Culture clash – why customer experience improvements fail

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When customer experience improvements run into trouble the problem isn’t necessarily rooted in strategic thinking. It’s because the CEO is often detached from the plan (if there is one).

This is a big problem.

To make a success of changes to your CX you need to create the right culture and climate to effect the change. You can’t do this without your people changing their behaviour. And this is difficult without leadership from the top to champion a clear path for the improvements, set the tone and role model new behaviours.

So most leaders must be rolling up their sleeves? Not quite. These insights from Genesys tell an illuminating tale.

  • 59% of companies with a CEO who is involved in customer experience report higher revenue growth, compared with just 40% of companies reporting growth without a customer-focused CEO
  • Just over half of CEOs (56%) are involved in CX activities

Think about it for a moment. Successful strategies are driven from the top. But just half of CEOs are actively involved. Which side of the divide do you fall on? Ask most CEOs how they see customer experience and there is a consensus. “We want to use it to effectively to drive growth. It’s our best route to get ahead of our competitors”. These words rattle around the boardroom. There is confidence in customer experience as a differentiator. More investment is secured. Budgets for next year are expected to hold steady or increase even as economic forecasts go from bad to worse.

But, there is an iceberg ahead …

Let me explain. Customer focus is an organisation-wide model, (not just a mantra), which requires joined-up thinking and execution across all aspects of the company.

1. Culture, climate and people

2. Products and services

3. Processes and technology

There’s an iceberg ahead for those businesses that skip, or seriously underinvest in, (1) and concentrate all their efforts on (2) and (3). Especially (3). Digital transformation has become a byword for CX transformation. Businesses are ploughing billions into enhancements and new offerings. But many are left scratching their heads when customer take-up is sluggish and feedback is tepid at best.

The companies that are running out of room on their mantelpiece for CX awards are hyper focused on number 1. There is an unbreakable link between the transformation and culture change. Let’s bolt on climate here too. The two go hand in hand. Culture essentially boils down to “the way we do things around here”. But it’s also important to think about organisational climate – the perception people have about their workplace.

Avoiding a culture clash

Culture and climate affect the behaviour of every employee. The behaviour of every employee impacts the experience of every customer. Your people throughout the business – at all levels from leadership to the frontline – need to be equipped to deliver the new and different experience to customers.

To change culture and climate, two things need to happen:

As mentioned earlier, CEOs need to be able to champion a clear path for customer experience improvements. They need to take responsibility for rallying their people and managing the ambiguity in transitioning from today to tomorrow.. They set the tone and role model new behaviours.

The right culture / climate needs to be in place for employees to feel empowered and have the skills to change their behaviour to deliver the change.

It’s difficult to change a culture

You can’t force it. The starting point is to think about the behaviours, attitudes and underlying assumptions that have become ingrained in your business. Most employees think they are already doing the right thing for customers. So changing the way you do things will require vision, purpose, energy and empowerment. People are often resistant to change if they don’t understand the positive part they play.

Build a coalition – build a critical mass of senior customer experience advocates to help lead the change in culture.

Pick your battles – focus on a few critical shifts in behaviour.

Be visible – successful leaders create the belief, the permission and the capability for employees to operate in new and different ways. Be visible and role model new behaviours. As we discussed earlier, leaders set the tone.

Revisit capabilities and skills – make sure your people are empowered and have the capabilities and skills to deliver the improvement and support customers (and each other) in the new way.

Finally … if they haven’t heard it, you haven’t said it

Communication has an outsized impact on success. Your people are ground zero here. Share a consistent change story to align everybody in your organisation around the changes you are implementing. Openly communicate progress and wins. This will have the biggest impact on whether you make success of your plan. Let your people know how the new way of working impacts their day-to-day work. Actively seek feedback.

Learn more by downloading our guide An Inconvenient Truth: Creating Loyal Customers Starts With You.

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