If you’ve ever gone on an extended outing with several friends, you’re sure to appreciate the value of having a shared vision among all, from the outset of your journey, about where you’re going and why, how fast you’ll go and when you’ll pause and celebrate, and how you’ll decide things along the way. I’ve had both delightful and frustrating experiences on such outings, with the best outcomes from taking a bit of time up-front to figure it out together.
Shared enthusiasm is not the same as shared vision. The value of passion cannot be underestimated, but strong emotions are a double-edged sword when it comes to taking a group on a journey. Sharing a vision across a company means there are common definitions of the current situation, the desired situation, and how to bridge the gap. Customer experience strategy is incomplete without shared vision.
When it comes to customer experience, the first thing to agree upon is just who exactly is the customer? This seemingly simple question can lead to quite complex and valuable conversations. End-users, channel partners, influencers, gate-keepers, initiators, deciders, administrators and so on may be part of the equation. Taking for granted, or ignoring any of these can be a big blunder. Taking charge of revenue growth implies a desire to fully understand all of the purchase decision equation.
There’s a lot more to gaining shared vision about who your customers are: What are they trying to achieve? Are there different circumstances that shape their processes and expectations? What do you know about your customers’ world, in terms of pressures, challenges, frustrations and triumphs relating to their overall objectives in getting and using whatever you provide them? Informal comments by customers can be the best source of insight about who they are and what makes them tick. If you’re not collecting informal comments every place you can, and sharing them with the heads of every functional area, you’re missing a huge opportunity to not only get everyone “on the same page”, but most importantly, to center them on truth.
We often assume that “supportive executives” means shared vision and executive sponsorship. But like everything in a company, “it takes a village”. Customer experience management is a team sport, a way of life, an ongoing journey of excellence within the context of valuing customers’ well-being as the enabler of well-being in all other areas.
Creating a shared vision among the entire C-team is an absolute must. Great strides in customer experience excellence by one part of your company can be undermined by well-intentioned disharmony caused by another part. For example, in a human body, the pancreas is a relatively tiny organ, yet ignoring or removing it can be fatal. Many might advocate that shared vision can come later, but most companies that are winning in the customer experience race created that shared vision at the earliest possible moment.
Extending the C-team’s shared vision across all managerial levels is equally important. It’s a well-known fact that many strategies are doomed by execution breakdowns. There’s no such thing as over-communicating in your quest to build company-wide shared vision. Early-and-often are the watchwords. Create dialogue so you can manage uncertainty and resistance, and leverage proponents. Carefully think through what it will take for full execution, and remove roadblocks, smooth the way, and make it fun to do the right thing.
Customer experience management is an extended outing you’re undertaking with a mammoth-sized group. To the customer, your company is “one”. Creating shared vision may be the most important building-block of all in your quest toward superior customer experience.
In the white paper Customer Experience Strategy: 4 Often-Overlooked Key Competencies to Sustainable Results you’ll find more examples and techniques for creating a shared vision that can transform your customers’ experience — which is typically the precursor to sustained differentiation and financial trends.
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