior. Since 2007, their Customer Experience Index has helped raise CX awareness among thousands of companies throughout the world.
It is therefore understandable why recent comments from their chief research and product officer Cliff Condon raised more than a few eyebrows. Remarking on the 2018 CX Leadership results, Condon said: “...many companies don’t fully understand what matters most to their customers, but to achieve CX success, they must discover and focus on those drivers first.”
What?! Are you serious? Does this mean that a decade of unearthing and highlighting “best practices” throughout the business world has brought us back to square one — discovering what matters to customers?
In a word, yes.
The reality is that it has been two decades since Pine & Gilmore's The Experience Economy, and the entire CX dialogue has gone around in a circle. Perhaps the most telltale sign of this is Forrester’s June 2018 headline: “There Are No Clear CX Leaders Among US Brands—For the Third Year in A Row.”
Analyzing and electing CX Leaders, creating CX benchmarks and highlighting best practice has been fundamental to raising awareness about how important a CX strategy can be. But at some point, we need to focus on how to define and develop the experiences that will grow sales revenue at your company. Not at CX sweethearts like, Amazon, Southwest, Zappos or Starbucks.
So are we all just going around in circles “following the leaders” when we should be “following the money”?
Here's a quick experiment for you to try out this afternoon: Ask 5 people in different areas of your company this simple question:
“Why do our customers buy our product?”
It’s so basic it almost sounds like a trick question, but the idea is to find out what the very creators of your product believe is driving the demand for it.
I can guarantee that the answers to that simple question will be all over the place. Why? Because even within your own company, people have different ideas about what makes your product offering special.
The numerous aspects of your product offering strike chords in different ways and what resonates with one person is different than what resonates with another.
So, what is driving your customers to buy your product or service? Do you actually know?
You’d be surprised how difficult it is to have a real conversation internally about this topic inside of companies—and why it’s so hard to get to the bottom of what the most effective CX strategy is for your company.
The problem is that if CX is not in sync with your company’s overall business model—the one that customers understand—simply emulating best practices of the market can be misleading, or even dangerous.
Every company’s sales strategy is unique. Value propositions reach customers in different ways, even within the same sector. Customers like (and dislike) your products for reasons that are specific to your company.
As such, your company’s CX strategy must be its own, otherwise, you’ll run the risk of chasing sales revenue down the rabbit hole that was dug by another CX leader. It’s time to stop playing “follow the leader” and start playing “follow the money.”
The money that pays our salaries and keeps our companies healthy all comes from the same place—our customers, and virtually all our efforts are focused on increasing sales revenues.
Every person in your company is working toward the same goals: sell more to the same people; sell more to new and different markets; sell new products; charge more for products; make better products, etc.
But we have to understand why customers want to buy our products. After all, “money talks” is more than an old cliché. The decisions customers make with their money is the way our customers speak to us. We just need to decipher their language.
But do all customers speak the same language? Can we consistently dialogue with multiple personas, with varied backgrounds, cultural, religious and socio-economical differences in various locations?
Surveys are still the best way to hear the Voice of Customer, but imagine how monumental it would be to design a survey questionnaire that finds out why each unique customer buys in their own unique languages!
Luckily, technology can help us here.
Many companies are now deploying dynamic questionnaires that use Artificial Intelligence to feed customers new questions according to how they respond to previous ones. The company does not control the topic which is discussed, allowing the customer a unique opportunity to use their voice in their language to dialogue with the company; revealing what leads them to buy, re-buy or perhaps leave you for a better value proposition.
Raw, unbiased, open responses are now streaming in. Your customers are telling you why they buy from you, why they didn't re-subscribe to your service, or why they have their eye on an up and coming competitor.
Too much data? You bet! But the A.I. is doing the brunt work of separating the wheat from the chaff and serving you up all that piping hot data. You'll now have solid numbers to back up your intuitions and guide you to the best executive decisions.
Understanding which aspect of your business make you more "worth it" than your competition, finding what drives the buy, this is the kind of invaluable market intelligence you can access once you understand the language used by your customers.
Following the money means identifying the specific factors that drive consumers to choose your product.
So, if customers are the ones driving the sales revenue of your businesses, does it still make sense to copy what other companies are doing? Only when we start following the money can we begin to understand why our customers are buying our products.