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Gartner’s CX Pyramid: An Approachable Framework

Jim Tincher Jim Tincher 09/18/2023

Like many CX consultants, I’ve seen my share of maturity models. Most are really good at showing all the things you’re not doing. In most cases, the sponsoring company offers to help by selling you useful consulting services to help you move up the customer experience management maturity model. 

Whether it’s Temkin Group’s CX Maturity Model, Forrester’s six-step CX Management Maturity exam, or MaritzCX’s CXEvolution, the complex models help you evaluate your program, and each is compelling in its own way. A CX management maturity model helps you analyze what you’re doing and where you’re strong or weak.

What Is the Gartner’s CX Pyramid?

Gartner’s CX Pyramid is a strategic model that outlines a hierarchy of business customer needs. By understanding and implementing this model, organizations can measure customer experience. This helps them:

  • Improve their client interactions.
  • Foster stronger relationships.
  • Boost customer loyalty and retention.

I’ve used Gartner’s former CX model in the past and liked it. A few days ago I ran across the new Gartner CX Pyramid article and was intrigued. What I liked about it is that rather than focusing on where you are compared to other companies, it focused on what you do.  

As a comparison, Temkin’s model has six stages: 

  • Ignore
  • Explore
  • Mobilize
  • Operationalize
  • Align
  • Embed

These make sense if you want to look at your program compared to others; it’s also consistent with how most maturity models work. 

What I especially like about Gartner’s CX model is that it’s much easier for companies to get a grasp on why it’s important because it includes the impact on the customer. 

While it doesn’t include public-facing information on how to move up the pyramid, I suspect Gartner can help you if you ask nicely (and buy a subscription).

Gartner’s Five Levels

What I like about Gartner’s Pyramid is that it shows how you respond to customers, as seen in the graphic. It offers five levels: 

  1. Communication
  2. Responsive
  3. Commitment
  4. Proactive
  5. Evolution.

The levels in the Gartner CX management maturity pyramid are not as spiffy as the Temkin Group’s names, but when paired with their description, they help you quickly identify where you are. They also help you understand what you need to do to serve your customers better.  

Level 1: Communication

At the Communications level, you “furnish information I can use,” where “you” is the company and “I” refers to the customer.

Many companies are here; they have good self-service tools and lots of great information on the website for customers to find.

Level 2: Responsive

The next level of maturity, “Responsive,” is where the company “solves your (the company’s) problem when I ask.”

At this stage, the company focuses on serving customers in a way that lowers costs, such as reducing calls. Reducing calls does help customers, but it’s a low bar for CX leaders.  

Level 3: Commitment

Companies at the Commitment level listen to customers and resolve their problems when they ask.

Most companies aspire to this level–to listen to customers and respond quickly and compassionately. It’s a good goal, but it’s only halfway up the Gartner customer experience pyramid because it still requires a call.

Level 4: Proactive

Proactive companies provide what’s needed before being asked.

Some B2B companies we’ve worked with are good at this; they proactively manage customers’ supplies and provide new shipments without being asked, but most wait until the customer calls, placing them at the Responsive level.  

Level 5: Evolution

The pyramid’s top level is Evolution. This reminds me of self-actualization from Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. These companies make me (the customer) better, safer, or more powerful.

I don’t care for that description; Comcast’s internet makes customers more powerful, but I doubt they’d hit the top of any CX pyramid. The CRM article states that “the few companies that have gotten there possess the kind of customer devotion and enormous reputation that yield ‘profound and sustainable business outcomes.’”

Move to the Top Levels of the Gartner CX Pyramid Using a Customer Journey Map

I think it’s important to talk about the use of journey mapping to move to the top of the pyramid – the Proactive and Evolution levels.

Getting to these levels requires significantly more investment in both customer insights and design.

Interviews – particularly in-person at your customer’s site – are good ways to help you in the lower stages, but here it requires deeper methodologies to truly understand your customers’ needs.

Diving in Depth

You can’t go directly from the lower levels to Proactive or Evolution. You just need to make sure your entire experience is at the Commitment level before you can move any higher. By now, you have mastered all the skills you need to move forward.

Once you’re ready, this is where you truly start to earn loyalty. Your Proactive experience solves customers’ problems before they happen.

The Vendor

At the lower levels, you can go ahead and hire a vendor to give you reports on what customers need and still see value. At the top of the pyramid, you need your teams to go out and directly meet with the customer on his or her site.

At this level, a vendor still makes sense to help you manage the process, but any reporting needs to be shared. Your teams need to be directly involved with your customers, gathering insights directly.

Look for a vendor who can lead the process and work through the details, who ensures you’re following journey mapping best practices, not someone who will do this work for you.

Your employees need to be in the room when your customer mentions how they can never get the products they need reliably. They need to watch your customer rummage through their Post-It Notes to find their cheat sheet for using your software.

They also need to see them copy the data from your reports and put them into Excel to get the information they really want.

No vendor report will bring this to life to the extent that hearing it first-hand will.

The Journey Mapping

Your journey mapping scope also changes.

Rather than looking for what happens when your customers interact with your company, the focus is on what they do before and after interacting with you.

Finding the solution for an easier journey requires understanding a customer’s frame of mind entering the experience as well as their intentions afterward. In other words, when looking at reporting, the first few levels focus on how to improve your report to help your customer solve problems.

At the top of the pyramid, you question whether a report is even necessary and wonder whether you can prevent the problem from happening in the first place.

At this level, your job isn’t to solve the customers’ problems – it’s to prevent them from having problems. Doing so requires moving beyond workarounds to recreate your products and services around customer needs. This doesn’t show the immediate ROI typically sought on the lower levels of the pyramid.

There’s an inherent belief that doing the right thing for the customer will show returns, and most companies’ marketing leaders aren’t here.

In addition to a more immersive insights capability, the top of the pyramid requires design and investment to put these insights into play.

The lower levels of evolution focus on quick wins. While quick wins are important to any organization, at this level you’re more focused on sustainable, game-changing programs. Journey mapping gives you the fuel to improve, but you need the experience design machine to drive that improvement.

No matter where you are in the pyramid, journey mapping helps, but it’s important to recognize where you are in the pyramid. This helps you use the right journey mapping approach to drive your improvements and future improvements.

Final Thoughts

Now that we’ve explored the Gartner CX Pyramid and its potential to enhance your customer journey, it’s time to take the next step. Our team at Heart of the Customer specializes in helping businesses like yours make the most of this valuable framework.

We understand that every customer journey is unique, just like your organization. That’s why we work closely with you to provide tailored solutions that align with your specific needs and objectives. We are committed to guiding you through every stage of the pyramid – from meeting needs and solving problems to saving time, simplifying processes, and ultimately, elevating the customer experience.

Don’t let your customer experience strategy fall behind. Connect with Heart of the Customer today to map your customer journey and elevate your customer experience to the next level.

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