Is customer experience delivering? What are the biggest challenges? What lessons can companies learn to deliver greater impact?
I had the pleasure to have an interview and debate with Diane Magers, Chief Executive of the Customer Experience Professionals Association on the future of customer experience.
Our discussion, based on many years of transforming experiences with and in organisations, led us to insights on key components companies must consider to enable customer experience to succeed. We focused on the areas observed to be most often missing rather than an exhaustive list which includes those factors which companies are already doing well.
1) The number 1 reason why many organisations stall in delivering great CX: singular focus on voice of customer and numbers, rather than insights, action and impact.
Customer Experience is still changing and developing as a profession and business discipline. While some companies have made great progress, many still struggle with identifying and quantifying the impact of their efforts. DM explained “Practitioners often start with a basic foundation where they collect evidentiary data – often deploying technology to collect Voice of Customer information, behavioural data, focus groups, surveys, social insight etc – the sheer volume of data available is vast and increasing. Practitioners then share insights with their organisation and identify initiatives that will change the experience. This find-and-fix approach is valuable to identifying the source of the problem and therefore improvements. The problem is developing key insights and redesigning the experience is too often left to the project owner who often does not have the skills to effectively deliver. Further, the change practitioner often documents a journey map to understand what a customer is doing across their interactions with the company, but then neglects to effectively manage the transition from current state to future state. This second step is vital. An effective change process needs continual focus on the holistic aspects of the end to end experience so change can be prioritised and orchestrated across the enterprise to ensure the required successful outcomes and experiences are achieved.
Creating these base points is not quick – many will take a year or more simply to get to the point where there is clear insight with stakeholder consensus to share. The issues arise around that vital pivot point where the evidence and discovery has been done and the need to deliver i.e. embed new processes and organisational capabilities becomes evident. This is moving from what is largely discovery, process and agreement on procedure to culture change. This piece is often harder and a neglected critical success factor. How do you get the organisation to think and act differently? The executives are publicly announcing the company is going to become more customer centric, the information collection and a level of analysis has happened, and basic education is in place. Now comes the time for focusing on new capabilities and driving beliefs of the organisation – how they make decisions, connecting direct financial impact to experience changes, educating everyone on design and experience impact, thinking and acting differently about the customers. The organisation has to put a structure in place to deliver these changes and more importantly get the staff of the organisation to think differently. If addressed properly, this is a huge area of opportunity”.
2) A good CX strategy crystallises the “how you deliver” great CX
Given the comprehensive and holistic nature of experience centric change, many CX professionals have yet to create a detailed customer experience strategy and a supporting change plan to achieve their goals. The danger is either failing to do this or do not going to sufficient detail in planning good execution. Changing a company to be customer-centric challenges every aspect of the organisation from how the brand promise is delivered and what is the organisation’s core purpose.
Consider these questions:
- How will you plan to move from a product centric organisation to customer centric?
- What measures will you use to define how metrics (like NPS) are being impacted?
- How do you get the buy in and support of the influential stakeholders outside the C “level”?
- How will this change the way the organisation makes decisions?
- What are the goals (excluding NPS)?
- How do you know when you get there and your measures of success?
- What does the organisation look like?
- How will they be more collaborative?
- And how do you measure it?
Gaining customer insight and defining journeys may be a great start point but it is only the foundation for starting the journey.
A powerful customer strategy needs to consider the detail of effective execution and the resulting culture change and business financial and cultural impact.
3) It’s not a program, it’s a discipline and a way of life.
This is the first fundamental lesson in delivering CX change. We too often hear organisations refer to their CX programs like a traditional change programme – as if there is a start and finish to the activities. It’s not the program managers fault. Best practice training has taught them to think like that. Think of this as a discipline and create the new definition of business as usual. A typical mistake is companies often do not understand the transformational nature of the effort and neglect to invest enough (with resources and focus) in the discipline and end up making progress using logic on what worked in the past, whilst leaving untapped and sometimes unknown opportunities.
4) The Customer Journey map becomes a management tool to define the future
We find many CX teams research and document their customer journey and it becomes a point of evidence but not a tool for managing ongoing efforts. Yes, it may identify pain points that can be fixed but if used effectively it can offer so much more.
