Designing a Customer Experience System: Rachael McBrearty

Designing a Customer Experience System: Rachael McBrearty


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About Rachael McBrearty

Rachael McBrearty is a customer experience executive with vast expertise developing customer strategies, designing brand enhancing experiences and leading organizational transformation that drive growth above industry standards. She’s a pioneer in the use of digital, Internet of Things (IoT) and analytics to create novel experiences, and a bit of a geek when it comes to analyzing customer data and using insights to inform those experiences.

McBrearty holds a number of patents and has been recognized across
mainstream media for her first-of-kind customer experience projects one of which landed on Time Magazine’s list of Best Inventions of 2007. She is on the Board of Directors of the not-for profit Animal Assisted Happiness. She holds a BFA from SUNY New Paltz.

Learn more about Rachael McBrearty 

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Four years after the Gartner study revealed that 89% of companies would compete based on customer experience, recent research shows that only 30% of companies are seeing success in CX returns. The data is telling us that we aren’t approaching CX in the right way to make a significant difference.

Rachael believes it’s an exciting time for CX professionals and a tremendous opportunity to play a significant role in an organization, but there is need for a shift. With reported lows, what do companies need to do?

According to Rachael, there are two key shifts that need to happen to make improvements in CX:

1. Change the core objectives of customer experience

Move from being focused on interactions to delivering on a brand promise.

2. Adopt new measures to understand customer behavior

Not just knowing how customers fell in satisfaction, Net Promoter Score and advocacy, but how do companies understand customer behavior and help them accomplish what they need to accomplish.

A New Definition of CX

Today’s definition of CX is how customers perceive every interaction with the company. Businesses use NPS, CSAT, first call responses, and all these ways to find out how they are doing with that interaction. It tends to focus on that single point of interaction or service.

Think about Borders Books; they were #1 on Forrester’s CX Index the year they went out of business. Toy’s R Us had a very competitive NPS score that had been improving and they closed their doors.

Rachael says, “Something is not aligning with the efforts we put in as CX’ers and the business performance. We’re not going to get the investment. We’re not going to get the credibility unless we shift how we think.”

IKEA never make any lists and their NPS scores are mediocre, but they have 7% year over year growth.

Rachael agrees with Jeanne Bliss’s definition of Customer Experience. Customer Experience is really the company delivering on its brand promise or purpose. This is what a company articulates to their customers and it’s what they expect. It’s what sets a company apart from its competitor.

For example, Apple’s “Think Different” slogan. They encourage their customers to do so. They deliver on their brand and bigger purpose, which is why they have the loyalty that they do.

Designing a Customer Experience System

We need to start thinking about CX as Customer System Design. A system being interconnected elements organized to achieve a purpose. This is what CX is.

“It’s our job as CX practitioners to design experiences or interconnections so there’s that value exchange between the organization and the customer,” Rachael states.

CX’ers talk about journey touch points, but it’s really a bigger connection into that brand promise and designing a system to deliver on that purpose, so we shift how we do it as new technologies come out. This way companies know where to focus to deliver on that audacious promise they have made as an organization.

Companies have to also know where memorability and emotion apply. How do we start to use the peak-end rule? We need to make the right moments memorable to engage emotions and also reflect the brand.

You must have a brand promise that’s measurable and what the customer is looking for in that brand exchange. What companies want to do is deliver on that expressive symbol of arrival to make the customer feel that sense of achievement. That’s the bigger brand promise.

How do we design this into the experience?

Structurally, there will be three elements companies need to consider: service experience, price, and product.

Cadillac is a great example of these three elements working as a system. It has a high price, which is not a memorable moment in the experience because you have to write that check; but in the value exchange, customers get a high touch exquisite experience. You walk into the showroom and it’s going to have fine art hanging on the walls, old automobiles with classic beauty displayed, and high-end coffee served. You’re reassured that the quality of the product is amazing. It’s not just the experience; it’s zooming out saying in exchange for the price point we must deliver on the other two elements – service and product.

When companies fail to live up to their brand promise, it fundamentally breaks down trust in the purpose. Starbuck’s brand promise and purpose is to inspire and nurture the human spirit. They give you a sense of belonging. Having those customers arrested is an example of failure to fulfill brand promise and purpose. When this failed, it was significant.

Companies must understand what they need to manage across those three elements and how to listen to the customers and understand how they’re doing on those.

Measuring CX

How do we align business performances when measuring CX

Companies should start putting measures in place on customer behavior. CSAT and NPS are lagging indicators that don’t keep you on top of what customers are thinking today. Businesses need to make changes to be more agile on what customers are doing in the moment.

A.I. changes the way companies can measure how they are doing with their customers. If taken up a level, accelerating A.I. and the applications is going to require understanding the outcome we’re trying to drive for the customer and the business; how do we improve acquisition, retention, and loyalty. The current measures actually don’t allow companies to do that.

While leading the brand performance at Cisco, there were three variables Rachael’s team employed to better understand customer behaviors:

  • Examine brand performance
  • Customer Lifetime Value
  • Share of wallet

Across those three variables, we could understand how the customer was behaving in terms of growth and loss of the customer; what groups were doing great and which weren’t doing so well. After you know that, delve into “why”, apply the right technology, and fix it.

“I love buying a few personal items from Macy’s, but I do my big shopping at Nordstrom. I’m satisfied at Macy’s and give them a great CSAT, but my money is going elsewhere. We have to understand where customers fall and what are the drivers of loyalty. It’s critical.”

Rachael goes on to share methods used to monitor value exchange to uncover what drives customer loyalty, keeping up with customer expectations, and how A.I. will play a role.

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Crystal Garrett

Crystal Garrett

I’m an extrovert, beach lover, and baseball fan with a passion for writing. I’ve spent over 10 years writing content for screen (tv/film) and demand-generating copy for digital, social media, and search marketing. My strengths lie in creating and developing original content for tv/film, inbound marketing content and strategy, and brand messaging. I love creative collaboration, possess great communication skills, enjoy problem-solving, and have a reputation for being innovative, effective and efficient.



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