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Would your customer experience strategy survive 'Shark Tank'?

Bob Azman identifies what customer experience professionals need to do to get C-suite buy-in and investment support for their customer experience initiatives.

I'm guessing many of you have, at one time or another, watched the television show, Shark Tank. It's the show where wealthy investors, like Kevin O'Leary, Lori Greiner, Mark Cuban and others, hear pitches from entrepreneurs seeking money to grow their businesses. Some are successful, but many are not. I admit I'm addicted to the program. I'm intrigued by the variety of entrepreneurs, the opportunities they've found and the Sharks' methodologies for investing in these ideas. The entrepreneurs who know their numbers, have track records of success and have true passions for their products seem to successfully entice the Sharks to invest.

I also spend quite a bit of time talking to CX professionals who lament their inability to gain executive buy-in and investment for their CX initiatives. Some of my colleagues have shared the disappointment and frustration in asking for and being denied investment in executing the CX strategy within their organizations. To clarify, when I say investment, I mean more than technology. I'm referring to a broad spectrum of investments, such as staff responsible for collecting, analyzing and reporting customer information.

This includes resources to improve processes, communications or responsiveness to customers as well as tools like surveying software. After all, technology is but one CX tool for professionals to use when executing an enterprise-wide, end-to-end customer experience initiative. Every CX initiative should be integrated across all functions and departments within an organization. It is not designed as a quarterly program or slogan of the month. Unless we live, eat and breath CX in our companies, any investment we want will fall well short of its intended outcomes no matter how strongly we believe in its value.

Foundational customer experience elements to consider

Identifying the value of the investment shifts the conversation in the direction of the customer, which is where it should be. There are numerous articles, webinars and conference sessions that talk about business value, CX ROI, etc. The Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org) has meaningful resources on this topic. Here are some foundational elements to consider before making a presentation to a CEO, CFO or CMO requesting an investment in your CX program.

  • Consider the audience. The C-suite is accustomed to seeing locked-down numbers with enough detail to support the investment. Having your facts and figures in order, clearly presented and without errors or omissions is an effective first step toward securing an investment. We wouldn't ask for millions of dollars for a new capital project without providing a detailed net present value, so why would we not do the same for a CX investment?
  • Align to the strategy. As mentioned in my previous article, investments need to align to your CX strategy. New technology can be really enticing to purchase but unless it's aligned to your overall strategy, it's not going to be nearly as effective at optimizing your goal. And if your organization lacks that strategy, then what better time to propose one then when asking for an investment?
  • Declare and defend. As CX professionals, we need to hold ourselves accountable for declaring what the investment will produce and then executing against that declaration. Are we going to retain customers? Improve lifetime value? Grow revenues? Increase quality? Whatever it is, we need to declare what the investment will do in terms of ROI and then defend our proposal.
  • Invest in people, process and tools. Investments should cover the entire gambit of requirements to ensure a successful improvement to your customer experience. Investing in one shouldn't preclude investment in the other two.
  • Track and report. Once we've secured the investment, we need to report regularly on our progress. Keep in mind if we've declared a specific outcome then tracking it is key to demonstrating our success at achieving that outcome. I advocate that even disputable outcomes are better than none.
  • Celebrate our success; fail fast. It's important to return to the C-suite and celebrate the success of our investment. And if it's failed, then what did we learn and how can we do better next time. Let's face it -- not every business investment achieves the ROI that was proposed.

Ensure your CX strategy pitch is solid

I contend that achieving investments in CX isn't any more difficult than asking for a new piece of capital equipment or technology purchase -- but it can be if we aren't prepared with the tools we need to secure that investment. Just ask yourself, would Mr. Wonderful invest? If so, you're probably better than halfway to success.

About the author
Robert Azman is founder and CXO of Innovative CX Solutions. Innovative CX is a customer experience consulting firm specializing in CX design and execution, sales and service experience design and talent development. Azman is the 2020 Immediate Past Chairman of the Board of the Customer Experience Professionals Association. He has a wealth of diverse global operations and leadership experience as an executive at organizations such as CWT, Thomson Reuters, Ceridian and Deluxe. Azman is an adjunct professor in the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management's Supply Chain and Operations Management department and a senior guest lecturer at the Rutgers University Business School Executive Education programs.

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