– ensure that your internal stakeholders are well-aligned with the customer experience
Every change programme will naturally result in a culture change. Be sure that however noble your intentions are, you will need to engage your stakeholders proactively to ensure that your end goal earns the buy-in of all interested parties whether or not they are directly affected by the change. One reason for this is that the people who will live with the outcome of your change initiatives will either accept or resist it based on how well-aligned they are to your programme.
You may not be one of the world’s most famous people such as Bill Gates, Abraham Lincoln, Paul Kigame, or Lee Kwan Yu, but know this, if you initiate a CX programme in your company you too like them may have started a revolution. Like them, you may feel lonely and powerless however with the right motivation, tools, and engagement you too have the chance to succeed. The fact is that as a change agent, the effect of your change effort is disruptive and will potentially mar people’s agenda. Getting stakeholders to accept your point is pivotal to your success.
You need to aim at developing synergies with your stakeholders and get them to accept your CX strategy and actions. Although you will need to be highly tolerant of the different interests and their orientation towards your efforts it shouldn’t take forever to get them aligned. I recall my personal experience in Change Management during the early years of my career and will admit unreservedly that the learning curve for me was steep. The challenge of achieving outcomes in corporate initiatives was minimally dependent on my technical skills.
What was critical in achieving outcomes was how I engaged (mostly) with internal stakeholders. The more people I won to my side the better able I was to clear hurdles and make progress however significant or otherwise. This was an IT project and the journey entailed implementing new applications to manage business processes progressively. I use the term progressively because in those days IT operated in silos, and integration was the future state. Therefore, our change journey involved deploying one application at a time.
The fact is in your CX change initiative you are the only one therefore you need allies to move your agenda forward. Winning over people is key to making meaningful progress in this regard. Olga Potaptseva a CX consultant recommends the following steps to help deal with the pitfalls that confront us in our quest for progress. Principally it is about getting your cross-functional CX team aligned to these key engagement principles to get all on board. First, know that CX is part of life, not an extra burden. Second, you are on their side listening, and not disrupting.
Third, contribute positively by choosing the side of the puzzle they are missing using your customer insights. Fourth, let them have ownership of and take credit for improving the customer experience. Fifth, give praise where it is due, and make them look good in the eyes of management.
Making CX a part of life
By definition, Customer Experience is widely described as an individual’s perception of all their interactions with an organization. An effective customer experience culture is one where you actively develop an environment encompassing people, processes, and technology synergizing to serve people more effectively, in this case, customers. It requires that customers are seen as an integral part of what the business aims to achieve – if not the main goal.
How do you make the customer experience a part of life in the organization? The orientation internally must aim to deliver services in ways that are consistent with what is best for people rather than how you are organized internally, often in siloed offices. Probably an easier way to do this is to enable each department to access customer touchpoints through a “digital front door” where a single cohesive experience is easily accessible with the potential to minimize the time customers spend navigating service points and completing tasks.
Although this will create great experiences the fact is that not all businesses within our ecosystem can provide end-to-end customer journeys digitally. Even the banks though admittedly more oriented towards customer centricity occasionally fail to deliver the seamless experience the customer anticipates. For example, on trying to transfer money from my account into my mobile wallet using internet banking I noticed that for every transaction I got charged a fixed e-levy amount even when the amount I was transferring was significantly less than the charge.
As CX lead aims to engage and lead a CX-focused team with a good understanding of customer needs. It requires that you assemble a (cross-functional) team of CX advocates whose focus is on what matters most, serving people with an awareness of lead indicators such as reducing friction and building trust to keep customers satisfied as they journey across touchpoints. These advocates will become your ambassadors and hopefully will support you in changing mindsets across the business to become more customer-centric.
Listening and not disrupting
The CX team must be fully engaged with customers in ways that keep them satisfied and make them want to come back again and again. Note that your customers have high expectations of your products and/or services when they come to you. Only one instance of mixed expectations can make them switch to what they perceive to be a better opportunity. You must learn to do much more than answer their phone calls or pay attention to them at the service counter.
You must aim to connect with them by paying close attention to their needs and understanding how you can help them achieve their goals. This requires excellent listening skills in a way that enables you to identify with them emotionally. For example, when a customer comes to you disappointed with an issue as you listen to the customer and avoid a situation where you get them to repeat information they are sharing with you as this could add friction to the service experience. Don’t pretend you understand the issue and go on to attempt a solution when this is not the case.
By letting the customer speak while you listen you are better able to get to the root of the issue and deal with it more effectively. In a typical engagement ensure that you remain silent until the customer has finished telling you fully what the problem is. Even if you already know the solution it is better to wait until the customer is done as the information they are sharing could be insightful in remedying the issue. Learn to be an active listener as it enables you to think about what the customer is saying and then repeat it to the customer to demonstrate that you are fully aligned with them.
