- Everything you need to know: hanging out with industry icons to learn about the pivotal role of customer experience
Last Friday evening, 26 August, was a unique and exciting day for CX advocates. CXP Ghana organized an evening hangout for the CXP Ghana community virtually. The group discussion led by 3 eminent persons in the CX space in Ghana addressed some key issues on CX in Ghana. The theme of the evening was ‘“Let’s Talk CX – Everything you need to know”. Wow and were they on point!
The panelists Esther Dokuwa Ofosuhene, President of CXP Ghana, Kojo Dougan, Vice President of CXP Ghana, and Adinor Puplampu, CX Practitioner (my tutor in CX by the way) took turns to share thoughts in a Q and A session leading a discussion on CX in Ghana.
Panelists took turns to enlighten us touching on its impact from service providers ranging from commercial, business, and public activities to the ‘waakye’ seller, corporates, public institutions, and traders name them CX is now a major conversation in our public space. Listening to the discussions was a great learning experience. By the way kudos to the facilitator, Amanda who kept the session very lively and engaging as is always the case on this platform.
The areas covered were broad and amazingly for a session that lasted only an hour and a half, there was enough knowledge shared to help you appreciate the pivotal nature of Customer Experience in any ecosystem. Issues addressed ranged from CX sustainability, the role of the CX professional, the non-formal sector, design skills, and aesthetics, Managing CX without all the ‘bells and whistles’, the strategic role of CX, challenges, and the adaptability of CX in the public sector were a few of the snippets I captured in this all-important hangout session. In this piece, I share insights and thoughts from my learning experience.
Sustaining Customer Experience
Making CX visible in the organization was the focal point of this discussion. According to panelists, there has to be a deliberate effort to drive CX and keep it going. A suggestion made here was that organizations need to appoint business partners who will be icons to drive the CX agenda across the business. Select people from within the business units and train them to lead CX at their level (operationally). This move should have the full backing of management to gain acceptability across the board. To make this official leadership must back it fully, perhaps what will make this move authentic is when the MD/CEO signs a certificate of appointment for the CX Ambassadors, it then becomes formal.
I recall a popular expression from my Pastor in Milton Keynes years ago when he used to advise that to keep yourself focused on doing things right you must PUT PRESSURE ON YOURSELF. I see the correlation with CX here from what I learned it is important to put your customer experience under pressure if you want to maintain visibility. The reality is that Customer expectations keep changing and we must strive to keep pace (reasonably) with the changing trends. Building a culture that aligns with and listens to the customer is the way forward as advised by the panelists.
The role of the CX Professional
CX professionals are the catalysts for bringing the Voice of the Customer into the organization. Their advocacy for customer issues is critical to ensure that the customer is well catered for. A CX professional must be proactive to achieve the goal of pushing the agenda across the organization. A CX professional is the lead person in implementing the CX strategy for the business.
It must align with the business strategy thus the CX lead drives this strategy and is responsible and accountable for everything relating to the customer experience. This includes designing and implementing the metrics for measuring how the business is executing its experience strategy and working with feedback to make the necessary adjustments. The CX lead drives the transformation across the organization to raise awareness and coordinate all internal efforts aimed at keeping the customer as the focal point.
To do this effectively several skills are necessary. These include the ability to understand the organization by learning, and not doubting oneself to champion the customer agenda at all levels in the organization.
Not doubting yourself is an important requirement as the challenge of dealing with corporate politics looms large. For example, one very important skill needed is a good understanding of finance if you want to make a case for investments and manage budgets to enhance your CX agenda. The CX professional must ensure that the rest of the organization follows a customer-centric approach in delivering a smooth, unfragmented, and consistent customer experience across all touchpoints and at all stages of the customer journey.
Being proactive will serve the primary purpose of keeping track of customer journeys, interacting with customers across channels and platforms, and coordinating with all internal stakeholders to influence processes such as product design or development, sales, marketing, account management, etc., to keep fine-tuning the customer’s experience. Since no business can compete effectively without a great customer experience, the need for CX expertise is on the rise. The CX role is therefore the bridge that ensures that the rest of the business is aligned with the customer experience and is committed to driving it sustainably.
