One of the challenges customer experience (CX) teams face is reaching across their organizations to connect with and involve employees in their CX efforts. This involvement not only extends the reach of the centralized team, but it also creates broader buy-in and a groundswell of engagement around customer experience. One of the ways CX teams can tackle this challenge is to establish a group of internal customer experience ambassadors. Yet recent Temkin Group research on the state of employee engagement maturity found that only 15% of large organizations actively using ambassadors to support their CX efforts.
An ambassador program involves bringing together employees from across organizational levels and roles–both customer-facing and back office–to provide input and engage in moving the CX strategy and action plans forward. These programs create an internal network of customer experience advocates that the CX team can work with, as well as provide an opportunity for employees who are passionate about CX to get involved. Ambassadors have the chance to learn and develop new skills and to raise their profile within their department or across the company, while building grassroots support for a more customer-centric culture.
Lessons Learned from Successful Ambassador Programs
Through the course of my research and client work, I’ve been exposed to a variety of ambassador programs in action. Successful ambassador programs share some fundamental characteristics. They:
• Start with a clear definition. An ambassador program is no place to “wing it.” The ambassador role, participation expectations, and time commitment should be clearly defined from the onset. The CX team should also provide managers with measureable and repeatable identification and selection criteria to use when bringing new ambassadors into the program.
• Tap into employee interests and abilities. Being part of the program should be interesting, rewarding, and energizing for ambassadors. As a start, ambassadors should bring a passion for the customer and driving change to their everyday work. When defining ways for ambassadors to participate, the CX team needs to recognize that one size doesn’t fit all. Ambassadors should be able to participate in ways that match their interests, skills, organizational influence, and personal development goals.
• Ensure the program has structure and governance. The CX team should only commit to starting an ambassador program when it is ready to manage it. The program should include a kick-off event/training and a plan that outlines ongoing communication and activities. Ambassadors should have opportunities to connect with each other to share ideas and ask/answer questions. Ambassadors also need to be held accountable to their commitments and recognized for their contributions to the program, otherwise the program won’t be successful.
Ways CX Teams Can Use Ambassadors
There are a variety of ways the CX team can partner with the ambassadors to power up the company’s customer-centricity efforts. Ambassadors can:
• Confirm the vision/mission of the ambassador program
• Provide input on how to translate the company’s brand promises into specific behaviors for their role or the roles on their teams
• Participate in internal interviews and share their own CX perspectives and stories as part of internal communications
• Host office or department events to share CX updates or celebrate CX successes
• Take the lead in peer-to-peer recognition of desired CX behaviors among team members
• Provide feedback to the CX team on specific CX tactics, such as employee training programs, internal CX messaging, or specific CX improvement projects
• Help to identify “local” customer pain points and solutions
• Actively participate on employee social media platforms with CX-related posts
An ambassador program can bring an infusion of new energy, ideas, and excitement to a company’s CX efforts. The CX team needs to choose the right time to start its ambassador program—a time when the team has the resources and capacity to manage the “care and feeding” of the program. Once started, CX teams are able to tap into the power of the ambassadors to mobilize the grassroots of the company towards a more customer-centric future.