Diane Magers and Ben London are the powerful duo that head up Experience Catalysts, a consultancy at the forefront of customer and employee experience. They are on a mission to help customer experience (CX) professionals transform how their organizations work to grow business value.
Diane, CEO of Experience Catalysts, has more than 25 years of experience transforming customer experiences at brands such as Sysco, AT&T, Dale Carnegie, and Invisalign. While Ben, the customer experience advisor at Experience Catalysts, has spent the last five years maturing best practices at numerous organizations, including building an enterprise-wide customer experience practice from the ground up at MoneyGram International.
We sat down with Diane and Ben to pick their brains, gather some of their tips on CX strategy and execution, and to talk about our upcoming webinar. Read what they had to say.
Q&A with Experience Catalysts
It seems that everyone defines customer experience a little bit differently, so let’s start with the basics. In your own words, what is customer experience (CX)?
Customer experience is the customer’s perception of all the interactions they have with a brand and the value it creates for them. It’s how the brand understands and performs against its customers’ needs and expectations (both functional and emotional).
And, it’s important to note that a customer can be an employee, a partner, a supplier…it is really about what your brand does to be intentional about creating a reason for customers to engage with your brand to achieve their goals (and in turn, helps you achieve yours).
Building a customer experience practice from the ground up can be overwhelming. When working with clients new to CX strategy, where do you recommend they start?
We recommend organizations start with brand promise and priorities. Why does the organization exist and what is it trying to accomplish? Your experience strategy should put that to action. For example, if your organization is a financial institution trying to help people live better financial lives, their experience should guide them, educate them, and help them map and track their progress to their financial goals.
We then recommend CX professionals assess and take stock of how the organization has been listening to and understanding customers (e.g. data, surveys, online analytics, research), including identifying how each department is measuring success. A great way to start is to get groups of employees together and ask them about the experience and what they would do to improve the customer (and their own!) experience.
Educate, engage, and enable the organization — starting with executives — about the financial value of experience. Get them involved in the transformation. Leverage “borrowed authority.” Bring in admired brand leaders (USAA, Intuit, Southwest) or experience professionals who can talk to the success and value of being experience-centric. Or teach design and insight skills, which helps the organization think about starting with human needs and building products and services to serve those needs.
Help the organization begin to see your brand from the customer’s perspective. Send your executives or leaders to the call center to listen to calls or have them call customers back to ask questions. Customer panels and videos with customers also help bring the real-world experience to life.
Once these research and alignment steps are done, what is the final step to getting started with CX?
Finally, develop goals and a plan for what you are trying to accomplish and establish governance (checks and balances) to encourage accountability. Do you want to create more cross-functional action to care for the end-to-end experience? What steps and actions are needed to help the organization get there? What accountability needs to be in place to ensure it happens? For example, if you want more referrals and advocacy from customers, what will you do to change the experience and drive that behavior?
Often, CX professionals begin with the tactics of doing surveys, gathering scores and sharing the information, but they don’t have ideas for what the organization needs to do differently. Have a plan and work the plan.
Can you describe the typical process that organizations go through, and some of the tactics used, once it determines that investing in customer experience is a strategic priority?
They start with enhancing their strategic plan. Because experience-based change can impact almost every aspect of an organization, leaders must start with defining what being experience-based means for their organization, and what is needed to achieve experience goals. A comprehensive, detailed plan with clear objectives that defines the journey and tangible and intangible success should then be developed.
With this plan in hand, organizations can begin to systematically change the vision and expectations from the top down to focus on experience. They build involvement and engagement from all parts of the organization.
Organizations then turn to resourcing this new discipline by appointing leadership roles and defining how each leader and team member contributes. They begin with the basics (e.g. listening to customers, journey mapping, designing a new experience, finding quick wins) and learn how to integrate CX into all activities to expand its reach.
How do organizations get these changes to stick?
By developing and following a defined change plan to build new organizational competencies. They evolve how the organization works, collaborates, understands, analyzes, evaluates, enables, and designs experiences— which ultimately translates to improved experiences and financial impact. All of the tools and activities help the organization think and work differently, which sets it up for long-term, self-reinforcing transformation.
We also recommend establishing a formal team of experience “evangelists.” Educate this team on the core experience disciplines needed to evolve the organization; teach them skills and methodologies and give them opportunities to contribute in meaningful ways. They will become change agents and will accelerate the culture shift from the ground up.
What do you think are the biggest gaps when it comes to organizational CX execution?
- Insight to action. Developing skills and processes that help an organization systematically develop and act on insights from their data and analytics.
- Value creation. Understanding and developing business value models to predict the impact of experience changes on the financial goals of the organization from a revenue and cost perspective.
- Cross-functional alignment. From data management and collection, to end-to-end design and collaboration, there is so much opportunity to work dynamically across channels and business units.
- Focus. Journey management is key. It is not just mapping your journey, but defining the future state, managing a focused portfolio of projects guided by principles the organization has deemed imperative to the experience, and engaging all stakeholders.
It’s always fun to talk about which brands are doing CX best. Which do you admire most for their customer experience?
There are so many brands that have built these competencies. USAA, Humana, Intuit, Southwest, and Whole Foods— to name a few. The one thing they have in common is purpose. A purpose to provide experience that engages us as humans and helps us achieve what we need to get done, but also creates emotions that meet our needs.
Centriam and Experience Catalyst are co-presenting a webinar on Wednesday, March 27. Who should attend?
It’ll be a great event for professionals involved in shaping customer experience at their organizations, but particularly for organizations that are:
- Defining or developing how to become experience-based in their approach
- Thinking about how to start building customer intelligence, and how that connects to an overall strategy to manage experiences to achieve business results
- Working to create or add momentum and traction to gathering and analyzing data
If you’d like to hear more from Experience Catalysts, join our upcoming webinar, “Using customer intelligence to define, drive, and measure CX action.” During this webinar, Diane Magers, Experience Catalyst’s CEO, and Jakub Jez, Centriam’s CEO, will discuss how to put customer intelligence into meaningful action.