We need to talk about CX outcomes, not just feedback
One of the biggest misconceptions is that CX in Professional Services is about collecting client feedback and tweaking the things that negatively impact NPS scores. This mindset is a blind race to middle — something your firm shouldn’t want to win.
When firms submit to this mindset, they’re leaving extraordinary opportunity on the table when the effort to capture more value is low and the benefits are sky-high.
The pandemic forced many of us to radically rethink the ways we connect to meet our employees, prospects, clients, and partners where they are. Not to mention, balancing all this change while our families need us more than ever. In fact, most of us likely improved our people-connecting skills over the past year. This is the essence of CX at hyper-scale.
Your success correlates to how broadly your firm views CX
When firms relegate CX to asking paying clients how the provided service was, they are only barely scratching the surface of what CX can be doing for their firm. It’s like going to the doctor’s office for an annual physical/check-up and the doctor pops his head in the room for 5 seconds and asks, in passing, if you’re doing okay and asking you for either a thumbs-up or a thumbs down before he races off to the next patient to do the same. The reality is this is how most services-based firms are conducting CX.
How to view CX
Here’s the trick, stop thinking of CX as a thing you do and start thinking of CX as a firm-wide mindset. If you must think of it as a thing you do, please expand your idea of what that thing can do for your firm to encompass far more than you may currently see.
When firms adopt a CX mindset, they are putting people’s experiences at the center of everything they think about, plan, do, measure and so on.
Problem with CX is in its name
The problem with CX as a majority see it, is in the name of it. CX equals client experience, right? Yes, that is true. However, seemingly magical things happen inside firms that expand their vision of it to see it as business process improvement, HR modernization, digital transformation and applied emotional intelligence all wrapped up into one, driving force needed to compete and win in the 21st century.
Modernize your orientation
When CX Pilots is out presenting our work, case studies, methodologies, innovations, and philosophies about CX, we are almost always met with the tilting head double take. Like dogs that hear a high-pitched sound. We get it. We talk about CX far more expansively than most. In fact, we like to show this graphic to intentionally tilt more heads.
This chart illustrates the distribution of pilot programs or focus of the last several CX transformations our teams have facilitated. Notice, client feedback is 5 percent of total energy applied in this CX transformation. In fact, we typically spend 3X more time focusing on improving profitability and increasing client lifetime value via enhanced focus on the client relationship dynamics than we did on collecting client feedback. Take note, the engaging firm employees is significantly larger than all other aspects of a successful CX transformation.
CX Pilots is 100% focused on professional, services-based firms
Finally, a CX consulting team focused on supporting the unique needs of professional services firms. Reach out to see how we support firms like yours.
What is CX consulting?
“Wait a minute,” you might be saying…” that’s not CX, that’s just management consulting.” And you wouldn’t be altogether wrong. The difference is that we need the new power of outcome-oriented journey-based mapping and data management to make this new CX-based management consulting to be effective.
The reality that we have all been slammed into is that client expectations are different now. We must plan and react differently to the client’s new information-rich environment that is driving entirely new ranges of expectation than we once did. We must factor how the client thinks, feels, and behaves over time.
We must factor their new orientation into ours like we never have before. At the same time, we must empower employees differently than we have in the past. We need newer, fresher, reality-based data at every decision-point in every client and employee journey. And we need it fast.
What can CX accomplish for our firm?
When CX Pilots’ CX consultants talk about CX solutions, they’re talking about business solutions that use client (or prospect) journey-based information to drive positive outcomes. In most cases when you hear a CX Pilots CX consultant share experience-based metrics they are referring to Value Drivers and/or ROI Tools. These CX Value Drivers and CX ROI tools help firms in myriad ways.
