To start, I want to acknowledge that “What is a CX Strategy?” doesn’t have a single definitive answer. You can ask ten people and get ten different responses. I’m writing to share my own perspective based on my own experience with hopes that it adds value to your overall understanding, and/or gets you thinking differently about this important aspect of brand development. Now, with that in mind, let’s get into it!
Modern competitive environments are centered on customer experience. Having stellar products and services will always important, no doubt. These provide the value and benefits needed to drive purchase decisions. But if there’s too much friction, too many pain points, or they simply didn’t enjoy their brand interactions, customers are likely to start considering alternatives.
So, assuming we all agree that customer experience development is vital to long-term success, the next phase is exploring how to deliver experiences that will keep people coming back for more.
If you’ve read any of my other articles, you know I’m all about strategy. By clarifying our goals, building forward-thinking action plans, and choosing the right performance tracking metrics, we’re better positioned to achieve desired outcomes in effective and efficient ways. Furthermore, building a strategy before any initiatives are launched will enable us to adapt and evolve on-the-fly as consumers evolve and markets shift – which they inevitably will.
Merging the “what” (customer experience) and “how” (strategy) brings us to the core of the matter. I genuinely believe that brands who prioritize and take a structured approach to building their Customer Experience (CX) Strategy will gain a competitive advantage. They will create a blueprint to be relevant and stay relevant in our unpredictable and ever-changing world.
That said, to answer the question “What is a CX Strategy?”, we need to start with a bigger question… “What is CX?”
Traditionally, customer experience (CX) tends to focus on things like touch points, processes, and logistics. And with good reason, because they are the foundation of brand interactions. I refer to these as “tangible” CX elements. They’re things around us that we can control. We get to move, tweak, adjust, and decide when, where, and how they exist. Hence, the description of “tangible.”
Decisions regarding these tangible elements typically happen in a controlled environment and assume at least somewhat of a cause-and-effect relationship. If we invest X-Action, we’re more likely to produce Y-Outcome. That’s why we track and measure performance, in an effort to quantify the impact of our decisions. This is a standard – and necessary – approach to guide future decisions, resource allocation, and brand evolution.
But the thing is, customer experiences don’t happen in a controlled environment. Nor do decisions and outcomes have clear cause-and-effect relationships. Out in the real world where these experiences are happening, there are a variety of other indirect influences shaping a person’s experience; such as their present situation, environment, perceptions, and expectations.
Also, assessing logistics and processes tends to be inward-facing. Decisions are typically made based on business-oriented goals and desired outcomes. So, tracking and measuring “tangible” CX elements may not account for the indirect influences, situational factors, and other variables that surround real-world experiences. As a result, those tangible elements are writing only part of a more nuanced CX story.
One thing I’m continually reminding myself is that behind every quantifiable business metric is a unique human being with unique wants, needs, and expectations. There’s a person behind every purchase. If my focus is primarily on “tangible” CX elements and inward-facing performance metrics, then it’s easy to lose sight of that truth.
From a more holistic perspective, the most impactful experiences are crafted with a human-centric approach; considering a person’s thoughts, feelings, and perceptions before, during, and after their brand interactions. This is where we start getting into the “intangible” elements of a customer’s experience. These are things we can’t directly control through processes and logistics. And it’s those intangible elements that often determine whether customers come back for more, or switch over to competitor brands.
The challenge here is that “intangible” CX elements exist outside and independent of any internal decisions we make. They’re deeply personal and unique to each individual. They’re rarely connected to our tangible decisions with a direct cause-and-effect relationship.
In fact, it’s possible to have all internal signs pointing to “yes” but customers in real-world scenarios are still left saying “no.” It can become complicated, confusing, and even frustrating when these intangibles are brought into the CX equation. But there’s no way around it. Experiences and emotions not only co-exist, they are inseparable. Ultimately, this is where good experiences become great and how long-term success is achieved.
So, what is a Customer Experience (CX) Strategy?
I see it as a multi-dimensional approach that blends actions with emotions. It’s managing both the tangible and intangible elements of a customer’s experience while at the same time understanding how they influence one another. It’s merging inward-facing objectives with outward-facing realities to guide “all-things-considered” decision making.
The obvious next question is, how is a Customer Experience (CX) Strategy developed? Well, that’s its own discussion best had within the context of your specific goals and circumstances.
If you’re looking to take the next step in CX Strategy development, I’d love to chat in detail and share some recommended action items. Feel free to send a note or give me a call any time.
Or, if you’re not quite at the “Let’s get started!” phase but still want to learn more, we’ve put together a Customer Experience (CX) Strategy guide to help boost your efforts – Click here to view and save a copy.
Lastly, I’d love to hear your thoughts on CX Strategy development and what’s been working for you!