Annette Franz is Director, VOC Consulting at Confirmit, where she consults on Voice of the Constituent (VOC) and Customer Experience Management (CEM) best practices. Through her blog, CX Journey, Annette helps companies understand the importance of the employee experience and how it influences an exceptional customer experience. She is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP), is CEM Certified, and is a local networking lead for the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA). She was recently recognized as one of “The 100 Most Influential Tech Women on Twitter” by Business Insider and has been recognized by several organizations as a top influencer in Customer Experience.

What’s the best way for a company to get started with customer experience management?

The most important thing to have before you get started is CEO commitment. He or she is key to driving overall success. Cross-functional executives must also be on board. Customer experience management is an organization-wide discipline, not a departmental effort. If leadership across the organization is not committed and involved, the effort will surely fail. Customers want seamless multichannel and omnichannel experiences; therefore, customer experience management cannot be a siloed effort.

There are many ways to get executive buy-in. The quickest is for one department or one area of the business to listen, act, and show some quick wins. Showcase some of the benefits of focusing on the customer experience through real examples of improvements and outcomes. Demonstrate what it means to listen and act; show how efficiently and effectively improvements can be made as a result. The business benefits and outcomes will teach key executives about the impact on the business and entice them to migrate the efforts organization-wide.

If you've already got a rock-star executive team that gets the importance of focusing on the customer experience, you might just have to show them how to get started. In that case, listening and acting are the way to go. As a next step, you can fine-tune efforts through some detailed tasks: understanding who your customers are (personas), mapping their journeys as they try to achieve some task with your organization (journey maps), and understanding their experiences through expanded listening posts and big data.

What are some ways to provide excellent customer experiences within the realm of the CIO department?

The CIO’s role in delivering a great customer experience is becoming increasingly more prevalent as customers’ expectations rise and the tools and technologies that drive or facilitate those expectations advance. Customers are more informed and more empowered. They have the ability to transact with companies more without actually interacting with a human; with that comes even more data for companies to capture and use to create a better experience.

CIOs must be ready for that. Besides a focus on the data architecture, the infrastructure (systems, apps, processes, and people) must be in place to capture the data, to centralize it, and to get it to the right people at the right time in a format that makes sense and is actionable. That’s how you create a personalized/customized experience and facilitate the omnichannel experience. From a customer perspective, ensuring data privacy and security are also important CIO considerations.

This whole thing is a huge undertaking, but CIOs must work collaboratively with the core CX team—not alone or against them. CIOs need to be involved early, and often. Getting the data and the infrastructure right from the outset—and then working together as efforts and customer expectations evolve—will be key to success.

You’ve referenced the Steve Jobs quote, “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” How do you balance meeting customer needs—or what they think their needs are—with innovation?

Steve Jobs also said, “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology. You can’t start with the technology and try to figure out where you’re going to try to sell it, and I’ve made this mistake probably more than anybody else in this room.” So I think there’s a bit of a dichotomy here.

What he said really supports the need to understand your customers: who they are and what jobs they are trying to do. Design with the end in mind. As customers, we think we need this or we need that; but in the end, why do we have those needs? What are we really trying to do? Once we can answer that, once companies hear what it is that we are trying to achieve, then they can begin to design products—and yes, in some cases, products that we didn’t even know we needed. 

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