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Are you sitting comfortably?  Perhaps you are – in many ways, there has never been a better time to specialise in customer experience (CX).  It’s the number one priority for many consumer-facing businesses.  Most senior leadership teams now understand the vital relationship between customer experience, loyalty and the bottom line.  Investment in CX continues to increase as a result, and there can be little doubt that customer experience is more important than ever.  This creates powerful opportunities for CX teams to transform the businesses in which they operate.

But the customer is changing – better informed, savvy, more vocal and less willing to stay with a brand in the face of poor treatment.  Social media has transformed the way customers view and interact with brands overnight – providing a platform to amplify their views and giving feedback an immediacy which raises the stakes.  The balance of power has shifted: consumers have the upper hand.

And it’s not just consumers that are changing – the world has also shifted.  The rise of services delivered through multiple channels creates new challenges, accompanied by disruption in almost every category – from augmented gyms to smart clothing.  Meanwhile, the lines between industries are blurring and customer centricity has been a defining characteristic of those disruptors emerging from the chaos – think Air BnB and Uber.

These changes have all been accompanied by rising expectations: brands are no longer competing against the customer experiences provided within their own industries, but all customer experience.  Every time a brand interacts with a consumer, it is up against every other interaction they have ever had.

Are you shifting uncomfortably in your seat yet?  You should be.  The story of disruption will be a familiar one by now, and it’s one that has left many CX professionals feeling overwhelmed and ill-equipped to respond constructively.  Added to this is the fact that many are new to their roles – still finding their feet in the face of ever greater scrutiny from the decision makers and budget holders.

The process therefore often becomes about fighting fires and prioritising short-term fixes over longer term strategic progress.  None of this can engender real change.  When under pressure, it’s easy for the most urgent issues to take precedence over the most important.

This leads us to perhaps the most important CX truth: you can’t be good at everything, and you shouldn’t try to be.  It may sound alien to CX professionals, but there are some points within the customer journey which make little or no difference to overall satisfaction.  Businesses need to identify the moments that matter and be brave enough to move everything else down the priority list.

In an increasingly complex world, three core tenets still hold true – and we are working with some of the world’s leading brands to re-wire their existing CX programmes.  Most importantly, don’t let customers down.  Identify the interactions you need to always deliver well and consistently.  Create great experiences by making what you do memorable – emotion is central to cultivating loyalty – and always reinforce brand choice.  Understand what your customers need and never miss an opportunity to demonstrate how you can deliver what matters to them.

Sensible and realistic prioritisation guided by these principles is the first step in dealing with how overwhelmed many CX practitioners feel, clearing the way to deliver on the promise of CX to transform brands’ fortunes.

Tim Pritchard is managing director of customer experience at Kantar TNS

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