Driving a well-aligned CX programme to influence customer-centric thinking:

the Customer Experience Agenda
Kojo Manuel
  • Improve the customer experience through effective leadership

Anyone leading a customer experience charge must have a working knowledge of how to influence the organization to embrace the experience agenda by generating the necessary actions required to create, sustain, and embed customer centric thinking and behaviours. In the real world we need more than just good systems and training to keep the organization focused on customer needs.

Note that customer experience has more to do with emotions and much less about rational thinking therefore it is important that we get the balance right. Irrespective of where you are in the organizational hierarchy the role of CX leadership is more about inspiring teams on the shop floor and influencing management and leadership teams to align with the customer agenda.  A research by the market research organization Forrester in 2019 revealed that businesses are sluggish, in shifting towards more customer-oriented business models as they focus more on addressing their own needs (navel-gazing).

The CX lead sees at firsthand how a consistently good customer experience can boost loyalty and promote growth. In today’s world the customer is king has become a popular mantra as customer expectations and their capacity to influence others is increasing without measure. Therefore, as a business we cannot afford to ignore their influence. We do so at our own peril.

Our quest to influence an internal culture that recognizes the need to embrace customer centricity must be driven to full throttle. This is for very good reasons as Prof Eddie Obeng a business educator sums this up when he advocates for organizations in the 21st Century to ‘evolve, dominate or die.’ According to researchers this begs the question, ‘where are the companies and industries that were doing exceptionally well until they weren’t – Blockbuster Video, Motorola, Kodak, Blackberry, Sony, Myspace, Xerox, and Polaroid.’

According to Jeff Bezos of Amazon fame ‘what is dangerous is not to evolve.’ To evolve we must embrace change. Change means doing things that are new and forging things that are familiar. The road to change is froth with discomfort and uncertainty, and the likelihood of being wrong. Change is hard, yet although the journey is rough the rewards are immense when the direction is clear.  A few things we must consider in our experience quest to keep the customers in focus are as follows. First, build the case for change. Second, build internal capacity to sustain the change. Third, drive Organizational adoption and accountability. Fourth, tell your story, communicate.

Build the case for change

Undoubtedly, systems and processes are critical in helping us deliver the relevant services and/or products to address our customers’ needs efficiently, as they engage our touchpoints. However, it’s the culture of the organization that supports our teams to deliver the experience our customers crave. When our mindset is transaction-focused we miss out on the big picture from a CX point of view. Therefore, your change initiative must factor the balance between efficiency and a culture supportive of customer-centricity.

By inspiring a culture of customer-centricity in our own team, and encouraging their input and ideas into how to better serve customers, either through a shift in process or policy, or better systems integrations we will be able to build a clear picture of how much of a difference good CX can make. The way forward is to couple this with tangible measures, through staff and customer surveys, to help us garner support for broader organisational change.

Experts suggest a number of things we can do as CX lead to influence the change required;

  • Work with managers and leaders, to help them understand what you are trying to achieve and why
  • Ask for their help in working with or generating support from other departments, and with senior leadership in turn
  • Listen to their feedback and look for solutions together that could inspire and influence others to see the CX light.

If your goal is to build a truly customer-centred organisation that nurtures all its relationships, and is driven by a genuine desire to serve all its customers to the best of its ability then a positive culture is as important as a solid sales and marketing team. The solution is simple, as CX lead make a stand for customer experience and a customer-centric culture (Before all those other businesses wake up and smell the coffee, and start catching up!).

Build capacity

Building a customer-centric organisation appears simple when mentioned. The common approach is outlined as follows; prioritise your customers, collect their feedback on your services, build them into your business from the ground up and reap the rewards of greater customer satisfaction and retention. However, in today’s complex world of technology coupled with the need to grapple with an overwhelming amount of data, turning that immense amount of multi-channel data into actionable business insights requires a company to build a specific set of customer capabilities.

Three skills recommended by consultants to help strengthen internal capabilities are cross-functional connector, analyst, and business systems. Improving the customers’ experience is a cross-functional effort. According to a CX Peer survey conducted recently, 70% of CX leaders and 85% of those who report to the C-Suite say they are responsible for driving a culture of customer-centricity. And 63% of CX leaders are responsible for the action program to improve product and processes.

