What can we subtract from our CX to make it better?

leah-leachman gartnerCompanies tend to focus on what they need to add to drive customer growth and retention, failing to consider what to subtract. We tend to be biased in favour of additive thinking relative to subtractive thinking.

However those that are stuck in the pattern of consistently adding to their CX often miss out on the unique value and ideas that can be generated by subtracting.

Ultimately, adding more complexity, costs and effort makes it harder for companies to prove that customer and company can exist symbiotically.

While addition has its merits, a constant focus on what to add can lead the organisation down an unproductive path that “more is better”, and can lead to unnecessary complexity, costs and change fatigue.

This “addition ideology” can produce unwanted “groupthink”, as employees view improvement solely through the lens of what to add, and it can stifle an organisation’s ability to differentiate itself from competitors. It can also lead brands to underperform. In fact, the current environment suggests that a reframe would be advantageous for most brands.

Organisations are thinking more judiciously about their investments. For example, 67% of CFOs believe that digital spending over the past three years has not met enterprise expectations.  These dynamics are especially pertinent to CMOs.  According to Gartner research, 75% of CMOs agree that their organisation faces pressure to do more with less in order to deliver growth in 2023. In contrast, a minus mindset, where organisations work toward identifying the steps, channels, processes and content that can be subtracted from the customer experience, is both timely and beneficial.

Asking “What can we subtract from our CX to make it better?” is likely to yield ideas that are entirely separate from the traditional, additive ones. These ideas can be external (subtracting from the experience customers receive) or internal (subtracting from what the organisation does to provide the CX). Subtractive thinking repositions our common inclination of associating “better” with a net new experience or something purely additive.

To get started, lead structured brainstorming sessions at your company – a “subtract-a-thon”- where you have two phases. The first session should be held to come up with as many subtraction ideas as possible.

Start off by asking prompts about removing from the CX that customers receive and what the organisation does to provide the CX.  For example, ask prompts related to removing a step or experience in the journey; reducing the number of options or decisions; decreasing the amount of content; and, finally, removing steps in the employee experience that cause unnecessary friction and get in the way of better CX.

The second phase should reduce the number of ideas to a shortlist and prioritise, as just like additive projects, these subtraction projects will need resources. They may require the same number of resources or even more.

Finally, place these projects on your CX roadmap, and hold future subtract-a-thons regularly to ensure that subtractive thinking is an ongoing part of your CX strategy.

Leah Leachman is a senior director analyst at Gartner Marketing Practice

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