For anyone hoping to increase and improve customer engagement, the customer experience is pivotal. There's simply no way to create and benefit from meaningful engagement if consumers are disappointed by the quality of the company's CX offering. Most business leaders today recognize the importance of both customer engagement and CX, and so both have become priorities across just about every sector.
Here's the issue: Just because an organization has made CX a priority does not mean it does enough in that area. In many cases, all this translates to is an effort to monitor competitors' CX capabilities and keep pace with those developments.
That shouldn't be seen as making CX a priority - it's more like achieving the absolute baseline. To truly stand out and thrive, firms need to go one step further and get out ahead of their rivals' CX offerings.
If you're not sure about how big of an issue this is, consider the fact that a report from Gartner last year predicted "a customer experience battlefield" in 2016. The research firm surveyed a range of companies and found 89 percent believed that CX will prove to be the "primary basis for competition" this year.
The report went on to explain that hypercompetition has played a major role here, making it difficult or even impossible for companies to gain an advantage over their industry rivals in terms of either the quality or pricing of their products and services. Consequently, it's become harder than ever for businesses to develop effective brand loyalty among their customers through traditional strategies. Instead, firms need to offer a customer experience that stands out from their competitors.
A lot of companies are already moving in this direction. Gartner noted that two-thirds of surveyed firms expected to be industry leaders in terms of CX within five years, even though less than half saw themselves as leaders in this regard at the time of the study.
Plans Vs. Reality
Yet there is a big difference between striving to achieve a competitive advantage with CX and actually making those goals a reality.
A study from Forbes Insights and Oracle found that 88 percent of more than 400 executives believed they were making significant progress toward modernizing their customer support. At the same time, though, only 75 percent of their organizations enabled agents to effectively consolidate user data for consistent cross-channel service. Even more significantly, only 60 percent said they have managed to streamline support processes to lower customer effort and raise user satisfaction scores.
While those numbers aren't terrible by any means, they demonstrate that there is definitely a disconnect between firms claiming to make CX a top-level focus and taking action in this regard. This isn't really surprising - excellent CX is much easier in theory than in practice. But it's certainly critical to remember that these goals need to be paired with concrete steps.
Just as importantly, the fact remains that more than half of those executives surveyed here were indeed making positive gains in the realm of CX. That suggests that improvements in this area will be necessary just to keep pace, and more significant strides will likely prove essential for those companies looking to develop a genuine advantage.
One potential positive takeaway here is that the competition may not be quite as fierce as these surveys suggest. CustomerThink Corp. CEO Bob Thompson interviewed a number of CX thought leaders, asking them to react to Gartner's findings on the CX battleground. Most of these experts argued that Gartner's report identified an important and real trend, but that CX will not be such a powerful and exclusive differentiator as soon as this year.
"The reality is whilst they may be conscious of this, right now not enough of these businesses possess the competencies and capabilities to know how to do it!" Ian Golding, CX consultant and proponent, told Thompson.
That means there's still time for businesses to ramp up their CX capabilities and position themselves for a major competitive advantage going forward. Here are a few key ways for firms to position themselves to thrive in this area:
- Embrace analytics: It's impossible for a company to deliver optimized CX unless it first completely understands who its customers are and what they want. To that end, analytics is essential.
- Invest in training: Ultimately, a company's CX offering will depend heavily on the effectiveness of its agents are in this area. Training today can help prepare representatives to deliver optimized CX support in the near future.
How is your business getting ahead of the CX curve?