Develop experiences that engage customers and employees alike


build and sustain good synergy to improve relationships (internally and externally)

The Indian story of the blind men and an elephant is one that we can draw lessons from when we are having conversations about customer experience and how it is managed in our organization. A group of blind men who have never come across an elephant before are given the opportunity to touch different parts of the animal. Each goes on to describe the elephant based on their limited experience. As it turned out they each had different versions of the elephant based on which part of the elephant they touched or experienced.

The narrative goes like this, “A group of blind men heard that a strange animal, called an elephant, had been brought to the town, but none of them were aware of its shape and form. Out of curiosity, they said: “We must inspect and know it by touch, of which we are capable”. So, they sought it out, and when they found it they groped about it. The first person, whose hand landed on the trunk, said, “This being is like a thick snake”. For another one whose hand reached its ear, it seemed like a kind of fan.

The next person, whose hand was upon its leg, said, the elephant is a pillar like a tree-trunk. The blind man who placed his hand upon its side said the elephant, “is a wall”. Another who felt its tail, described it as a rope. The last felt its tusk, stating the elephant is that which is hard, smooth and like a spear. If our internal dynamics is such that we are operating in silos and as a consequence delivering inconsistent experience to customers at our journey touchpoints then we mirror the experience of the blind men as expressed in the elephant story.

As determined as we are to ensure that customers are served with the best of experiences the reality is that this is not easily achieved. Two main reasons underlie this challenge. First as organizations we are more inclined to operate in silos and this has consequence in how we engage customers. Each department has its orientation towards its core functions e.g. Finance dealing with finances and Technical addressing their core functions, productions and operations etc. Second, as our focus is on delivering value for our shareholders we fail to consider the sentiments of our main evaluator – the customer.

Organizational silos view the truth according to our own expertise and experience. Therefore, like the 5 blind men our reality is influenced largely by which part of the organizational whole we are involved in. To overcome this perception, we must view things more holistically when considering how we engage with customers. As much as we aim to deliver consistency to our customers at journey touchpoints we must similarly aim to address the needs of our employees and support them in ways that make them see the customer’s journey from a common perspective regardless of “which part of the elephant they see”.

Betul Yilmaz, a CX consultants suggests a number of approaches to delivering consistency to customers across our touchpoints as they engage us on their journeys. She advocates the formation of an Improvement Council to assess the customer journey and rethink the design with the involvement of the customer. The goal is to encourage collaboration and move away from the silo mentality by employing human-centred design principles (process used by design teams working in collaboration with customers to optimize customer experiences at all touchpoints before, during and after conversion).

To begin with an effective corporate CX programme needs C-Suite buy-in. A top-level manager with an appetite for change and a willingness to work cross-functionally is a good fit to drive this collaborative effort. Additionally, you need a C-Suite member who is willing to become the project sponsor. Next involve mid-level management as members of the advisory board. Key areas to address in this initiative are teamworking, communications, data management, and a coordination office to manage the agenda.

Teamworking and The Improvement Council

Managing CX efficiently is best achieved through cross-functional working. Another CX advocate Jeff Sheehan refers to this approach of cross-functional design of customer experience as the Improvement Council. The hierarchy of this informal organization is what we outlined earlier involving top management and middle level managers. While the top managers are responsible for governance the middle level managers focus on issues that require immediate attention. Most likely the CX lead will be within this group and would coordinate efforts at developing a common front for all CX.

Using methods of persuasion and evidence gathering the CX lead can gradually get buy-in from all stakeholders. The improvement council is responsible for developing CX improvement initiatives that span the organization and affects stakeholders. An operational cycle is at play here with 3 key activities for the team to execute, encompassing listening (customer feedback), learning (improvements), and acting (operations). To begin with the team coordinates the elicitation of customer feedback at journey touchpoints.

Apple is deliberate about this, when customers walk into their shop they engage them proactively to obtain valuable feedback for internal consumption. Starbucks are very particular about feedback and they obtain this through casual conversations with customers as well as through surveys. We might add that some hotels are very good at eliciting vital feedback for service improvements. Learning is critical to get to the bottom of things and to develop appropriate solutions to issues raised by customers.

Here the process involves root cause analysis, i.e. identifying root causes of incidents. By discerning the root causes (not just the symptoms) one is able to determine what the real problem is. As part of this process a stakeholder analysis is conducted followed by a Change Management strategy to birth solutions. The final stage in this process is acting where lessons learned are ploughed back into operations. Here we need the right balance between the customer expectations and the company’s own internal policy-induced limits.


How do you get buy in for your change initiatives? It’s by ensuring that the conversation about the change is on the lips of all your internal stakeholders. You need a deliberate strategy to bring customer issues as top of mind within the organization. Symbols are very powerful communication tools. How about developing mascots and placing them at vantage points in the organization and in meeting rooms of your CX team. This offers you an opportunity to have conversations around the CX projects.

