CX habits: Out with the old, in with the new

By Claire Sporton, SVP, Customer Experience Innovation, Confirmit

Did you stick to your 2018 new year’s resolutions? Did you actually use the gym membership? Learn to speak Italian? Start your own organic hand-woven yoghurt business in Aberystwyth? No, probably not. No matter, though, we’re at that time of year again where we start pondering the old habits we’re going to break and the new ones we’re going to take up.

Of course, it should be easy. We know the things we should do and we know the things we shouldn’t do. But it’s hard to break the old habits. Whether that’s biting your fingernails, fiddling with your phone, or – in the case of many CX practitioners – expecting everyone in your company to be as obsessed with NPS as you are. Yep, breaking bad habits is tough.

Indeed the fact that we find it so hard to change habits that have become entrenched over time may explain why Stephen Covey’s bible ‘The seven habits of highly effective people’ (1) will celebrate its 30th year of publication in 2019.

The way our brains work doesn’t help. One the one hand, we operate on an unconscious level, thinking intuitively and automatically about issues and actions. On the other, we take a more conscious and considered approach to thinking that requires much more effort. Daniel Kahneman describes these different modes of operation as ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’, respectively. Fast thinking is great for doing things on ‘automatic pilot’ – remembering how to breathe, for example is tremendously useful. But when we need to engage the brain, to analyse and make decisions, slow thinking takes over. The trouble is that, as Wendy Wood’s research in 2011 (2) suggests, between 40 and 45% of the decisions we make every day are not decisions, they are habits. This is when the brain is not active, conscious or engaged and when people return to their comfort zones. And don’t pretend you’re not guilty of it.

According to Charles Duhigg (3) in 2012 there are three parts of every habit: cue, routine, reward. Rewards can be powerful but in fact it’s focusing on the cue where the real impact on habit formation can be felt.

This is why we decided to find out what successful CX practitioners do well so that we can share real-world cues for CX best practice. Build some habits that mean our auto-pilot setting is working in our favour instead of undermining our efforts.

We recently surveyed over 700 professionals operating across the CX spectrum. The results are fascinating and they’ve allowed us to identify the ‘Five habits of highly effective CX professionals which we have distilled in the State of Customer Experience 2018 report. It provides a great guide on how to assess your own CX habits.

One thing that makes this survey different from many others is that we identify successful programmes as those that are being actively invested in. In other words, those that deliver sufficiently tangible business results to be able to justify increased funding and resource.

We’ll be shining a light on each of the five habits that CX Leaders – those that expect a significant increase in budget in the next 12 months – all have in common in the New Year.

We’ll explain why Leaders put so much emphasis on talking to stakeholders in their own language, defining goals and focusing on business outcomes, driving and communicating the need for innovation, listening to different voices and sources to build a clear picture, securing full executive and employee support for a customer-centric culture, and the desire to constantly think ‘what next?’

In the meantime, let’s think about the most common bad habits that CX teams need to break in order to become Leaders, not Laggards. As you read them, be honest, how many are you guilty of?

#1 Obsessed with CX metrics and expecting everyone to join in. The value of CX can be proven by more than simply metrics. NPS® and Customer Effort Score are useful but moving the needle on these scores doesn’t always relate back to business outcomes. Colleagues cannot be expected to get involved and to care about CX if you don’t talk to them in terms that they understand and matter to them.

#2 Focused on data collection. Data is not the outcome of your programme. Neither is a sexy dashboard or presentations to the Board. These are all just steps in the process. Innovate, take action, do something or die.

#3 Deaf to everyone but the customer. The Voice of the Customer is core to CX efforts. But it cannot be the only voice. Employees, suppliers, partners and others all have a view on the experience you offer. And data from other sources, such as operational and financial input add colour and context.

#4 Keeping the customer experience too close. A focus on the customer cannot be the sole charge of a handful of CX professionals. It has to infuse the entire business. Each department, customer-facing or not, should understand how they impact the customer.

#5 Thinking your work is done. Spoiler alert – your work is never done! To continue delivering change, a CX programme must be constantly looking for something new. New ways to gather data, share insights, and track the impact of the action that’s been taken. Customer expectations get higher all the time so you need to keep raising your game.

As you start thinking about your resolutions for 2019, consider which of these habits you can break to deliver more impact from your CX programme.

To get you started, here are some quotes from our research about what people would like to do with their CX programme next year and beyond:

“I’d like to start including employee surveys into our strategy. This would allow us to identify and address employee related communication requirements and opportunities.”

“We will increase survey response rates so we have more data and the business is more confident that the results are representative.”

“Immediate, clear, and indisputable linkage of ROI and other key financial metrics to CX program data.”

What are your CX New Year’s Resolutions? Tweet them and I’ll share the best ones in our upcoming articles here on Engage Customer. Use #CXresolutions or tag me @Clairesporton. In fact, think of this blog series as a self-help group. Keeping us on track with the habits that will drive success in 2019. I’ll share responses and ideas in the upcoming articles.