In a nutshell
- The meaning of CX has changed over the past 10-15 years.
- Brands and organisations need to agree on the role of CX in their teams.
- Trust is the superpower of CX - especially in uncertain times.
Matt Watkinson is a giant in CX. Author of The Ten Principles Behind Great Customer Experiences and The Grid: The Master Model Behind Business Success, co-founder and CEO of design agency Methodical, Matt provides invaluable insight into the intersection between what companies do and what people want – and how we can better bridge that gap.
TRA Partner Colleen Ryan sat down with Matt to talk about the one thing brands or organisations should have at the centre of their customer relationships: trust.
From the huge number of people who watched this TRA TV episode live or on-demand: it’s clear people are hungry to know more about CX and how they can create trust with the people they serve.
Running short on time? We’ve pulled together the top takeaways from Matt and Colleen’s discussion here – so you can get to work building a better relationship with your customers than ever before.
Read these key points below – and watch the full livestream here.
1. It's difficult to see whether CX practices have improved over the years.
Matt has been in the CX space for over a decade, so is uniquely positioned to assess whether the marketing industry as a whole is improving at CX practices.
In some ways, he says, he is seeing growth in the right direction.
“Objectively, things are getting better because competitive action propels evolution and progress.”
However, Matt is keen to stress that there’s still lots of room to improve.
“I think there are always some brands or companies that are amazing, and just blow you away, release[ing] innovative new things, but there are always brands that are lacklustre.”
“I’m not sure whether things are getting better at a rate that is exceeding the rate that my expectations are going up."
Furthermore, it can be difficult to accurately measure growth across industries over such a long period, Matt states.
“How would you assess whether people are getting better at it? What’s the appropriate measure for progress over such a macro time scale?”
2. But it's easy to see that interest in CX is growing.
While it may be difficult to see if brands and organisations are improving at CX, one thing is clear: there’s definitely a buzz.
In recent years, CX has quickly become the hot-topic at conferences and events. Colleen points to a rapid shift to accommodate new job titles and, in many cases, entire teams dedicated to refining and optimising the customer experience – as further proof of this rising interest.
“We’ve definitely seen more of these purpose-driven customer units growing within companies. Many companies have organised in terms of tribes or subsets of marketing around customer experience,” said Colleen. “And I’m sure many of the [people watching TRA TV] will have job titles around customer experience, customer officers.”
“There’s certainly been a lot more interest in it, and there’s been a lot more hype about it,” agreed Matt.
“Perhaps that’s made it harder, if anything, to demonstrate progress, because the expectation of the industry is so high, perhaps what can be delivered in the real world.”
3. There's confusion about what CX really means.
“A lot of people now, when they talk about customer experience, what they really mean is customer value. They mean the total perception of value that the customer gets,” said Matt.
“Ten, fifteen years ago, the conversation was different. When I was talking about customer experience, [we were] just trying to coordinate and join things up a bit and take advantage of having a multitude of convenient channels… The emphasis was on the design of the interactions and trying to create something that was coherent and cohesive.”
The mindset shift from CX as multi-channel design to whole-of-brand customer value has meant that customer experience roles are now defined differently across organisations – and even within teams.
Often customer experience roles are filled by people from a wide range of different backgrounds, with varied perceptions of what customer service means to them. With all these competing ideas and opinions, the CX space has found itself in the middle of a slight tug-of-war between CX designers and marketers.
“You have a little bit of tension there between some people who work in customer experience and don’t necessarily know much about marketing or may even be hostile towards marketing, whilst also trying to take over this role as being the arbiters of total customer value and controlling everything.”
“You get a lot of turf wars and politics and clashing agendas and confusion because people are talking cross-purposes about what they mean.”
4. Brands need to get clear on where CX fits in
Where does value come from for a customer? Matt lists five primary sources of customer value (brand, awareness and communications, the sales process, the product or service itself, and after-sales care/customer service), and then asks: where does customer experience fit in?
“Are you trying to bolt that on the side? Are you trying to bolt that on top? How does it all work? How’s it going to be coordinated? What’s the operation model? How do we try to join those things up?”
These aren’t questions to ask after you’re already up and running – they’re foundational questions to ask at the very beginning of setting up your organisation’s structure.
“I think people need to have a very clear idea about that upfront before they start creating teams.”
Matt’s perspective on CX is as a horizontal framework to lay across all disciplines and teams – but he is eager to emphasise that this may not be how others see it. What’s important, he says, is that you do have a CX structure that is agreed upon throughout your entire organisation.
5. Trust is the CX superpower in uncertain times.
The dominant mood of the nation right now is uncertainty – and we know that the best thing brands can do to navigate uncertainty is to build trust.
As Colleen states: “We are seeing trust wobble around the world. We know that trusting brand is highly influential. It affects the choices we make. I mean, who wants to buy a brand they don’t trust?”
Read more about TRA’s work on trust and uncertainty here.
“There are many ways that you can earn trust with people,” urges Matt. “But it always comes back to doing the basic things.”
“Of course you’re going to trust something more if they’re consistent or reliable. And you naturally trust the people who have the most expertise or perhaps share that expertise the most freely.”
“I think about the role of expectation management – do we actually set expectations that can be met and are we deliberate about that?”
While trust might not be a revolutionary concept, it is truly crucial to building a strong customer experience. As Matt quips, “you don’t really realise the value of [trust] until it’s gone, you know?”
Customer experience is a rapidly growing field with no signs of slowing down.
Hear more from Matt and Colleen in the full TRA TV episode here.
And go deeper still with Colleen's articles on trust and brand:
Why trust is so important for your brand experience