If your brand was a person, who would it be? Wait, before you stop reading, this question isn’t as silly as it sounds. There should be someone in your organization who walks in your brand’s shoes and always puts the best foot forward.
This representative should be dedicated to building lasting relationships with members and helping your organization fine-tune culture, products, and services to meet their changing needs. They should be an empath who channels both your brand persona and its audience.
If no one on your team combines the skills of a hand-holder, diplomat, ambassador, influencer, and adept translator of member-speak, it may be time to consider hiring a chief experience officer.
Isn’t that a CMO’s job? Well, yes, it could be. There are many areas where the two roles overlap. Traditionally the CMO’s focus has been on generating revenue by convincing customers about what they want to buy and why.
Focus on the Future
Today the emphasis is shifting. Marketers are becoming aware of the important links between experience, persuasion, and the bottom line. Customer experience is marketing played as a long game. It’s about showing rather than telling.
These are qualities that characterize customer experience:
- Takes a broad perspective—encompasses interactions both across the organization and constituencies and can extend to employees and the public as well as members.
- Promotes culture—maximizes the connection between shared values and customer loyalty.
- Is ongoing—focuses on the continuum of interactions between your organization and its members, from engagement through a sale and beyond.
- Prioritizes outcomes—views customer satisfaction as the significant metric of success.
- Seeks solutions—products and services are designed to solve members’ challenges.
- Focuses on attraction and engagement—delivers products and services in venues and formats designed to delight individual customers.
According to Gartner, the technology and research consulting firm, 90 percent of organizations now have a CX officer or an equivalent position. However, Gartner’s research also indicates that the ability to make an impact requires a commitment to the perspectives outlined above as well as a level of proficiency that is acquired through practice.
Gartner identifies these qualities as key to delivering value:
- A customer journey mapping process that extends beyond acquisition and purchase through the life of the relationship.
- The ability to accurately develop personas and create their journey maps. CX programs that exceeded management’s expectations were nearly twice as likely to have persona-building and journey-mapping initiatives in place for at least three years.
.orgSource Vice President Marketing and Communication Services, Jane Pearson, explains the value of cultivating member experience like this:
“Guessing about member preferences is not an option. You need to be laser-focused on creating a great customer journey. One unpleasant experience jumpstarts the leap to another platform, product, or service.”
Bridge the Gap
Associations have a big advantage in the customer experience arena. Unlike many businesses, we have always been focused on member retention. Since day one, our goal has been and continues to be, building lasting relationships.
Yet, we’ve only recently acquired the tools to accurately analyze our interactions with our constituents over time. Digital transformation allows organizations to aggregate information across systems. Your CMS, LMS, website, and social platforms all provide clues to understanding how your members want to interact and what you can do to gain their appreciation and confidence.
Although most small to mid-sized groups probably do not have the resources to hire a dedicated customer experience professional to evaluate those activities. The distance between great marketing and great customer experience is only as wide as you make it. There are plenty of steps innovative associations can take to bridge the gap. Intention, education, and training give teams a broader perspective.
Bring Technology Up to Speed
My first recommendation is, if your software puts walls between your team and your audience, begin opening doors. David Martin, CEO and Executive Vice President at the Society of Critical Care Medicine, was an early adopter of tech strategies designed to improve customer experience.
All SCCM’s data sources are connected—bringing together transactions, committee assignments, email communications, website, and more. This integration makes it possible to build customer personas and uncover insights concerning constituents’ needs. The system provides a real-time engagement score for each of its 175,000 customers. Martin described the benefits like this.
“Going 100 percent digital allowed us to get a 360-degree view of our constituents. SCCM can focus investment in its most important customers, see patterns in demographics, and respond with changes in pricing or adjustments in strategies.
“The data results in business intelligence that better meets customer needs. It provides new ways of thinking about customers that drive revenue growth in the short term and create insight into future behaviors and new product development in the long term.”
Once those powerful systems are in place. Make sure that your staff knows how to maximize their potential. Provide education to get everyone, not just the IT and marketing departments, up to speed with this more expansive way of thinking. You can find information about companies that offer both analytics packages and training on .orgCommunity’s Solutions Center.
Adopt the CXO Mindset
When your team understands how to access the information at their fingertips, give them the power to use it to improve member experiences. With the right mindset, everyone can be a CXO. Encourage your employees to look for roadblocks to member satisfaction and find ways to smooth the path.
Computer processes that force users into an endless loop, links that are pointing to the wrong information, or an inefficient voicemail system are the kinds of annoying complications that can easily be fixed when employees have a procedure for bringing problems forward and solving them together. These are strategies that can help leaders use the power of the group to create memorable member experiences.
- Provide access to member analytics to all employees
- Be a role model for customer-centricity
- Create customer experience goals for performance
- Tie goals to metrics and solutions
- Offer recognition and rewards for employees who meet those criteria
- Reinforce the role that every employee plays as a customer ambassador
- Dedicate a budget line to customer experience activities
- Offer training on communication and empathy, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
Keep Eyes on the Prize
Delivering great customer experiences is all about keeping the focus where it belongs, on your members. You may never actually hire a CXO. And, if your brand isn’t just one person, but an entire team, you may not need to.