CX Insight Magazine

January 2024

Moving Beyond Customer Experience and Employee Experience to Total Experience

Could a shift to Total Experience (TX) be part of your organization’s future?

by Execs In The Know

When organizations understood and embraced the idea that customers were seeking enriching and immersive experiences beyond the basic functional benefits of a product or service, the Experience Economy was born. Investment and work shifted to projects designed to create and deliver engaging, meaningful, and memorable experiences in every interaction.

Around the same time in the early 2000s, rapid advances influenced organizations to embrace and integrate digital technology into various aspects of operations, strategy, processes, and culture, ushering in Digital Transformation.

The outcomes of these revolutions can lead to increased competitiveness, improved satisfaction, and an ability to thrive in a rapidly changing business landscape. As Customer Experience (CX) leaders, we play a pivotal role in these two modernizations in today’s business world. Both are core to our work and rooted in the mandate to transform experiences and drive business growth.

We have undoubtedly made great strides in improving our customer and employee experiences, driving the Experience Economy forward. We have also seen dramatic progress in advancing the Digital Transformation agenda. But as CX leaders, we must look back on our body of work, account for the changes in how business is done, and consider that we may need to expand our focus to seize an incredible opportunity to be even more effective.

Presenting the Total Experience

Total Experience (TX) takes a holistic approach that considers several aspects across the domains of CX, Employee Experience (EX), User Experience (UX), and Multi Experience (MX). It is the sum of all experiences and impressions an individual has throughout their journey with a company, including online and offline interactions, customer support, physical encounters, and digital interfaces. TX acknowledges that these dimensions are interconnected and collectively contribute to customers’ and employees’ overall impression and satisfaction across all touch points in their respective journeys.

TX promotes a holistic and cohesive approach to designing and delivering experiences and returns a more significant impact on satisfaction, loyalty, and the overall success of a brand than looking at experience domains individually. Although the effort to focus on TX may be greater than working on individual disciplines, the rewards are richer. When considering these aspects integrated, organizations can create a more complete and positive overall experience.

Gartner predicts that by 2026, 60% of large enterprises will employ a TX strategy to transform their business models and achieve “world-class customer and employee advocacy levels” where both groups are motivated to promote the corporate brand.

Understanding the Benefits of TX

With a shift to a TX focus, having a strong understanding and being able to stand for the upside is an important first step. When woven together, the four disciplines add exponential value when compared to addressing each individually. The sum of the whole experience is a key difference from simply looking at the domains singularly. The work will yield more comprehensive and powerful benefits to the organization, customers, and employees.

Imagine the operational impacts of transforming the TX. Organizations can expect dramatic improvements in several key performance indicators (KPIs). Improved customer and employee satisfaction, increased customer and employee confidence, higher retention, and stronger advocacy are notable benefits of TX-focused efforts. “Consider this not as a linear process but a circular process in which elevation in employee experience empowers employees to enhance customer experience, and improved customer satisfaction enables better alignment of your employees toward overall business goals.” Additionally, TX transformation will increase brand perception, reputation, and loyalty.

Expanding to a TX focus will also result in positive organizational impacts. By design, TX efforts will substantially increase internal collaboration and cross-functional work, likely reducing the risk and cost of individual efforts. This teamwork will provide a more comprehensive view of the total experience the organization is delivering; TX
work will help leaders know what is actually happening across the entire experience, providing more comprehensive and actionable insights. This knowledge and more inclusive group effort can lead to better product and service design and delivery.

This shift may also help organizations become more resilient and drive innovation and adaptability. When employees from different parts of the organization work more closely and have a broader view of how products and services are developed and delivered, they are more attuned to how important collaboration is and how interconnected their work is with other teams. This cross-training and awareness offer a competitive advantage over fragmented efforts that seek to improve work in a single domain or are limited by scope and span of control.

Starting the TX Shift

For organizations and leaders already invested in experience-improvement strategies, getting started in TX requires expanding thinking and efforts. The approach, however, should feel familiar since it follows a similar pattern to starting up a CX or EX program.

It all starts with culture. Initiating a cultural shift to expand from work to improve individual disciplines to targeting the TX is key. And the recommended approach to kickstart this effort starts at the top. The shift can permeate the organization once leadership has bought in and established the mandate. The vision should come from the top down, and the mandate must be communicated at the beginning of the journey and along the way.

Teams should receive regular and consistent communication regarding the vision, the approach, the driving factors for the shift, regular progress reports, and the next steps. Spreading knowledge, getting buy-in, and aligning coordination between the business, operations, and IT is critical to success. Teams charged with improving an aspect of CX or EX should bring in experts from other experience disciplines to increase knowledge and improve overall outcomes.

