Holistic CX

Holistic CX is the direct-to-consumer recipe for growth that is being adopted by smart leaders everywhere


Most of us would agree that customers make or break your brand, employees drive your CX and new product or service propositions live or die by customers’ acceptance. Yet the areas of the business charged with managing these functions frequently don’t work closely enough together to deliver a consistently great customer experience. Leading organisations going forward will be required to take a holistic view of their customer experience.

This means uniting stakeholders across the business around a common focus on customers’ needs and emotions in order to deliver sustainable business advantage. Successful direct-to-customer (DTC) brands like Eve mattresses and the Dollar Shave Club do this to differentiate themselves: their business model is designed in a way that gives them control of every aspect of the customer experience.

This is the new battleground of business.

We have found the following activities key in helping to launch and maintain this holistic CX strategy:

  • Understand customers’ end goals, and the emotions and effort they experience to achieve these, through a combination of rich journey mapping and appropriate quantitative metrics.
  • Create a compelling CX vision that promotes collaboration across the organisation to achieve customer centricity.
  • Focus this vision on brand acquisition, retention and upsell goals with particular focus on digital, and link all customer insights to these in order to drive business growth.
  • Socialise and communicate the customer story and challenges they face through connected insight teams that deliver a clear customer line-of-sight right across the business from C-suite to the front-line.
  • Map the employee journey to highlight any barriers the organisation places in the way of delivering great experiences.
  •  Build a proposition development pipeline that is clearly linked to evolving customer needs and segments.

At the core of designing and communicating a compelling customer value proposition, the business needs to invest time in understanding customer journeys. This extends beyond the specific touchpoints where customers interact directly with the company, to building a wider view of the customer perspective. This will encompass customer motivations and ‘jobs to be done’ as well as an array of other market touchpoints, including price comparison and review sites and competitor experiences that influence current and future purchasing decisions. Once these customer priorities and influences are captured, customer metrics need to be re-examined in this context to ensure full understanding.

Many organisations claim to put the customer at their heart but often lack a compelling CX vision to inspire and rally their people. Alignment around this vision is built through clear communication and realistic accountability which requires an integrated CX strategy. It really helps to have a brand purpose that unequivocally puts the customer centre stage as in the case of Eve mattresses: ‘Our purpose is to help people sleep better through simple, beautiful and accessible design.’ The management of the end-to-end experience is then driven and measured by how effectively it delivers on this customer need.

Direct to Consumer players are transforming brand acquisition, retention and upsell with innovative use of digital and data, in ways that are changing industries fundamentally. Unilever’s acquisition of Dollar Shave Club was a clear example of how important it is for more traditional brands to acquire these competencies by whichever means has the greatest impact. Digital customer relationships offer clear benefits for personalisation and a greater opportunity for understanding the consumer’s digital behaviour.

Understanding consumers in their market is a key component of DTC brand success although many organisations don’t have the luxury of an online database of all of their customers and their buying behaviours. Market level customer relationship research is an excellent way to attain an overview of where your brand sits amongst its competitors and can be combined with brand tracking for efficiency. It will help in determining investment priorities, in a way that individual touchpoint feedback cannot, since it offers a view of all customers and measures their likely loyalty rather than just those who engage with a contact centre or purchase via an app. Connected with other customer insights across the business this is a powerful resource to drive progress towards greater customer centricity.

Pulling together and communicating customer insights throughout the organisation to effect meaningful change is a greater challenge than many businesses realise. Quantitative dashboards play a role here but they need to be integrated with other sources of insight and be part of a more focused CX communications strategy tailored to the right audiences to drive actions. Sky offers an excellent example by taking a journalistic approach to knowledge sharing and developing a range of solutions depending on the audience. Senior execs have an app that delivers them highly targeted insight in a concise and engaging format which can also be forwarded to colleagues to help drive change. A venue has been created at their HQ to share insights in an interactive way so more people can understand how decisions are made and contribute to them. An example of how one of these initiatives delivered change came through customer closeness sessions where senior execs were able to meet a long-term customer who was paying a lot more than newer customers. This direct encounter provided the catalyst for changes in pricing policies and the VIP programme to reward loyalty.

An intimate knowledge of the employee perspective is equally critical. Employees across your organisation drive good and bad customer experiences from front line staff in contact centres or retail stores to web-design teams and proposition development specialists. Understanding employees in terms of their motivation, skills and how easy an organisation makes it for them to carry out their roles, are all key to delivering great customer experiences. Conflicting management strategies and counter-productive incentivisation are just some of the barriers placed in the way of people trying to do the right thing by customers. Getting clarity on these issues is foundational to enabling a customer centric culture.

T-Mobile in the US is an exceptional example of this behaviour 1. Its contact centre staff have been re-organised to focus on smart geographical groupings of customers rather than mobile service specialisms. As a result they are able to get close to customers’ needs. This has led to some great examples of customer centricity with clear financial benefits. One team, focused on an area with a high proportion of Mormons, spotted young customers were giving up their mobile contracts to go on 2 year retreats. The contact centre staff offered them a tablet (which can be used during retreat, unlike mobile phones) allowing them to retain their phone numbers and accounts and therefore retained them as customers for the future. This in turn made these customers more positive to T-Mobile as they better understood their needs than other national players.

In line with the late Peter Drucker’s holistic approach to business management, alongside customer satisfaction and employee engagement, a further key pillar of business performance is effective innovation.  Innovation takes place through more formal proposition development functions as well as the more agile world of day-to-day continuous improvement of products and services. All too often the full force of customer insights are not systematically deployed to inspire and guide the proposition development process. Leading organisations are now working to better harness the power of customer insights from multiple sources to shape their products and services to meet customers’ evolving needs.

So where do you start on your Holistic CX journey? Our approach is to conduct an audit of where the business is right now and to then decide on priorities for understanding and improving the customer journey. Whether you want to emulate a successful disruptor or craft your own direction, the need for a holistic approach has never been greater. The time to act is now.


1 Harvard Business Review - Reinventing Customer Service Nov 2018