A Race Without a Finish Line: How to Stop Chasing Customer Experience

Winning customer experience strategy can feel like chasing a unicorn. Rising expectations, omnichannel, and hyperpersonalization are challenging for even the most prominent companies with dedicated departments, let alone smaller orgs.

You’ve probably read many articles about CX strategy and how following simple steps will lead directly to unparalleled success. Articles like that aren’t doing anyone any favors. The quick fix path leads to lost funding and stalled projects.

CX strategy is not a paint-by-numbers game. It isn’t about immediate hits, and, even if you follow all the steps, chances are that you’re going to fail, and probably several times, before you’re on the right path.

All that said, CX still needs to be a pillar of your organization to thrive in the future. There isn’t a magic solution, but there are things you need to know and can do practically today.

The Journey of CX

In a recent Mendix “Win With Customer Experiences” survey, respondents noted that their orgs want to use CX to increase customer loyalty, improve brand perception, and stay ahead of the competition. That’s good validation for CX motivations that you might have guessed. It’s not the whole story, though.

According to the survey, customers have a long list of frustrations with current experiences, including long wait times, unresolved issues, and siloing, among many others. For the vast majority of organizations, there’s not a single CX-focused project that can solve even a large portion of those problems, let alone all of them.

Further, Gartner’s 2022 customer experience primer points out that CX focus for many orgs is still on a click-and-convert mentality rather than long-term satisfaction. A new app may improve CX in a particular touchpoint but isn’t a cohesive strategy on its own.

CX is a commitment and an investment into culture as much as anything. But most businesses aren’t currently in that space.

Gartner also posits that the “chances of successfully orchestrating customer journeys will be slim if CMOs do not invest in the right capabilities and right partnerships across the enterprise.” That means data, that means systems, that means processes, and that means resources up and down the organization. It sounds great, but it’s not easy.

According to the Mendix survey, more than half of organizations spend more on maintaining existing systems than on innovation. As tech heads toward deprecation, maintenance costs go up. That’s especially true in highly regulated industries like financial services or insurance.

Image from “Win w/Customer Experiences: CX Delivery Challenges,” Mendix.

On top of that, traditional development can be costly in time, resources, and money. It doesn’t make for an ideal environment for testing and quick experiments, and so many orgs don’t do it. That leads to innovation paralysis.

It’s not the rosiest picture, but it’s the truth.

Planting The Flag

In better news, the extremes of maintaining the status quo or committing to years of upheaval aren’t the only options.

Any innovation experiment—any digital execution project—is worth doing. Even if your new workflow fails or your app is a flop, you’re gaining insights into your customers’ needs. And those are the foundations of success: data, iteration, and insights.

The Gartner primer tells us that “strong CX enables the delivery of cross-functional and sustainable business outcomes.” That doesn’t mean don’t do bespoke projects, but it does mean that they should fit into a larger strategy.

This means patience up to the highest levels of the organization, with leaders acknowledging that failure and a bit of sunk cost are part of the process. So long as you’re failing quickly and learning things from the process to take to the next project, nothing is a total loss. CX is a long-haul, company-wide project. Governance and direction are critical. If leaders understand and demonstrate that CX is a long-term play, that message spreads throughout the business.

According to the Mendix survey, orgs that are succeeding at CX better understand customers’ needs. And they’re doing it with data. That data drives not just insights but hyperpersonalization, automation, analytics, omnichannel and self-service. In other words, data is giving CX strategies life.

First One Step, Then Another

When you put together multiple projects, strategic direction, and data, that’s where low-code development offers a path.

Instead of toiling for months on a new experience that may or may not miss the mark, you can prototype and release in weeks with low-code. If it works, fantastic! If it doesn’t, you can look for why and move on to the next instead of bemoaning sunken costs. Even the most minor project provides invaluable data to build and iterate on.

Mendix, in particular, further focuses on data. The Mendix Data Hub offers organizations a pain-free way to collect, manage, and interpret data. If you’ve ever worked with data, you know that badly-managed data can be worse than no data at all. Data Hub helps avoid that.

There are examples in every industry where strong CX drives success, both by disruptors and traditional leaders.

In retail, look at an organization like Chewy.com. Investing in automation allowed them to grow by 42.7% year over year.

Collin Crowdfund utilized the power of low-code to start a brand-new player in the crowdfunding investment space. They used Mendix to build their platform and stunning interface in just five months, allowing them to focus on growing the business.

In insurance, Corant Global built out 20 projects on the Mendix platform to completely revitalize their customer-facing experience in a short time.

Xometry offers a potential model for manufacturers, with rich CX around custom manufacturing.

These organizations aren’t offering new services as much as they’re executing to make the customer experience easy to use and appealing. None of that would be possible without massive amounts of data behind it. Data underpins everything in a strong customer experience.

There’s also a substantial competitive advantage to organizations that deploy low-code now. Looking back at the Mendix survey one more time, only 1/3 of survey respondents plan to use low-code or no-code to combat their CX issues, even though those same respondents rate low-code platforms highly in helping with customer retention, loyalty, and ROI. Scroll up a few paragraphs, and you might recall those as some of the top CX drivers. Low-code doesn’t mean that you won’t have to spend a lot of effort building and maintaining successful CX, but it does mean that you’re pulling yourself above your competition.

Using low-code isn’t a guarantee for success. But you’ll have solutions that fit into your ecosystem faster. Orgs starting today will leave competitors scrambling to catch up in the years ahead.

Customer Focus, No Matter What

The path to winning with CX isn’t an easy one to navigate. There are no promises, and what succeeds today may need to be scrapped in a year. CX is a race without a finish line. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you’ve solved CX because no one really can, at least not for the long term.

Orgs that adopt CX as a mentality instead of a task position themselves best. Put the customer first, use the right tools, keep ideas pointed to strategy, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes and fail quickly. It sounds like a lot because it is. But today’s market disruptors are becoming tomorrow’s market leaders based on those exact ideas.

As Simon Sinek, author of The Infinite Game, noted as part of a keynote at Mendix World 2021, “If you miss a business goal, do you know what happens? Nothing. Nothing happens to the health of the business. All that happens is we miss the arbitrary goal, and maybe some individual incentive is missed, but the health of the business may be healthier if we’re doing all the right things.”

There are countless businesses that focused on the short-term, didn’t prepare themselves for the future, and now are now left in the past. Avoid their fate and adapt your mindset.

All Gartner quotes from “Customer Experience Primer for 2022.”