Your body language is a major factor here. If your body signal depicts that you are not interested or paying attention, likely, you are not listening to the customer. Even in cases where you are not directly facing the customer your body language could influence the interaction. A customer may seek your help just close to your break, your body language could give you away as one in a hurry to be elsewhere. Paying rapt attention with a genuine smile will enable you to approach the engagement more energetically and with great purpose.
Using customer insights
Customer insights enable you to anticipate their needs as you understand their behaviour and how they feel about your business. Knowing this empowers you to better serve them. Customer insights are gathered variously and could range from surveys where you use questionnaires to elicit feedback, tracking reviews to learn about their sentiments as they journey across touchpoints, or sentiment surveys such as Net Promoter Score using emojis on your digital platforms or obtaining direct feedback from the customer in person.
Alan Pennington shares in his book Customer Experience, that you must aim to raise the profile of experience to parity with other strategic drivers and fund and resource it to create the conditions to deliver success. insights about how customers are using your product give you a picture of how to address the customer’s needs proactively. In our tourism drive variously if we understand what attracts our customers we will be better able to provide out-of-world experiences to keep tourism high on our agenda as a major GDP contributor consistently.
Your cross-functional team must be well-placed to share vital information about customer behaviour to help improve upon your journey touchpoints. Develop effective mechanisms for sharing customer feedback throughout the organization. This will signal to the customer that they are top of mind in your customer agenda. Ultimately you are indicating to them a willingness to engage them transparently. When the customer receives the same level of attention regardless of the touchpoint it is an indication that everyone is playing a part in making sure they have the best experience.
Your reporting systems must be designed to ensure that you communicate efficiently and effectively at all levels. Use dashboards (they provide a visual summary of key performance indicators (KPIs) or other key data points) to provide real-time leads to enhanced management of the customer experience which ultimately leads to better customer retention rates and increased advocacy. A well-tuned reporting system enhances your ability to share customer information in ways that support proactive engagement.
When your internal team has ownership of the customer experience they will drive key customer-related processes such as running measurement programmes and supporting efforts at developing and driving the CX vision. Your experience design and Voice of Customer programmes will be in good hands. They will be your ambassadors ensuring that the CX programme is sufficiently aligned with the needs of the customer. Admittedly there is no standard CX team model however what is a common strand in the different approaches is the unbridled commitment to customer success.
The CX team’s efforts will aim at building a strong business case for customer experience. Through the effective use of feedback and data, the link between the business and customers is articulated from highly accurate information. This way the CX team will tick the right boxes. Andrew Carnegie the Scottish-American industrialist and philanthropist defines teamwork in this way, “the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.”
Make sure you choose the right players with the same mindset about customer needs regardless of your company structure. In a recent study by ClearAction Continuum the renowned Experience training consultancy, coordination among managers of various aspects of CX is one of six success factors for holistic CX management leading to strong business results. According to PWC, the goal is to break down silos.
In the words of David, the Chief Experience Officer at PWC, “the biggest challenge is breaking down silos and helping others understand that they play a role in delivering employee and customer experience. People must talk to each other! Spend time with people outside of your group, and work on something together.
Make them look good
As humans, we align our behaviours with rewards in our environment. According to recent research, only 42% of companies agree that they can do what is right for customers despite the pressure to meet financial targets. Ironically, the same number of companies are using customer metrics to evaluate organizational performance. To engage executives and employees in customer experience management, you need to walk the talk and put your money where your mouth is.
Let employees express their achievements according to established categories and criteria designed to strengthen customer focus in the company. Ensure that teams get constructive feedback from executives and key functionaries. In best practice scenarios, online user interfaces provide employees with easy access to lessons for synergy and knowledge management. Reward systems for star performers to motivate other team members must be introduced to set the bar high for customer-related processes.
Promote company-wide participation in training programmes and workshops to share best practices and make continual improvements in culture. According to CX specialist and author Ian Golding, the organizations that prioritized employees over customers had more success with CX. The reason behind this is that CX is often reflective of the employee experience.
Change has never been easy however the rewards are immense if you get it right. Customer Experience is a process that requires careful attention with consistency to keep employees aligned with the experience goal. Be deliberate about keeping your customers satisfied. However, challenging this may be just don’t give up. Keep on keeping on and success will be your just reward.
|The Writer is a Management Consultant (Change and Customer Experience). He can be reached at 059 175 7205, [email protected], https://www.linkedin.com/Kodwo Manuel|