It’s often said that to succeed, Customer Experience practitioners need a unique blend of resilience, patience and resourcefulness with a good dose of empathy. To fulfil an organisation goal of being customer centric and for your CX strategy to succeed, you will likely need to overcome the problem of organisational silos, where c-level executives and managers have competing agendas and budgets they want to protect. You need executive commitment in words and deeds and the support and participation from all levels of your business.
CX projects can impact all areas of a business and often require substantial change to deliver results. It also requires different parts of the organisation to collaborate and work together in new and innovative ways. Change can frighten people. It takes them out of their comfort zone and disrupts their current ways of working.
Resistance to change can occur anywhere within the organisation, from front line staff to middle management up to senior executives. To engage all stakeholders within the business requires empathy to understand their perspective and how they will be affected by the proposed changes. Annette Franz from CX Journey, states, “It’s important to know your audience and understand the language in which they speak. What is important to your executives and what are the hot buttons that will engage their interest?”
If you truly understand the perspective of the stakeholders within your business, you can better articulate how the CX project will help them to support or achieve their goals.
Support from the top
The ability to clearly and concisely demonstrate the ROI of investing in ‘customer experience’ will help garner the support and ‘buy in’ from an organisation’s board and executives. Essentially you need to show how much money it will help the organisation make or save.
CX projects can certainly deliver revenue benefits but being able to project what those benefits will be can come across as ambiguous and hard to quantify[i]. It might be easier, however, to demonstrate ROI by how much CX can reduce costs. Friction and fractures in the customer experience will generate expenses and costs downstream. A poor website experience or a mistake in a billing statement will result in calls and complaints to the contact centre.
Projects that align with business goals will always be prioritised over initiatives that don’t align with executive management’s future vision. Tina Morrell, General Manager, Customer Strategy & Experience Design NRMA, worked extensively with her CEO in establishing executive dashboards. She says, “These dashboards were key in obtaining CEO ‘buy in’. They help maintain awareness of CX across the entire organisation, demonstrating its importance and how it contributes to the achievement of organisational goals.”
Working with the middle
Executive buy in is vital and front-line commitment will often create important momentum. There’s another arguably more critical cohort however that will often derail change efforts. Writing in the Harvard Business Review in 2014, Behnam Tabrizi spoke about middle management being “the key to any organisational change.” Speaking more specifically about digital and customer transformation in 2017, ANZ’s group executive of digital banking Maile Carnegie became known for her description of the “frozen middle” and the need for them to be “change fit” and ready to either move on or move out. It was a damning indictment on corporate culture at the time and one that has resonated with many transformation leaders since. “If you don’t have extraordinarily sharp focus from every organisation on your customer value proposition and driving that, then you will just fail over time. It has to be at the core of any capability transformation.”
In her former role as head of customer experience at Medical Director, Caroline Malliols ran a series of CX awareness workshops to get everyone onboard and ensure that goals were aligned. She reflects, “We ran a programme of CX workshops to raise awareness of customer experience. We explored the definition of customer experience, how do we understand what customer experience is, and how does that relate to the employee experience.”
“From these workshops we decided that changes needed to be made to the business and the way we did things. A range of educational materials and resources were developed to help people incorporate what we talked about in the workshops into their everyday work. This is an ongoing process.” A critical realisation for Caroline and her team was that that though substantial progress had been made, there was still a way to go. “Changes of this magnitude do not happen overnight.”
Motivating the frontline
The front-line staff who interact with your customers play a critical role in delivering your CX vision and strategy. To obtain ‘buy-in’ from employees you need to empower them and provide them with the tools and resources to make a difference. It is also important to communicate the impact they have on the customer experience. Gen McLean, senior manager global care standards and assurance at Optus, relates:
“At Optus we unpacked the customer experience so we could focus on the things that are important for our customers. What do they love? What do they hate? Front-line staff want to feel empowered to help customers and that what they do is making a difference. It’s vital to communicate the success and the impact they are having. At Optus the people in operations love the NPS number and know that what they are doing is making a difference.”
She adds, “An awful agent experience will translate into an awful customer experience. All too often we focus on the negative or on things that are beyond our control. At Optus we encourage our staff to focus on the things they can change.”
Putting the customer first is a big
decision for most companies and the people they employ. It often means
exploring unchartered waters. Initially, not everyone is going to be
comfortable with the changes being ushered in. But with patience and
consideration of things from their perspective you can start aligning the
organisation around customer experience.