Treat Your CX Investment Like a 401K

Digital transformation – arguably the biggest marketing buzzword of the past decade – implies massive, large-scale change. We think of sweeping platform overhauls and spending a budget-bursting amount of resources on new strategies. 

This perception can lead companies down a slippery slope. The pressure to move fast and bet big often happens without brands having built a true connection with their customers and understanding what they need. The results are solutions launched for effect and not as an answer to a root customer issue. And since these companies aren’t addressing the real problems customers are facing, the solutions they invest in aren’t effective for very long. 

I have engaged with my share of companies who leapt into a giant investment in a certain solution or platform only to quickly find that it’s either not the right move for them or they aren’t getting as much out of it as they need. Now they feel stuck. 

In the same way that these types of moves can cause development teams to accumulate too much technical debt, design teams are also susceptible to experience debt. Let’s dive into three ways to avoid this debt and look at the benefits of starting small, incremental advancement, and eliminating silos. 

Start Small, Start Now

Think about the advice you surely got starting out in your professional career, whether it came from your HR and finance teams, parents, or some other mentor looking out for you. Don’t put off your 401K. Start now, even if it’s not much. Otherwise, you’ll regret it later on.

I’m sure we’ve all heard some variation of that advice. The same is true for your approach to digital transformation. Too many find themselves in the painful situation of reaching that milestone of retirement (or, in this case, the launch of your next major product/technology solution) only to realize they’re off track. Just like a valuable 401K, true innovation takes time and isn’t always linear. The best way to avoid coming up short is through incremental gains. Start small immediately and consistently build up your CX equity – with equity being the understanding of your customers’ real, contextual needs – for bigger payoffs down the road.

The Benefits of Incrementalism 

Let’s return to the common scenario of the all-at-once big investment that either pays off or doesn’t meet expectations. Part of the issue isn’t just in the approach leading up to the launch; it’s what happens – or doesn’t happen – after.

The misconception in these situations is that the big investment is complete, and now teams can go focus on other things until the project is prioritized by leadership again in two or three years. But at the rate that people’s expectations and needs evolve, even the most cutting-edge solutions can feel outdated in six or 12 months without a proper understanding of the people your solution impacts.

Instead, we recommend consistency. By continually investing in opportunities (big or small) to learn about your customers, you’ll soon find the insights gathered yield a compounding effect on making smart, people-centered decisions that bring real value to your customers and organization. This consistency not only reduces the likelihood that your solutions will be irrelevant in a year, but it also – more importantly – gives you the ability to more easily pivot your strategies and adapt to the changes happening in the market.  

Additionally, this approach can benefit how changes are received by your customers. Humans are complicated. We get excited by the new thing, but also kind of hate change. We don’t like having to change our approach to things we have built habits around. Massive transformation leads to a need for a learning curve. But if you release upgrades and enhancements in pieces over time, it’s a more comfortable and natural pace of change for your customers to stay on board and not be overwhelmed. 

Eliminating Silos and Identifying Priorities

Perhaps your organization wants to start investing in CX – or has already begun to – but finds itself returning to the question: Who should pay for this investment? It’s a common sticking point. No matter your industry or how you structure your organization, CX spans the entire breadth of your business. Because of this, trying to place the budget for CX investments within a single department will leave you facing resistance. 

The budget owner getting footed with the bill will naturally feel the need to own the strategy to ensure their ROI is specific to their vision or goals. And those goals may be contradictory or non-inclusive of the other departments impacted by the investment. 

Knowing this, how do you decide on a budget owner? This is another place where an incremental approach might be the right decision.

When you break up your CX initiatives into smaller pieces, you’re able to spread the budget and ownership across departments more easily. Distributing costs is one perk, but you’re also helping to eliminate silos and build alignment across the organization. When more parts of your organization own aspects of the solution and have access to customer insights, they will be more informed and empowered when it comes time to invest in the next initiative.

So, where do you start? These three concepts are tools you can use to begin establishing an understanding of your customers and creating a people-centered foundation for strategic decision-making. More than likely, you already have access to some initial insights living in data within your systems. Your customers are telling you constantly in various ways what they want and care about most. You just need to know where to look. 

If you need help, or just another perspective, the right partner can bring an unbiased approach and help departments come to a consensus on the next best action. 

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