… Agility and collaboration are the ways forward
The role of believers in big things such as organizational change is pivotal to goal attainment; by creating believers you seek to raise followers who will not only join you but help drive your vision. As an initiator of change, you may feel lonely and powerless at times; however, with the right motivation, tools and engagement your chance of success in making your organization a more customer-centric one is great.
The following suggests ways of finding synergies with your key stakeholders when engaging for acceptance of your customer experience strategy. You must ensure that you are abreast with these factors: Key elements of your business strategy and meaningful business KPIs; individual KPIs of your potential sponsor or sponsors’ objectives your customer experience strategy or project will help to achieve – such as value-creation, cost reduction, or revenue generation, and the business risks you are avoiding or potentially creating.
Your ability to gain buy-in from stakeholders hinges on these elements, knowing their concerns and identifying with them by showing empathy and commonality in terms of the outcomes you are seeking to achieve. Subsequently, some of the opportunities you may take advantage of are: getting your key stakeholders to accept that you have a point; onboarding allies for your Customer Experience Drive; working on the Employee Experience and engaging colleagues for the CX Teams
Get your key stakeholders to accept that you have a point
Navigating through the minefield of corporate culture requires care and tact. Note also that you will be dealing with different constituents (formal and informal), both requiring that you pick and choose your battles carefully with a keen eye on the bigger picture. Experts opine that when things get busy with everything happening at the same time, from the project start and the journey through keeping momentum with suppliers and so on, the key edict is this: Whatever you do, ensure that you are in tune with your stakeholders. Do not leave them behind – it is called ‘bridging the anxiety gap’.
The truth is that in our new world, projects come in different forms and must be managed with a firm understanding of what is at stake. You will be dealing with visible projects (progress is obvious and measurable) or invisible projects (progress is not obvious or easily measurable).
As a general rule, the more invisible a project is the more stakeholders will demand that it is reported on (Perfect Projects: Eddie Obeng). A recommended strategy suggested by a Founding Director for the European Customer Consultancy, Olga Potaptseva, as you work toward engaging your potential allies is the adoption of a systematic approach in building your CX-critical conversation, as the best salesman will ask questions in the following sequence: situational questions first, problem questions next, then identification questions and finally steering questions. Understandably, these 4 question-types will lead you to the discovery of your holy grail (courtesy Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones movie). Your goal is to win the hearts and minds of your team and the entire organization. Although management buy-in is essential, having the whole organization behind you is critical to your success. The problem questions are outlined here as follows:
|1. Situational Questions
a. Do we focus on delivering what our customers want?
b. Do we understand what they will want next year and beyond?
c. Do we understand why our customers stay with us?
d. Do we understand why our customers are switching?
e. Are we clear why our customers own X products per customer, and understand how to increase that?
|2. Problem Questions
a. What are the consequences of us not understanding our customer’s needs?
b. Are we confident our innovation budget will be used optimally? What are our competitors doing?
c. What is the impact of us not having a clear view of why our customers stay with us or switch on our renewal rates?
d. How confident are we that our improvement initiatives are targetting what matters to customers?
|3. Identification Questions
a. What are the implications for your KPIs’/ability to meet your targets?
b. How does it influence our development as an organization?
c. How likely are we to see disruption in our industry in the next 3-5 years, and will we be able to compete with new entrants?
d. Are we being true to our mission?
e. What is the impact on our employees?
|4. Steering Questions
a. What would you personally be willing to do to support this initiative?
b. What could prevent us from launching this project?
c. What are the barriers to execution in terms of engagement? How would you suggest we involve management and the employees?
d. When do you think we might be able to launch this project?
Credit: Customer Experience2
Hopefully, browsing through this list of questions will pave the way for you to influence a common affinity for customer experience among your key publics. Note that you are building your internal ‘army of faithfuls’ who will be the ones to deliver your experience ‘when their experience is fulfilled’.
Onboarding Allies for your Customer Experience Drive
You have cleared a major milestone at this point; the nod has been given you plus some money for your projects. Like a majority of CX teams, you aspire to improve the end-to-end journey. The team to support your drive will have limited numbers, therefore your internal journey will not be smooth-sailing. What you need now is a collaborative effort to push your agenda to a desirable end.
This is where you will need the backing of your cross-functional teams, engaged and working effectively behind your CX effort. Your true team is the entire organization; you cannot do it without everyone! Together Everybody Achieves More is the overused team acronym. There are five engagement principles which Olga recommends to get all your colleagues on board. Applying these principles will guarantee you a painless employee journey, leading to the ultimate ideal customer experience crafted by a willing ‘symphony of employees’:
- CX as part of life not as an extra burden – What you do at this stage is fit your activities around their agenda by demonstrating how CX will help them achieve their goals by using existing forums to avoid meeting-fatigue.
