Driving change to embed customer centricity as a dominant culture

the Customer Experience Agenda
Kojo Manuel
  • ensure that you navigate your way tactfully through the organization’s infrastructure

 Organizations generally thrive on using line, staff, and functional authorities. These three types can be found in almost every organization. Line managers are directly responsible for achieving organizational objectives through a standard chain of command.   According to Louis. A. Allen an American management consultant, line authority “refers to those positions and elements of the organization which has responsibility and authority and accountable for the accomplishment of primary objectives.” Others have defined it as “the basic authority in an organization, the ultimate authority to command act, decide, approve or disapprove all the activities of the organization.”

The key word here is authority. Without the required mandate or authority, you will not be able to lead within the organization to accomplish goals. Staff officers are functional experts within the organization. They are a group of individuals who advise line managers (who exercise line authority) in the performance of tasks. Their role is mainly advisory however they are a significant influence in decisions made by line managers. Henri Fayol a French mining engineer and director of mines, emphasized the importance and necessity of providing a suitable arrangement of staff authority in organizations.

The distinction between line authority and staff authority is that the former has the right to decide and command but the latter only provides advice, assistance, and information. The third authority, functional authority refers to staff department members who control the activities of other departments that are related to specific responsibilities. It is midway between line and staff authority. They have limited power over the people of their departments concerning their functions.

According to Koontz and O’Donnell, authors of the book, Principles of Management, “Functional authority is the right which an individual or department has delegated to it over specialized processes, practices, policies or other matters relating to activities undertaken by personnel in a department other than its own. Years ago, I worked in an organization where the Administrator exercised some authority over Sales administratively however for accounting purposes the accountant dealt with the sales department directly. You may wonder where I am going with this.

As I mentioned earlier the word authority is key in the organizational infrastructure. Organizational Infrastructure refers to the systems, protocols, and processes that give structure to the organization, support its key functions, and embed routine practice. Functions or departments that are visible may include Finance, Marketing, Human Resources and Administration, Communications, and Customer Service, I could go on about functions depending on the nature of the organization.

Over time in our world today, the strict adherence to functional divisions has paled significantly due to other principles and theories that have emerged, organizations now work with strong internal collaborations thus requiring them to operate more cross-functionally.  This is where a role like CX lead will operate largely with staff authority and require even more flexibility where the organization is strongly focused on customer-centricity.  Whoever is in charge of the customer experience must have a combination of what Jeff Sheehan – a CX Advocate – refers to us as Positional, Borrowed, and Earned Authority.

The lead CX in the organization must learn to “fight” from within to make CX a recognized organizational process, in other words, it must become part of the infrastructure. Here are a few suggestions to help drive this quest. First, build on cross-functional collaboration across all stakeholders, functions business units, etc. Second, challenge the status quo by aligning CX with the business strategy. Third, include the employee experience by connecting colleagues to the customer. Fourth, get kinetic, be action-oriented, learn to talk, listen, collaborate, and encourage colleagues to take action. Fifth, know what motivates them and provide incentives.

Cross-functional Collaboration

Managing CX in the organization will require that you build bridges across every stakeholder, function, and department. Literally, you must reach out to every sector within the organization. Your goal is to make the customer the centre of everything that goes on within the organization. You want to break down silos and work efficiently to create a cohesive and seamless experience for customers and employees. Every member of the business should be committed to the customer’s agenda equally. To ensure a potent CX governance model you must focus on structure and an operating model.

Structure is about the development of policies and monitoring to ensure that the organization’s interest is not compromised. What you seek is a reasonable balance between the customer’s expectations and your internal capacity to deliver this optimally. One way to achieve it is to create teams and assign them specific tasks. The operating model ensures that you deliver a successful CX vision to strategy by turning insights (data democratization) into action through the development of processes, the establishment of success metrics, and the setting up of an effective communication plan.

A suggested approach to developing a governance structure consists of the following. An executive committee, executive sponsors, the CX core team, CX Champions, and a culture committee. The executive champions include key executives of your company, department heads, and business leaders (C or V level).  The executive sponsors are in charge of the CX and EX, these should advisedly be different roles for CX and EX.  The CX core team consists of staff members that are responsible for performing the crucial CX.  The final 2 are the CX champions who work cross-functionally and the culture committee who plan measures to build and promote the desired organizational culture.

Challenge the Status Quo

Talking about customer satisfaction from the CX perspective can sound like a “Cinderella” story sometimes therefore it is important that CX initiatives are backed by solid data and research to state the business case for any decision made about delivering out-of-world experiences. I recently learned from a colleague of how hotel rates have been slashed down significantly after the world cup in Qatar to help drive traffic to that country. Hotels are charging as low as $20 to sustain inflows and the government is backing them in this quest as a way of boosting economic growth post-world Cup.

