While the curveball that was 2020 is behind us, many of us in the experience management (XM) space are still getting our arms around the magnitude of change in our programs as we rapidly adapted to meet evolving customer, patient, and employee behaviors and expectations.
I’m very proud to have been a part of the more than 30 industry-specific studies SMG conducted in 2020 to help our partner brands keep pace with their XM strategies. In reflecting on those findings, this much is clear: contactless experiences, self-service offerings, telehealth options, digital transformation efforts, health + safety practices, heightened service expectations, and a recommitment to employee engagement are all here to stay.
So where do we go from here to achieve continuous improvement? According to Forrester, the number of brands that improved the customer experience (CX) almost doubled in 2020 (to 27%), and they predict 25% of brands will achieve statistically significant advances in CX quality in 2021 (Predictions 2021: Trust, Safety, And Inclusion Will Be At The Core Of Customer Experience | October 2020). If the pandemic forced a renewed emphasis on employee and customer experience improvements, what do advancements look like moving forward?
We work with our brand partners to drive enterprise-level program maturity that inspires great experiences and produces stronger business outcomes. On the heels of experience improvements made in response to the pandemic, brands (and XM partners) that want to keep improving should consider the following experience management tenets.
1. Continue to transform your experience management programs
Feedback collection is so much more than surveys. Future-focused brands understand their customer and employee journeys and map solicited and unsolicited feedback collection to all touchpoints across those journeys. Brands should adopt innovative feedback solutions to create an ongoing dialogue with customers and employees—including conversational tools (SMS, social messaging in-app, chatbots, on-site tablets/kiosks) and behavioral/beacon technology.
Advancing your XM program’s tech capabilities will ensure you are able to feed all experience-related data into a unified platform—providing end-to-end reporting and insights to drive improvements across your entire enterprise. The most advanced platforms will integrate customer experience and employee experience data, breaking down data silos to understand the impact each experience has on the other.
Qualitative insights add context to scores and out-of-the-box quantitative data sets. Text analytics technologies will continue to be prioritized to harness unstructured data, but the best solutions will be intuitively driven by data science.
Finding ways to humanize your experience data will grow in importance as a result of the pandemic. Brands should pursue solutions that drive emotional understanding to increase customer-employee trust, especially as the desire for empathy remains pervasive. Layering speech, images, and video feedback on top of quantitative data is a great way to bring experiences to life and build internal stakeholder buy-in. You can also humanize feedback through social CX that leverages online ratings + reviews.
2. Prove the value of your experience management programs
In a recent report, Forrester found respondents at firms with advanced insights-driven capabilities experienced both top- and bottom-line benefits and were 2.8X more likely to report double-digit growth year-over-year (The Four Essential Steps To Transform Into An Insights-Drive Business | August 2020).
We know from The Service Profit Chain—a concept that was developed at Harvard Business School by a group including one of SMG’s founders, Len Schlesinger, and the principle our company was founded on—that engaged employees drive positive customer experiences and this results in improved financial performance. We work with our partner brands to ensure their XM programs drive holistic business goals—attracting new customers, increasing loyalty and sales, reducing churn, and improving operational efficiencies.
Fostering your XM program maturity will help you uncover the insights needed to connect experiences to real business outcomes. State-of-the-art programs have:
3. Create an enterprise-wide experience management culture
The ability to visualize and understand the full customer journey becomes more difficult as experiences happen across multiple channels and lines of business. This is exacerbated by brands managing customer experience in silos, with different departments running their own CX programs, preventing them from realizing a unified view of the full customer experience and developing a true voice of the customer. Further, most brands are not connecting their employee experience and customer experience data—this siloed data can contribute to employee experience programs losing traction as their connection to CX and financial outcomes is not made evident.
Company executives can eliminate these silos by bringing departments together with an enterprise experience management strategy that includes cross-functional operational alignment, a unified platform architecture that can easily scale to support all XM capabilities, and shared KPIs that drive the business forward. An enterprise XM strategy also improves your bottom line by reducing the complexity of your tech stack and services you are likely overpaying for today—not to mention the reduction of maintenance and change costs and slow IT response times that result from disparate systems administration.
How does your experience management program stack up?
We’ve learned a lot this past year, and it’s only made us more committed to understanding and improving the experiences of customers, patients, and employees. But it’s an ever-moving target. A truly effective experience management strategy enables brands to use real-time feedback to act with agility and embeds the voice of customers, patients, and employees across the enterprise. To change the way you do business, determine what your 2021 XM tenets will be and design a program that drives measurable outcomes for your business—and inspires experiences that change people’s lives.
SMG partners with brands to drive customer and employee insights that boost loyalty and improve business performance. We do this by supporting our clients’ specific hierarchies and ontologies, integrating new collection methods that align with evolving technology and consumer needs, investing in platform architecture that supports their business, and incorporating nearly 30 years of industry experience and research into their program. We believe it's why we were the only vendor to receive the highest possible score in the managed and professional services criterion in The Forrester Wave™: Customer Feedback Management Platforms, Q1 2020 and the reason we were named Vertical Specialist Leader in the Omdia Market Radar. You deserve an XM partner that will deliver the level of support you need to drive system-wide change. If you feel your current vendor may be falling short, let’s chat.
Stephanie Ayers | Chief Marketing Officer