I really am very fortunate to meet some amazing Customer Experience professionals as I travel the globe. Not only do my meetings validate that I am not completely mad (although I know some will disagree), it is inspiring to come into contact with so many people who share the same passion, desire and belief in the benefits of applying the science that can turn customer centricity into a sustainable reality.

I first met Marleen Van Wijk in the Dutch city of Utrecht last year at a summer drinks event hosted by fellow CX Professional, Nienke Bloem. Unbeknown to me, the CX community on the Netherlands is thriving… and growing rapidly. Marleen and I hit it off immediately. It therefore gives me immense pleasure to be able to share her thoughts on how to get started. Whilst there is no standard starting point for a CX effort in an organisation, it is useful to understand the perspectives of someone who has been there…. and still is! Enjoy…

Hello Customer Experience Manager, you did a great job! Because of your constant hard work and effort your company is now officially recognizing Customer Experience (CX) as a new discipline. A big step for you and for your company, that now went up a stage in their CX maturity level. Instead of only having a dialogue on the importance of customer centricity, it is now finally time to act and improve. It is very likely that you have been an evangelist of CX in the past months. That you have had many conversations on why we should think outside-in; why we should better understand our customers; and the importance of relaying fact -based customer feedback into the organization.

On average, it takes a company 6 to 8 years to transform to a customer centric organization. This takes into account that there are no major changes in management or the way you work as a company. With this piece of information and no earned authority yet, this might now feel like there is a major assignment ahead of you. You might feel like you are standing in front of Mount Everest without proper equipment or a route description. Where do you start?

The first thing I want to say is that this feeling is very normal. We have all been there and felt the same way. My advice: do celebrate where you are now and after a couple of wines, start at the beginning! In my opinion, it all starts with understanding: Who are our Customers and what do we do for them?

Step 1: Re-use customer persona’s

We want to better understand who our customer are, making use of existing information in the organization. Many companies have customer persona’s in place, often developed for marketing reasons. Start collecting these personas. Most personas consist of lots of demographics. For CX purposes also focus on customer needs, behaviour and attitude. What are their key motivations, hopes and dreams? What underlying problem are we trying to solve for them? In case you don’t have persona’s, there are many specialized qualitative agencies that can help.

Step 2: Validate customer persona’s with customers and employees

Make sure that the personas are still up to date. Validate them with customers and do not forget also to do so with your colleagues. The voice of the employee is powerful, easy accessible and can be seen as fact-based knowledge.

Step 3: Understand the ‘chain of delivery’

Having understood who our customers are and what they need, we then need to consider our role in delivering it… For this part again involve your front end employees, preferably a mixed group of colleagues that can provide you with the best 360 customer view based on real experiences. In an ideal situation you involve employees of the entire ‘customer chain’.

Step 4: live the life of your customers

Finally meet your customers yourself. Talk with them about your ideas on delivering your product or service. What do they think, what should be different? Try to really understand the life of your customers. Live it! What time do they get up, when do they use your product, what time do they go to bed again and what impact had your product on their day? Only by doing this you will find out who your customer is and how your companies fits into their mind. This will help to achieve your final goal: to create sustainable customer experience that when you do it right, will lead to satisfied loyal customers and growth.

With over 16 years of international both B2B and B2C customer experience and marketing roles, Marleen van Wijk, CCXP, helps companies to build, improve and drive customer strategies linking CX results to business growth. Marleen is a passionate CX believer, an energetic communicator challenging you to think customer centric, outside-in to create maximum awareness across your organization. Marleen worked for Canon Europe, the largest telco in The Netherlands, KPN and is currently working for Post NL, the Dutch post and parcel company.

My book, ‘Customer What? – the honest and practical guide to customer experience’ – is now available to purchase! You can do so on Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk. If Amazon does not ship to your part of the world, please email me at ian@ijgolding.com and I will arrange an alternative method to ship a book to you. Enjoy the read!!