A poignant question asked was how the CX professional can stay motivated. Well, the key is to focus on the lifetime value of a customer. An interesting analogy drawn here was assessing how much a customer spends year on year. If it costs GHS 20 to service a customer who brings you high yields then it is worth the effort to do everything you can to keep the customer loyal to your brand.
The skillset of a CX professional was highlighted. A CX professional must align with the values of the business and must get the balance right to ensure that the customer’s interest is sought after without compromising either position. One of the competencies mentioned was emotional labour. According to a recent CX study (Kantar, 2020), 59% of millennials say they would prefer spending money on experiences rather than material things.
Customers these days seek a WOW element in moments of truth, something that makes them stand out from the crowds. In a world where there is growing competition businesses are compelled to focus more on delivering experiences that are not only consistent but also branded and ultimately memorable. The “emotional labour” of employees is needed to ensure the avoidance of one-off encounters whose random nature customers easily recognize. The CX lead is a people-centered person who must have the right reflexes to stay “alive” in every situation.
The role requires the need for regular stakeholder engagements to stay aligned with different groups and their peculiar needs. Therefore, regardless of one’s actual job title, it is a leadership position. The fact is, a CX lead will have control or positional authority over some staff and some processes but it is unlikely s/he will have control over all stakeholders and resources involved with customer centricity, customer service, or customer focus. Sheehan (2021) advises that It is crucial here to lead with influence, using softer powers of persuasion.
Other skills addressed were risk management and effective communication. Risk is about the likelihood of an event occurring and the level with which it occurs, and its severity. To manage risks effectively ensure that you have a good hang on the data and use the insights gained to develop best-fit risk management processes in your CX agenda.
The need to employ tact and diplomacy is key as evidenced in the stakeholder engagement strategy mentioned earlier. This is what the experts say, “CX initiatives are focused on employee actions that drive results. Communication is a primary vehicle to make it happen.” To ensure that your branding is on point you must routinely feature CX initiatives in corporate communications to reinforce their importance. The key is to encourage conversations about the programme at all levels and to do that effectively you must be an effective communicator.
The Non-Formal Sector
There was a question raised (by yours truly) about how CX can be inculcated in the non-formal sector without all the “bells and whistles”. This question came up from a personal experience of working with some SMEs in 2017 to help them build fit-for-purpose information systems to help drive business results. Many businesses have low appetites for key business needs such as process, integration, and information management.
This is because nearly 70% of businesses in our ecosystem fall in the bracket of Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSME). When they start operations, they can manage things only to a point. As the business begins to grow they become overwhelmed with the emerging challenges due to the lack of due process. That was my experience dealing with an SME who had access to credit but was battling with the choice of an information system to enable it to digitize its operations.
The owner knew where he was taking the business but was very apprehensive about the right systems to adapt to enhance efficiency in managing internal processes such as sales and accounting. He was interested in, an ERP that was best suited for large businesses. The panelists had some sound advice for such businesses. Training and education are key to creating awareness. The goal is to drive, educate, and let people know the link between CX and how you make money.
There was also a conversation about the average trader such as the marketplace. A common example addressed was the Taxi driver. The experience in this context would be a clean car, a smiling (or welcoming) and well-dressed driver, and a well-functioning car with a good aroma the driver tops all this up by driving you safely to your destination. A friend shared with me earlier this week about the bad behavior of an Uber driver not showing any courtesies and being overly rude. Sadly our informal sector is suffering from a lack of customer focus and this needs to be addressed through education.
CX in Government Institutions
The enormity of this task is no secret as was explained at the forum. Most of the public sector institutions are laggards in this regard. The good news though is that they are coming around to it and that there is great enthusiasm to implement and manage CX in public sector operations. Many of them are developing Charters to guide CX processes and create awareness there are genuine efforts to inculcate customer centricity as part of their culture. The concern though is that they are not involving staff in the conversations and that is a major concern.
In my experience Change must engage all stakeholders, especially those who because of their roles are the ones to live the Change. Not involving the wider community will result in a situation where the new process is imposed thus the question of ownership is left hanging. How do we sustain the customer experience holistically? Develop a national framework to drive changes from the country level. Trust me when I say there is more where all this came from. If you ask my opinion we need another dose to exhaust this further.
Many thanks to the panelists, the organizers, and our vibrant team in CXP Ghana who is working tirelessly to keep the CX conversation alive. Long may they continue with this great work.
|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/