I regularly meet executives who tell me their customer experience initiatives are not meeting their expectations, and when I look deeper I find some or a combination of the following:
• An obsessive single focus on voice of the customer measurement, but not enough focus on continual improvement and closing the loop on fixing the root cause of customer dissatisfaction.
• An obsessive single focus on customer journey mapping, but this is done by a core team in isolation. Buy-in and alignment are low as a result of the implementation approach, which may feel like implementing a process map, rather than taking people on an emotional journey to really understand the world of the customer.
• An obsessive focus on values and company vision and not on embracing an all-encapsulating culture that is lived daily and does not just feature on posters on the corporate walls.
• An obsessive isolated focus on the process and technology improvements without considering the people, leadership and customer empathy aspects.
It is indeed very important for the above initiatives to take place, but it is very much a holistic, integrated approach that will increase the chances of transformation success. We often find often that the responsibility of customer experience transformation is split across functional areas, and this requires excellent collaboration and cooperation between teams in order to deliver a vision of “putting the customer first”.
I want to share the model we have used in large customer experience transformation programmes to ensure alignment and results across the CX eco-system.
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I refer to this as the 5 Ds of Customer Experience Transformation.
Phase 1 – Discover
It is important to discover what your customers need from you through various insights you can gain from research or which you may already have in your Voice of the Customer (VOC) insights.
You can consider an immersion technique whereby your executives are challenged to do business with your organisation as if they are just “normal” customers. This often delivers honest results in creating awareness of what the experience is like for customers today. Often executives have become removed from the detail of the experience and merely see summarised results on balanced scorecards rather than “feel” what customers feel when they interact with your brand.
Here are more insights and techniques that could help you in this process of discovery:
• Determine CX maturity through leadership surveys and interviews
• Voice of the customer reports
• Voice of the employee reports
• Verbatim in-research feedback
• Net promoter score (NPS)
• Effort score
• Organisation structure
• Value proposition
• Brand promise/essence
• Values and culture initiatives
• Existing journey maps
• Mystery shopping
• Call recordings across the customer journey
• Conduct customer focus groups to get an understanding of the current experience.
Once you have a deep understanding of customer problems, their experience with your brand today and what they need from you, you are ready to move on to a definition phase where you define your experience vision.
Phase 2 – Define
It is essential for the leadership of an organisation to craft a collaborative aspirational end state for their customer experience. What is it like for them when the brand promise is met? What will a customer think, feel and say when he has just experienced a remarkable interaction with your brand?
This customer experience definition or, as Lou Carbone calls it, your experience “motif”, forms the core of your design principles when you start designing your customer journeys for differentiation and delight. This definition provides you with a “true north” when design decisions are made.
The “define” stage could also include crafting a more extensive customer-focused strategy that includes defining principles for operations, client service, people and culture to all align with what you as a brand are aiming to achieve with your customer-focused strategy.
I have often seen strategy breakaways deliver PowerPoint presentations with consultant speak that provide no support to the teams that need to deliver results after such vision sessions. We like to get really practical and as part of our two Customer Experience Strategy sessions we create an environment in which the team act out various scenarios and deliver a presentation with the results they want to achieve into the future, stating the actions they have taken to deliver those results. We call it “Our future CX transformation success”. This exercise simplifies some of the more daunting tasks and actually creates a positive experience for the team that will embark on the delivery of the customer-focused strategy.
Once you have a clear strategy and set of design principles in place, you are ready to move on to the design phase.
Phase 3 – Design
Many teams start here. They simply jump in and start swimming … in a lake of customer touch points, and very soon they feel like they are in a swamp and being drowned by problems and broken experiences.
It is very important to start with the end-to-end macro-journey, first identifying the stages of the customer life cycle with your brand. Once you have co-created this with key stakeholders including senior management, you should have as the output a backdrop or canvas as well as a shared language for your more detailed customer journey design.
You can hire the best consultancy to create a customer journey map for you that will be visually crafted and look great in PowerPoint presentations. However, I want to appeal to you to see the map as the transformation tool and a journey for people to align with and start owning their part of the customer journey, rather than get fixated on the end result.
Customer journey mapping/design, done well, will deliver the following results in your organisation:
• Enable anyone to look at the map and be able to tell the story from the customer perspective
• Vest the ownership for the moments with every person that engages with the customer.
• Create a culture of people feeling proud of the experience they create and seeing themselves as defenders of the experience of the customer in the moment that they act upon
• Create a wider awareness of what happened before the moment the customer lands with you and what will happen once he has finished interacting with you.