For a CX program to have impact and actually make the experience better, CX leaders need to influence a company’s culture to be customer centric and drive action to improve the experience. To be successful at doing this, they need to be master conductors of a cross-functional orchestra. CX leaders must be cross-functional program managers to execute the most complex and important initiatives.

Failure to influence and inspire action will ultimate relegate the customer agenda to the organisation’s periphery.

Furthermore, the CX lead must have very strong analytical skills to demystify or simplify “customer experience”. The simple definition of experience is the “impression you leave from an event or occurrence.”  Therefore, customer experience is understanding the impression your organization leaves on people.  You need to ask people for feedback, interpret what matters most and then do something about it by effectively driving timely action.

Be quick to act on the data that clearly points to an opportunity such as a sticking point in the digital journey or the impact of a recent product change.  More often than not, you need to analyze that feedback with additional data sources to create an effective CX action plan.

I spent my final months in my IT role working on building a data warehouse to help analyse our product sales. On hindsight had I been this literate about CX I probably would have invested more time mapping processes and connecting data to run businesses processes more effectively. Per the research conducted recently 29% of CX leaders admitted that their top challenge was “connecting CX data with operational data.”

Running a holistic CX program means that you connect the feedback to additional data sources to make sense of action you should take. Therefore, as CX lead you need to be a savvy cross-function connector, a masterful analyst who can surface the most important insights as well as an experienced business system integrator who can connect siloed data.

Drive Organizational adoption and accountability

A key question to address is how the organization adopts a customer-focused approach. One recommended way is to link up customer interactions with an internal scoring system. Maxie Schmidt-Subramanian at Forrester suggests that “Businesses need to share customer feedback in real time throughout the company if they want people to use it to drive improvements. They also need to report on CX metrics to raise awareness of the importance of measuring and managing customer experience.”

By using a variety of tools to measure their guest experience; for example, Intouch mobile forms software can be used to perform restaurant checklists to ensure every part of the operation is in top shape for its guests. Additionally, you could use surveys to get instant feedback from guests while still in the restaurant. I went out with my daughter for breakfast on her birthday to a newly opened restaurant in Tema recently and I must say that the experience was great. Right from entering the lobby to going upstairs to the restaurant every frontline staff was eager to make our experience memorable. I hope they sustain this and build further on this as a deliberate CX strategy.

Some organisations use mystery shopping to ensure compliance with customer experience standards. They also measure their experience using Net Promoter Score, to get quick feedback from both purchasers and non-purchasers and make sure this data is reviewed regularly. You must have a centralized team where decisions can come from. Avoid situations where customer experience is scattered throughout the organization to ensure that everyone is aligned to the customer agenda.

Telling your story (communicating)

An organization that truly understands its customers not only improve their experience, but their sentiment over time. There is no more powerful way to connect with customers than through storytelling. To transform your customer experience, begin by telling better stories. Experts opine that 90 percent of all purchasing decisions are made subconsciously. They are based on the emotions and feelings a person has towards a particular brand.

Consequently, the way they feel about your company, will determine whether or not they buy your product or service. When you tell a story that embodies the challenges faced by your target audience, you create an experience that resonates, educates, and sticks with them. Taking a cue from the Alisa Hotel Group, where they share the mantra ‘Our Akwaaba Means “More Than” Just Welcome” with customers. and this one from Coconut Grove Hotel which says ‘Memories Worth Repeating’ these have an emotional effect on customers.

In telling your story make sure tell it through the challenges faced by those you have helped rather than making your company the centre of your story. Not only does it endear customers to you, but according to Deloitte and Touche, being customer centric makes you 60 percent more profitable. Use stories to highlight the problems and struggles your customers have encountered and the villains they fought along the way. You can bet that the same challenges they faced are faced by your potential clients as well. By sharing stories, you attract new customers, build brand loyalty, and establish credibility.

The Writer is a Management Consultant (Change and Customer Experience). He can be reached on 059 175 7205, [email protected], https://www.linkedin.com/in/km-13b85717/


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