Customer experience (CX) has been the buzz of the service circuit for a couple of years now. While I see some companies really getting it right and putting a true, authentic focus on their customers – I also see a lot of companies jumping on board the latest buzz word and claiming a level of customer centricity that quite frankly is BS. It’s easy to say you are hyperfocused on CX and have a culture of customer centricity; it’s far harder to put these claims into action.Part of the disconnect is that true customer centricity must happen from the top down – everyone needs to be aligned on the value that can come from focusing your efforts around the customer experience. At Field Service Amelia Island last month, Sophia Williams, VP and General Manager, Telecom and Technology Business Unit, NCR gave a great presentation on how “CX is a new form of currency.” Her points did an excellent job of illustrating exactly why companies need to take this focus seriously (and some tips on how to get it right). What Sophia discussed is that CX is not just a “fluffy” thing – it has real monetary value, and when tackled correctly can produce real financial results. She highlighted the disconnect between CX talk and CX action by showing a stat that reveals while 80% of companies feel they deliver superior customer experiences, only 8% of customers agree. “This is an opportunity for everyone in the room,” she said. “This is where competitive differentiation happens.” Sophia went on to review some data that illustrates the payoff focusing on CX can have. A stat from IDC showed that 93% of tech buyers say CX will have a greater influence over future purchase decisions. CEI says that 86% of consumers will pay more for a better CX (I know I will!), and Bain & Co. shows that companies with industry-leading NPS achieve 2x CAGR and 15% lower costs. Socializing metrics like these is an important step in getting company-wide alignment that a true CX focus is not only important, but will have financial impact. Once you have a common understanding and are committed to this journey, what’s next? Sophia shared some great advice with the audience. First, realize that you can’t carry out a positive CX with unhappy employees. “A company’s brand is determined by its CX, and in order to deliver the experience you want, you need happy and engaged employees delivering the experience,” she says. Second, get a good understanding of where you’re at and where you want to be when it comes to CX. “Chart out what a solid CX looks like, and what an exceptional CX looks like so that you know what you need to do to progress from good to great,” says Sophia. Also understand that to progress and really master the CX, you have to put your money where your mouth his. You will need to put a CX program in place and align the organization to deliver consistency and make improvements. Finally, appreciate the value of feedback – and always take action on it. “Feedback is a gift,” says Sophia. “If you ask customers for input and they provide it but never hear back from you, they won’t continue providing it. You need to listen, take action, and respond. Since we’ve implemented a 100% closed loop system – meaning we reply to all feedback – we have 70% response rates.” Customers want to know their input is valued and appreciated, and the biggest way to show this is to communicate with them – let them know collectively what the feedback was and what’s being done with it. It’s important to know that true customer centricity can’t be achieved if you don’t master the art of collecting and acting on customer feedback. While CX isn’t a new topic, it is an area that I think is ripe for improvement for many organizations. And, as Sophia pointed out in her session, an area of focus and investment that can have great payoff.