It is common knowledge that doing anything effectively requires the collective effort of a group of people working towards the achievement of a common purpose. Thus the concept of a team in any undertaking bear’s great significance in the quest to achieve well thought out predetermined goals.
Among the characteristics, one can identify in any team is the opportunity it offers you to join forces or collaborate or get together to make things happen.
The adage Together Everybody Achieves More epitomizes the wisdom of harnessing the collective strengths of several people synergizing with each other’s skills to achieve great things. So as much as it pays to listen to your customer, even more, crucial here is that as a business your ability to understand the customer hinges on how well organized you are.
It is claimed that the financial crises in the first decade of the 21st Century, brought the customer question into the boardroom in a way never experienced previously. Those who survived the backlash immediately launched an unprecedented wave to rescue their businesses.
Many realised that merely cutting costs is a fruitless endeavour if you did not know what to cut in the first place. It could potentially leave you with lower costs but hemorrhaging customer, sales, and profits. Ordinarily, very few of us are prepared to answer the question ‘how will I/should I contribute to a customer agenda’? Many are of the view that the ‘customer piece’ does not affect their work so they commit to carry on as normal until they have to engage in a formal role such as Financial Controller, Sales Director, Operations Director, Legal Counsel, and so on.
The magic expedite is this: customers impact on everyone and everyone impacts on the customer, the customer is unique and can potentially bust silos, it is hard to argue with what your customers say about your business and its failings, hence the challenge and the threat it poses. Therefore, the need to retain customers is now an urgent boardroom matter that embattled CEOs need to take control of.
Take it in small steps
The solution is not to announce massive customer initiatives but to set a hundred small challenges, then a hundred more. The goal is to engage people at local levels with small-scale easy to execute changes without the grand label of transformational change. You want to avoid a situation where colleagues will feel threatened and raise defences. By implementing chunks of change you have a better chance of engaging others more successfully. Once small changes begin and confidence grows, the momentum will be self-generating.
The effectiveness of your change activities will depend not only on how well organized your teams are but also on ensuring that your team players have the right mindset such as identifying with the common goal of satisfying the customer and buying into the team culture of interdependence.
To begin with, you will need to assess your customer experience (CX) maturity and ask key questions about your organization concerning your people and the roles within your business, responsible for serving the customer, and how primed you are to addressing the needs of your customers.
A typical roadmap for your team will be to navigate your transformation programme through the following key phrases, from ‘Attract’ to ‘Convert’ and to ‘Advocate’. However, the initial focus must be on achieving quick wins for business impact, naturally in a typical business, key stakeholders will be more interested in outcomes than the processes producing the intended results.
Address the first things first
Therefore, your primary activities must centre around such tasks as identifying staffing roles ranging from re-aligning existing resources to hiring new talent. According to Bruce Temkin. Head of the XM Institute, “one-third of organisations have 11 or more full-time employees dedicated to customer experience”. They would normally split roles to address such areas as customer insights and analytics, the voice of the customer, design, and processes, and internal communications.
Others have stated further, that the size of the organization typically dictates what comprises CX teams so that smaller businesses tend to have one person if they have anyone at all. Mid-sized businesses tend to have at least one person, maybe up to three or five. And larger businesses go so far as to have “Office of the Customer” and much larger teams. The majority of organizations have a senior CX leader and a centralized CX team in place.
The formal organisation as a pre-requisite for effective CX management could be a drawback as you develop internal CX management capabilities. The natural reaction in a formal setting is for colleagues to get back to their day jobs and leave the tasks to a few ‘anointed’ team members.
Common wisdom suggests that you draw the customer into the culture of the business intending to engage everyone as opined earlier.
The company needs to engage in equipping its people to ‘think differently’, in other words in reviewing issues and opportunities, they must consider everything carefully from the customer’s lens. Managers and frontline staff need to be equipped with the tool of a ‘customer view’, to manage both the day to day requirements and the evolution of the business over time.
Collaboration is critical
In practical terms a board or a CX team can’t change business on their own; what is feasible is that you can potentially create the platform for change to happen, however for the culture to evolve you will require the active engagement of the majority of your staff.
Consider a team of 10 tasked with managing customer-related changes, note how much they can achieve when compared to having 5,000 colleagues each doing one thing differently. Alex Bard, founder of Desk.com has this to say about inclusiveness in serving the customer, “Customer Service should be part of everybody’s job, from the c-suite to engineering, from marketing to finance.
There is no better way to orient your business for success than connecting to the customer more effectively”. Some experts assert that in many ways customers, and the value your organization hands them, is the only common ground that can be shared by every function across the business. If you and your team are not contributing to value creation for customers, then you may be creating waste work, or worse, reducing value by preventing customers from achieving their needs or goals.
Build the right culture to support your customer agenda
To ensure that you have a strong internal team culture requires a deliberate effort at harnessing your resources and facilitating a mindset that is highly supportive of customer-centred initiatives. First, you need to empower your employees, they must be hired with the expectation that they will work in the best interest of your customers.
They must develop extremely detailed knowledge about what creates value for customers and what works for business. Starbucks has found a way of empowering their employees to engage with customers by embedding the customer mindset in their core values, according to Starbucks’ mission and values statement, “When we are fully engaged, we connect with, laugh with, and uplift the lives of our customers, even if just for a few moments”. Second, create trust, there is no boundary when it comes to building trust with employees, customers, and partners.
Honesty, transparency, and accountability must serve as the guideposts for every decision and action taken in delivering quality customer service.
According to Richard Branson, the Virgin Group founder, “There are few things more important in business than trust. After all, if potential customers do not have faith in your product or service, then your business will never get off the ground. And it’s not just customers you need to win over; almost everyone your company works with, from manufacturers to distributors, will need convincing”. Third, dream big, unbounded imagination, genuine passion, and the right attitude will take your business to the wonderful places you want to go.
Aspire to make the impossible possible. Gary Hamel and C.K. Prahalad in their Harvard review submission on ‘Strategic Intent’ illustrate how dreaming big propelled some big brands to ‘stardom’, with the likes of Komatsu who set out to “encircle Caterpillar”, Canon sought to “beat Xerox” while Honda strove to become a second Ford an automotive pioneer.
To create the best opportunity to succeed in improving your customer experience, you must raise the profile of the customer in the development and deployment of your business strategy. Start by taking a low-key approach and allow the successes to create fuel for future work.
Your goal must be to raise the experience to parity with other key strategic drivers and invest in resources to trigger the conditions to deliver success. Should you choose to create a customer experience function, ensure that it is supported and nurtured to avoid the risk of a cultural backlash. More crucially you must aim to equip teams and individuals to think like customers, think differently and challenge the status quo, and influence the resulting customer experience.
The Writer is the Managing Consultant at Capability Trust Limited a People and Learning Organisation serving the market with Talent Acquisition and Management, Leadership Development, HR Outsourcing and General HR Advisory, Training and consulting services. He can be reached on 059 175 7205, [email protected]/ www.linkedin.com/in/km-13b85717