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How experience-based differentiation can be a CX fast track

CX is a top priority within organizations, but successful adoption can take time. A framework called experience-based differentiation can help businesses speed up the process.

Effectively managing the customer experience is perhaps the toughest component of CRM.

It often requires a C-suite-level reset of enterprise objectives, a corporate culture overhaul, a page-one rewrite of the CRM roadmap, and the adoption of new sales and marketing practices that often mean slow and painful changes in both methodology and infrastructure.

But the stakes for CX success are pretty high. The Temkin Group puts the ROI of successful CX adoption at 70% within 36 months of implementation, on average. What company wouldn't want a return like that?

CX as a business practice has been around for more than a decade, and Forrester survey data showed almost three out of four companies said CX is their top priority. However, less than 20% of companies managing CX rated their own success at greater than 90% today.

That's quite a distance between reach and grasp. But there is a way to speed up CX success.

A CX fast track

Just as CX has been around a while, so has Forrester Research's experience-based differentiation (EBD), a framework for implementing CX strategy that refocuses businesses from the top down. Formally defined as a systematic approach to interacting with customers that consistently builds loyalty, it simplifies the methodological retooling required and intensifies concentration on CX across the board.

Despite its longevity, EBD's three premier tenets aren't yet gospel in CX, though companies late to the party should adopt them:

  • Obsess about customer needs. Focus on the customer's needs, not product development. Let the former drive the latter, not vice versa.
  • Reinforce brand with every interaction. Traditional messaging is passé. Experience-based differentiation requires that businesses infuse brand attributes and values in all contacts to boost customer trust.
  • Treat CX as a companywide competence. Though hands-on CX is a team activity, EBD emphasizes a top-down impetus to implement companywide awareness that customer insights should be infused into all business activities.

If the idea is to create a blueprint for CX implementation, EBD is tailor-made. It's a simple, concise set of imperatives, but it also represents a structured, purposeful reinvention of the enterprise. Despite its ambition, it represents a fast track to effective CX strategy -- and ultimate marketplace success.

A not-so-long, not-so-winding roadmap

Despite its longevity, EBD's three premier tenets aren't yet gospel in CX, though companies late to the party should adopt them.

To pursue CX as a business paradigm is to establish a long-term business partnership with the customer, and EBD is the plan for developing that partnership. The establishment of any strategic partnership calls for the enterprise to put its best foot forward for that partner -- and CX is the elevation of the customer to full partner status.

Experience-based differentiation requires culture change, which is perhaps the toughest change to undertake. EBD is a blueprint for that culture change -- one that's not only healthy for the CX agenda, but for the enterprise itself. What's attractive about it, as blueprints go, is its directness: It calls for just a handful of changes in thinking and practices, changes that have maximum impact both internally and in customer transactions. That simplicity yields not only effective engagement, but fast results.

And the arduousness of culture change, while understandably concerning, is ultimately moot: At the end of the day, if the enterprise fails to radically realign with the consumer in today's marketplace, competitors will eat its lunch.

Emotional experience design: EBD at its best

If experience-based differentiation is the CX strategy gold standard, emotional experience design (EED) -- also a Forrester innovation -- is platinum. It takes EBD's clarity and focus beyond the customer's needs to a deeper place: the customer's feelings.

In CX terms, EED is a call to look beyond the customer's needs to motivation. The premise is every consumer now enters the world, first and foremost, through the internet, and if the internet is catering to consumer emotions, that's the place to engage.

To implement EED, businesses should adopt the following approaches:

  • Address the customer's real goals. When a customer goes to a website to learn, buy or communicate, there's something going on beyond the task of the moment; the customer has a motivation or higher-level goal. Communicate in such a way as to be friendly and receptive to their goals.
  • Develop a coherent personality. Whether consciously or not, customers on the internet are seeking connection. Just as the enterprise generates CRM personas to explore improved CX, it must develop a persona of itself and project that persona at every opportunity to enhance the customer's sense of connection.
  • Engage a mix of senses. Emotional connection is a sensory experience, so EED-minded organizations must bring an enriching presence to every transaction -- webpages, email, chatbot exchanges, app interactions and texts.

The age of CX is here, and experience-based differentiation is the bridge across the methodological gulf. Deeper connection, stronger engagement and long-term customer relationships are on the other side.

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