Imagine it’s a sweltering day, the sun is high, the air is blazing hot and you need a little cold refreshment to energize and revitalize your senses. Then, like a mirage in the desert, a lemonade stand appears promising a cool reprieve. The sign reads: “Ice Cold Lemonade. $1.00”. Without hesitation you hand your money to a child with questionably dirty hands for an ice-cold glass, but it’s not what you expected. It’s much too sweet, or it’s much too sour. Suddenly, you start to think about the reality of how exactly that child’s hands got so filthy, and begin to question what you were thinking.
If you’re a Customer Experience professional, that’s the world you live in.
CX can’t be too sweet—you simply can’t give away a free kitten with every transaction. No matter how firm the directive to “delight the customer” or “exceed expectations”, the reality is there is a price to pay for free kittens. And, as it turns out, shipping kittens is really expensive and the ROI isn’t going to be palatable. Your vision for Customer Experience can’t be loaded with sugar or undoubtedly, it’s going to get spit out.
CX can’t be too sour—your valiant efforts to find areas for improvement are going to be met with ego and defensiveness. In theory, pointing out deficiencies in the customer experience should be a good thing... Right? After all, you’re representing the Voice of the Customer and their perspectives of your business. It isn’t necessarily your personal opinion that any given business process isn’t perfect; it’s literally what your customers are telling you. Alas, you are the mouthpiece for your customers, and despite all the talk of customer-centricity or focus on the customer experience, the internal perception is that what you are selling is much too sour.
The perfect lemonade has to be just right. Similarly, your approach to improving your customer experience does too. So, how do you get there? That’s a good question.
The thing about customer experience is it’s not necessarily based on facts. It’s all about perception. If a customer perceives that you are not providing a superior experience, then there’s a really good chance you’re not. Despite what your CX metrics (e.g. CSAT and NPS) tell you, your customers respond to surveys based on what they expect from you. If your customer has low expectations, and you deliver a mediocre experience, there’s a good chance your CX metrics do not reflect reality—you might have excellent CSATs, but your customers show no loyalty or fail to positively promote your business. Likewise, if your customers have expectations that are unreasonable or misguided, despite your best efforts to improve, your metrics might be pointing you in the wrong direction.
So long as your CX vision is in accord with your corporate Values, Mission and Vision statements, your CX Lemonade should be the perfect balance of sweet and sour. You’re going to get dirty making the perfect blend, so just be sure to wash your hands regularly
Setting customers’ expectations is key to meeting customers’ expectations. In the lemonade analogy, had the sign read: “Ice Cold Sweet Lemonade” the sugar blast wouldn’t have been a surprise. It’s exactly what you expected. Likewise, “Ice Cold Tart Lemonade” would set the expectation that the experience is likely to make you pucker. In the end, if you get what you expected, even if the hands that delivered it were questionably dirty, you’ll be content.
As a Customer Experience professional, it’s your job to work with everyone from the CEO to the frontline employees to ensure expectations are properly set and met. Then, working within those “guidelines” you’ll know if your lemonade is too sweet or if it’s too sour. Your guidelines, or “CX Guiding Principles” should closely align to and be in concert with your corporate Values, Vision and Mission Statements. If you don’t have clear direction on organizational CX Guiding Principles, that’s where you need to start—define the attributes you want your collective customer experiences to reflect. Set those expectations first and then work to consistently meet them. As an example, a CX Guiding Principle could be: “Our technology and automation will be designed to meet customers’ needs first, not ours”. It must be clear, and objective. You absolutely must have a collectively agreed to statement to guide your CX initiatives and ensure accountability.
If you already have clear vision of CX Guiding Principles, you’re well on your way to establishing CX relevancy within your organization by simply adhering to them. As an added bonus, there should be less consternation when you point out deficiencies if an experience falls short. Leverage your Guiding Principles to fuel discussions about organizational improvement, and to discover reasonable paths to exceeding expectations and delighting customers.
The bottom line is to create expectations, meet them, and keep the organization accountable. So long as your CX vision is in accord with your corporate Values, Mission and Vision statements, your CX Lemonade should be the perfect balance of sweet and sour. You’re going to get dirty making the perfect blend, so just be sure to wash your hands regularly.