If you're reading this post, there's probably at least one person in your company (you) who's already working to improve your customer experience in some way. That means your company's CX efforts fall somewhere on the curve below.
Improve: This is where most companies start their customer experience initiatives. Typically, a small group implements a voice of the customer program, prioritizes customer feedback, and routes it to different parts of the organization so that they can make changes. Some employees might adopt new customer-focused work practices, but these efforts remain ad-hoc or siloed. The net result is incremental customer experience improvements.
Transform: At a certain point, some companies decide that they want to leverage customer experience in order to create a jump in customer loyalty, accelerate growth, and differentiate themselves from competitors. When that happens, incremental customer experience improvements are no longer sufficient. The company begins to change just about every part of the business--including processes, policies, technologies, and incentives--to focus on customers' needs.
Sustain: For companies that decide to take the path towards transformation, this is the end goal. Once a company puts customers at the center of all business operations, employees need to figure out how to sustain the new ways of working so that they can continue to deliver a great customer experience indefinitely.
Many companies will stay in the "improve" stage for decades to come. But Forrester predicts that more and more firms will reach an inflection point in 2012. We expect to see a wave of companies--both those that are floundering to gain their share of a smaller pool of spending and those that simply want to double down on their existing leadership positions--broadening the scope of their customer experience initiatives this year. C-level executives will officially name customer experience as a top strategic priority, jumpstarting their companies' transformation efforts.
What stage is your company currently in: improve, transform, or sustain?
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About the Author: Kerry Bodine is a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research serving Customer Experience professionals. She blogs at http://blogs.forrester.com/kerry_bodine and tweets at @kerrybodine