Have You Started Planning Your 2022 Customer Experience Initiatives?

By: Max Kenkel
customer giving positive review
The new normal. A fresh start. Or perhaps, though hopefully not, 2020: Season Two.
Regardless of how you feel about the last twelve months, they are in the books. You hear me—it’s done.
Now, it’s already time to start thinking about 2022 and how you plan to integrate an urgency for customer experience into everything you do.
Here’s what I will be recommending to my clients for the next 11 months as we prepare for 2022.

1. In every initiative your brand undertakes, clearly define and map out how it will impact your customers and the way they interact with your brand.

This includes that product SPIF for the counter guys, your brand’s employee experience, in-market advertising, new HR portal, etc.
It’s all interwoven, and it all impacts how customers perceive your brand.
Don’t forget the most critical question: Will my clients and customers actually care if we do this initiative? (I see a lot of things implemented across corporate America where it’s pretty obvious they didn’t ask this question.)

2. Companies talk about being customer obsessed—but you can’t be customer obsessed until you become data obsessed.

Amazon is the ex-partner you thought you’d be with forever. They know everything about you—maybe even more than most of your family. Not because they reach out to get to know you better, but because they stalk you. They follow you around, listening to any conversation or digital footprint you leave behind, picking up tidbits here and there. Then they dump it into their little black book with all the other details they know about you.
Bowing up all your legacy systems is hard. But I promise you, it will never get easier than today. The longer you wait to streamline your data collection and usage, the harder it will be. And the longer it will take you to transition to customer obsessed.
It only takes one competitor in your industry to making a huge stride forward to totally disrupt your business and cost you market share. Don’t let fear of change hold you back.

3. Employee experience is your customer experience.

Employee experience (EX) is the biggest driver of customer experience (CX), and it should be the first customer experience tactic you implement.
You can take all the EX surveys in the world, but if your employees aren’t staying with your company, with noticeable upticks in revenue, then your EX is broken. A great employee program will both limit turnover and increase sales. Plus, happy, knowledgeable employees are just better.
In fact, if you have a plan to roll out new CX solutions in 21/22, but you don’t have a world class EX solution—STOP. Almost every “problem” with customers is really a result of some other problem further upstream matriculating into the lower funnel and manifesting as low engagement, low satisfaction and attrition.
This means your CX solution will just end up being a Band-Aid until you address the real issues upstream (almost always in the employee experience space). Broken brands continue to throw parts at the car instead of digging in to solve the real issue. Often, that issue is people-driven, and higher up in the channel. I always recommend starting with employees, followed by distributors/dealers, channel sales, then, once all of that is aligned, pull the customer trigger if needed. Focusing on EX first is cheaper, and it will likely solve a lot of your down channel issues.
Employee morale is low right now. Brands that don’t take this threat seriously are burying their head in the sand, and setting their company up for hard times.

4. Identify and address the most obvious gaps in your customers’ journey.

Almost every brand has the consideration and purchase stages in their cross hairs, but what are you leaving on the table?
Underutilized data including uncaptured leads, unworked qualified leads and unengaged customers could potentially be monetized.
Let’s do something with that data in 21/22 and  capture that revenue. It’s just sitting there, waiting for you to grab it.

5. Address critical customer behaviors that complement the purchase.

Almost every brand with a loyalty program has the consideration and purchase phases of the journey locked up. It’s the stops on the journey outside of purchase that fall short. A lot of that work is behavioral, which makes it harder to realize or quantify the immediate benefits.
Make it a point to stop being cavalier about the other phases of the journey. Nearly every client I work with is leaving money on the table in the form of lost leads and uncaptured advocacy, because these are outside of the obvious award trigger (a purchase).
Investing in these areas is critical if a brand wants to be on the same level as an Apple or Costco.

6. Update your segmentation studies and path to purchase work.

The pandemic has created new buyer types, new ways they want to consume, and new expectations for brands. If you haven’t read up on this foundational market research, you are likely missing new customer types, or at least not talking to them the way they want you to now.

7. Stop going through the motions—track ROI on all marketing promotions.

Even the simplest promotion should have a trackable ROI. If you think there’s a better way, there probably is. If you’re paying five agencies to do one promotion, can you condense to two? If you have customer promotions, are you using data to guide the strategy? Are you making sure that strategy is tied to all of your other initiatives? Are you looking out two years from now to make sure the bricks you lay today are helping to build a brand fortress?
The disruption from the pandemic has allowed brands to pivot midstream and shut off the faucet that leaks unprovable spend. As your brand starts to move into the next phase of the market, make sure you invest in provable promotions that pave a path towards your brand’s long-term goals.

8. Stop relying on countermeasures and start being proactive.

When I see a brand (especially retail) living in countermeasure land, the tendency is to be reactive to market pressures and competition. I hate discounting product. It’s easy to lower the price of goods and services, but once you give someone a deal, you just made it harder to maximize margin. Instead, let’s start planning for value. Keep prices flat, but over deliver on the customers’ expectations.
There are millions of ways that you can do this, and none of them involve discounts off the regular price. Many of them involve reskilling and amplifying the performance of your employees.
Change the conversation from margin erosion to providing true value for the customer. That’s how brands win.
As you know, a new year is here—and with it comes a new opportunity to improve the customer experience.
Want to know more about the convergence of EX and CX? Check out my conversation with employee experience expert Tanya Fish. We discuss the crossroads of customer experience and employee experience, the root causes of poor customer experience, and how the pandemic has changed brand expectations for customers and employees alike.

Max Kenkel
Max Kenkel

As Customer Solutions Manager, Max leads our Customer Solutions line, ensuring all six components of a successful loyalty program deliver for our clients. With more than ten years of experience in strategy across customer, channel and employee loyalty programs, he’s seen a lot. You’ll often hear him talk about how important data is to brands. In his words, “It’s easy to make decisions on intuition, but it’s a lot easier to justify to shareholders when you can back it up with data.” Beyond his professional passions, Max plays bass in a pop punk band, visits as many national parks as he can and is an aspiring poet, publishing his first book in 2023.