Invisible Culture: Sustaining Great CX in Our Remote Work Times
Building a customer-obsessed culture requires a system of shared values and behaviors that focus employees on delivering on-brand, authentic experiences. As a customer experience (CX) leader, you do this by educating employees about your customers, your CX vision, and their roles in fulfilling your vision, and then by reinforcing customer-centric behaviors through physical assets, workplace design, routines, celebrations, and rewards.
But when everyone is working remotely or in a hybrid format, you need a different approach. To keep the customer front and center, companies are doubling down on visible and invisible culture markers. Visible culture markers are artifacts (personas, journey maps, and service blueprints) and behaviors (showing empathy and proactively calling the customer with a status update); invisible culture markers, meanwhile, consist of norms (the mutual sense a group has of what is right and wrong) and values (such as being curious about customers and their needs and wanting customer feedback early and often).
Because it entails qualities that are intangible, invisible culture hasn’t always received enough attention within organizations. Yet invisible culture is crucial for sustaining CX. Here are three recommendations for boosting it:
Hire employees who embody or are deeply familiar with the characteristics of your customer base. Mirroring the customer base in your employee base will ensure intrinsic alignment on values. It helps customer-facing and behind-the-scenes employees to quickly form bonds and create an empathetic connection, making the experience more personal and authentic.
Make mental health a priority and build in time for off-job recovery. Managers can help teams take better care of themselves by modeling the behavior themselves and developing emotional intelligence skills to pick up on signs of colleague disconnection and fatigue. Programs to “reclaim your day” help employees manage their time, emotions, and calendars, and recording meetings helps accommodate people in different time zones and those not able to attend due to other priorities. The nature of virtual meeting technology encourages a focus on tasks at the expense of human connection, so embracing shared life moments and on- and off-screen distractions can help bring more humanity into colleague and customer connections.
Experiment with new ideas and immersive experiences for key audiences. Some companies are experimenting with virtual CX spaces. These are virtual environments that can be presented on the web or be fully immersive. They replace the journey map on the wall, and they can include design sketches, video highlights, and live data and allow people to move sticky notes around. Employees can come in and experience virtual journeys, entering various rooms and viewing the data and journey as they pertain to particular personas. This kind of innovation is well suited for employee onboarding, prototypes, virtual lobby experiences, and demonstrations for a C-suite audience.
Like most areas of business, the CX discipline has had to create new ways of fostering teamwork in remote environments. Now that we are approaching some level of stability, it is time to consider the technology, culture, and leadership required for the future.
Remote work must be built into the culture. To cement a customer-centric culture, CX leaders must help their companies become more explicit about meeting types and etiquette, status and checkpoints, team identity, and values. Be intentional from day one about making sure that people have a way to feel a sense of belonging and connection to the company and the formal and informal communities within it. That may be teams and individuals united by skills, hobbies, customer opportunities, or even problems. In today’s environment, visible and invisible culture markers must be a priority, regardless of where employees are working.
Joana de Quintanilha is vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research. Based in Amsterdam, de Quintanilha serves customer experience professionals, with areas of expertise including journeycentricity, emotion and journeys, digital customer experience, tools like journey mapping and journey orchestration, and Agile methods. She also focuses on brand and leads CX trends research in Europe.