When organizations decide to take the plunge and become intentionally customer-centric, there’s often great excitement and fanfare, sprinkled with a healthy amount of urgency, but topped with just a dash of actual planning – a bit of the infamous “shiny new object” syndrome. Many of these honest efforts inevitably fizzle (which, in my experience, typically happens around year 3) as organizations realize they’ve underestimated the effort required for transformation. Because the reality is this: so much of what enables a CX transformation to be successful comes down to sufficient change management.
Fortunately for CX change agents, there are numerous frameworks and assessments that can be leveraged to grasp the mechanics underlying this shift. These tools help the CX professional to catalogue what’s needed for the change and prepare a more tactical approach to transformation. The CXPA has built what I believe to be one of the most easily understood approaches to understanding the keys to a successful CX operation. They’ve identified 6 key essential areas:
- Customer-Centric Culture – having the elements built into the organizational fabric such that each individual understands the vision, mission, and values associated with customer-centricity, and lives them out every day
- VoC, Customer Insight, & Understanding – the collection of customer feedback, synthesized and translated into a language the organization understands
- Organizational Adoption & Accountability – a governance structure that clearly defines roles and responsibilities to sustain the change
- Experience Design, Improvement, & Innovation – the continuous creation of new experiences based on an outside-in approach
- Metrics & Measurement – the tools to ensure that changes have had their intended effect and make adjustments in the future as customer needs and perceptions change
- CX Strategy – a visionary approach that provides the framework for all CX efforts, as well as ties these efforts into the organizational strategy
Whether you’re just launching your CX initiative or you’re trying to accelerate a fledgling effort, it can be overwhelming to try and tackle all of these pillars in parallel. Also, the fact of the matter is that most organizations are simply not (or not prepared to be) good at all of these. So what’s a CX pro to do?
Below, I provide some approaches an organization can use when it is missing one (or more) of the key ingredients to a successful full-scale CX overhaul. I emphasize “full-scale” because all of these solutions recognize that something must be left out – it will be necessary to say “no” to the totality of benefits in order to ensure that at least some measureable benefits are achieved. I’ll concede that this is easier said than done. In a business climate that doesn’t readily accept the notion of “I can’t”, you’ll need to have the guts to admit the organization is just not there yet (wherever ‘there’ may be) and take the smaller steps that will still begin the shift toward customer-centricity – it’s just going to take more time.
Here are those strategies:
Missing: Customer-Centric Culture
Don’t worry about it for now. I believe culture is always a result of changes in artifacts and behaviors (check out “Organizational Culture and Leadership” by Edgar Schein). Trying to tackle culture change as a primary objective of a CX transformation in an organization that is not already customer-centric is a recipe for taking on too much, too soon. Let it happen organically from the things you will change along the way, while having a long-term strategy that incorporates a target culture – a picture of what you want to aspire to be.
Missing: VoC, Customer Insight, & Understanding
Identify a “minimum viable product” to bring customer perspective into the organization. Recommending a 6- or 7-figure enterprise feedback management system is not going to fly. Try some very basic surveying using any number of free (or low cost) tools available, go hit the streets and talk to customers, see if you can find customer feedback about your industry that may also be applicable to your company. The key is to start bringing visibility to the customer perspective, not be concerned about infinitesimal accuracy at this stage.
Missing: Organizational Adoption & Accountability
Adoption is more about your organization’s tolerance and aptitude for change in general, so link-up with your HR team or change management group here. If that doesn’t exist, don’t worry – you’re not out of the game. Where you can move the needle here is in the accountability arena. You’ll have to assume some risk, but being brave enough to accept personal accountability for the change you’re evangelizing will alleviate that being someone else’s responsibility. Here’s a tip: have the CX team (even if only a team of one) be responsible to lead the cross-functional projects recommended by the CX team – don’t leave this to the core functional groups. And be specific – provide the organization with the metrics/objectives they can measure you by.
Missing: Experience Design, Improvement, & Innovation
Show the opportunity for improvements in the journey and leverage experts within the organization to guide the change recommendations. New experiences can be created without having strong acumen in design and innovation principles. Let yourself and your colleagues put their “human” hat on by using examples outside of your industry that typically cause customers frustration (think cable company calls for outages) to get them in the innovative mindset, then shift that thinking to your situation at-hand. And don’t overlook facilitating discussion between functional groups to build empathy within the organization – this can have a profound impact on seeing the customer journey from a “higher-than-my-own-function” perspective.
Missing: Metrics & Measurement
Prioritize creating them, and leverage the not-so-apparent data you may already have. Too many CX initiatives are faltering because they’ve failed to link financial outcomes to specific CX activities. Don’t let this happen to you! Work with any groups that have existing data which could be leveraged to show customer behavior (hint: even sales data is showing customer behavior…). Incorporate a relationship metric – this will start the collection of data to support your efforts, and this may be an opportunity to strategically offer the organization a cookie in the form of a new, shiny KPI.
Missing: CX Strategy
Stop what you’re doing, NOW! If you don’t have a short-term and long-term vision of what you want from your CX transformation, you’re setting yourself up for failure. While entire books could be dedicated to strategy in general, and CX strategy more specifically, I suggest at least incorporating the following into your plan: vision and mission statements, assessment of where the organization is now on the 6 key pillars of CX and a highlighted plan to get to the future state, and milestones to achieve particular levels of ROI.
As you begin to implement these strategies in your organization, it’s a good idea to re-assess periodically. If you do this right, something that was missing when you first set-out may not be missing any more, and you’ll find yourself already building your path to CX success!