22 ways you’re probably not fully leveraging CX
- Increase annual revenue by focusing on premium opportunities
- Increase # of ideal clients per year
- Increase profit by focusing on ideal client relationships
- Increase # of ideal projects/matters per year
- Decrease client churn
- Increase actionable insights from feedback
- Elevate firm purpose and brand promise to drive engagement
- Decrease # hours in unprofitable prospect pursuits per year
- Convert # of blind RFPs into sole source opportunities
- Increase # of repeat clients
- Improve effectiveness of onboarding
- Integrate marketing into CX for lower cost/lead and overall BD costs
- Increase NPS ranking/promoters
- Improve referral volume and quality
- Increase potential price premium
- Increase client lifetime value (CLV)
- Improve marketing content strategy via journey-based info
- Inject greater empathy into marketing, proposal, interview, and lifecycle management
- Decrease employee churn, increase employee engagement
- Decrease cost of recruitment while increasing effectiveness
- Eliminate project lifecycle friction
- Unification and differentiation of firm brand, messaging and positioning around experience-based approach
CX impact on marketing alone is a game-changer
When your firm begins to fully grasp the impact journey-based information can have, we guarantee light bulbs will go off in every head involved. It happens in every CX program we help create. At first, firm marketers see the opportunity staring them in the eye, then a giant wave of positive change begins to take hold.
Here is how it unfolds — we illustrate the simplified client journey and overlay relative client vs. firm effort across marketing, sales/BD, and the actual client journey once they are paying clients. We then slice internal content (how your firm communicates internally) and external content (how your firm externalizes its messages). Once that is out in the open, we then facilitate a “what-if” workshop that asks, ‘what if we could lower the prospect’s effort at the earlier parts of their journey in hiring us — what would that look like?’
Then we draft an alternate view of the generic client journey and lay bare the dozens of opportunities to innovate firm messaging and communications (both internally and externally) to inject more value and meaningful exchanges at points that can immediately and directly improve every outcome.
What’s most eye-opening to most firms who experience this dichotomy for the first time is how often people in marketing and business development underestimate the power of journey-based planning from the prospect and client’s point of view.
As you can see, when we, at CX Pilots, hear seasoned CX professionals ‘contain’ CX to client feedback alone, we’re nearly speechless at the number of missed opportunities to improve business outcomes at nearly every turn.
Now, when you hear a CX Pilots CX transformation expert talk about opening the apertures of CX, you’ll better understand what they’re talking about.
Listen to what your clients say — but also watch what they do
Here’s the fulcrum of the issue. Do you 100% trust your client to know what you need to capture, understand, contextualize, and improve in your business from their brief encounter with your employees? I hope you don’t. I hope you do trust them — but I also hope your trust isn’t faith blind.
Clients know what they know and are always biased toward the outcomes that benefit them most. Asking them if they had their needs met and then calling it a day, feels more anemic today than it ever has.
If I were you, I would want to know so much more.
For instance, the generic NPS question, “How likely are you to refer a friend or colleague to our firm, and why?” is almost the last question we recommend you asking someone who just consumed one of your services.
That is not a satisfaction question, that’s an appeasement question. Imagine asking your spouse or anyone else with whom you’re connected or care about, on an annual basis, ‘on a scale of 1–10 how likely are you to not dump me?’
It’s insane to us as CX transformation experts that firms still ask these questions and consider their CX, accomplished. Literally, the last question I would ask a client that I truly care about. Trust us, we’ve talked to thousands of customers of services-based firms and what we’ve learned would shock you into change!
Instead of asking them if they would refer you, analyze what they have done in the past with your firm over time. Have they actually ever referred? If so, what specifically drove that behavior? If not, did it fly in the face of their NPS survey questions?
We’re abundantly skeptical because for 20 years or so of driving CX outcomes, we’ve asked thousands of clients about their propensity to refer then asked if they have every referred. We’re no longer surprised that when asked directly if they would refer, the answer is extraordinarily biased toward the positive. However, in their actual behavior, we see nearly a 100% different outcome.
The way around this is to watch behavior and then go out of your way to stimulate referral behaviors. If your firm’s people are recovering impeccably from every error, isolating every point of service friction and exercising deep emotional intelligence (and empathy) at each interaction, you will begin to see measurable increases in the referral behavior your firm deserves.
Work is changing, change with it
As the workplace revolution accelerates, competing firms begin to double-down on their employees’ engagement levels, and more focus is driven into the economics of experience, a lot of important dynamics in business are going to shake out.
We are 100 percent confident that those firms who take a much broader view of experience as a prime driver of business and choose to focus on those experience-based business drivers will be those who win. We call these drivers, outcomes.
And who does your firm hold accountable for these new outcomes? Your employees. Are you adequately educating, equipping, and empowering them to see the whole picture and giving them the tools, data, and authority to act, flexibly in the best interest of the client at their discretion? If not, you might consider starting there.
