Turn Your Customer Experience Process Around
SOME PEOPLE embrace change and new information with ease. However, most do not. And that’s a big challenge for those who lead customer experience (CX) programs. In most organizations a CX leader has influence but no real authority. While they often have a great deal of customer intelligence that can improve the performance of almost any department, they can’t make their colleagues put it to use.
ALIGNING INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL PERSPECTIVES ON THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE
Consider this situation. A distributor of electronics supplies determines that delivery time is a major factor in developing loyal customers who will place more orders. With this in mind, it sets aggressive targets for delivery and works very hard to achieve its own high-quality standards. Meanwhile, feedback from customers tells a different story; they complain about delivery and provide poor ratings. It turns out that the targets set by the delivery team did not align with customer expectations. Now the CX leader needs to share this intelligence with his colleagues and essentially tell this hardworking, well-intentioned team that they need to change the way they’ve been doing things.
How do you think that’s going to go? If this CX leader has a good relationship with the team there is a chance that they will listen and make positive changes. However, if no relationship is established, it is quite likely that the information will be scrutinized, rationalized, and dismissed. You can imagine the questions: “How was this information gathered?” “What questions did you ask?” “Which customers responded?” “Do they really understand what’s involved?” And so on.
IS THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE PROCESS BACKWARD?
It’s a common dilemma for customer experience leaders. They implement programs to understand the perspective of the customer; then they identify areas of improvement; and then they work with various departments to educate, persuade, encourage, and attempt to drive change.
But wait—maybe we have this backward.
Too much of the standard process is about justifying research and twisting arms to get people to take action. Not only is this a waste of time and energy, it’s frustrating!
Instead, what if we partner with department leaders from the start, before we design our feedback program? What if we collaborate with department leaders to understand their goals and the metrics they are using to evaluate their performance? With this knowledge we can proactively design programs to collect insights from customers that complement the goals and metrics of each department. With this process, there is less need to justify our methods and sell our conclusions. Rather, we’re on the same page with the stakeholders we serve and they are much more likely to welcome our input, respect our advice, and take action on our conclusions.
THREE STEPS TO BUILDING A CX INITIATIVE
Whether you are just starting out or you have an existing program where you are stuck in the gather-insights-then-encourage-people-to-use-them loop, consider these three steps.
Reach out. Proactively approach leaders of various functional departments to understand their most important goals and metrics. With that understanding, propose to them how you can support what they are trying to achieve by delivering intelligence that leads to better customer experiences.
Recruit ambassadors. Don’t stop there. Ask these leaders if a member of their team can participate on the customer experience team. Their role as a CX ambassador is to be a liaison between their department and the CX team and ensure ongoing alignment. Having a team of ambassadors is a great way to expand your influence.
Consider a resource from finance. Feeling courageous? Recruit someone from the finance department to be on the CX team. Their role is to be an objective source to evaluate and even scrutinize the activities and impact of the CX team. If you have a sharp focus on driving improvements within departments, they will likely be your biggest advocate and can help secure the resources you need to succeed.
ONE MORE CX TIP
Guests on our weekly podcast, The CX Leader Podcast, are always asked to provide “take-home value”—one tip that CX leaders can use right away. One of the best tips I’ve heard is to start small. Maybe try this proactive approach with one leader from one department to get started. Get a good win under your belt and then go tell another department what you accomplished and build a relationship with them. It’s a good first step to prompt more action, drive positive change, and generate bottom-line results for your business.
Patrick Gibbons leads experience management and marketing for Walker, an experience management services firm. Gibbons is a certified customer experience professional (CCXP) and a certified experience management professional (XMP). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.