There’s a tendency to frame CX problems or digital transformation challenges in strictly technical terms. Organisations have thrown vast amounts of money at technology to solve a problem. Most, if not all significant CX challenges, however, are behavioural and cultural rather than systems and technology.
Every CX problem is about addressing behaviour, according to Marty Nicholas, Business Consulting Partner at EY (formerly Ernst & Young), but it’s also about creating an experience that supports your brand promise, purpose, or growth ambition, “it’s helpful to remember that whenever you’re trying to improve the customer experience, you’ll have both challenges and opportunities. Whether it’s repairing a broken or disconnected experience, which is frustrating your customers; or you’re facing a CX opportunity to create a differentiated client experience around a certain solution, brand or product itself — at the heart of it all is behavioural change”.
“Fundamentally”, says Elisa Adams CEO of Sprout Strategy, “CX is about changing the behaviour of consumers as well as the behaviour of employees in a way that benefits the brand as well as the customer. It also entails aligning the entire organisation around a shared vision, embedding customer-centric thinking across every team and department, and adopting new ways of working”.
Embracing the right technology to enable the solution is important and will have its own issues, but it’s unlikely to be the fundamental problem you should be trying to solve.
The most common CX problems
The three most common CX problems that can arise, according to Nicholas, are:
- When organisations want to be more operationally customer-centric
- They have flawed or limited customer data, consent, or insights
- When they don’t have a clear omnichannel ambition, roadmap, and scaling plan.
Nicholas comments, “Organisations looking to take a more customer-centric approach need to shift away from commercial, product or policy driven market engagement, towards understanding how their customer behaves. This helps organisations to narrow down where the opportunity is to deliver an improved customer experience, which results in better commercial outcomes.
“We can see great examples of this everywhere. In the pharmaceutical space, you’ve got organisations trying to shift from being more branded-product centric to healthcare professional and patient-centric. In government, we can see a shift in being less policy anchored, to being more citizen experience-driven”.
Companies that succeed with their CX projects and digital transformations typically build a thorough understanding of the unmet customers’ needs. “If your data is flawed, limited, or you’re not using it to its fullest benefit your ability to understand. By focusing on customer journeys and on the moments that matter, organisations can better see the opportunity to deliver an improved customer experience, which also unlocks better commercial outcomes. That’s the joy of digital — you accumulate real-time data as customers are making decisions that you can track, measure and act on”.
“Lastly”, says Nicholas, “you need a clear vision for how omnichannel will scale your growth ambition. Without that, you’ll find it challenging to build a phased roadmap towards delivering a consistent customer experience across all channels”.
“When you overlay the commercial opportunity — as your maturity builds — you get a tremendously rich profile of customer interactions, which becomes incredibly valuable for your business. From here, you can create an engagement model based on actual customer behaviour that captures and learns from all the nuanced channel, content, offer and product preferences of each individual”.
Understanding consumer behaviour and customers’ unmet needs
If CX is so much about changing behaviour then understanding what drives behaviour and how to influence it becomes critical. Behavioural science and economics are increasingly being used by organisations to better understand the behaviour and thought processes of consumers. This understanding is then used to map customer journeys and design experiences that aim to influence the perceptions and purchasing behaviour of customers.
“Unfortunately”, as Adams highlights, “relatively few organisations have successfully incorporated behaviour science into their CX strategy and fewer have been able to make the insights they have gathered, operational”.
“Most VoC (Voice of Customer) programs are very good at understanding customer sentiment towards the brand and what they thought of their past experiences. But they fail to reveal the emotions that drive consumer behaviour nor discover their unmet or future needs. The problem with most surveys and research is that there’s a huge gap between what people say they’ll do and what they actually do.”
To reveal and fulfil customers’ needs, Adams advises that you need to focus on what behaviour you want to influence and why. The ‘why’ derives from the overall vision and objectives of the business. She adds, “Then you need to work out how you’re going to influence and change that behaviour. By setting goals that are more about behaviour change rather than improving customer satisfaction, your CX project is more likely to be successful and have a meaningful impact that adds value”.
A significant challenge to understanding and influencing customer behaviour is that we’re in a period where that behaviour is constantly being redefined by numerous social, political, environmental and emotional factors. Nicholas comments, “Organisations need to be clear on who their target customers are and what they value. For right now, we’re arguably living amidst the greatest period of shifts in customer engagement and channel dynamics.”
What determines our behaviour as consumers?
In today’s society most of us face an overwhelming array of decisions, particularly when it comes to which products and services we buy. Adams says, “We have neither the bandwidth nor mental capacity to assess each option or feature in great detail or on purely rational considerations. If we had to cognitively process everything and optimise every decision we made, we would not move forward in our lives – we’d have too many decisions to make. So, we take mental shortcuts”.
“Most of our decisions and choices are based on something more akin to instinct rather than reason. To manage our day-to-day lives and to survive making a choice, without feeling incapacitated by choice, we use mental shortcuts. Behavioural scientists refer to these mental shortcuts as cognitive biases or heuristics. For example, we choose what our friends or peer group are doing or we follow a recommendation from a celebrity or we buy from a brand we already have a relationship”.
People are typically unaware of their biases and they don’t want to or can’t articulate them.
Living in a digital world
Organisations need to be clear on who their target customers are and what they value, advises Nicholas. “Right now, we’re arguably living amidst the greatest period of shifts to customer engagement and channel dynamics. Over the last decade, digital technology has been accelerating at a much quicker rate than organisations can keep up with”.
“Digital-first organisations are in a far better position to adapt and evolve to the engagement patterns within their customer base. Not surprisingly, it can be tougher for legacy businesses who are anchored in a set of physical channels to meet the changes in customer behaviours and expectations”.
Even though technology is unlikely to be the major cause or solution to your CX problems or challenges, it can provide some very useful tools to help you overcome them. “The available tech gives us power and insights to best meet our customers’ needs. For example, when an individual customer signals a change in their behaviour, by opening an app or doing a Google search, an organisation can leverage those technologies to adapt at a quicker rate than their target customer and in a way that builds digital channel capability, while driving consent around existing and potential customers”.