Friday, January 22, 2016

A Suggested Approach for Developing a Customer Experience Strategy - Part 1

First things first…”strategy” is one of the most misconstrued concepts in business, so let’s start with a definition of what it is, and what it isn’t…here are some references I’ve come across in books and in various media:
  • “Our strategy is to be the most trusted and admired company in the ___ space.”  This may be a worthwhile mission, but it’s not a strategy.
  • “Our strategy is to sell 100,000 units this year, while reducing costs by 10 percent.”  These are objectives, not strategies.
  • “Our strategy is to improve on our customer and employee satisfaction scores this year.”  These are goals, not strategies.
In his book, Deep Dive, Rich Horwath presents a simple and useful way to correctly define some commonly (misused) terms…
  • Goal - what you’re going to do…generally (e.g. improve our customer satisfaction score)
  • Objective - what you’re going to do… specifically (e.g. improve our customer satisfaction score from 80 to 85 by the end of our fiscal year)
  • Strategy - how you’re going to achieve the goals and objectives…generally (e.g. we’re going to improve our customer satisfaction score by implementing a formal customer experience function in our company).  This definition of strategy is a good starting point, and I’ll build on it shortly.
  • Tactic - how you’re going reach your goals and objectives…specifically (e.g. improve customer satisfaction by implementing a CX function that includes hiring two staff with CX expertise and investing in a data analytics solution)
Let’s elaborate on the initial strategy definition by adding three key MUST HAVES that are critical components of any strategic plan…
  • Identify the precise Business Challenge, Opportunity, Issue or Problem:  In his book, Good Strategy / Bad Strategy, Professor Richard Rumelt writes, “A good strategy recognizes the nature of the challenge and offers a way of surmounting it.”  Rumelt goes on to say, “When you cannot define the challenge (going forward, “challenges” will refer to any opportunity, issue, problem the company is facing), you cannot evaluate a strategy or improve it.  Tying this back to Horwath’s reference to strategy as “how to achieve goals and objectives…generally, the strategy articulates how the organization will deal with the challenges that must be addressed in order to attain the goals.
  • Identify the Resources and Activities that will be used to address the challenges: As Professor Rumelt says, “The most basic idea of strategy is the application of strength against weakness.”  That “strength” consists of those resources and activities in which the organization excels relative to its competitors.  It is in the application of those key resources and activities that the company gains an advantage or is differentiated from its competitors as judged by customers.
  • Develop choices for achieving the goals and objectives, and select those most appropriate:  An organization may have identified its goals, issues and required resources, but it still falls short of having completed its strategy if it hasn’t also developed at least two viable choices for how to proceed.  Unfortunately, many companies stop their strategy development after coming up with only a single potential solution. In 99 percent of cases, there will always be at least two (if not more) approaches a company can take to achieve its goals.  Consequently, a robust and rigorous approach to strategy design will always thoroughly consider a group of potential options and select the one(s) that best fit and make use of its resources to achieve the stated goals.  

Goals, objectives, strategy and tactics, taken together, are the interrelated components of an integrated and coherent strategic plan…an absence of any one of these results in an incomplete plan.  

In previous posts , this blog has introduced various tools (e.g. surveys, journey maps, audits) that can be applied at the tactical and design levels to address specific customer experience activities.  Now that we’re focusing on CX strategy, over the next few posts, I’d like to introduce and explain a couple of new tools, that we’ll use to develop the customer experience strategy for the HealthScan company introduced in the previous post’s case study. 


Crafting a strategy is often overwhelming because it involves a lot of “connecting the dots” among seemingly unrelated items.  The essential purpose of these tools is to help organize our thinking and ensure we’ve addressed all of the components of the strategic plan.

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