Making an impact on the customer experience in the first 90 days

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In the U.K, the number of Chief Customer Officers across all industries increased from 14 in 2014 to 90 in 2017; half of those roles were created in the last 15 months. The average tenure also lengthened from 23 months in 2009 to 34.5 months in 2013 but it still has the shortest lifespan among all C-suite executives, according to research conducted in 2010 by the Chief Customer Officer Council.

Recently, I was talking to a client who had been approached about moving from one area of her business to another. The proposed role was as Head of CX. Although she came from a customer facing sales environment, she sought guidance on how she might hit the ground running if she decided to take up this new role. She was concerned that inevitably there would be pressure on her to deliver results quickly and make an impact, despite not having previous experience of the role at this level.

We discussed how she could develop a ready-to-go plan of attack for the first 90 days rather than eating up crucial time ‘planning her plan’. One thing she was going to be tasked to do was to review their Voice of Customer (VoC) programme. She was keen that the tail wouldn’t wag the dog and that the Customer and CX strategy drove measurement and not the other way around.

Whether you are an executive about to recruit a new Chief Customer Officer or you have just landed yourself a role as Customer Experience Director and are keen to get going, here’s a simple and pragmatic framework that can help drive your CX agenda from Day 1, whatever the level of the organisation’s customer experience maturity.

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The framework is broken into 3 stages, each of roughly 30 days. Of course, if you are lucky you may be able to begin before Day 0 and get ahead of the plan.

Day 0-30: EXAMINE the facts and build your own picture of the customer experience

This is the period of time when you can bring an objective pair of eyes to your customer proposition and customer experience strategy. Resist the temptation to stay put within the comfort and confines of your own team and department (to read up and familiarise yourself). With knowledge comes confidence but this does not have to be knowledge from within the CX department alone.

Be curious, be inclusive
The first and most important thing to do, is to get out and ask questions. Speak to a range of people—senior people, junior people, support people. You want to become acquainted, recognised and begin to build support at all levels within your organisation.

• Peers, exec’s and other stakeholders: Understand who the key stakeholders are, who they interact with, how they impact the customer’s experience, whether the exec or peers or other influencers
• Customers and partners: Establish who your customers are – not just who’s important but all parties who could be considered customers in the chain e.g. partners and other people in the customer journey especially in a b2b, b2b2b or b2b2c environment
• Employees & colleagues: Get to know the frontline and other employees who engage with customers whether directly or indirectly
• Departments & functions: Examine how they interact and collaborate to deliver the Customer Experience

Fact-find what these people think, feel, do from a customer perspective. Explore their perceptions, what is working, what’s good and great, what’s not so good, what gets in the way, what should and could be better.

Find your own technique for mapping and building the overall customer story. I’m a visual person, so I build visual story boards (on a physical wall but something that can be moved around and shared). Over the first 30 days populate this artefact with your key findings, thoughts and hypotheses about the delivered customer proposition and the customer experience. Try and keep this asset to key insights that you uncover and which best reflect a precis of the customer story and keep the detail for the supporting documentation.

I would advise against the temptation to begin detailed journey-mapping at this stage. Begin with understanding the core customer proposition (pricing, positioning, product, messaging and beyond). At Customer Alignment, we typically use a template to structure the fact-finding mission.

Day 31-60: ESTABLISH the shared future vision and work backwards with a Customer Experience Blueprint

Building upon what you have found in the first 30 days, you will be in a good position to build a Customer Experience Blueprint.

Keep it simple and (if possible) one page, but include:

1. Your customer cause, some call it ‘purpose’ – for example driving more value for customers by ….; Making memories for customers by ….; Enriching customers lives by …. or Enabling customers to do ……
2. Your customer commitments or the principles by which the business will filter all customer related activity. Decisions around which you will, as a team, inspire employees
3. An articulation of what success looks like i.e. your customer vision

It’s an opportunity to break down organisational barriers
Don’t be a lone wolf, tempted to build this strawman alone or keep it within the department. Involve key people who you interacted with in the first 30 days, including main heads of departments. Don’t take the easy route and just include supporters or people who already get your CX cause. Include any key stakeholders who are not yet convinced or are not yet ‘leaning in’ on the customer. Try and get a good balance of levels and experience. It’s a great opportunity to include them and get them on board (and use their insights). Don’t leave out any department that is involved in processes that impact on the customer journey.

Establish the blueprint in a collaborative hands-on workshop (series of workshops) and ensure that it is linked to the overall business strategy. Avoid jumping into discussions about the ideal operational model or the implications for business capabilities at this stage.

Day 61-90: EXECUTE a roadmap which breaks down how and when you will get to the blueprint

Establish and agree the high-level work streams with the wider working team. Ensure these work streams underpin the blueprint and structure them into a time bound roadmap. The work streams might include:

• Journey mapping (including analytics, pain points, streamlining, to-be design, quick wins and fixes)
• Getting customer evidence – insight, listening and analytics to feed decision-making and to engage the organisation in the customer story
• Optimising voice of customer and measurement – ensuring that it delivers against the blueprint and that measurement is pushed out to the whole organisation where people are held accountable
• Governance and control – establishing a tight knit (8-10), high functioning collective, that comes together regularly (once a month) as the filter for all things customer. Not a reporting meeting but a sharing and decision-making forum with people empowered to make changes and committed to cascade down to their teams and their sphere of influence.
• Innovation – how you are going to ensure that you meet customers future experience needs once the basics have been delivered and the role that emerging technologies might play
• Departmental connectivity and process improvement – establishing how departments within the organisation’s customer experience eco-system should work together in terms of behaviours, capabilities and communications
• Internal communication – the on-going internal marketing and engagement plan which is likely to also involve education

Less is more – prioritise and get going
Select and work with a maximum of 4-6 priority work streams – they are Phase 1. This way will have the time and resource to begin taking immediate action, get some quick wins under your belt and not spread yourself too thinly. Things that will not have an immediate impact can be left for Phase 2. The roadmap process is ongoing and iterative.

To be successful in a new role, leading customer experience in your organisation, you cannot do it alone solely within a CX departmental silo. If you take the leadership of the CX, begin to build internal corporate relationships and gain the respect and trust of other influencers of the customer experience within your business. By a deliberate staged approach, you will be able to make an impact in the short-term as well as laying the foundations for future customer experience transformation.

As Abraham Lincoln is quoted as saying:

“To Cut Down a Tree in Five Minutes Spend Three Minutes Sharpening Your Axe”

When you get into a new CX role, take time to sharpen your axe before you jump into lumber-jacking!

Picture via Flickr

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