Your customer journeys as they unfold with strong facilitation, will also create your scope and statement of work of what needs to be done. Once the journey has identified actions, I even go further and prioritise the various innovations and actions in terms of the value they would add to the organisation. What are the quick wins? What are the items that would make an immediate difference to how a customer experiences your brand? Let’s say, for example, you have an annual statement that goes out to customers and 2 million policyholders once a year. You know it is a high-volume communication and an important touch point and sometimes the only interaction a customer has with your brand. These high-volume, highly emotive interactions are the “moments of truth” in which you really want to invest effort in designing them for differentiation and delight.
Once your journey starts creating actions, you want to manage these using robust, disciplined project management structures so you can track delivery, manage risks, drive decisions and ensure value for your organisation.
Phase 4 – Do
Customer experience transformation should not be seen as a project; however, project management disciplines are essential to deliver real outcomes.
I will share a few tips I have found invaluable in managing large customer experience transformation programmes:
Establish strong ownership of the initiative. Continue to lobby for executive support through the inclusion of executives in a steering committee that meets regularly and is responsible for programme guidance and decision making.
Much of the first engagement in establishing the structures of the initiative will entail educating executives, exposing them to case studies, and connecting them with their peers at international organisations that are further along the CX journey. The more you invest in this stage, the more you can rely on support and quality decision making later in the programme.
Structure your programme in a way that shows delivery across:
• Ongoing communication, awareness and education.
Also have a project stream where you tackle more pressing tactical issues that are creating reputational issues for the brand, for example complaints that just keep reoccurring. I call this project stream the “Fix it” stream. It is essential to deliver quick results as well as create a culture of fixing the root cause of issues rather than just handling them when they arise. It is also important for the CX programme or initiative to not just become the dumping ground for all the “broken” processes. The team responsible for CX transformation needs to have a clear vision of becoming enablers and change agents in the organisation so that everyone can transform rather than just a few.
Celebrate success. Redesigning a journey can be a long and tedious task. It will require people to give of their time and collaborate on designing each moment in a journey across customer interaction channels, looking at every SMS, email, system-generated communication, letter, statement, and web page. It is important to constantly share with the design team, comprising business people, where you are and what has been achieved to date. Often adopting the sprint concept from the agile development methodology helps teams time-box the design task for specific moments.
A typical customer experience transformation initiative to increase organisational maturity and integrate customer experience thinking into an organisation’s way of doing takes between three and six years. That is why ongoing direction through measurement, storytelling and capability development is essential.
Phase 5 – Direct – be directors …
In your transformation efforts the most important role you will play is that of being a corporate storyteller. Your aim should be to tell stories that inspire people to transform. Stories should aim to share a different perspective on some limiting belief about how we create experiences for customers. Rather than factual, data-oriented reports and PowerPoint presentations, you should aspire to create stories that inspire people and give them a reason to find stories that show their passion and stories they want to share.
Here are a few tips of how you can do this …
• Capture your entire journey mapping session on video – extract the bits where people have aha moments and come up with great ideas.
• Collect client service calls that really inspire even greater service.
• Collect video of interviews with customers as well as focus groups for use in stories that you craft for the organisation and decision makers.
• Use whiteboard drawings, images and cartoons to convey your story
• Create customer personas and let them come alive in your stories.
• Create a customer war room with a storyline of what the journey looks like for a customer, with all the moments in his journey with your brand and every artifact that he receives from you. Sharing this with people on walk-through brings the actual experience to life for everyone involved in the moments in the customer journey.
• Plan your communication strategy in the organisation ahead of time. For example, in a large CX transformation programme that I lead, I plan all communication interventions a year ahead, with quarterly Customer Experience forum sessions with a large audience, and smaller sessions on a monthly basis with a core team.
• Use gamification in your communication strategy. People love to be creative, have a laugh and participate in creating a better future (even the ones who won’t admit it).
• It is important to deliver on the promises this initiative has made to the organisation and to do so in an innovative and remarkable manner.
In addition to crafting an internal journey for your stakeholders to continue to support and believe in your CX initiative, it is also important to motivate your core team through continued education, being part of an international network of CX professionals, such as the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA) and building a CX library of fantastic books.
Here are a few books you could add to your library, if you don’t already have them:
• Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business by Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine
• Revolutionize Your Customer Experience 2005th Edition by Colin Shaw
• Clued In: How to Keep Customers Coming Back Again and Again by Lewis Carbone
• Mapping Experiences: A Complete Guide to Creating Value through Journeys, Blueprints, and Diagrams 1st Edition by James Kalbach.
Customer experience transformation is never quite done and for a customer experience professional the road can get long and lonely. Reach out to us if you need assistance or are interested in being part of the African or international community of CX professionals. We are here to support and share stories.