Designing a Holistic Customer Experience Program.

Author:Batra, Madan M.

INTRODUCTION

Customer experience (CX) has become a hot topic of discussion in the corporate board room today. Since the mid-2000s, the topic has been appearing with increasing frequency in a variety of corporate discussions on business strategy, marketing strategy, customer service, and general business management (Batra 2016). As customers' expectations from interactions with businesses have been evolving at a rapid pace in today's dynamic era of consumer empowerment and digital disruption, a variety of modern CX programs have been created, and more programs are in the making. The blending of new strategic thoughts with digital technology advancements provides a tremendous opportunity for practitioners to capitalize on this emerging frontier of customer service excellence.

Customer centricity in organizations is not new. It has been an organizational focus for the last sixty years with periodic primary emphasis on its sub-dimensions, such as customer satisfaction, service quality, relationship marketing, customer life time value, customer delight, etc. However, the current emerging dimension of CX is much broader in scope, which has resulted from the recent advancements in digital technology and the resulting consumer empowerment. The technological advancements in the form of digital disruption have led to the creation of numerous innovative CX-related digital products (such as software-based customer journey map, text analytics, predictive analytics, prescriptive analytics, descriptive analytics, big data analytics, self-learning video analytics, true driver analysis, and consumer data mining) that are available through some popular digital vendors, such as MaritzCX, Forrester, and CXNetwork. Further, the omni-presence of social media and mobile platforms along with their easy and free-of-charge (or low-priced) accessibility to consumers have empowered the consumers, thereby raising their expectations from the corporations.

The rising expectations of the empowered consumers place pressures on organizations to continually evolve from the mere CX-tactical organizations to CX-focus organizations to CX-adaptive organizations. Accordingly, the evolving organizations need to consider the holistic CX programs for better CX-related performance in terms of customer attraction, customer acquisition, customer retention and customer loyalty, increased share of customer wallet, increased revenue, profitability, and business growth. The current paper discusses a holistic CX framework and design along with some implementation suggestions for such evolutionary organizations.

A HOLISTIC CX FRAMEWORK

What is CX? What is a holistic CX program? And, what different elements are included in a holistic CX framework? As stated earlier, customer centricity as a topic of discussion may not be new, however, its current form of customer experience (CX) has evolved from the customer centricity's different versions in the past. The earlier forms of corporate discussion for the last sixty years have been customer buying behavior process models, customer satisfaction and loyalty, service quality, relationship marketing, customer relationship management, customer centricity, and customer engagement. CX can be looked at as a much broader concept than its predecessors. In terms of academic research terminology, CX is a multidimensional construct that focuses on a customer's cognitive, emotional, behavioral, sensorial, and social responses (to a firm's offering) during the customer's entire purchase journey (Lemon &Verhoef, 2016). In other words, customer experience may be conceptualized as a "customer's journey" with a business firm over time during the customer's purchase cycle across multiple touch points. The total customer experience can also be conceptualized as a "dynamic process." This iterative and dynamic CX process flows from pre-purchase stage (need recognition, search of alternatives, consideration) to purchase stage (choice, ordering, payment) to post-purchase stage (consumption, usage, engagement, service requests). This process also incorporates past experiences (previous purchases) as well as the external influences (climate, economy, culture, unemployment). In each of the three purchase stages above, customers may experience numerous touch points, not all of which are typically under the business firm's control. Lemon and Verhoef (2016) suggest four categories of such customer touch points--brand-owned, customer-owned, partner-owned, and social/external/independent--that the customers might interact with in each stage of the customer experience. The brand-owned touch points are managed by the firm, and are under the firm's control (for example, media-related touch points such as advertising, websites, loyalty programs; and, marketing-mix related touch points such as attributes of product, price, packaging, service, salesforce). The partner-owned touch points are customer interactions during the customer experience that are jointly designed, managed, or controlled by the firm and one of its partners (for example, marketing research agencies, advertising agencies, multi-channel distribution partners, communication channel partners, and multi-vendor loyalty program partners). The customer-owned touch points are customer actions that are part of the overall customer experience, but that the firm or its partners do not influence or control (for example, numerous customer-generated and uploaded videos on YouTube, and the customer's choice of payment method). The social/external touch points include other customers' viewpoints and opinions, peer influences, third-party information sources, such as the TripAdvisor review site, and brand "likes" on social media. Depending upon the nature of the product/service, or the customer's own journey, the strength or importance of each touch point category may differ in each purchase stage. Firms need to ask the customers directly which touch points are important for the customers, rather than assuming what managers imagine to be important.

The above-stated CX journey analysis serves as a guide to examining the customer experiences over time during the customer's entire purchase cycle. This analysis guides the firm in understanding the effects of different touch points on the customer's experience. The analysis further helps the firm in understanding its performance in the area of customer experience in its totality.

In today's context of rapid digital advancement, a holistic comprehensive CX program utilizes the latest CX software platforms and the best research and consulting expertise available in the market. Apparently, a holistic CX program is much more than a mere CX tool used in an ad hoc fashion to gather CX data and feedback. It is not labeled as a holistic CX program if a company occasionally uses a customer survey to gather feedback and does not do much based upon the data gathered. Alternatively, gathering data from employees about customer feedback, and reporting it to selective people in the organization is also not a comprehensive holistic CX program. Numerous elements that ought to be included in a holistic CX program are identified and discussed below.

CX Program Vision

A holistic CX program has a clearly articulated vision. Illustratively, a CX program vision could emphasize that all internal stakeholders are joined together in ensuring continual in customer experience.

CX Program Goals

In a holistic CX program, a business firm needs to identify specific annual strategic objectives which should emphasize customer-centricity in its organizational goals. For example, "Improve customer experience so that fewer customers churn prematurely, resulting in increased revenue of 5 percent annually." Specifically, a firm may consider goals in each of the following areas:

* Customer experience-orientation--for example, improve the overall customer experience, improve an aspect of the customer experience, improve customer experience for a specific business unit or line of business, and/or respond to and alleviate negative customer experiences.

*...

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