Checkmate: The Queen’s Gambit of customer experience strategy – Part 2

In part 1 of this series, we drew on the favourite Netflix series ‘The Queen’s Gambit’, using the metaphor of chess to simplify customer experience (CX) strategy.


In part 1 of this series, we drew on the favourite Netflix series ‘The Queen’s Gambit’, using the metaphor of chess to simplify customer experience (CX) strategy. In the same way that chess demands you to make the right set of choices in order to execute a game-winning strategy, so too do business-related strategies, such as CX.  Leaning on the renowned book ‘Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works’1, we explored the first three choices that need to be made in order to develop a game-winning CX strategy:

  1. Setting a winning CX aspiration
  2. Choosing where you will play
  3. Choosing how you will win.

In this final part, we reveal the concluding two choices that need to be made to execute a CX Strategy. These two choices are sequential because they are integrated with the first three choices. The first three choices decipher what our CX strategy will look like. Now we need to understand what is needed to actually deliver it. To do this, we will firstly consider core capabilities (i.e. the clearly identifiable and measurable value-adding activities that the company can do).2 Subsequently, we will need to focus on the right management systems that will support, foster and complement our capabilities. These two choices are signposted in steps 4 and 5 of the image below.


Final two choices to consider to develop a successful customer experience strategy


  • Core capabilities


    On a chessboard, you have 6 unique pieces: pawn, knight, bishop, rook, queen and finally king. They are all unique because none of them move in the same manner. Although different, they all have value and serve a purpose. Much like the protagonist of the TV series, Beth Harmon - the skilled chess player learns how to utilise the pieces at their disposal in order to execute a winning game strategy. This also includes understanding the value that each piece holds and the gaps in each piece's capability i.e. what the chess piece can and cannot do. The better the player is at using these pieces to execute their strategy, the more likely they are to win. In a similar way, in order to execute an effective CX strategy, you have capabilities at your disposal. These can be tangible or intangible capabilities, but similar to chess pieces, they will be different and will likely encompass your people, processes, technology and data.

    As Gartner notes: “An effective CX strategy will need multiple business capabilities. The organisation has to listen to the voice of the customer, research customer needs, measure the CX, design and make use of personas and customer journeys”.3

    These core CX capabilities are your chess pieces. Use them effectively and you will win. Interestingly, they all stem back to understanding the customer in order to improve their experience. This is because if you manage to achieve this, then you have won. Executing a CX strategy means you are already in the game of delivering exceptional experiences for your customers. Although remember that you will need to define specifically how a win will be measured, so that you will know when you have won (refer to choice 3. Choosing how you will win).

    To give you an example of what developing CX capabilities looks like, we recently worked with a client to train their employees on how to gather the voice of their customers and map out the journey that their customers go through. These capabilities help us understand and improve the customer experience. Now, employees are empowered to conduct these activities themselves. By embedding this core CX capability within the business, we enabled staff to play an active role in carrying out activities which will be executed against the strategy.

  • Management Systems

    If it is your move in chess and you do nothing, you will lose by a ruling of timeout. Even the most compelling strategy is redundant if it is not executed. It is no different for CX. In order to execute on your CX strategy, your management systems must be designed to support your choices and complement your capabilities.

    Take a CRM system as an example: many organisations have CRM software, but few use it to execute against their CX strategy. If your strategy was to proactively deliver exceptional experiences to your customers, you can use your CRM data to analyse customer purchase history and use this data to predict the future needs and expectations of your customers before they even know they need it. This will be even more effective if you can pair it with your CX capabilities and you understand what your customers expect (e.g. research customer needs). Ultimately, a well-utilised CRM system awards you a holistic view of your customers which enables you to be proactive in anticipating their needs. The key point is that you use the systems to execute against your CX strategy.

    This is not to say that management systems need to be tangible systems - as Lafley and Martin note in ‘Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works’ - management systems can include “strategy dialogues, innovation-program reviews, budget and operating plan discussions” and so on. The crux of the matter is that you use these systems to “foster, support and measure your CX strategy” throughout the organisation, to the point that it is permeated and communicated to the whole company.

This two-part series has been a whistlestop tour in simplifying CX strategy to show that it is not all that different from any other strategy that we may think about, such as chess. Strategy can often seem hard and overwhelming, but any strategy is simply about making choices to create focus. If there are no choices to be made, then there is no strategy to be had. There will undoubtedly be many more choices that need to be made as part of a CX strategy, but the five that we have outlined are a helpful starting point for getting the foundations right.

  1. Lafley, A. G. and Martin, R.(2013) Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works. Harvard Business Review Press.
  2. Thompson, E., Chiu, M., Scheibenreif, D., and Ray, A. (2020) The Essence of a Customer Experience Strategy. Gartner
  3. Thompson, E., Chiu, M., Scheibenreif, D., and Ray, A. (2020) The Essence of a Customer Experience Strategy. Gartner

To find out the first three moves in creating a winning CX strategy, read part 1 of this blog.

Contact us to find out how we can help you with your customer experience strategy.


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