Develop mock-ups (using an arrangement of text and pictures to be printed and displayed at vantage points in the organization) to draw attention to the customer-related issues and educate your internal publics on how these can be addressed collaboratively. Members of the CX team must creatively engage their peers in conversations around customer needs. As Henry Ford once said “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success”. By involving all stakeholders in addressing customer issues you bring everyone aligned with the experience. Customer concerns are no longer confined to front line staff only.

A good communication culture will ensure that from top down to bottom up everyone has a say in customer issues. Improved communications imply the existence of efficient communication channels between top management, management and staff as well as the capability to effectively disseminate information seamlessly across the organization and to iteratively improve on channels of communication within the organization. Good internal communication systems enable messages to flow in multiple directions.

The added value here is an informed, interested and committed workforce aligned with the customer experience. When staff are educated on the CX vision, strategic goals, change initiatives, processes and milestones they are switched on to what is happening inside and outside the organization. ultimately with effective communication channels the organization becomes a great place to work, with a clear sense of direction shared by all.

Data Management

When you collect data, that data in its raw state is of little value to you. You will only fully realize its value when you develop capabilities to collect, store and use it productively. Customer data enables you to better understand their behaviours and emotions as they journey across touchpoints. The importance of effective data management cannot be underestimated. Experts estimate that the cost of poor-quality data can run into several trillions of dollars per year.   To begin with customer data is subjective, therefore to get the experience right you need to figure out how you measure subjective data.

According to researchers, data is either objective or subjective. Objective data is anything tangible, it could range from internet download speed, any car part such as the radiator or items that will typically appear in the inventory of building materials. The experience is easily identified and the experience is accessible within a command and control management style. Subjective experience may relate to anything physical but is itself intangible. The look and feel of a hotel lobby or the friendliness of shopfront staff when you visit a retail outlet or satisfaction you get from visiting a website. The experiences here exist in the mind of the observer or service user consequently the unit of measurement here is the human brain.

Consider your mobile phone buying behaviour. You walk into a phone store at Freddie’s Corner or any of the phone outlets at Accra Mall what makes an impression for you? Are you struck by the discount merchandising? Or the loud colours and the well-dressed (not always) sales-driven frontline staff? They may ask you to sit down while they prepare your phone choice for you. Questions is would you settle for a phone store at Circle or you will painstakingly walk through several of these stores in the mall where you are inclined to go for the more expensive items.

Subjective experiences are changeable therefore as we gather data from experiences we need to consider the marked difference between the two to help us be more exact about the experiences we are tracking from our customers to help us understand their sentiments and react to them positively. The data must tell us the right story. We must use relevant data for each step in the process and also be mindful of the financial dimensions as well. When considering how many customers were lost or how much time was saved by changing a simple operation, the net promoter score or the satisfaction of doing business with you.

The Internal Dynamics (Managing the Agenda)

We must not discount the pivotal role of the internal organization. Employee experience and culture are critical to delivering the Experience brand. You need the right mindset to achieve significant outcomes in your experience agenda. Failing that all your customer experience actions will come to naught.  I recall an experience when I was a boy, I travelled together with some elderly people for a funeral in the Volta Region. On our return we had an accident colliding with a ‘Trotro’.

This was a company car, one of the administrators on board with us was more concerned about the state of the car than the safety of those of us on board. The mindset in the organization depends largely on where one finds oneself. To the technical group the less measurable and intangible ‘soft’ stuff are unimportant! The Chief Technical Officer or Production Manager will be more concerned about the hard reality of concrete numbers as the HR Manager muses over human interactions and their effects on the organization.

The technical person is likely to say ‘Customer Experience, that’s an IT box’, something that measures and sums all touchpoints. The CFO or CEO will most likely say ‘What’s the return on customer experience?’, ‘How much will it cost?’, and ‘How can we save money by cutting costs?’. The CMO or Sales Director is out to get as much money as possible from consumers. The question here is, in all this where is the experience the customer has? Does anyone care?  We can see here that the common strand is ‘What gets measured gets managed.’

Where do we start from? We need to engage in strong efforts to change the corporate mindset. This must start with leadership behaviour. Remember the John Maxwell axiom? ‘Everything rises and falls on Leadership’.  The new mindset is critical in gaining traction at whatever level in the organization. Leadership must walk the talk communicating their beliefs in experience across the organization. By influencing a mindset change to a customer-centric mindset, this will ultimately seep into how processes are designed and how teams are built up to operate within a ‘light hierarchy’ with loose rather than tighter measures.

In the words of Ian Golding author of the book, ‘Customer What’ opines, ‘many customer-centric organizations have found CX success by putting employees first, rather than customers. CX often reflects how the organization’s employees feel about their work, so satisfied and supported employees are more likely to enable positive customer ‘. Influencing a workforce who are empathetic to customer needs is key in helping organizations build trust and enable a loyal customer base.


The Writer is a Management Consultant (Change and Customer Experience). He can be reached at 059 175 7205, [email protected], Manuel


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