Last Fall I was invited to share my thoughts on what I felt was important to the future of associations, via a short video clip to be played at the first SURGE virtual conference. I shared how I thought that associations need to be intentional about implementing the core competencies of customer experience (CX). For the past several years, the for-profit world has been focused on improving CX. It has been viewed as one of the most important things any organization can do to drive value. CX goes well beyond making customers happy. CX leaders enjoy radically greater top-line revenue per year than their peers (plus, faster growth and better marketing results) by doing a better job of managing their customers’ experience.
CX leaders have figured out a secret - they recognize the importance of a consistent, integrated framework for understanding and managing customer experience. By following the framework cultivated by the many thought leaders in the CX industry, they consistently drive better results, including greater value for employees, customers, and shareholders. Today’s association leaders must do the same to build and embed core CX competencies across their ecosystem, if they hope to create experiences that deliver outcomes their audience wants to have again and again.
What is customer experience?
CX thought leader, Colin Shaw, defines CX as:
“The sum of all interactions between a customer and your organization. It’s a blend of the organization’s physical performance and the emotions that you create, all measured against customer expectations across all of your points of interaction.”
I love this definition as it speaks to the way I’ve thought about serving “customers” for the majority of my career. The phrase that speaks to me is “the emotions that you create”. Emotion, for me, is how I connect with others. Maybe it is because I’m a very emotional person (in a good way), but I feel that when you can genuinely connect others to your organization using emotions, you can design experiences that are memorable and build brand ambassadors.
Who owns the customer experience?
Organizations of any size can implement CX strategy as part of their framework. But, who owns the customer experience? Someone needs to be in charge of creating the strategy and implementing initiatives. Do you need to hire an internal Chief Experience Officer or bring in a third-party to help you with your CX initiatives? The one thing I stress to everyone I encounter when discussing CX is that every employee in your organization is part of the overall customer experience. Everyone contributes to the creation and design of the experience. If using the word customer feels odd, change it out for member, non-member, volunteer, or attendee. Personally, I like to use the words audience and/or stakeholder so that I look at everything I design from all perspectives.
What is one thing you can do right now to get started?
Whatever direction you decide to go in choosing who owns CX, one important thing to remember is that a consistent experience results in engaged stakeholders and builds brand ambassadors. In the meantime, when in the beginning stages of implementing CX strategy in your association, mapping the customer journey is extremely important. True customer journey mapping is a beast, but for now, think about some of the following scenarios.
Consider what that journey looks like for each one of your stakeholders. For example, when a non-member comes to your website ready to join your organization, is it easy to navigate? Can they join effortlessly and easily? How many steps do they need to take before they begin filling out the application? How about the member looking to volunteer with the organization? Can they find opportunities? Do they know what is expected of and from them in order to make an informed decision? How about the products and services you sell? Can a customer easily purchase something or register for an event? How easy is it for them to get a receipt or invoice? Is it easy to read? Does it contain the right information?
Once you can understand and experience what the journey looks like right now, you can begin to design a better experience for your customers that leaves them smiling, happy, and singing your praises.
Customer experience isn’t a trend, it is a discipline that should be learned and implemented. It is here to stay. Diane Magers, CCXP, CEO of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA) states it best, “CX is a way of life.”
The CXPA, founded in 2011, is the premier global non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement and cultivation of the Customer Experience profession. The CXPA supports the professional development of its members and advances the field by providing shared best practices and education, developing standards, offering networking opportunities, promoting the industry, and creating a better understanding of the discipline of Customer Experience.
Look out for part two of this series coming soon, in which Adrienne Bryant will discuss the relationship between CX and technology.
Adrienne will be speaking in the “The Future of Work” session during SURGE Optimism 2018, an interactive virtual conference hosted by AssociationSuccess.org on November 7th-9th. Click here to learn more and register.