For Marketing Leaders, Customer Experience is the New Black

Customer experience mastery is a career necessity for today's CMOs

Last week, we welcomed Jeanne Bliss, CEO of CustomerBliss, to the Marketing Leaders of DC™. The timing of her visit from her Seattle home base was perfect. Our CMO community is increasingly more involved in guiding and designing the entire customer experience. It is nearly impossible to create an effective go to market strategy or message if we cannot articulate the customer’s journey and fully understand their lifetime of “moments of truth” with us.

Let me summarize the two-hour session by just saying WOW! Bliss’ five strategies to build a customer-driven growth engine provoked and propelled our thinking.

She has invested 20 years to test and refine these strategies with Microsoft, Allstate, Lands End, and many more. Jeanne also amassed 82 compelling customer experience case studies within the past six years, and has authored 4 books, including Chief Customer Officer 2.0.

Photo courtesy of Jamie Frayer

I couldn’t possibly do justice to Jeanne’s customer experience model in a single post. I chose to focus on one persistent customer experience challenge among our clients: aligning the entire organization around the customer experience and customer journey.

Bliss’ 20-year history with building the Chief Customer Officer role has served as her learning laboratory. And it has informed her work at the operations level, not just the customer level. Bliss has discovered a method to integrate both.

She believes the first step towards integrating our operations with customers is to shift the language at leadership meetings from discussing department goals to customer journey mapping.

Don’t keep the formal customer journey mapping process a secret. It isn’t something for your top leaders to covet. The most successful mapping exercises can involve as many as 50 employees across all levels of your organization.

If you are looking for a way to align your operations with customers, here’s a partial list of Bliss’ recommended steps:

  1. Invite a seasoned facilitator who can keep the group on task. While tempting to save budget and assign to an eager team member, you will lose their fresh input. They simply cannot be a participant and a group guide simultaneously. (In my first book, I cautioned people about asking someone in your C-suite to facilitate the strategic planning process).
  2. Brainstorm and assign all the touch points to individual magnetic boards. Each board represents 1 stage of the journey.
  3. Once your internal team has agreed on the various customer journey stages, organize a customer journey map meeting. Hire a videographer to record these sessions; they are rich with information and wisdom. Bliss calls them “important artifacts.”
  4. Invite between 10-15 customers to these sessions. Ask them to review the maps you have drafted. Bliss recommends that you “do it on their turf…and ask them ‘how do you feel at that stage? What’s missing?’” Watch for emotional responses and practice empathy.
  5. During these mapping sessions, invite at least 4-5 of your own executives to sit with the customers. This meeting may take 2 ½ to 3 hours. “Humanity is the secret sauce here,” according to Bliss. This is your culture boost. Prior to that meeting, you must coach your executives on their roles. They cannot defend, deny or explain away. They are only allowed to ask clarifying questions.” This may be challenging for your loquacious executives!
  6. After these mapping sessions, bring your executive team together and explore some tough questions:
    • “By stage of the journey, what’s getting in the customers’ way?”
    • By stage of the journey, what will be our code of conduct going forward?
    • What must we ALWAYS do and NEVER do in each journey stage?
    • How will we reward people for behaviors that support that operational competency?
    • How do we stop over-rewarding customer satisfaction or Net Promoter Scores?

This mapping process gets your teams grounded in operations discussions, yet they force you to make strategic choices based on the customer. That’s a radical shift away from gut feel, the smartest person in the room, a focus group (which Bliss rejects), or an online survey.

I believe that customer experience mastery—not Martech nor AI—is the new black. Now is the ideal time for marketing leaders (as well as every department) to incorporate customer experience into every facet of their marketing plans and conversations. These guidelines don’t just apply to billion-dollar behemoths. They work for small and mid-market companies, too. Empathy just never goes out of style.

Learn more from Bliss’ newest book, Would You Do That to Your Mother? – The “Make Mom Proud Standard for How to Treat Your Customers.” It releases May 8, 2018.

Copyright 2018, Lisa Nirell

Related posts:

What is a Modern CMO? Find out in my new LinkedIn Learning Course

10 Tough Marketing Questions for Turbulent Times

Webinar 9/15: Tips to Optimize the Customer Journey

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