When you look back up at the chart above, you might notice the single largest slice of that pie goes to employee engagement for good reason. We move resources to the front and to the edge to drive loyalty outcomes where they can provide the greatest return. Upskilling front lines to sense and react in modern services-based firms is almost always the best money spent in CX.
Case study “CX in the field”
Case in point: we worked recently with a national leader in engineering. In a client journey session, we hit a prime tension point between a firm manager and their direct report, a site supervisor.
CX Pilots asked the site superintendent a pointed question,
“Are you comfortable that you have the authority to fix a client’s problem without first needing to get your manager’s approval?”
Her answer was an honest and candid ‘no.’
Her manager, sitting across the room said,
“What the hell are you talking about? Of course, you do. If the client wants us to fix something, you should fix it — no matter the cost. You’ve been trained to do just that.”
The employee snapped back,
“That is literally why Gary and Estefan got fired last year — they fixed something we screwed up, in the moment, without first asking a manager and were immediately fired for an infraction you guys still call insubordination …so no, I’m sorry to report, we do not.”
In the case above, there was a major miscommunication between employees (the site supervisor) and her manager (VP of Site Ops) around how to meet clients’ expectations on the spot and in the moment. This miscommunication actually resulted in job loss and a subsequent fear-based response from everyone else — the exact opposite of employee engagement.
The manager thought his direct reports felt empowered to fix problems however the employee felt an overwhelming layer of bureaucracy and fear which explained the firm’s extraordinary employee churn of 38% in that role. We helped the firm create a new authority structures to account for this.
B2B is now H2H
We hear it a few times a week; “yea, but we’re a B2B firm, our clients know we must serve them differently.”
That ship has sailed.
B2B or business-to-business is now largely H2H or human-to-human. It matters less today that your offering is complicated and fraught with dozens of interrelated people, technologies, and processes.
What matters most to your clients, future clients, employees, and partners is that you have the systems to see the whole 360-degree picture and you are able to stitch all the interactions together in a way that is intelligent, prepared and life-simplifying.
Clients want to feel engaged in your firm’s purpose and work.
Nothing sends the opposite message more clearly than when your touchpoints (web, emails, phone calls, invoices, and front desk) aren’t perfectly orchestrated or your front-line employees aren’t aware of what your client called about last Friday evening after opening an email from the account owner back at HQ.
This happens all the time and deteriorates faith, trust, and loyalty in a heartbeat when your intentions are and have been the exact opposite.
With all the seismic shifts in business and what our best clients expect from us as firm leaders it is time for us to let go of most antiquated CX orthodoxy and embrace experience-based business as its unfolding in front of us.
Our clients are telling us they are no longer benchmarking us against other legal, CPA, Construction, Engineering, or other services firms — they’re benchmarking us against EVERYONE and EVERYTHING. Amazon, FedEx, Chipotle, Jersey Mikes, Carvana, LegalZoom, and Home Depot. If it can be this easy to transact with consumer brands, why can’t it also be that easy to transact with my accountant, lawyer, and construction firm? Sound ridiculous to you?
According to a PWC survey in 2018, 86% of B2B buyers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience; and according to a 2019 LUMOA study, at least 80% of B2B buyers are not only looking for but expect a buying experience like that of a B2C customer.
Ok, so how should I approach CX?
The solution to all this is to begin a CX management program by beginning.
If you’re a leader in your firm, call a meeting to discuss CX foundations and your firm’s best playbook to get it started. If you’re an employee that is interested or you’ve been asked to explore CX for your firm, reach out to us for a free consultation to get help taking the first steps in figuring this stuff out. We can help start the right dialog for your firm and at the very least, share some data, information, and advice.
It is true that real, transformative client success programs can be complicated — especially the first few steps in getting your firm’s right play in CX started. However, we’re here to tell you that the least sophisticated firms on earth are all beginning to take CX far more seriously and learning what their best approach is given their size, goals, and resource limitations.
If an extraordinarily skeptical and conservative 5,000-person firm can do this, you can too.
CX Pilots is mission-built to help professional, services-based firms accomplish great things with CX. In fact, our mission is to help these firms become the very best versions of themselves. When it comes to CX, we are a professional services firm’s best friend.
Best of luck to you in your CX pursuits.
Again, begin by beginning. A modest two-hour meeting is often the best first step. We’re happy to provide the right agenda for you if you’re interested.