Customer Experience Collaboration Wins Championships


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customer experience collaborationImagine your company as a sports team, such as volleyball, soccer, hockey or football: do you truly pull together, have one another’s backs, share opportunities and show your opponents and fans you’re a well-oiled machine?

Collaboration like this across your entire company is what’s needed to win customer experience championships. The trophy is sustained growth in all of the following: revenue, profit, market share, share of wallet, customer lifetime value, organizational nimbleness and capabilities.

I cannot think of any more highly coveted trophy, can you? You might have a few games as you start out that miss the mark for some of your fans — investors — in favor of getting your hand-offs and game plans firmly established among the whole team — to win unquenchable passion of all your fans (including investors). As important as each contest is, it’s most important to reach and win the playoffs. Keep your eye on the long-term prize.

Remember the last time you complained to a colleague about something you didn’t like at work? It was probably something about collaboration, right? Remember the last complaint you heard from a customer? It probably stemmed from poor collaboration: someone not being well informed, someone not paying attention to information, someone not having the other party’s back, sharing opportunities or pulling together.

Regardless of your awesome VoC, CRM, UX, DX, CS, NPS, etc., your company’s customer experience will always be fundamentally robust or risk-prone depending on the degree of collaboration in-play across all functional areas, lines of business, and geographies.

When people from adjacent functions look at an end-to-end customer journey map, the severe need for extensive collaboration is obvious. Not just friendly feelings, open-mindedness or being cooperative — extensive collaboration means making a concerted effort to share, learn, co-create and co-manage in a 360-degree radius. Whether this realization occurs from mapping or discussing an escalated customer issue or during your strategic planning process, embrace the opportunity to ride that realization to the goal line.

Winning sports teams have multiple levels of collaboration: within each player’s mind and body and surroundings, among similar roles, with adjacent roles, and fluidly upstream and downstream. It’s 360-degree collaboration.

Customer experience excellence requires 360-degree collaboration. If you don’t have it you’re wasting massive opportunities, efforts, resources and time. Observant fans, opponents and team members can see you shooting yourself in the foot.

Customer experience collaboration means 360-degree collaboration: each player in/with your company being in-tune with customers’ expectations, each player fostering a spirit of collaboration among similar roles, with adjacent roles, and fluidly upstream and downstream.

Here are 4 prerequisites for collaboration that wins customer experience championships:

1st Prerequisite: Set the Example for 360-Degree Collaboration
In team sports, it starts with the coach’s tone, words, body language, and follow-through. Every manager bears the responsibility to provide customer experience excellence context to what they communicate verbally and non-verbally. Every manager should think of their responsibility as a 3-legged stool: accountability for customer experience ripple-effect plus talent plus resources (financial/tools/etc.).

In team sports, coaches and the team captain set the example by being very focused. This focus provides context for the myriad moving parts that comprise strategy, tactics, skill-building, and execution. As a leader in your company, be customer-centered in your focus. Make this the context for the many moving parts you oversee. When you give assignments, think about the 360-degree inter-dependencies of that assignment. When you make decisions, use customer-centered context in your logic, and consider 360-degree inter-dependencies. You’ll find this to be a game-changer in your career and your organization’s success. When your whole company is doing this you’ll find it will make a difference for customers, which in turn will make a difference to you financially.

2nd Prerequisite: Make it Obvious for Every Role
In team sports, every player learns how their role contributes to the whole team’s success. Use voice-of-the-customer to help your talent in every role to understand customers’ expectations. Translate that to their role’s contribution to the actual customer experience and/or the experience of those who serve customers or those who are next in the chain-link of hand-offs culminating with the customer. If every person in your company can state why customers are funding their job, you’re on the right path. If all your suppliers, alliance and channel partners, and agencies can articulate their role in meeting your customers’ expectations, you’re on a stronger path.

In team sports, diagrams show how every role is essential to the play and to the overall goal. Use inter-relationship diagraphs, swim-lane workflows, fishbone diagrams, and other pictorial representations to bring inter-dependencies to life. Keep these pictures, along with pictures and videos and comments from customers, front-and-center in break rooms or hallways and other places every team member will see daily.

3rd Prerequisite: Recognize it Early & Often
In team sports, ongoing praise and guidance from the coaches and team captain are vital to forming good habits that foster excellent performance under pressure and in casual play. Individuals get reinforcing feedback, yet rewards or penalties are experienced as a team. Do this in business by setting clear criteria for team recognition, allowing teams to self-report their progress toward that criteria, providing feedback to teams from a panel of executive judges, allowing teams to resubmit in a future period if they don’t hit the thresholds, and using many means to widely advertise achievements of the winning teams. This is how cross-functional collaboration becomes a way of life. Having a hand in making the company popular is a higher purpose that unifies employees and propels their productivity and tenure. This is how employee engagement takes on much greater significance for customers and employees and investors alike.

4th Prerequisite: Include it in All Your Plays
In team sports, it’s unheard of for one player to act independently, disregarding the other players — every play incorporates 360-degree collaboration, because getting to the goal requires alertness every moment. In business, change happens constantly, both internally and externally. When you set out with a 360-degree inter-dependency mindset, you’ll be able to be more nimble. You’ll thank yourself later for preventing complications of scrambling to get back on sure footing. Your investors will thank you for avoiding costly remedial efforts. Your customers will reward you for getting it right the first time and every time, as much as is humanly possible.

Customer-centered cross-functional teamwork is the epitome of employee engagement: it makes a difference that customers reward. Most things that chronically bother customers are cross-functional in their design or execution, so cross-functional collaboration is an absolute must for customer experience excellence. Be clear about the goals: (1) to prevent occurrence or recurrence of customers’ hassles and (2) to enhance mutual value across the customer life cycle. This is the secret to organic, sustainable profitability and revenue growth.

This article is eighth in a year-long series with these topics:

Introduction: Customer-Centered Business: 10 Keys to Organic Growth

1. Goals — Sharing the Vision
2. Values — Walking the Talk
3. Structure — Nurturing the Ecosystem
4. Processes — Preventing Silos
5. Policies — Empowering Growth
6. Motives — Driving Win-Win Attitudes
7. Engagement — Collaborating for Results
8. Improvement — Preventing Issue Recurrence
9. Innovation — Creating Mutual Value
10. Momentum — Embedding Within Your DNA

Image licensed for use by ClearAction from Shutterstock.

Lynn Hunsaker

Lynn Hunsaker is 1 of 5 CustomerThink Hall of Fame authors. She built CX maturity via customer experience, strategic planning, quality, and marketing roles at Applied Materials and Sonoco. She was a CXPA board member and SVAMA president, taught 25 college courses, and authored 6 CXM studies and many CXM handbooks and courses. Her specialties are B2B, silos, customer-centric business and marketing, engaging C-Suite and non-customer-facing groups in CX, leading indicators, ROI, maturity. CX leaders in 50+ countries benefit from her self-paced e-consulting: Masterminds, Value Exchange, and more.


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