Incidentally during the world cup Egypt slashed down prices of its key tourist attractions by 50% to draw in traffic from football enthusiasts who had travelled to see live matches in Qatar.  As CX lead you will serve your organization significantly by becoming an expert in what the organization knows about its customers.  The insights you provide from mining data across different and disconnected tools, platforms, and people are invaluable in supporting future investments in the area of CX.  It is not enough though to just acquire data, you will need to go beyond the data acquisition to tell compelling and persuasive stories.

Therefore, as CX lead you need to develop storytelling skills on how the organization can enrich the life of its customers while achieving its business goals. The powerful stories influence all types of roles and levels within the organization, generating awareness and support for customer-led initiatives and schemes. Here is a fact about online shoppers, it has been discovered from research that eighty-six percent are willing to pay more for a great customer experience. A while ago this might have only meant with their money. Presently however it can mean exchanging something equally precious, their data. As the saying goes data is the new gold.

Manage the Employee Experience

The normal practice is that front-liners in the business find themselves championing customer issues. Due to their consistent exposure to the customer, they are usually in the trenches fighting on behalf of the customer and empathizing with their issues.  Customer Service is what is known to most customers because they are consistently engaging with them during and after the sale. CX however is everybody’s role therefore beyond the shoulders of customer-facing colleagues every employee must be part of the customer agenda not just their colleagues who are directly connected with the customer.

As CX lead you must lead the charge to bring everyone else across the organization into the fray of customer-centricity. You can achieve this by talking to people across the organization and asking them for ideas on what they think will work better for customers. Your goal is to generate awareness of how all employees can affect the customer experience. Use the internal communication system and face-to-face engagements to let them in on the impact of projects. As we shared earlier storytelling is an effective tool for communicating customer awareness.

Identifying people doing exceptional work and celebrating them publicly for contributing to the customer-centric culture. Share stories in which CX has partnered with colleagues to fix issues and the impact of the improvements made. This highlights the fact that everybody is involved in the CX process. Martin Sorrell the CEO of the WPP Group a large global advertising and PR group emphasizes the importance of people to organizational growth while speaking to a group of business executives some 10 years or so ago. According to him in a particular year, his business invested $9bn in people which was 27 times more than his investment in technology.

Be Action-oriented

One of the ways a change agent can effectively drive change according to experts is for one to get kinetic. Being action-oriented is the most effective way of dealing with resistors, old mindsets, and traditions that tend to stand in the way of real change. A Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said “You can’t step in the same river twice,” this means in part that the river is continuously changing but also because you are changing and evolving. Organizations, like rivers, are not static and require management that can adapt and move with them. Kinetic leadership is a style of management that embraces and drives change.

A Kinetic leader inspires team members to rise as leaders by relying less on hierarchy and placing more emphasis on maximizing individual performance. As the team is influenced by the leader’s passion and vision the team enjoys forward momentum energy. Good kinetic leaders provide a mix of inspiring, and intuitive leadership and are able to anticipate change and lead their followers effectively. In our world today where change is happening faster than we can cope with, nothing is static, kinetic leaders are required to help their organization expertly navigate its way through the “looming business environmental maze”, in order to press forward.

Two highly important skills for kinetic leaders are to have a clear vision and be excellent communicators. They must inspire action through words of encouragement and direction and be effective listeners to fully understand. the abilities, desires, and skills of each team member to help align individual potentials with workplace objectives.  It is about giving opportunities for individuals to rise and expand their horizons. Good leaders birth new leaders by encouraging them to shine in projects. My personal experience in career development was in leading change initiatives because I was given the opportunity to learn the ropes to drive my progression.

Provide incentives

The goal of a good leader is to unlock people’s potential to become better. He/she motivates team members by ensuring that they have more energy and enthusiasm, and feel valued. If you want your team to be flexible and agile to respond to external changes and better meet client needs you will need to incentivize them to achieve your goals. A CX blogger Colin Taylor sums it all up thus, “Make your employees happy and they will make your customers happy.” Studies have revealed that in order for an employee to reach optimum performance, three major factors must be considered and addressed: skills, motivation, and opportunity.

One sure way of doing this is through performance improvement and coaching. Your goal is not only to improve performance but also to create a sense of achievement and self-mastery. An environment and opportunity to continuously improve individual performance will keep the employees engaged and loyal to the organization. Like everyone else, the average individual is keen to reach higher levels of performance and gain personal satisfaction in doing so. It will require a good understanding of their motivations and aspirations, and the ability to get them to discuss their strengths and weaknesses.

It paves the way for them to open up to enable you to have a structured forum to agree on the next steps with defined expectations and established check-in points. Rewarded performance that is likely to be repeated. It needs time though to attain the optimal performance required. Many people will be looking for bonuses as incentives and not much else in today’s turgid economic climate. it is imperative therefore that the incentive programme is well-thought-out and carefully designed, and regularly monitored, for consistency and longevity. Think of a win-win situation that will holistically benefit the individual.

CX leads are gradually entering the board room in organizations where CX has been identified as a Critical Success Factor however in many cases it is still confined to the “trenches”. Whichever way it is designed, one key imperative is to have a change agent who is willing to break the mould and strategically influence a customer-centric culture organization-wide.

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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