- You are on their side and listening not disrupting – it is imperative that you also volunteer to support their projects which ultimately contribute to the end-to-end customer journey, and deploy design-thinking to solve customer problems.
- You contribute positively – Choose your customer insights to provide the bits of the puzzle they are missing.
- They will own their CX – Let them take the credit for improving the CX.
- They deserve the praise – Make them look good in the eyes of management, colleagues, partners and customers.
To avoid a return to ‘business-as-usual after your colleagues have bought into your CX strategy, you need to reinforce the above principles with the principles of agile management to prevent your team from ‘returning to their old ways’. These principles are sound and have been proven; however, to derive the value from them and be effective, you need practical application mechanisms and to be sufficiently rigorous in defining problems you identify in your attempt to engage with and resolve issues for your customers.
Your goal here is to translate the brand values into daily work. This way, you avoid doing things that you need not be doing and focus on the customer’s needs more succinctly. Simply put, avoiding ‘navel-gazing’ (focusing on customer issues from the business viewpoint instead of the customer’s) is all you are aiming for here.
Working on the Employee Experience
According to Forbes, one of the best ways of increasing business performance isn’t to push for more sales; it is rather to invest in your employees. Companies that focus on employee experience tend to see greater improvement in business performance. Another study found that companies which improve their employee engagement significantly outperform companies with declining ratings. There is a connection between investing in employee experience and increasing stock price and revenue. Their research reveals very interesting outcomes for companies which focus on the employee experience.
Enterprise software company SAP appeared on the Best Places to Work list in 2013 after not making the list for three years. Its stock price grew steadily from 2013-2017, from US$80 to around US$100. SAP prioritizes employee experience by championing innovation and diversity and providing employees freedom and development opportunities. Since landing back on the Best Places to Work list in 2017 and staying there, the stock price has increased much more rapidly – growing to a current price of around US$133.
The Computer giant, HP, landed on the Best Places to Work list for the first time in 2019. The company has placed a renewed emphasis on employee engagement by increasing training and growth opportunities, and adding new benefits like updated employee healthcare centres. HP’s stock price increased by around US$10 in 2016 to a high of around US$26 in late 2018 as a result.
To help you define the right problem before engaging with your colleagues, experts recommend a few simple strategies. First, ask the question ‘why does this need to be done?’ Then think about how to fit your CX strategy, business strategy, opportunities, and risks of not doing it. Second, reflect on what you expect as a result. Third, write the project description lucidly starting with an action verb – e.g. agree, decide, organize, etc. Fourth, ensure your project description has at least five points – what needs to be achieved or done; where and for whom; what conditions need to be fulfilled. Fifth, make sure it is clear if read in two years. Sixth, adding expected results is imperative – it sets the right expectations. Seventh, add a timeline and, finally, write down the first action (ideally, fill in after the engagement stage together with your project sponsor).
Engaging colleagues for the CX Teams (Recruiting Ambassadors)
How do you engage your CX ‘Ambassador’? Should they be picked by management; is that the modus operandi in your organization? Or could you have a kind of an audition programme wherein employees get to do interviews and show why they are a good match? The method I assume will be influenced by the nature of your organization, your culture and other nuances that are peculiar to the way you operate.
The key thing is to ensure that you have a diverse group of ambassadors who are representative of the various groupings in your organization. Especially at the inception, make sure you get colleagues who have belief in Customer Experience, that have the right energy, are curious, and are at crucial positions in the company – and are eager to support your efforts to deliver to your customers.
Later on in the journey, you can choose to also engage the sceptics. Especially when you have the first results in, this will convince and win them over; and it gives you the authority so you can engage all. And, of course, make the Ambassador team a diverse one; on background, gender, roles, and global footprint (when applicable). Your teams need support to fulfil their roles. Often, their roles have an evangelist and/or activist element that has an impact on the organizational status quo. This means they have to work on customer change and different behaviour. Support them with tools and interventions so they can act effectively in their role.
Also, make room to celebrate success. What works is to put the people that are nailing it in the spotlight – those that are creating customer impact, that raise metrics, that change the customer status quo. Perhaps you should go beyond just being formal about this, and use story-telling to highlight success on the intranet and informal communities.
Olga’s wise words resonate with this approach. Effective CX believers are your allies in delivering winning experiences. To keep them engaged, you need to demonstrate how CX initiatives help them achieve their objectives. Applying a business lens to what you do, effective engagement methods and agile working practices will create a ‘team beyond a team’ that organically ensures CX focus becomes standard practice across the entire organization. Albert Einstein solved it all for us when he said: “If I were given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute resolving it”
|The Writer is a Management Consultant. He can be reached on 059 175 7205, [email protected], https://www.linkedin.com/km-13b85717