Are CX Professionals Expendable? No Way!

How Many Customer Experience Professionals Will Survive 2017?, it is stated that “Two trends were found to be particularly similar: of
the CX practitioners who said their focus was to encourage their companies
to make large investments in CX, only 51% had survived in their role beyond
year-2. Of those who described their focus as building proof-points to
establish the benefits from CX, 72% survived in their role beyond year-2.”

A striking finding is the similarity of reasons for the departure of CX

  • “The company ran out of patience”
  • “The NPS numbers were not improving”
  • “The company had to cut costs and CX was an easy target”

The Original Purpose

In 2006, I created the Customer Experience Map in

One Cup of Coffee, 20 Experiences: Take a Tip From Starbucks
, when the terminology of “Customer Journey Mapping” was still unheard of.
Customer Journey Mapping is getting hot in recent years, with sophisticated and fancy models built by CX consulting firms – much
more attributes, sub-processes, elements, phases and layers are included,
using all kind of eye-catching graphics, storyboards and presentations.

Engage with customers in real-time across every channel, no matter the medium. Use visitor tracking and email analytics to know what your customers are seeing.

Personally, I’m not too fond of sophistication. My biased views are that
sophisticated things consume resources and time, and are usually difficult
to operationalize; when things get complicated, they’ll easily side-track
our attention and deviate us from the original purpose for doing them.

As you can observe from the above Customer Experience Map – or what you
would call Customer Journey Mapping – for a Starbucks in-store experience,
it’s not rocket science. It merely maps all the sub-processes and
attributes that are encountered by customers and how they affect their
emotions in a natural time sequence during a touch-point experience.

The original purpose
is to understand how customers feel during an experience; then using these
insights to enhance the experience in achieving business result.

Operationalize Customer Journey Mapping

To achieve your original purpose, you have to connect CX with business
result. One fast track is to simplify your existing fancy and sophisticated
Customer Journey Mapping model, and operationalize it to identify the key
business drivers.

Take the Starbucks case and NPS as an example, we correlated the
satisfaction rating of each sub-process during the in-store experience to
the Net Promoter Score given by the Mainland Chinese and American customers
for the Global Starbucks In-store Customer Experience Research (note 1).

Starbucks X-VOC Data 400

This figure lists the X-VOC Data (note 2) – the importance ranking of each
of the 26 sub-processes in driving NPS. With 26 sub-processes, the
importance rankings are literally from 1 to 26, with 1 as the most
and 26 as the least important factor affecting NPS.

Make NPS Actionable

Numerous companies now use NPS as an important performance measurement
metric, but not many of them know how to make NPS actionable.

They know the scores of likelihood to recommend, but have no clue what to do to improve these scores. In other words, to these
companies, the scores are not actionable.

With the X-VOC Data, you can determine the most important factor driving
NPS in Mainland China and in the United States and you see that they
differ. For instance, the most important NPS driver in Mainland
China is ‘Goodbye with genuine smile,’ while in the United States, it is
‘Coffee taste / flavor.’

You make driving the non-actionable – NPS – actionable. From now
on, you know which particular sub-processes or attributes you need to
‘sweat’ to improve your target results. And it’s all supported by
quantifiable data.

Your Company Would Never Run Out of Patience

Quite a number of CX initiatives focus on ‘full scale’ service improvement
or ‘company-wide’ culture transformation (to be customer-centric) projects.
They take too long, consume too many resources, and might not be the right
prescriptions to their CX problems.

You could always start with some small and affordable CX projects obtaining
proven results in order to get the buy-in from your management. There are
options and usually some low-hanging fruits for you to choose from based on
the X-VOC Data.

For example, in the Starbucks case, by focusing on the two common
attributes out of the top three NPS drivers in the U.S. and China: ‘Goodbye
with genuine smile’ and ‘Free trial of new drinks / snacks,’ – the
relatively easy targets – you would soon be able to set up inexpensive pilot project to test out and enjoy a quick win, and most importantly, you connect CX to the target
business result – in this case, driving NPS.

You Could Always Improve NPS with an Open Mindset

In both Starbucks America and Mainland China, only two out of the top five
NPS drivers are ‘service’ or ‘service-related’ attributes. The remaining
key drivers – ‘Appropriateness of prices,’ ‘Coffee taste / flavor,’ ‘See
and be seen (feel you are “part of the group”),’ and ‘Free trial of new
drinks / snacks’ – have basically nothing to do with service.

What does this tell you?

It is always possible, to have other factors – besides service – more
decisive in driving the word-of-mouth of your customers. As a CX
professional, you should take a neutral perspective in assessing
the X-VOC Data and render unbiased advises in driving the target
business results.

To improve NPS, you need to have an open mindset: improving
customer service or transforming company culture is not always the solution
to your CX challenges.

Instead of Being Cut, You Show Where and What to Cut Costs

Besides NPS, you could also use the X-VOC Data to identify other business
drivers – e.g. repeat purchase and retention (note 3). On top of
identifying what’re the most important attributes in driving your targets,
the X-VOC Data can also indicate what the unimportant ones are, i.e. those
attributes with the least contribution in driving business

With the support of empirical data, when the company had to cut costs,
instead of being downsized or laid off, you’re the one who advises where
and what to reduce or eliminate; and the beauty is, these data are not
coming from any external authorities or internal parties, but generated directly from your customers.

To play an objective role in allocating resource, you have to be independent. The inconvenient truth is: CX is not the
extension of customer service and should not be attached to
customer service or any other functions; obsessed with culture
transformation no more, as
Customer Centricity could be the false god of customer experience.

Let’s jump out of the box and stop being caged.

Your Make Yourself Unexpendable

Customers perceive a brand through every experience that they have at every
touch-point and channel from the beginning until the end of their customer
lifecycle. A brand, literally, is represented by the total customer experience (TCE).

Imagine you extend your assessment from one single touch-point experience
(e.g. the Starbucks in-store) to cover the total customer experience, then
subsequently, you’re evaluating the effectiveness of resource allocation of
your brand in aggregate. See my post:
Branding Should be Managed by CXO, NOT CMO.

Strategy is about resource allocation. The effectiveness of a strategy is
judged largely by the effectiveness in resource allocation. When you impartially assess customer experience, you could then recommend
the best strategy in resource allocation for managing your brand
and in driving the target business results.

It’s time to relinquish your biased and operational role, and to drop the baggage of service improvement and culture
transformation. By connecting ‘what you do’ to business result, you make
yourself, and your CX initiative, unexpendable.

Are CX professionals expendable? No way! When you’re ready to take
up the ‘new role’ – an independent assessor and a strategic adviser in customer experience management, the right
question to ask should be:

How many CX professionals will get promoted in 2017?


1. Global Starbucks In-store Customer Experience Research, Global CEM and
CustomerThink (U.S.), September-October 2007.

2. X-VOC (Voice-of-Customer @ Experience) Data are generated by customer
research to obtain the satisfaction ratings and derive the importance
levels of each of the sub-processes (touch-point experiences) and
attributes during a touch-point experience (total customer experience).

3. See Sampson Lee,

PIG trategy: Make Customer Centricity Obsolete and
Start a Resource Revolution

(iMatchPoint, 2014), Chapter 10-11.

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