Customer experience has become a hot topic. Industry and company experience ratings are published. A vast array of outside resources are suddenly available to help organizations understand and improve their customer experience. We’ve seen similar trends when “quality” and “lean” initiatives were first adopted. Bold leaders I speak to often feel besieged with information and reports but are still wondering if their customer experience efforts are the right ones. If you find yourself in the same spot, you are not alone.

Here are some simple questions to ask yourself to gauge whether the work being done in your organization is on target:

customer experience performanceIf you aren’t happy with your answers to these questions, you probably can get more out of your customer experience efforts. Consider the following 5 things you can do to ensure your customer experience efforts are going to deliver a return and results that pay off — for customers and the organization.

Define the need you solve for your customer better than anyone else. Get very clear on what problem you solve and for what target customers. Knowing what problem you solve for those target customers is more important that what you sell. Understanding your customer’s need allows you to understand their emotional and tangible requirements — it is bigger than a product or service. This type of thinking also prevents you from being marginalized by new technology or new market entrants. Technologies change and businesses evolve, but if you stay focused on the tangible and emotional customer need, you will understand what problem you solve better than anyone else for your customer.

Focus most of your efforts and attention on ideally what should happen for customers as we solve that need. In other words, don’t focus on the current situation and pain points. You will minimize wasted effort, be more innovative and drive to a future state that is much more compelling. We have worked with lots of leaders in the health insurance industry. As a result of their customer experience work, many have attacked a document customers standardly receive called EOBs (Explanation of Benefits). Organizations have spent millions of dollars trying to make these simpler and easier to read. But it doesn’t count because customers hate them, don’t understand them and often don’t even open them. And they get piles of them. The customer doesn’t see a need for improvement. They just want them to disappear! Instead of focusing on making these more attractive, focus on what should ideally happen for the customer. Ideally customers want a single statement by episode or procedure. EOBs are mandated today, so health insurance leaders would get more of a payoff if they focused on creating the ideal and simply maintained the mandated document until regulations evolve. A word of caution: customers are not able to envision what they need and any attempt to make them do so can prove fruitless. Who could have described an iPhone 15 years ago? Understand your customer but don’t think they are going to tell you how to create the ideal customer experience.Instead, they will tell you about pain points.

Identify and focus on the critical moments in the customer experience. A critical moment is a moment in the customer’s journey that has a disproportionate impact on the success or failure of their journey. By focusing on the moments that matter most, you get the biggest wins with the least amount of effort.

Create a customer experience measurement system that measures value to the customer and value to your organization. Find KPIs that identify if your customers receive value, how much value your customers derive and how that translates into improved organizational performance. For example, at Aveus we measure “problems solved” for our client as an indicator of value to the customer, which is very different than “best answer provided.” A word of caution: customer satisfaction scores are a measure of how consumers are responding to your brand or service but don’t translate easily into a measurement of value for your customer or the organization.

Spend as much time focusing on what you should stop as what you need to create. Eliminate things customers don’t value or actually hurt your customer experience. And this is harder said than done. Processes and customer facing activities take on a life of their own, but if you stop things that customers don’t care about and are not mandated you free up resources to fund those positive and impactful things that actually improve your customer experience. For example, if your customer isn’t reading a newsletter or report, stop creating them. Cut the unnecessary to propel customer experience to a new level.

Which of these are you going to try?