Managing Customer Experience Means Managing for Change

By Michael Hinshaw posted 08-10-2022 12:46 PM

  

Why resiliency, responsiveness and agility are more important than ever for leaders and the companies they work for

 

We’re midway through yet another topsy-turvy year. Or two. Or…actually…at this point it doesn’t matter how long it’s been. Because while looking behind us can be informative, looking ahead is how we successfully navigate what’s coming at us.

We know that (as with most things these days), the near future will be different from our recent past. And while we can't predict what it will look like, we can hypothesize. Because when it comes to your customers and employees, there are many…many data points and trend indicators to help us make more intelligent decisions about how to respond to—and stay in front of—what’s to come.

We know this, because some of the largest and fastest growing companies we work with are exceptionally good at “reading the tea leaves”: reading the data, looking around corners to assess what’s ahead, and adapting to what they see.

They understand that the ‘new normal’ isn’t about getting locked into a particular groove. It’s about being resilient, responsive, and agile in the face of continual change.

These are lessons we all need to learn, and disciplines we need to get comfortable with, because we aren’t going back to any good old days. So let’s look to the good days ahead.

Leaders recognize that the velocity of change continues to accelerate

Though technological change has always occurred with a velocity faster than humanity’s ability to adapt to it, COVID has been an even more radical accelerant. Remote workforce. Hybrid workforce. New ways of thinking, working, using and transacting. It’s a pretty long list, and the impact on people and companies cannot be understated. 

Add geopolitics, ever-present supply chain issues, and economic headwinds to the mix, and it’s clear that none of us can afford to stand still or become complacent. Because change hasn’t slowed down, and it’s not likely to.

plan a is crossed out, plan b is cross out, plan c is in effectThe fact is, the pandemic has been a forcing function for companies to radically accelerate change throughout all aspects of their business, with digital transformation and digitally driven customer and employee expectations at the forefront.

To manage change, you need to see and understand what's changing

These trends aren’t new. In fact, we’ve been discussing them with our clients and corporate leaders pretty consistently for ten years. But we’re bringing them up again now because customer- and employee-affecting change has never been more critical, nor more obvious to the naked eye, than it is today.

Of the dozens of trends driving customer experience focus and investment today, most roll up to three "macro trends" affecting nearly every aspect of every business.

  1. Customer Expectations Continue to Rise: Business buyers and consumers alike expect more and better experiences from the companies that serve them.

    Customers expect state-of-the art user experiences, Amazon-, Apple-, or Netflix-like—and they expect it for every interaction, digital or otherwise. They also expect consistency across all the touchpoints of your organization and proactive engagement with real time, relevant information.

  2. Employee Expectations Have Radically Changed: Post-pandemic (pandemic adjusted?) employees expect a hybrid work environment, if not fully remote, and you will need to upskill their capabilities to keep up with the digital transformation around them.

    Because no matter how "digital-first" your business gets, success is still driven by the human element. This means the current hot competition for talent at every level makes employee engagement and retention more important than ever. In aggregate, it will require a complete revision of employee experiences to keep your talent pipeline full.

  3. Experience Management Is Taking Center Stage: Traditional silos connecting the front, middle, and back offices need to come down, and to rally around a customer-centric ethos. Built into the effort, customer listening will play a key part in giving customers and employees the proactive, real-time information they expect. Companies will heavily lean into AI to accomplish this, and to help increase their agility. Lastly, upping the game on corporate social responsibility will build trust in your audiences—enhancing experiences—and contributing to a brighter future. 

Embrace the fact: managing change is (and will remain) vitally important

The tracks of digitization, infrastructure and operations are being laid down one railroad tie at a time, just ahead of the oncoming train of a shifting landscape. And we all need to both understand and manage for change at a pace and scale rarely seen before.

To adapt in this environment, you (and your organization) will need to be more agile, more proactive, faster and nimbler.

How do you navigate this new context?

In part, with systems: Systems that allow you to better understand and anticipate customer and employee expectations, wants and needs, and to put processes in place to help you see and respond to what is (and might be) happening.

Also, an ethos of partnering with stakeholders is important. Adopting new digital ways of working, and ongoing communications make managing for change in the face of digital, societal, economic, and workforce disruption just a *little* bit easier.

To win in the years ahead, strive to be the bar others are measured against for great customer and employee experiences. To do that, it’s essential to recalibrate your priorities, and the operational and infrastructure strategies to manage them well.

The reality is, there will be speed bumps ahead. And the next few years will be an experiment in how well we plan for and meet the challenge.


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