7 Types of Customer Experience Projects

IT application leaders have to understand customer experience projects if they want to get it right.

Zipcar, the American car-sharing company, is transparent in the way it communicates its rules to customers across multiple channels. The six simple rules are clear and concise: Report damage, keep it clean, no smoking, fill the tank, return on time and keep pets in carriers. Most rental car companies do the opposite; they hide the rules to try to make more in fees.

This level of openness represents one type of customer experience project that can make a difference.

In many industries, competition has eroded traditional product and service advantages, making CX the latest form of competitive advantage. For IT leaders supporting customer experience projects, it is important to audit and coordinate existing efforts to achieve better results.

“Although successful customer experience initiatives require a corporate wide commitment, companies have long had individual departments or business units working on it independently,” says Ed Thompson, vice president and distinguished analyst. “The challenge is that consumers have numerous touch points within an organization, so companies end up running multiple, uncoordinated CX projects in parallel with one another.”

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A typical $1B company will likely be running more than 50 CX projects. Companies need to place all the different projects on the table and then divide them based on complexity, impact on overall customer experience, business units and their dependence on technology.

Gartner classifies CX projects into seven types.

  1. Listen, Think and Do
    Although 95% of companies have collected feedback from their customers for years, only about 10% use these suggestions to change their processes and improve customer experience.Instead of wasting this opportunity, companies should link the desires of their customers with the overall strategy. One way to do this is by consolidating direct, indirect and inferred customer feedback received through numerous channels so customer issues are resolved in real time. If multiple teams interact with customers, knowledge-sharing programs can also be used to remove departmental barriers and improve customer-facing processes.
  2. From Out to In
    Most customer-facing processes are designed from the inside out, which means they are built from the company’s perspective. The result is that customers have to learn the company’s processes. This adds unnecessary barriers to the customer journey, and companies must focus on minimizing customer effort as much as possible.The best way to do this is by flipping the perspective from inside out to outside in and “walking in the customer’s shoes.” Companies can then map the customer journey, conduct touchpoint analysis and identify customer pain points at each level of interaction. This data can then be used to improve processes from the customer’s perspective — whether it’s consistency, speed, completeness, flexibility or reliability.
  3. Act as One
    Consistency is important for a great customer experience, and the challenge for companies is ensuring that information received during one interaction is not lost or forgotten when a customer switches channels. But achieving multichannel consistency is a slow process because it involves breaking down departmental silos and, in most cases, significant IT workBy building a single, 360-degree view of the customer across different channels, companies can streamline information flow across departments and provide a more consistent customer experience.
  4. Open Up
    Openness and transparency is becoming an essential part of CX initiatives because customers feel they have better experiences when they trust an organization. The key element here is trust. Companies that are open and transparent to customers are typically better at creating positive customer experiences.For companies, the biggest challenge is striking a balance between legal concerns and the benefits of sharing information with customers to build trust. The growth of social media in the past decade has also helped companies interact directly with customers to collaborate in co-creating brands with customers.
  5. Get Personal
    Most customers prefer a personalized experience — if it’s done well. Poor personalization can actually damage the customer experience and increase complexity, so companies should be cautious when determining the degree of customization. Traditionally, customization of an experience was an expensive undertaking, but digital personalization has made it a much more affordable option. Digital products, bundles, pricing, offers and communications can all be personalized more easily than in the analog past.Customers are often confronted with multiple choices and have to put in time and effort to get to the product or service they want. This complicates the customer experience and ultimately lowers customer ROI. Personalization done well will make things simpler by limiting the options to those most relevant to the customer.
  6. Alter Attitudes
    Employees’ actions often have the most powerful and direct impact on a customer’s experience and, as a result, most companies focus more on this than on any other type of CX project type. Companies most commonly alter employee attitudes and behaviors through training, recruiting and policy change projects.The first set of projects involves educating employees on how their actions affect customer experience and what they can do to personally to help. The second set relate to recruiting the right type of employees — those with the personality that will benefit the customer experience, not just the job skill requirements. The last set are those that empower employees to use their judgment, take responsibility for resolving customer issues, and create a culture where this is not only allowed, but expected.
  7. Design Better
    Most companies have no plan or design for the overall customer experience, and it falls into place somewhat randomly. On the other hand, companies in the service, automotive, consumer goods and high-tech industries that focus heavily on brand management pay much greater attention to designing customer experiences. A brand sets high-level expectations of the overall customer experience and can be seen as an expression of the company’s reputation with customers. Design is a discipline that requires investment.

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Gartner clients can learn more about customer experience projects in the full research Gartner's Seven Types of Customer Experience Projects" by Ed Thompson.

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