Who in your company should be responsible for focusing on delivering superior experiences?

In a word, everyone.

Right now, too many companies are stuck in the siloed mindset of the past, where customer experience (CX) means only touchpoints and was something for just the marketing team to worry about.

And when executed well, CX investments have yielded good results: more customers, sales and loyalty.

But here’s the thing: Many CX fundamentals are now routine and expected by customers as a given. That means it’s harder than ever to differentiate through customer touchpoints alone.

This reality has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and rapidly changing customer expectations about everything. It also proves something else: It’s very difficult to solve real customer needs if your company is focused on function-specific priorities and not on making experience the heart of the business.

CX should evolve into something that does. We’re calling it BX, or Business of Experience, which is about solving for human needs around a purpose — not just optimizing touchpoints.

BX is about companies pushing beyond the CX philosophy and reimagining their entire business through the lens of experience.

Here’s what I tell my clients when we discuss how to make this happen.

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Downtimes offer a key opportunity to expand the experience remit

Why is this more important than ever?

Think of your neighborhood go-to restaurant and how it’s remade itself amid the pandemic. The pre-COVID business model was pretty straightforward: “We serve good food, get great reviews on Yelp, and people come in.”

Then suddenly, these small businesses (like your local cheese shop) were forced to evolve. They had to add curbside pickup (their version of adjusting the supply chain). They had to physically build outdoor seating with plastic dividers, heaters and more. Then they had to relate the new experience to digital; customers have to snap a pic of a QR code to show the menu. They had to ensure the food stayed warm and train the entire staff to reorient around this new experience. Maybe, while they were building this feature, they added personalized digital coupons as well.

Essentially, facing an existential threat, the proprietors took a step back, figured out what they needed to do to survive and did it throughout the “organization” — physical, digital and with employee buy-in.

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BX is about companies pushing beyond the CX philosophy and reimagining their entire business through the lens of experience.

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Now consider a nationwide restaurant chain I won’t name. When eating at their restaurant recently, their QR code took me not to the menu but to the corporate homepage. I called over the waitress, and she said, “Oh yeah, people keep pointing that out. They need to fix it.”

The big chain only made a half-hearted attempt to adjust to changing customer needs or was simply unable to organize around getting it done. It simply faced less of an immediate threat to continued operations. But when the world goes back to some semblance of normalcy, that chain will find itself lagging behind its peers – both national and local – that went all-in on experience.

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The trains have to keep running while you’re building the tracks

Why is this kind of change such a big challenge? Think about it: You’re asking people to transform how they work—or the way they think about working—while continuing to meet their regular performance metrics. The restaurant owner must keep delivering the food that gets great reviews on Yelp while completely overhauling the way it’s delivered.

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For BX to work, all functions must be tightly linked, with different skill sets in the company working together as one to deliver on experience.

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The traditional way of thinking at most companies is for the different functions to operate independently to achieve results. And this makes sense: Some teams are more risk-averse than others, for example. But for BX to work, all functions must be tightly linked, with different skill sets in the company working together as one to deliver on experience.

It’s no secret that in non-crisis times, people are afraid of change for valid reasons. “If I do it that way, I won’t make my numbers.” “I don’t know how to do it differently.” “If I stop doing what I’m doing, maybe my job is now obsolete.” This is another reason why downtimes are actually a good opportunity for trying a different approach. People are aware of the macro challenges the company faces and understand the need to change.

Be bipartisan: Reach across the aisle

In the absence of a crisis, people need to be convinced to take a different path. In many ways, this first requires leaders to be evangelists for change, making a clear and accessible case to employees for why change is necessary. This can involve no small amount of diplomacy and “reaching across the aisle,” so to speak. You’ll need to show operations employees, for example, that you understand why they currently work the way they do, and then paint a new vision.

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Building a business around experience starts with a better employee experience. People need to feel that their work is valued.

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Leaders need to bring employees along on a journey. Building a business around experience starts with a better employee experience. People need to feel that their work is valued. If what you’re doing doesn’t make them feel valued, they will leave the company.

So leaders must accommodate the specific way different kinds of employees work—for example, creatives need room to be creative. Sometimes a good idea comes instantly, sometimes it takes three weeks. They have to be comfortable raising their hands and making a suggestion that might first seem off the wall.

And leaders must collaborate with employees. It’s not about issuing a top-down directive but laying out where the organization needs to go and then soliciting their ideas about how best to get there.

Opportunity is in the eye of the beholder

A crisis like the pandemic can accelerate an organization’s move toward becoming a business of experience — after all, necessity is the mother of invention. A crisis also is a business case for a new way to think and work that you can make to your people.

Startups have long been experience masters. It may seem easier to build a business centered on experience when you’re starting from scratch. With some effort, it’s also achievable for mature companies, and not just under extreme circumstances. It’s a process and a journey, but one that companies – big and small, national or local – need to start now if they want to stay relevant to their customers.

Jeannine Falcone

​​Senior Managing Director – Interactive​

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