Establishing a core location and process for this work should follow. A place to analyze, design, test, and learn (such as a TX center of excellence) will bring together a fusion team of employees that spans all four disciplines. This will accelerate collaboration, learning, and results. The most effective organizations isolate this testing in a controlled environment to minimize the risk of disruption to existing operations. 

When building the TX transformation team, organizations should thoughtfully consider the unique departments represented and the skills of these team members. Employees skilled in design-led thinking, journey mapping, analytics, data science, and process will collaborate to identify problems and propose creative solutions. This team must also be curious and passionate about expanding to a TX view.

And this team needs a powerful tech stack to capture, analyze, and lead them to data-driven insights. Much like the technology infrastructure needed for a strong CX program, the stack should include components that power:

Data collection from various sources, including interactions, websites, social media, surveys, and other areas, is essential to understanding behavior and sentiment across touch points.

Data integration from diverse sources across the journeys to combine elements and identify patterns that are not easily identified when viewed in isolation.

Advanced data analytics to efficiently process and analyze large volumes of data, preferably with machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), to identify trends, correlations, and predictive insights.

Personalization to deliver custom experiences that consider what is known about the customer and employee, preferences, and behavior to make every interaction memorable.

Automation of routine and rote tasks to free up agents to concentrate on more complex interactions and deliver customized experiences.

Also akin to the technology needed to power a leading CX program, the optimal stack to support TX initiatives must scale, keep customer and employee data secure, collect and analyze real-time and previously collected feedback. It should empower teams to use visualization and reporting to help tell the experience story.

While a powerful tech stack can provide the infrastructure for data-driven insights, it’s important to note that technology alone cannot deliver on the mandate. Successful TX practices also require a solid long-term strategic plan and requisite funding. A data-driven culture, skilled teams to imagine and design future interactions and be storytellers of what the data reveals, and a strategy for translating insights into actions that improve overall experiences are also critical components.

Defining the Role of the CX Leader

CX leaders have a unique opportunity to take a lead role in introducing and directing this emerging discipline in their organizations. And, like other initiatives, the starting point is clear: build the case! Start with creating an understanding of TX and specific examples where the approach could be applied across the enterprise to help bring this future focus to life. CX leaders are primed to spearhead the culture shift. It is important to socialize the case across the organization to get input and buy-in, paying particular attention to highlighting the increased rewards of an expanded focus.

Part of the case should identify employee engagement and training and development needs to build the team to lead this innovation. Identifying what teams need to learn and do differently when taking on the TX versus CX or EX individually is part of the business case. Finally, leaders should align business goals with experience goals, measure progress, and communicate the results of the efforts.

CX leaders should also identify a place for the TX expansion work. They can create, repurpose, or refocus a testing environment to foster cross-functional collaboration and begin efforts to examine and transform the TX. A low-risk approach is to start small: look at one or two interactions that could benefit from a more holistic view. Learn from small applications and build momentum from there. A good place to start identifying the interactions that need the most attention is to gather existing or planned CX and EX projects or initiatives. Leaders can then determine which of these are worth expanding to a TX view.

Seasoned leaders understand the importance of implementing technology to support people and process efforts to improve experiences. Leaders should examine the existing tech stack and identify investments in technology that support seamless and integrated experiences for customers and employees. Understanding how in-place systems — including customer relationship management, collaboration, and measurement tools — can be expanded to support TX is essential to this assessment. From there, leaders can better understand what is needed and create a plan for acquiring and implementing that additional technology.

A critical part of all successful initiatives includes listening to the voices of customers, employees, and other key stakeholders and leaders. When setting the course for a future targeting TX improvement, a discovery process to identify strengths, opportunities, and expectations is often an eye-opening and valuable exercise. Leaders can blend information learned in this voice discovery exercise with operational data and other sources to identify the biggest opportunities and make data-driven decisions.

Recapping the TX Opportunity

Opportunistic organizations that want to differentiate their customer experiences should consider expanding to a TX focus. Although the discipline is relatively new, the time is now to start investigating this shift. Leaders need to understand what it would take to adopt a TX strategy to create a more positive and integrated ecosystem for customers and employees — contributing to increased organizational success and long-term sustainability and relevance for the brand.

This approach is more powerful than looking individually at each domain. It can drive many of your existing experience-improvement initiatives. “By thinking about and enabling experiences holistically, organizations have a much better chance to move the needle on the business outcomes they desire, whether that’s enhancing customer satisfaction, creating a healthy and productive work environment, improving product and service quality, or increasing brand loyalty.”

When examining strategies to accelerate growth, TX deserves a hard look as a precursor to popular single-focus initiatives like AI- and machine learning-powered customer service, proactive customer engagement, and other industry trends. These important initiatives will be the foundation to delivering a transformed TX, but from a more complete view and with increased involvement across the organization that leads to more comprehensive results. Could a shift to TX be part of your organization’s future?    

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