The Future of CX According to Sue Duris

Howard Schulman

What will Customer Experience (CX) look like in 2019 and beyond? According to a noted CX industry expert, Sue Duris of M4 Communications, there is plenty of room for improvement. According to Sue, there is a high level of stagnation in the CX environment but she has lots of optimism and great ideas to shake off any CX slumber.

Grabbing the Low Hanging Fruit is the Easy Way Out

Each year, Forrester publishes its CX predictions report for the coming year. Duris finds last year’s report especially interesting because it said that they were seeing fallout in customer experience because companies were getting the low hanging fruit. In the context of CX, low hanging fruit means that companies are learning about customer centricity and why you need to put the customer at the center of your operation. The low-hanging fruit is making incremental shifts but not necessarily making CX investments to drive change.

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It doesn’t necessarily mean that the CX initiatives at those companies are mature and authentic. Duris hopes that corporate leaders —especially those in the C-suite—will fully flesh out their CX programs. Grabbing the low hanging fruit may be easy but not always fruitful in terms of customer loyalty and revenue.

Education Will Clarify the Whole CX Initiative

There is a need to talk about customer experience at the college level. When Sue was studying for her MBA, there was little coursework available on CX so there’s no foundation for those anxious to learn at the undergraduate or graduate level. For the most part, CX has been left out of the academic curriculum.

Companies are moving toward customer centricity and how it touches all other disciplines, so why isn’t CX being discussed at the university level? Students could become CX advocates in their professions, not only for the C-suite but also for fellow employees. There’s still a lot of confusion about what CX really is and a foundation gleaned in academia would really help with clarity.

CEOs Need to Supply Financial and Organization Support

According to Duris, there are C-suite members who understand the importance of CX and the need to make it a priority as they transition their companies from a product-centric mindset to a customer-centric one. Unfortunately, in spite of good intentions, they’re talking the talk but not walking the walk. A CEO may say that he/she is going to implement CX but won’t make the significant investment necessary. They want to do what they can for CX with what they have, and it just falls flat because they don’t really champion it. It’s difficult to get employees to buy in when there is no visible C-level support.

The CEO as CX Champion

This year’s Forrester report on CX notes that customer trust was at an all-time low and that, in turn, impacted customer loyalty. There are organizations that are participating in CX and designing strategy and executing on it. The problem, as Duris sees it, is CX immaturity. When there’s no mature program, you can’t align customer metrics with operational metrics to drive customer-desired outcomes.

CX programs need to be much more mature. They need to tie Voice of the Customer with customer journey mapping with the metrics to drive desired outcomes. Also what’s needed is technology. But companies need to know why they need it and how they’re going to use it. Forrester predicts that if company CX departments can’t make their CX programs more mature, there’s going to be a point where CEOs will say that they won’t wait for 2-3 years for results. It’s an interesting irony to have to present a mature CX initiative—now!

Knock Down Silos and Take Care of Customers

Duris believes that the best days for CX lie ahead but companies need to get smarter about how they implement and nurture it. Are CX employees and C-level execs understanding it or just think they understand it? For customers, the first step in the journey is awareness; the first touchpoint and moment of truth.

After awareness, you need to educate them so that they’ll take some type of action. It’s the same for the CEO. They may be aware of CX but what action are they taking beyond that? Are they committing and championing it within the business? If CX has any hope of surviving the C-suite must champion CX.

Again, education is an issue. Too many companies dump everything related to the customer into the CX bucket (customer service, learning and development, employee engagement, etc.) Also, everyone is in an instant gratification place in our society. CEOs compare their CX tactics to other companies and want to adopt their tactics in order to get a speedier result. But nothing happens overnight. There is a lot of work that goes into CX. It’s a journey. You start and you’re always improving.

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Another challenge to trying to work CX in a product-centric space is that it’s difficult because it sets up silos, just by its nature. Different groups in the business compete for the customer. There’s a lot of hoarding information and proprietary behavior with product centricity. With customer centricity; everybody aligns with one common goal. True CX eliminates the silos. CX should always be easy to use, frictionless and low effort. The effort of a customer is a key determining component to customer loyalty. The customer effort score is the best way to gauge customer loyalty.

Reducing that effort comes about when a company understands what a customer’s preferences are. Those are easily gleaned by the listening posts at key points along the journey. The goal for all companies should be to drive customer lifetime value with authentic advocacy and that can only occur when companies dig deep and find out all they can about a customer. Every act of better personalization and customer intimacy will ultimately help with reducing effort and improving long-term loyalty.

Sue DerisSue Duris is Director of Marketing and Customer Experience of M4 Communications, a Palo Alto, CA-based strategic marketing and customer experience consultancy that helps early and mid-stage startups, nonprofits and edtech firms build and grow their brands. She writes and speaks often on marketing and customer experience topics. Sue can also be found on Twitter at @SueDuris or #cxchat where she hosts regular chats on Customer Experience.

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