- What can this exercise tell you about employee experience?
- How are the desperate systems supporting the organisation’s needs?
- What activities are carried out in one part of the organisation are duplicated in another area?
- What did you learn about your policies, workflows and incentives that drive the organisation?
- What needs to customers have that are unmet?
- How will you define the future state experience of the journey?
- What aspects of your processes being circumnavigated by staff without knowledge of other teams?
- How do you take the deep insights that Journey Mapping can create and deploy it into meaningful change?
The journey map is an extremely useful exploration tool and creates insights that traditional process mapping and diagnostic projects regularly miss. Remember to also prioritise Journey Management i.e. the holistic end to end understanding and planning of the current to future journey and the path/plan/strategy to drive the organisation to that future state experience.
5) Position Experience Management at the executive Level in the organisation
The CX leader and discipline often report into traditional business units already within the traditional organisation structure – often marketing or operations. Customer centric change is fundamental to the organisation and requires a position of neutrality and the ability to work across the organisation.
DM observed “this is as much about perception as authority. A CX team reporting into a business unit may be perceived as driving change to achieve their goals, rather than the needs and goals of the entire organisation. And, working cross-functionally is a core component of success. Finally, because of the dramatic and transformational change, the team should report directly to the CEO”.
Diane described the CX position as the “mortar between the bricks” meaning a CX team must thread all the activities together across the organisation and help define and champion the transformative change. This is much more likely to happen if this is defined as a direct CEO report.
6) Make CX as much about accountability as action
Involving the organisation in the definition of the experience, creating solutions, identifying change components and crafting measures and metrics helps drive change. If the ideas and design are generated by teams and individuals own the execution, there is a greater adoption. This combats the perception that CX is about projects and helps define the organisation’s change to “owning” the experience and the change.
Done right, CX becomes a way of life, owned by everyone and executed to achieve specific measures and impact.
DM also stated the importance of cross functional teams. Fixing problems in the silo often starting with a problem statement resulting in change which has implications elsewhere in the organisation which is not understood until after the change was done. Traditional reductionist change approaches that focus on cost and efficiency have been particularly guilty in recent years. Great CX has to be cross-functional and this means that the cross-functional teams need to be able to contribute. The more a team outside the CX unit can contribute the greater their support of subsequent recommendations made. Inclusive changes work much better than prescriptive. Prescriptive change generates resistance.
7) Leading change is about influencing through a broad understanding of an organisation’s capabilities and competencies
Influencing change requires a strong understanding of the different business units. It requires not only a strong understanding at a functional level it also requires the ability to understand their goals, their challenges and communicating to them in language that is most meaningful to them.
Organisational structures are changing. Cross team structures and especially holocratic organisations are now encouraging multi-level specialisation. Everyone in the organisation needs a broad understanding of the entire organisation – the widely trained and multi-skilled generalist who can help define and orchestrate the customer’s journey. And, those highly highly skilled specialists with razor focus on tightly defined specialism where complexity or thought leadership is necessary (e.g. AI, Design).
Customer Experience still has so much more to offer and requires dramatic change.
In a new Forrester report they state that:
“organisational structures are about to change drastically. The organisation of the future is fluid, cross-functional, and built to be deconstructed. There’s a high contrast between this and today’s politically laden silos, long decision cycles, and disjointed operations. It won’t be easy to achieve, but when you’re still around in 10 years (and your competitors aren’t), it will be worth it.”
Source: Forrester, 2018: The Future of Organisations: Rethinking organisational design.
Customer expectation is increasing more quickly than companies’ ability to react. The power of brand messaging and marketing has shifted to social and personal interactions as customers realise new and better alternatives become more readily available.
The dynamics of the customer versus the relatively inert organisation leaves the door open to multiple disruptors entering a market – sometimes from quite unexpected areas. Customer Experience is an ever-evolving discipline that can bring transformation through agility, collaboration and innovation.
It represents new discipline for an organisation with new competencies and capabilities. Our discussion has unearthed some opportunities for organisations to explore how they go beyond the basics of Customer Experience to drive incremental and transformative change.
Our thanks to Diane Magers for her time and valuable insight.