Anecdotal customer experience (CX) stories, when shared with employees and stakeholders, can be a great way to humanize and understand customers on a fundamental level. But we are now living in a business era when anecdotes simply won’t sustain long-term, organizational alignment around customers. You need quantitative performance standards, data on how your company performed to those standards, and other metrics and measures that tell the story of the customer experience over time. You also need widespread methods for reviewing and identifying pain points and opportunities being shown to you by that data.
The easy news is you may already have loads of CX-oriented data from technology you're currently using. But getting the data isn't where the organizational alignment work ends. You have to go from having the data to being data-driven as an organization. "But how?" is a frequently asked question.
There are many ways to create organizational alignment around customers. This post is about using governance practices to create that alignment. Governance in this context, quite simply, is a way of democratizing customer data using a structure and a process that ensures company silos are on the same sheet of music in understanding of customers' experiences. It's hard work that requires influence and long-term patience, but it can be done. In fact, governance is how you go from having data to being a data-driven organization.
What Can CX Governance Look Like?
Governance comes in many forms. You can create CX steering committees, advisory councils, or CX advocates networks comprised of internal and/or external stakeholders, customers, and employees. There are client advisory boards, customer advisory committees, and operations review committees. Choose the setup that makes sense for your organization. All have the same purpose: to get a consistent team of multiple minds with different backgrounds looking at, consuming, comprehending, discussing, and directing action around the same set of CX data points. Document your goals, and then take the next steps.
Where the Hard Work Begins
Next come the tactics for setting the stage where this work will be done. Based on my in-the-trenches experience over 15 years, this is where the hard work, coordination, and influence begins. Here are six essentials you'll need to set the stage for actually doing the CX governance work.
- A senior executive in charge of governance procedures. Leading the charge, you need a skilled facilitator who understands the entire business and can lead action-oriented, non-threatening discussions with a multidisciplinary team around CX data. This person ideally needs to be someone who has authority within the company. He or she will need to focus the entire team on the story being told by the data and elicit the identification of systemic issues that may be impacting customers’ experiences as told by the data. Additionally, this person will need to inspire and drive positive action.
- A secretariat. Creating data reports, scheduling, communication, and corralling the members of the council or team will be a continuous part of this endeavor. My advice: don’t skimp on the secretariat. In my experience, the greatest frustrations with CX governance practices happen when higher-ups think the work of the secretariat should just happen without the support of a skilled secretariat.
- A cross-disciplinary team of executives. Be inclusive in selecting members of your governance council or team. You need multiple backgrounds, skill sets, and viewpoints to really draw out the deep, systemic, and sometimes uncomfortable issues that oftentimes come into the light when the CX data comes front and center. Team members should be committed to full participation. Each person should recruit a back-up in the event they're unable to be present at the governance gatherings.
- A regular rhythm and cadence for reviewing the CX data. Create a standing day, time, location, and/or dial-in number for governance meetings. The secretariat should send the entire team a recurring electronic calendar invitation so that participants get into the habit of seeing the meeting entry on their calendars and carving out time the same time every week, month, quarter, or however frequently the group gathers. CX governance is not a one-and-done scenario. The team must commit to regular gatherings.
- One set of CX data points. Choose data points that tell customers' stories and the stories of their experiences with your company. (Hint: your sales numbers don’t matter to customers.) Ideally, the data points you choose should also connect to your company’s strategic plan. Customer wait time, processing times, response rates, application acceptance/rejection rates, or portal downtime could be examples of data you might review as part of your governance work. Use a consistent, uniform template or dashboard to present the data at each council gathering. Send out the dashboard in advance so that each council member has time to review before the entire team meets.
- Obligatory attendance and participation. There’s no way to create organizational alignment through governance if you have only a "whenever I'm available, I'll do it" commitment to council discussions. In a past life, the governance council secretariat called absent team members from the actual meeting to nudge participation. Some called it a shame tactic, but the very bold message was, "this is important enough to take priority." If you want CX governance to work, it must be clear that participation in governance proceedings isn’t optional.
How Do You "Sell" Governance, Internally?
People are busy. So you may have to do some convincing to get buy-in for the governance work you're setting up. Be ready with talking points. I love how Josh MacFarlane "sells" the concept of CX governance in this Tweet.
The Importance of Patience and Human Stories
Governance, in my experience, is the secret sauce to aligning organizations around customers. Note: I said secret sauce, not magic bullet. You still need focus, tenacity, determination, commitment, and patience to create a payoff. In a past life, we measured and monitored customer wait times through a multi-disciplinary, internal, senior-level CX governance council. We knew we were successful when we saw wait times improve dramatically over four years’ time. Yes, years.
While governance can be very focused on standards, metrics, and success measures, the human anecdotes associated with CX data shouldn't go to the wayside.
A final note. While governance in this context can be quite numbers-focused, the human anecdotes associated with the data shouldn't go away. Customer stories can add dimension to your council’s understanding of the data at hand. Add those stories to your proceedings when it makes sense. Remember, the objective is to create the type of continuous scenario that inspires employees and stakeholders to have a universal understanding of customers and to row in the same direction when it comes to creating and enhancing experiences. That's alignment.
This blog was originally posted on LinkedIn. All views are mine. Follow me on Twitter: @stephaniethum.#OrganizationalAdoptionAccountability