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12 Golden Rules for Customer Experience Strategy Each and every company is, of course, different, but there are some essential ingredients that, if executed well, combine to create a level of service that customers will truly love.

By Steven van Belleghem

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For many years, I have been working with companies around the world to develop their customer experience (CX) strategies. Each and every company is, of course, different, but there are some essential ingredients that, if executed well, combine to create a level of service that customers will truly love. Here, I have tried to distill these strategies into 12 golden guidelines that any company can use when building their own vision for their customer experience.

1. 100 small projects One of the biggest mistakes organizations make is to develop one huge idea around customer experience. Quickly, this vision becomes so big and complex that it almost inevitably fails when it comes to the execution. In my experience, it is much better to make a list of many small improvements that they can make for customers. The execution of 100 small improvements will always trump one huge unwieldy project.

2. Intelligence, augmented Another basic truth of customer experience today is that it would be foolish to ignore technologies that can improve the level of human service. Take hotels, for example– you cannot expect reception staff to recognise every regular guest, but you absolutely can expect the hotel chain to have a system that provides staff with the customer history when they type in a guest name. I call it IA (intelligence augmented), and it's all about using simple technologies to make sure that your "humans' say the right thing at the right time.

3. Involve everyone in CX strategy Too often, there is a disconnect between the enthusiastic top management team and the rest of the organization. High level strategy must be translated into the context of every last employee, so everyone knows what their contribution will be. This gives a sense a purpose and a strong connection to your vision, but there is no shortcut to achieve this– you may literally have to convince all employees one by one.

4. Celebrate success It is sad to see companies who never seem happy with what they achieve for their customers. Of course, it is fantastic to be motivated to keep improving, but celebrating your small successes in improving your customer experience is vital to keep your team engaged with the journey.

5. Direct customer feedback for everyone Over the last year or so, it has been interesting to see how some soccer teams have played differently in empty stadiums. The reason is energy: soccer players are used to getting direct feedback from their customers, the fans. I believe we need the same approach in organizations. Every employee should be able to feel the "oohs" and the "ahs" from the customers directly. It will create urgency and a higher level of commitment towards the customer. When I spoke to former Head of Innovation and Creativity at Disney, Duncan Wardle, in my podcast conversation with him, he said: "I would advise to make it mandatory for everybody in your organization who's not in direct contact with the consumer to go spend a day per year in their living room." It seems extreme, but it's probably also the reason why Disney is so exceptional at CX.

6. Play the friction hunter game One of my favourites games to play in companies is to turn every employee into a friction hunter, and invite them to look for any type of irritation or unpleasantness in the customer journey. Then, you put a name next to each friction, and you give that person four weeks to solve it. When that time has passed, bring the team back together, discuss what worked, and what still needs improving. And you play that game again and again. It could just be something really small like changing a button on your website, but it helps create a culture where people are really focused on the details in the customer journey, and each small fix improves the overall quality for customers.

Related: Here's How (And Why) You Should Get Your Enterprise's Customer Experience Ready For The Post COVID-19 World

7. What would Joy do? One of my absolute favorite movies is Disney's Inside Out. It shows how the human brain works, with four negative emotions –Sadness, Anger, Disgust, and Fear– and just one positive basic emotion, Joy, who is the star of the movie. When you realise that 80% of the emotions in our minds are negative, it is easy to understand why customers complain so much! My challenge to you is to consciously let the positive emotions take the decisions in your next meeting. Rather than dwell on the 10% of customers abusing your returns policy, focus on the honest 90% whose experience you're harming for something they'd never do. Always put Joy in charge.

8. Always fix it If something goes wrong between you and your customer, it is easy to waste time looking for who made the mistake: an employee or the customer? Instead, just focus on one thing– fixing the problem as soon as you can, before Joy leaves the building! Obviously, it's always valuable to check later on what happened and how –without involving the customer– and then fix that process too, so it won't happen again. But remember: always fix it.

9. Don't have short term expectations This is a truly difficult one for many organizations, but the tyranny of the return on investment can derail customer experience projects when you don't see short-term results. You need to figure out a customer experience approach that has a long term vision as well as a short term one. It's like going to the gym– you might notice no results when you look in the mirror for the first couple of weeks, but that doesn't mean it isn't working!

10. Fast and fun I see a lot of organizations working on the fast and easy part of customer experience, but they forget the fun. People like to be entertained, to be wowed, to be surprised, so invest in that. Happy customers also make happy employees, and the cool thing is, it doesn't have to be a complex or big project to offer a bit of fun to customers.

11. Create emotional convenience Most companies have spent the last 10 years focused on creating transactional perfection and digital convenience. The problem is, this has just become the standard people expect today. The new challenge is to create what I call "emotional convenience." This means understanding customers' hopes, dreams, ambitions and fears, and trying to play an active role in that to and create more emotional value in their life.

12. Empower employees to choose for the customer If you really want your customer experience to stand out, your frontline staff must be empowered to take decisions in favour of the customer. They shouldn't have to ask a boss for permission to solve a problem– being able to fix issues quickly and efficiently on their own will make a tremendous impact on how your customers are treated, and the perception of the culture in your organization.

Related: Six Customer Experience Lessons You Can Learn From Netflix

Steven van Belleghem

Speaker and author

Steven van Belleghem is one of the world’s leading thought leaders, speakers and authors on customer engagement. His new book, The Offer You Can’t Refuse, is out now.
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