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DESIGN & CRAFT

Customer Experience (CX) Perfection is a Moving Goalpost

Shane Kelly, Pound & Grain

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After a lot of talk, I recently committed to a couple of new hobbies. It’s great, and I’m happy to give these things a decent chunk of time in the name of “getting good” at them, but I don’t really feel like I’ve added to the list of things I do with my time. I’ve brought a few new things in, but as a result, previous priorities suffer.

Like 51% of marketers in North America, you may now lead CX activities at your organization. Like me, you may find the new thing on your to-do list demands time, but unlike my trivial interests, your new thing is likely a hot topic for everyone around you.

With that comes pressure to overhaul or at least improve. The threat of getting left behind by leading brands and CX visionaries is uncomfortable. The onus to point to something being done about it is heavy. But, achieving CX “wins” isn’t easy. Forrester’s 2018 (CX Index) did not find one brand with an “excellent” CX. Part of this is down to how hard it is to achieve excellence, but a lot of it is down to how hard it is to achieve a competitive edge and be perceived as noticeably different. Many categories have reached parity.

Whatever you think about the index itself, the report’s theme speaks of a bigger truth: inherent in optimization exercises and “designing for change” is the struggle of meeting rapidly evolving customer expectations. This year’s novel CX feature is next year’s “I’d be appalled if they didn’t do it that way.”

Obviously, it would be ridiculous to say investments in CX aren’t beneficial. Some of the most popular brands today earned their standing by creating experiences that reduce and soothe processes people previously hated. Brands that blithely ignore the modern shopper’s CX sensitivities risk a lot. But, not every brand has the means to sustain or grow share of voice in a competitive marketplace while acting on their CX ambitions.

On top of that, it’s tough to design a universally satisfying CX. As most customer journeys aren’t so linear anymore, there’s multiple “ways in” and sequences people can follow. With that, there are too many permutations along the way for most brands to account for in trying to satisfy every edge case. User testing, in-depth interviews, research reports and various other inputs are all very helpful in identifying what merits attention. What’s more challenging is assigning these things a weighting and picking your battles. It’s very easy to get overwhelmed by findings and feel like everything is in need of radical action. Even less-than-radical-action isn’t cheap, so inevitably something has to give if these overhauls are to happen.

The very tempting solution is to steal an extra sliver of this year’s marketing budget to put into getting your house in order. But, people’s expectations are going to keep evolving. Others will keep looking for competitive edges at different points of the user journey. That house never really gets in order. The trade-off in pouring spend into shooting for the moving goalpost that is CX excellence is neglecting the activities that best carve out a meaningful difference and the appeal to attract people in the first place. Making one moment in the CX excellent/creating one unique benefit along the way, and getting other touchpoints “good enough” may yield more returns than optimizing every millimeter of the customer journey equally… likely in lieu of investing in attracting new buyers.

More and more evidence shows that share of voice drives market share, so as CX takes up a bigger proportion of total responsibilities for the people behind brands it’s important to resist the temptation to siphon budget away from brand building. Doing so would actually increase the risk of getting left behind by market leaders.

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About the author: Shane works as a Strategic Planner at the Vancouver office of Pound & Grain, a creative agency built for the digital age. As a relative newbie to Vancouver; when not at work, or writing about himself in the 3rd person, Shane can be found exploring BC and pursuing fewer interests than his opening gambit suggests.