It’s an interesting question because most people don’t think about a Customer Experience (CX) program in terms of risks. As many studies have demonstrated, a company-wide focus on delivering a strong customer experience at every touchpoint will often have very positive effects on a business. These include higher customer retention, repurchase, and renewal, as well as a better reputation in the market (which leads to higher sales win rates), and stronger employee engagement (which means lower employee attrition).
While the benefits may be clear, the risks do not get as much attention. So, back to the question:
What is the biggest risk your Customer Experience program can pose to your business?
I’ve heard a variety of answers, including versions of:
- “We’ll get negative feedback, which can be upsetting to our employees.”
- “If we don’t respond appropriately, it will upset our customers and they’ll hold it against us.”
- “The feedback we receive will require we do a lot of work to address customer frustrations.”
While these are all true, none pose the biggest risk. In fact, these justifiable concerns are fairly simple to overcome. For example:
- You will likely get negative feedback, but the truth should be welcomed and seen as constructive. Many of us (companies and people) are continuously striving for improvement.
- Customers will want you to respond but your closed-loop follow-up process can be structured in such a way so it isn’t a significant burden for the organization.
- Your company will need to action the feedback and demonstrate you are serious about continuous improvement, but I have yet to speak with a company that isn’t already working on such initiatives. The insights from your CX program simply serve as a roadmap for enhancing the customer experience so you can prioritize what to focus on.
So what’s the biggest risk? It’s when your company acts on bad CX data and/or findings.
How does such a thing happen? Actually, it’s surprisingly common and frighteningly easy to miss. Here are the five most common ways that I’ve seen companies fall victim to this dangerous situation:
- A company that relies on anecdotal feedback (the squeaky wheel) to drive decision making, when the frustrations shared by the loudest customers may not align with the ‘silent majority.’
- A CX survey program that asks the wrong questions or uses survey languages/scales that don’t follow best practices, resulting in “junk data” and/or biasing the data and findings.
- A CX survey program that fails to invite the right customer contacts, thereby skewing the data and findings towards those who may not be your key stakeholders.
- A CX survey program that has low response rates, thereby generating data and findings that are not representative of your broader customer set (i.e. not statistically reliable).
- A CX survey program that generates valid, representative, trustworthy data, but is then converted into improvement recommendations by someone who either isn’t well versed in data analysis or isn’t objective, thereby leading to confirmation bias.
What happens if one or more of these circumstances exist and your company acts on bad data and/or findings?
Imagine fast-tracking a product enhancement that few of your customers even care about. Or modifying your service delivery model in a way that alienates many of your largest revenue accounts. Or prioritizing investment in a new product or service offering that only a small segment of your customer population find compelling.
And that, in my view, is the biggest risk of an improperly executed Customer Experience program.
Yes – be sure your company has strong listening posts established, that your surveys (and other CX programs) align with best practices, that you conduct the proper follow-up and actioning of the findings, and that you have people who can properly analyze and interpret the data. But – most of all – be certain the data you are relying on is trustworthy and representative.
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