Growth requires fuel. New customers and returning customers are the fuel of company growth. You can invest in inorganic growth: programs and technologies that entice renewals and evangelism. Or you can invest in organic growth: processes, products and culture that make your company irresistible.
If you ask customers which method they prefer, organic would be their answer: it supports ease of doing business, it’s not invasive, and they gladly renew and evangelize without incentives when your company is irresistible.
If you ask your C-team whether inorganic or organic growth is preferred, organic would also be their answer: an investment today that provides an annuity of growth tomorrow is the ideal investment.
Company growth is the ultimate reason for customer experience management, and companies that drive organic growth are more likely to thrive in the future. Momentum is an essential aspect of customer experience strategy and governance. Otherwise, your customer experience success will be short-lived or require a constant treadmill of resources.
What drives customer experience momentum? Shared vision and ownership, cross-organizational team recognition, anticipation, managerial context, outside-in, patterns, and collaboration.
Shared Vision and Ownership
The starting point for enduring momentum is shared vision for customer experience excellence and management among the entire C-team. Contrary to popular opinion, shared vision and ownership is neither accidental or automatic. Like any road trip or significant undertaking, you can’t afford to assume that everyone has the same idea of where you’re going and prioritization along the way. Even more important, is defining every C-team member’s active contribution to the customer experience vision. Until this is done, there will always be competing agendas. Every C-team member’s belief that their existence is thanks to satisfied customers is essential for true customer experience momentum.
Shared vision and ownership must also take place among everyone whose formal job is customer experience management. Amazingly, voice-of-the-customer managers, CRM managers, loyalty managers, customer reference managers, user experience designers, and so forth rarely have regular communication among one another. This defies logic, as the customer experience journey surely crosses paths with all of these people’s work. And when customers buy from more than product division or region, it’s imperative that customer experience managers cross-organizationally coordinate their work. The ClearAction study of customer experience management practices discovered stronger business results among companies that coordinated CXM through a regular cadence of communications, meetings, and/or reporting structure.
Shared vision and ownership are essential across work teams in every functional area. Momentum is assured when “CX excellence as a context for every job’s decisions and deliverables” becomes a way of life.
Cross-organizational Team Recognition
Team recognition is far better than individual recognition when it comes to customer experience excellence. Heroics are appreciated, but they are not sustainable, and they do not reflect prevention of hassles, anticipating customer needs and responses, and ease of doing business. The most pervasive issues customers face are cross-organizational, so that is the type of work that needs to be done and recognized.
To get the most value from team recognition, spell out what behaviors and methods and thresholds you want your employees to pursue. Let them keep a working report of what they do along the way, so that the documentation workload is minimized. Let them submit their achievements to a panel of executive judges who provide constructive feedback. For teams that don’t meet the threshold, let them continue to make improvements and re-submit their achievements in a future quarter. Make sure customer acknowledgement of the team’s achievement is part of the winning criteria.
Include internal customer experience improvement as a category in your team recognition strategy. When employees view the next employees in the chain of value across the company as their customers, they need to do so within the overall context of external customers’ care-abouts. This can be very healthy toward meaningful employee engagement and overall improvement of external customer experience. Internal customer experience improvement can be an important factor in organic momentum and growth.
Anticipation of Customer Expectation and Reactions
As executives and employees absorb customer comments on a daily basis, their work can be attuned to its ripple effect on customers’ well-being. By anticipating what customers want and how customers will react to a team’s decisions and deliverables, mis-steps can be avoided, saving significant time, effort, morale, and costs both for your company and for your customers.
Anticipation is integral to value creation. When executives’ and employees’ hearts and minds are close to the customer they are more likely to generate ideas that innovate the customer experience and create highly appreciated innovative products and services to propel the company’s growth.
Customer Experience Excellence as Managerial Context
Every manager’s stewardship includes financial and personnel considerations – as well as their ripple-effect on customer experience. My paycheck stub at Applied Materials contained this reminder: “Your payroll dollars are made possible by satisfied customers.” When everyone knows what that means in their day to day work, you’ve got customer experience momentum.
Like the payroll stub example, weave customer-centered thinking into all of your company’s rituals: hiring and promotion criteria, individual and organization performance reviews, staff meeting and operations review agendas, training courses on any topic, employee engagement and recognition, analyst and media communications, and so forth. Embedding customer-centered management across your business builds unrelenting momentum.
Outside-in Beyond Skin-Deep
Attention to touch-points, user experience design, customer-facing staff, and closed-loop surveys are necessary, yet grossly insufficient, for profitable customer experience momentum. You’ve got to drive customer experience insights far upstream to engineering, suppliers, manufacturing, operations, finance, human resources, information technology, quality, safety, marketing, and so forth. When they incorporate customer experience insights into their work and attitudes you’re an outside-in company.
Tie customer experience goals to teams’ and individuals’ work processes. Make incentive goals actionable, and based on progress in work actions. When root cause analysis zeros in on the true cause behind something that customers need, you can be assured that focusing employees on the root will yield a beautiful result for customers and the company. Getting ahead of the curve by doing things right the first time is essential to momentum that will payoff well into the future.
Brilliance by Pattern Discovery
Find patterns across customers in a single survey, find patterns across various feedback sources, tie customer feedback and operational events to tell a richer story, and motivate managers by showing the size of customer groups with similar feedback.
De-silo-ize your data collection, analysis, and reporting to paint a richer picture. The customer experience journey is dynamic, with many moving pieces. Bring this to life for your executives and employees. Help them see connections across customers, processes, products, and actions. Pattern discovery plays an important role in customer experience momentum.
Collaboration Earns Trust
The nature of most customer experience issues requires cross-organizational collaboration. And in pursuing a collaborative atmosphere across your company, trust among employees increases. This cannot be underestimated in its impact on external customer experience, as customers are becoming ever more savvy about corporate transparency at every level of their engagement with your company.
The customer experience journey is horizontal across every group in your company, so it stands to reason that the better you are at creating seamless interactions internally, the better you will be at creating a seamless customer experience. Cross-organizational collaboration is essential to customer experience momentum.
Organic momentum for company growth means that customer experience excellence is embedded within and across your business. Customer-centered employees and customer-centered business processes, policies, and rituals play the primary role. Value-generating products and processes play the next role, as long as customers feel that the value is mutual.
Industry winners in the future will be the ones who master shared vision and ownership for customer experience excellence deeply and widely. They will be the ones who recognize cross-organizational teams for their strides in preventing recurrence of customer issues, and who anticipate customers’ expectation and reactions.
Customer experience leaders of the future will be the companies that (a) use customer experience insights as a context for every employee’s decisions, (b) drive outside-in to the inner-most regions of the company, (c) gain brilliant ideas by discovering patterns, (d) earn trust internally and externally through collaboration, and (e) embed customer experience momentum in everything they do. These companies will have the greatest high-profit growth trajectories tomorrow.
This article is the fourth in a series of articles about Customer Experience for the Future.