Article

Kickstarting your customer experience program

A customer experience program is a systematic approach your business takes to improve the experience. Learn how to get started and kick it into high gear.

By Annette Franz, CCXP; founder + CEO, CX Journey Inc., @annettefranz

Published March 7, 2022
Last updated March 9, 2022

If you’re not yet focusing on the customer experience with your organization, it’s time to get started and kick it into high gear. Customer expectations are higher than ever and evolving. You’ve got to get ahead of that.

There are often challenges to getting a customer experience program off the ground in any organization, so let’s overcome those and get moving.

But first, what is a customer experience program?

In simplest of terms, a customer experience program is a systematic approach your business takes to improve the experience. It involves outlining the people, tools, data, and processes needed to implement your customer experience strategy. And it involves developing and executing that strategy.

It’s not a program per se. It’s a transformation. It’s about the way that you’ll do business going forward. The program is about your approach to successfully transforming the business and the customer experience. It’s about continuous improvement. A program often sounds like it’s one-and-done. Customer experience work is not. It’s a journey. It evolves as your customers, products, business, and industry evolves.

5 steps to starting an effective customer experience program

How and where do you begin? Here are five things you’ll need to do or have in place to get started. These are some of the foundational elements that you’ll need to put your best foot forward and set your customer experience program up for success.

1. Executive commitment and alignment

First and foremost, to ensure your customer experience program is successful, you’ll need both executive commitment and alignment. Leaders must commit to putting the customer at the heart of the business. That commitment comes not only in a verbal form but also in the form of resources—human, time, capital, etc.—to show employees that “we mean business.” And they must all be aligned; if only some executives across the organization are on board, you won’t get far, and the customer will have a disjointed experience.

Leaders must commit to putting the customer at the heart of the business.

You can start without all that, but then you’ll need to build the business case and get that commitment before you get too deep into your plans.

2. Current state assessment

I like to start with a current state assessment of the organization. This includes interviews with executives, employees, and customers. It also consists of a maturity assessment to identify major gaps and needs for a successful customer experience transformation. It’s a good way to understand the current situation:

  • Where do your stakeholders (executives) stand?
  • What’s the state of the culture today?
  • What’s going well or not with both employee and customer experiences?
  • What are potential technology needs going forward?

The interviews and assessment inform the program roadmap. They also help identify change readiness within the organization and inform your change management approach, including communicating your change vision.

3. Objectives and desired outcomes

Clearly outlined objectives, desired outcomes, and success metrics are also important to kickstarting your customer experience program. Why are you doing this? Why now? What are the desired outcomes—for employees, for customers, and for the business? How will you link the data and the work involved to those outcomes? And what does success look like? How will you track it, and how will you measure it?

4. CX vision

Next, you’ll need a clearly defined and articulated customer experience vision. Your customer experience vision is an inspirational and aspirational statement that outlines the future state of the customer experience. It briefly describes the experience you plan to deliver. And it serves as a guide to help choose future courses of action. It should align with your corporate vision. The idea is that this vision fuels innovation and reminds employees that there’s a human being on the other end of your CX strategy and transformation.

Also, keep in mind that customer feedback and insights inform the CX vision. It’s not your vision for the future experience; it’s based on what your customers are saying and expecting. Remember, this is all about the customer, so don’t forget to put the “customer” in customer experience.

Don’t forget to put the “customer” in customer experience.

5. Governance

Governance is about oversight and execution of the work that lies ahead. Without it, customer experience programs become siloed or stagnant. There are two parts to governance: the structure and the operating model.

The structure is all about the governing body and establishing policies and monitoring and enhancing the organization’s prosperity. This part covers both oversight and execution. It also drives accountability throughout the organization by creating committees and assigning specific tasks and responsibilities to those committees.

The operating model drives execution of the customer experience vision to strategy through:

  • Data democratization
  • Socializing and operationalizing insights to action
  • Prioritizing improvement initiatives
  • Developing new business processes
  • Defining success metrics
  • Outlining the decision-making process
  • Defining the communication plan

The two parts work together to ensure that the organization works toward a common cause, goal, and outcome. Governance bridges the gap between departments. It helps to break down and connect silos. It’s also the best source of that grassroots groundswell to get everyone involved.

Closing thoughts
Company culture is critical to ensuring customer experience transformation success. If your culture was not deliberately designed to be customer-centric, then this is where you need to get started. It will just make everything else easier. In order to do that, though, your CEO must be on board. And then you’ve got to have the core values in place (and socialized and operationalized) to make sure that the customer’s best interests are always at the heart of everything you do.