Why CX is not the answer you’re looking for

Being obsessed with the customer has become trendier than avo on toast, much like those other overused hyperbolic terms 'digital disruption' and 'Millennial'. Interbrand's Nathan Birch and Davy Rennie, however, argue that CX is not the answer to the success equation.

Everywhere you look, everyone’s talking about CX, customer centricity and the CXO. 

The thing is, CX is not the answer to the success equation. It’s only part of the formula.

Rennie and Birch: CX is not everything

There is no doubt your customer experience (CX) plays a critical role in modern business success. Businesses with a fanatical obsession with the customer have proven to be more successful over the past few years – Amazon being a prime example.

But your CX is not everything.

In an increasingly competitive and agile environment, for continued success and service excellence you have to look at the ENTIRE experience a human has with your brand – no matter whether that person is a customer or an employee.

While some of the great success stories of recent years have been Apple and Amazon, a cursory look at Glassdoor (or the front page of Wired) will tell you that, as brands, they are not living up to the customer centric promises they are making their employees.

Take a look at Uber in the US. Insights into the company culture, in part, led to a widespread writing down of the stock valuation by major investors.

In the same competitive environment, where products, prices and positioning can all be (reasonably) imitated by competitors, what levers remain for a business wanting to grow?

Your Brand Experience (BX) is a consideration of every human touchpoint, and is one of the only sustainable competitive advantages a business has at its disposal. BX is made up of customer experience (CX) and employee experience (EX), and digital and non-digital for both.

No longer than just a few years ago, we worked with businesses who were focused on “digital transformation” and two battle fronts – the digital customer and digital workplace.

Products were developed and deployed in these two areas, completely separately, governed by the IT strategies at the time.

Fast forward a few years and we see CX strategies governing customer touch points. Generally speaking, customer products are bespoke, considered and lead to iterative products that have a ton of investment and testing.

Workplace products, however, are very different. Generally, they are out of the box, not designed for the user and quickly become obsolete and unused due to poor experiences.

The number one cause of failed digital customer transformation projects isn’t complaints from customers about the bespoke front end or capability, but the out of the box, under scoped and under designed back-end that the employees use – or struggle to use.

Employee needs are ignored, systems are upgraded, employee needs ignored again… and so on. This isn’t changing anytime soon, from what we see in 99% of the market. Expensive digital transformational CX projects usually end up underwhelming the employees.

Employee experience is nowhere near as considered as the CX. Not even close. HR govern most engagement, IT govern product etc, but where is the Employee Experience team? At the end of the day, they are the ones bringing in the customers (= dollars) so why isn’t it important until satisfaction slides or attrition sores?

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act but a habit” – Aristotle

Maybe two teams, one CX and one EX, is too much for one business. But how about a BX team? Brand Experience. A team to govern all of your brand’s engagements with people, focused on three things –

Be they customers, employees, partner, competitors and investors, the BX team is responsible for setting and governing the brand experience principles that will define engagement parameters and business ethos. This requires a deep understanding of the brand strategy – the purpose, principles and promise.

The BX team asks three questions:

  • How will our customer use the product?
  • How will our people use the product?
  • Is our product strategy aligned to our brand strategy?

Ensuring successful implementation of all products in your brand experience, governed by BX principles always. Too many businesses are still in the product-first mindset, and fail to understand that if product don’t align to the expected brand experience, then they tend to fail. Look at the Google Glass experiment – the expectation of even a new technology product fell far below a usual Google experience.

Much like the last one, a couple of questions: How will this process work for our people/customers?

Making sure your process/service for everyone is considered and aligned to your principles. If your brand experience focuses on simplicity, for example, how does this translate to filling in your company expenses? Or changing a subscriber package? Or hiring new employees – do they align to your Brand Experience?

One team. Three main focusses.

“Customers will never love a company, until the employees love it first”. – Simon Sinek

At the end of the day this isn’t ground breaking. But it isn’t happening, and it must.

If you want to differentiate then you need exceptional CX. If you want exceptional CX you must have exceptional EX. They have to be as considered as each other and governed by the same brand experience principles.

CX is trendy, and rightly so – it’s a major differentiator in crowded markets. But Brand Experience is really the only sustainable growth strategy for all businesses.

Nathan Birch (CEO) and Davy Rennie (director) are from Interbrand Australia 



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