Be proactive in delivering the change for improved experiences

the Customer Experience Agenda
Kojo Manuel
  • Ensure that you develop and manage a sustainable positive culture

We live in a world where change is a constant. So regular is this change phenomena that what John F. Kennedy said decades ago now makes so much sense. He said, when addressing a gathering at the Paulskirche in Frankfurt in 1963, “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future”. To stay relevant, one must be alive to events of the past, accept the reality of your current situation, and be ready to address the needs of the future.

Years ago, in my role of managing corporate IT, I played lead roles in delivering significant changes to key business processes. One lesson I learned from the myriad of initiatives was the need to engage the rest of the organisation, ensuring that we dispelled silo thinking and focused on our organisational needs holistically. Similarly, in addressing Customer Experience (CX) requirements, we will need to proactively address change levers such as business, technical and process changes, focusing on the organization, as well as individual people needed to make CX projects successful.

Since people are a big part of the change, we must not ignore the question of incentives. CX leaders must explore incentives that will potentially influence a high degree of responsiveness to change from the people affected by it. Note that those who will live with the change (employees) are pivotal in successfully installing new (technical and business) processes required to embed the change. The operative word here is agility, with attributes of flexibility, adaptability and autonomy, the change pendulum must be swung with caution and tact.

Jeff Sheehan, a CX proponent suggests the formation of an Improvement Council (names may differ in different organisations albeit similar in purpose). These are internal to an organisation and are comprised of cross-functional team members responsible for reviewing all touchpoints in the customer journey and working on creating improvements. Their role essentially is to turn the moments of misery into moments of magic.

Where do we start this change process? We must develop an understanding of the current situation which will be the baseline for measuring our progress toward the desired end-state, and envision the broad sequence of events by which the organisation will achieve this end-state. The following diagram encapsulates this process. It depicts the general sequence involved in developing the visualisation of CX-driven change using the Agile project management approach.

















Source: (Sheehan, 2021)

Driving a systematic process gives you a clear view of where you started and how the journey has progressed. This way, you are better able to identify what works and what doesn’t so that your interventions address gaps in a timely and more accurate manner. The 3 phases in this process enable you to achieve your goal succinctly. These are: identifying the current phase, determining the operational approach, and envisioning the end-state.

The 2 concepts identified here are Agile Project Management (an iterative approach to planning and guiding project processes that break them down into smaller cycles called sprints or iterations) and Change Management (a systematic approach to dealing with the transition or transformation of an organisation’s goals, processes or technologies). The former explains how you manage projects in small chunks, not restricting yourself to a linear (sequential) approach, while the latter is about an organisation’s transition from its current state to a desired future state, e.g., replacing your manual payroll processing with a technology to improve efficiency.

Identifying the current state

When you set yourself the task of changing a specific process within a team or your entire organization, you assess the existing situation as the current state in which you are transitioning to your desired outcome. The key is to conduct research that involves data collection, observation, and analysis to ascertain what exactly it is that you are addressing. Your goal here is to determine how well the company is meeting its needs and what improvements it requires.

Your goal is to improve customers’ experiences with your company to make them happier, so they will stay with you longer and consequently, both the business and your customers will prosper. Mark Smith, a former VP of CX at Element Fleet Solutions, a global fleet management business, affirmed this in an interview a few years back. He said this about one of his business’ B2B clients: “they have two people dedicated to change management on their seven-member CX team, so it’s not surprising that they’ve accomplished far more in their CX transformation in three years than others have in a decade”.

The best solution is to tie customer experience to a business problem that can potentially hurt the business. Customer churn, low share of revenue, and high effort (and therefore costs) to serve are all customer problems that also hurt the business. These are compelling calls to action. As you will be reflecting on change management, you need a sense of urgency in responding to these challenges. Next, know that you can’t sustain an improved customer experience without involving leadership.

Actively involve them means involving their time. Create a guiding coalition that includes your top leadership (VPs, CEOs, etc.), to create a sustained change momentum. It is hard work, we must admit; however, the time you take to engage leadership in the beginning will save you time as you implement your changes. Create a vision to show employees where you are going. A vision should show the way, encouraging your teams to cut out high-effort (and wasteful) activities. By engaging the executives in a change coalition, you pave the way for building a vision of an improved future state.

Determining the operational approach

How do we deliver high-quality omnichannel experiences? The way forward is to develop an operational ecosystem that enables cross-functional collaboration and quick reaction to customers’ needs. Your focus here will be such core areas as your values, structures, operations, technology and culture as you journey toward your desired end-state. Build CX capabilities by creating an environment that focuses on the customer and delivers high-quality CX at scale.

A few of the areas you can address include leadership; by creating a leadership culture across levels and functions, you develop an environment where the average Joe confidently takes ownership of the process and resolves issues with a clear understanding of where to engage in the business to obtain the needed support.  Identify and update processes that are exacerbating their current challenges. Which processes are proving to be inefficient and in effect, drawing back? Remove barriers and identify solutions to enable more positive changes.  The list is endless. The key is to unearth these challenges and resolve them quickly.

Developing a customer-minded orientation is a deliberate endeavour, let’s not discount the pivotal role of leadership here. Leadership must deep-dive into the mindset and practice of agility. They must spend time learning, talking and thinking about their leadership style and how their mindset can help make the business more agile. Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams, the second President of the US, sums this up aptly: “learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardour and attended to with diligence”.

Envisioning the end-state

The CX leader envisions other future state conditions based on his/her understanding of the current situation and the intended purpose of the CX programme. The truth is: you can’t transform something you don’t understand. You don’t want to change things that are working well or that create value for your customers. Therefore, it is imperative that you know the current state, what to fix and what to maintain before designing the future state. Knowing the current state enables you to make near-term fixes and improvements, while you’re re-imagining and redesigning the future state, which can take some time.

The process must be collaborative, with the customer at the centre of your planning and execution phases. The following table by blogger, Annette Franz (, outlines both states in your mapping of the current and future states, and what your focus will be as you address their requirements.

         CURRENT STATE MAPS                                                  FUTURE STATE MAPS

·         Understand today’s experience

·         Grounded in data

·         Identify pain points and high points

·         Identify listening gaps

·         Make incremental improvements

·         Used to make immediate, tactical changes

  ·         Design tomorrow’s experience

·         Rooted in creativity and ideals

·         Ideate solutions for pain points

·         Incorporate listening posts as needed

·         Driven by CX vision

·         Design and deliver new value

·         Used to deliver the experience of the future

Your future state journey map will address the following themes: Identifying and examining future experiences or journeys in collaboration with real customers; Co-creating and designing the ideal experience with customers; Co-creating and designing a differentiated experience with customers;

Envisioning what the experience could look like in the future at minimal risk because it’s tested first on paper.

In envisioning the end-state of your customer experience, your goal is to have structured conversations about the future mindset and how the business and its constituents can go forward, aligned to the goals and objectives of the transformation programme to be achieved through a process of encapsulating systematic planning and execution phases.

The saying goes without equivocation that every business would be more content with retaining loyal customers than acquiring new ones.
Kojo Manuel
The Writer is a Change Management and Customer Experience Consultant. He can be reached on 059 175 7205,

[email protected],




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