Activate your CX North Star by focusing on enterprise experience

By and Carolyn Baird | 5 minute read | November 21, 2019

“Making the world a better place,” as parodied by HBO’s popular TV series, Silicon Valley, is not a brand purpose. Especially in today’s virtual environment, companies realize that their brand needs to stand for something beyond just the transaction. Instead of a lofty, vague, and essentially meaningless sentiment, a brand purpose needs to be brand-authentic, relevant and tangible.

Think Airbnb. Their mission is “creating a world where anyone can belong anywhere.” Some of the speakers at this year’s ANA Masters of Marketing conference offer excellent examples, as well. Vicks lists their simple brand purpose, “No sick days” while Olay described their central purpose statement as “Fearless to face anything.” These organizations have a brand purpose that makes sense for their business and paints a vision that matters to the people these brands want to attract.

Plotting a CX North Star

Nailing that perfect purpose fit is just the first step, though. These words will ring hollow if companies don’t also align their purpose to a strategic vision that can be actualized through their customer experience – their CX North Star. They must ask themselves two critical questions. To what extent are they successfully communicating how their brand vision translates to their customer experience? And how do they operationalize this vision to differentiate themselves in the market and consistently create the branded experiences customers crave?

To find out, IBM’s Institute for Business Value (IBV), in partnership with Oxford Economics, conducted a worldwide quantitative survey of 1,003 senior executives from multiple industries. These executives are responsible for (or strongly influence) the branded vision for their organizations’ customer experience.

In order to make their CX North Star a reality, research indicated that companies need to open the aperture of their experience strategy to include employee and ecosystem experiences – their enterprise experience. The enterprise experience takes a holistic view of the organization and the many different people, internally and externally, whose own experiences shape an organization’s CX. These enterprise experiences (personalized, simple and empowering) require meaningful, actionable communications from leadership, technology solutions like Cloud, AI, and IoT and collaboration and productivity tools.

Making the vision more visible

The study findings, just released in a new report, From customer experience to enterprise experience – Six leading practices to activate your CX North Star, reveal that organizations are struggling to articulate and actualize their brand vision in a way that influences their employees’ decisions and behaviors at work. For those that are hoping to shift to a more purpose-driven, customer oriented corporate culture, this isn’t good news.

Only a third of respondents report their employees recognize their brand vision is core to the company’s DNA. The majority admit that their workforce only generally understands what their brand vision means. A “general understanding” isn’t enough to inform or inspire employees to manifest that vision in the design and execution of the ideal CX. And it surely won’t serve as a rallying cry to get people to act in a more customer-centric manner (see Figure 1).

Figure 1

The majority of executives confess that most employees in their organization only generally understand their organization’s brand vision.

Source: Seabrook, Billy and Carolyn Heller Baird. “From customer experience to enterprise experience – Six leading practices to activate your CX North Star.” IBM Institute for Business Value. 2019.


In addition to their quantitative survey, the IBV also conducted a series of in-depth, one-on-one qualitative interviews with other executives who are in the midst of actualizing their CX North Star for their companies. Doug Milliken, Vice President for Digital Customer Experience and Brand Strategy at Clorox, shared how their digital transformation helped them see the benefits of a human-centric approach. “The whole economy was shifting to valuing experience,” Doug said, “You saw it first in other industries like the airlines, and we knew we had to do the same.”

To match this shift, Clorox put CX at the heart of their digital transformation. “This meant we needed to change how we do business across our value chain. Today it means CX needs to be a factor in all the choices we make, including our technologies and tools. All of it should be oriented to enable an improved CX.”

All of it, indeed. This is the point about enterprise experience. Just focusing on those functions that are customer-facing like sales or customer support won’t be enough. Everyone across the business plays a role that ultimately, directly or indirectly, will enable customers to have experiences that help them fall in love with a brand.

Digging further into the data in search of actionable insights returned startlingly clear and actionable insights based upon the study’s strongest performers around and end-to-end strategic commitment and employee enablement.


Connecting the dots between brand vision, functional strategies and employee roles

Without strategic alignment, a CX North Star risks being an isolated concept, an aspiration, lacking practical application or accountability. Another empty promise to “make the world a better place” without relevant implications for the business and industry at hand. In contrast, having that alignment in place allows leaders to holistically manage CX priorities, budgets and resources with the necessary executive support and cross-functional oversight.

Nearly all of Visionaries – respondents identified as outperformers who are farther along in their journey to activate their CX North Star – say their brand vision is aligned to their general business strategy, their marketing strategy, and their CX strategy. But importantly, far more Visionaries also report alignment to their operational strategy (86 percent, compared to only 59 percent of other organizations) and their IT strategy (79 percent compared to just 45 percent of others).

Particularly inspiring is the connection to talent. These Visionaries also use their brand vision to influence their hiring strategies (70 percent) and act as criterion in their performance evaluation strategies (87 percent).

With functional strategies in place, organizations can go about the intentional design of processes, tools and technologies employees will use, and the practices they will follow – the employee experience. Visionaries are particularly good at doing this across the full customer value chain. They include obvious CX initiatives, such as marketing campaigns. But they also ensure their brand vision is reflected in their R&D projects, employee policies, even their organizational structures (see Figure 2).

Figure 2

CX Visionaries embed their brand vision across their business.

Source: Seabrook, Billy and Carolyn Heller Baird. “From customer experience to enterprise experience – Six leading practices to activate your CX North Star.” IBM Institute for Business Value. 2019.


Key takeaways

It now seems clear that great customer experiences are the result of great enterprise experiences. Human-centered experiences can drive tangible business results when teams are empowered with the right technologies, data insights, and processes. But to realize their CX North Star, organizations will need to shift to a customer-centric culture, and this takes an integrated, orchestrated approach that all people across the enterprise can embrace and internalize.

To activate their CX North Star and stand apart from competitors, companies can take their cues from Visionaries who have made this a priority for their business. It starts with defining mission and must continue to infiltrate every department, every process, every technology and, truly, every person.