Customer experience (CX) has become a pivotal differentiator. Delivering exceptional CX is no longer a nice-to-have; it’s a must-have to build customer loyalty and drive revenue growth. Yet, few organizations have matured to the point where they can consistently deliver that great experience and realize the benefits. Given the low overall maturity of most companies’ CX capabilities, progressing your program just a bit can give your company a competitive advantage while also offering customer experience leaders the ability to create more impact in their organizations.
Enter the customer experience maturity model.
A CX maturity model helps organizations understand where they stand, where they want to go, and how to get there.
Maturity refers to your organization’s readiness, competence, and effectiveness in consistently delivering exceptional customer experiences. At its core, a CX maturity model is about understanding the current state of your organization’s CX capabilities, identifying areas for improvement, and systematically advancing toward CX excellence.
There are multiple benefits to advancing your CX maturity. These include:
In an era where products and services can often be replicated, CX becomes a unique differentiator. Organizations with higher CX maturity levels have a distinct competitive advantage, as they are better equipped to meet customer expectations and build strong customer loyalty.
High CX maturity leads to improved customer retention rates. Satisfied customers are more likely to stay with a brand, reducing churn and increasing customer lifetime value.
Exceptional CX directly correlates with revenue growth. Organizations prioritizing CX maturity built with strong CX measurement practices tend to see increased sales, higher average transaction values, and greater customer advocacy.
A mature CX culture encourages innovation and adaptability because they form their thinking through a clear understanding of customer needs. Mature organizations can quickly respond to changing market dynamics and customer needs, ensuring long-term sustainability.
Effective CX can save costs by reducing customer support inquiries, returns, and complaints. A well-optimized CX strategy can streamline operations and boost efficiency.
While many models exist, at Heart of the Customer (HoC), we use the XM Institute’s model. Unfortunately, the labels the organization gave the competencies can be confusing, so we have renamed them to make them more intuitive. The assessment has six competencies:
Each competency in this customer experience maturity model has five levels: Investigate, Initiate, Mobilize, Scale, and Embed. Lest you think you’re Mobilized, it’s helpful to know that, according to a 2023 study from the XM Institute, 7 in 10 programs are at the lowest two levels. While I have the B2B results below, B2C programs are only slightly more advanced.
Overall, CX leaders report themselves the strongest in Lead – which we call Align and Sustain – which involves foundational capabilities such as hiring a CX leader and team and building CX governance. You can see the overall results here:
After Align and Sustain, Enlighten with Insights is a core competency for many CX leaders. For better or worse, it’s common for a CX program to own the survey. Owning surveys enables CX leaders to design them to get to the heart of customer needs. The trade-off is that many focus primarily on capturing the voice of the customer (rather than CX strategy and driving change), becoming known as “The Survey Team.” Not a name that you, as a savvy CX leader, want to be associated with your program!
Next is Activate the Organization. There are great examples of customer centric organizations where the CX professionals have engaged the entire organization in the customer experience, but it’s rare. In my book, Do B2B Better: Drive Growth through Game-Changing Customer Experience, I shared the story of Hydro-Quebec, a monopoly utility, who won the 2020 World Series of Customer Experience overall award for their efforts to involve the entire organization – including the union workforce – in customer experience.
The competency with the most Very Low and Low ratings was Respond with Action. The typical CX program is far better at asking for feedback than getting back to customers with what they did with that feedback.
The areas with the fewest Strong and Very Strong (8%) ratings are Realize Value and Disrupt with Design.
Realize Value is where you show the organization the benefit of its investment in CX. Multiple sources report that three out of four CX programs cannot connect to value.
Disrupt with Design is interesting because many CX programs don’t have a design capability – especially in B2B. However, the great CX leaders realize that design doesn’t have to come from the CX program itself – they partner with digital and other teams, accomplishing the need for experience design without requiring specific CX headcount.
Assessing your organization’s level in the CX maturity model is the first step toward meaningful improvement. Here’s a practical guide on how to implement it.
The Qualtrics XM Institute has a self-assessment on its website. But I strongly recommend against using such a passive approach. Stakeholder management is a critical component to the Activate the Organization capability, so involve them in the maturity assessment to get a jump start. If you’d like to learn more about this capability, download our white paper, “Stakeholder Resistance – Breaking Barriers to CX Buy-In White Paper.”
Begin the process with a kickoff involving your core sponsors. Sponsors typically comprise 6-8 leaders who commissioned the work, often from customer-facing parts of the organization. In the kickoff, walk them through the model and ask them to rate the organization on each capability. To prevent anchoring, we use polling software to enable each leader to rate each capability anonymously. Involving sponsors helps build curiosity about the process and results.
Next, let’s discuss stakeholders. We involve dozens of leaders across the business, typically at the vice-president level, although we add some lower-level Subject Matter Experts. Participants represent the organization’s breadth, from customer-facing roles in sales and marketing to back-end departments in IT, operations, and HR. All participate in creating your customer experience, so getting their feedback is critical.
But first, run a stakeholder mapping exercise with the CX team, where you place each stakeholder onto a 2×2 Stakeholder Map based on levels of support and influence. Review “Stakeholder Resistance – Breaking Barriers to CX Buy-In White Paper” for more details on how to do this.
After this, conduct 30-minute interviews with stakeholders to understand whether customer feedback is a component of their decision-making. You don’t ask each stakeholder to assess your maturity. Instead, this is a conversation on topics such as whether they know the voice of the customer, how they design experiences, and whether they talk with customers regularly.
As we do this, we also collect and analyze data, including strategies, surveys, open-ended text feedback, organizational charts, Customer Advisory Board minutes, employee engagement surveys, etc. This helps us understand how thoroughly the organization Enlightens with Insights, Activates the Organization, and Realizes Value. For example, do they integrate the Customer Ecosystem Data (behavioral, descriptive, financial, and operational data) into CX measurement? Do they link the customer experience with financial data through business cases? Do they have solid governance? At Heart of the Customer, we have developed over one hundred factors that play into experience maturity, and we use this to rate the organization’s maturity and its strengths and weaknesses.
Once we assess their placement on the CX maturity model, we share the results with the CX team to build a roadmap based on the organization’s strengths and weaknesses, prioritizing some capabilities over others. For example, a national property management organization chose Disrupt with Design as their focus to win in the marketplace, so we started with a plan to mature this capability. To support this development, we turned to the most critical capabilities to accomplish disruption – namely, Enlighten with Insights so they knew what to design, and Realize Value and Activate the Organization to earn the rights to invest in design. We then share this roadmap with the original sponsors to engage them with the steps needed to drive change.
Organizations must prioritize customer experience maturity to stay competitive and thrive in a world where customer expectations constantly evolve. A CX maturity model such as that from the XM Institute provides a unique and comprehensive framework considering all facets of experience management. By conducting maturity assessments and developing roadmaps for improvement, organizations can navigate the complex terrain of CX maturity, ultimately delivering exceptional experiences that drive growth, loyalty, and success. Remember, CX excellence is not a destination but a continuous journey that requires commitment, dedication, and a customer-centric mindset.
Want to learn more about customer experience maturity models and their potential to reshape – or build – your CX strategy? Check out our webinar, “The Maturity Model Advantage: Using a Maturity Model to Craft a Best-in-Class Customer Experience Program” and learn how Marvin worked with Heart of the Customer to assess their native capabilities to determine where they most needed to focus as they built their CX team.
At Heart of the Customer, we recognize that every company has its own unique challenges. Contact us today to talk through yours with our team of experts.