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Only 6 Percent of Organizations Have a "Mature" CX Program, Study Finds

The five stages of CX maturity and the three factors that hold organizations back

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Kindra Cooper

Customer experience strategy

While there’s plenty of desire amongst organizations to provide consistently out-of-this-world customer experiences, the reality is that most are ill-equipped to follow through. In fact, only 6 percent have achieved top-level CX “maturity,” while 79 percent remain in the bottom two stages, finds a new report by the Qualtrics XM Institute

What is CX maturity, anyway? “When we think about customer experience we think about it as a discipline, so maturity is the degree to which you are mastering that discipline,” says Bruce Temkin, head of the Qualtrics XM Institute and author of the aforementioned report, The State of Customer Experience Management 2019. The report surveyed 212 organizations with annual revenues of $500 million or more. 

Temkin identified five stages of maturity that measure an organization’s commitment to building targeted, consistently positive experiences for its customers. 

Customer experience strategy

Image credit: Qualtrics XM Institute, The State of Customer Experience Management 2019

So why are businesses slow on the uptake despite all the brouhaha around CX? Here are a few factors. 

1) CX strategy is being prioritized, but it's a work-in-progress

Most companies (32 percent) are still in the stage of infusing CX insights into their processes and systems. In other words, they’re busy setting up data collection and analytics systems and pathfinding best practices to make use of their data. There are no cookie-cutter methods for interpreting data, because data means something different to every business. 

While Netflix powers its algorithms on data from viewer behavior, CVS pharmacy doesn’t care as much about web visitor activity, but keeps a hawk-like watch on sales per square foot and year-over-year growth.  

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An organization needs to first determine which customer data metrics are most important to them, interpret those insights, identify business problems both implicit and explicit in the data, design a course of action, implement it, monitor the results and reiterate. That’s a significant time and investment commitment for any organization, to say nothing of roadblocks from internal resistance. 

Only 8 percent of the 212 respondents surveyed are in the “metrics management” stage, meaning they consistently identify CX metrics and use them to drive priorities and strategic decision-making. 

2) There isn’t sufficient leadership around CX initiatives

About two-thirds of respondents have a senior CX leader and dedicated CX team in place. However, a CX leader that isn’t part of the C-suite, such as a VP of customer support, has less clout in pushing for CX as a strategic priority outside of their department. Yes, teams can collaborate, but too often they’re impeded by competing objectives. 

To understand the data, Temkin divided the surveyed organizations into two groups: those with a CX maturity level above 48 (CX leaders) and those below 48 (CX laggards). While the CX laggards struggled with limited leadership buy-in or lack of access to data, the advanced organizations identified “other competing priorities” as the top obstacle (59 percent), followed by “limited funding” (48 percent) and “conflict across internal organizations” (47 percent).

They following graphic shows the industries of the CX leaders (left) and CX laggards (right).

Customer experience strategy

“Once organizations get clear on CX strategy and leadership,” said Temkin, “the next thing you start running into is limited funding and conflict because you’re trying to do more ambitious things and starting to disrupt the organization.” 

3) Customer empathy isn’t part of the company culture

From the perspective of organizational culture, general empathy for the customer might seem like the top predictor of CX ripeness. It’s true – but it’s not the whole picture. Eighty percent of CX leaders agreed with the statement “Our organization demonstrates empathy for its customers” compared to just 37 percent of laggards. Intriguingly, those that demonstrated empathy for customers, were also more likely to do so for employees. 

Read more: Trends in CX Design & Strategy - What Customers Think vs. What Brands Think 

Aside from empathy, however, CX leaders also tended to dominate in the use of data and analytics to make key decisions, were more likely to make improvements without significant internal resistance, and more rapidly recognize and adapt to changes in the marketplace. It goes to show that empathy alone isn’t sufficient. Organizations must be prepared to act on those insights in an agile way – meaning they cannot resist change. 

“If I can understand how someone feels and I can understand my role in making them feel that way and I change what I do based on that understanding, those three things collectively are what I would call organizational empathy,” said Temkin.