When customer experience isn’t for customers

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We often talk about customer experience and how it pertains to our customers, the people (or businesses) who will use our goods and services. But you can also use a well-defined experience as an operating guide when making decisions about any of the stakeholder groups your organizations serves. Really!

Here are two examples.

First, I’ll point to Julia Halberg, Director, Global Health, General Mills, Inc. Julia serves two stakeholders simultaneously: her “customers” are the General Mills’ employees working at more than thirty locations throughout North America. The problem she solves for them? Helping employees live healthier lives. Julia also works with the company’s Benefits group, to link incentives to healthy behaviors in an effort to help lower health benefit costs (or lower the slope of increase).

After reading Domino Julia worked through the customer experience steps, and realized she needed to develop different messages and approaches for each of the groups she works with to have them engage in General Mills’ health promotion efforts.

“Earning trust and demonstrating results has always been a priority, but putting the concept into a complete cycle from both the organization’s experience (our Health Safety and Environment department) and the consumer’s experience (our different plant populations) has conceptualized the process for me and provided a method to share and teach other staff,” she told me recently. Go Julia and General Mills.

Second up is Xcel Energy, a multi-billion dollar energy company. When Xcel’s technology leaders needed to implement several enterprise-wide technology changes to 12,000 employees, they chose to use a customer-experience driven approach.

Many business and technology leaders might define the problem to be solved in this kind of situation as follows:

  • Employee-customers want to be happy with technology change. This is sometimes unrealistic, because some enterprise changes – like security upgrades – are mandated, not optional for employees.
  • Business and technology leaders want enterprise-wide projects to be delivered on time and under budget. This can require a trade-off, as employees’ needs and preferences appear last on the priority list.

Xcel leaders wisely spotted the opportunity to reframe the problem. The mutual need to be solved: plan, design, implement, and digest technology change to maximize organization performance.

For employees, maximizing organization performance means minimal disruption to their functional work – be it in field operations, sales, finance, or customer care.

For business and technology leaders, maximizing performance means planning the scope, sequence, training, and communication of projects to flow as naturally as possible into functional work.

Approaching this problem through a comprehensive customer experience view, Xcel gathered a cross-functional team that participated in ideation and mapping sessions to determine the global impact the suite of proposed changes would have on individual employees and their work, as well as on the organization overall. They created a target “employee-customer” experience map based on this target employee’s needs during the change process. The map was then translated into a broad customer experience model of the technical actions and formal roles needed for successful technology change in the future.

What’s happening here? At both General Mills and at Xcel, leaders defined an ideal experience for a carefully chosen group, then used the ideal experience as a guide for decision making and action.  This is experience used as an operating strategy.  (If a business strategy is what your organization does and why, your operating strategy is HOW to get it done.)  Who says customer experience is just for customers?

My question for you is, when you think about your constituencies, what is your target experience for them?

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