Digital technology powers employee experience on the inside to deliver seamless, intuitive experience to customers on the outside. So, when you are creating Customer Experience Programs, you must plan and budget for the time and resources technology teams have to commit. This work spans from building tech functionality, designing the user experience, and training employees on new technology tools.
Today, every business – every customer experience – has a digital element. And those elements need a digital pillar to support them. Technology must be in place for employees who both deliver the digital experience and leverage internal technology to be efficient and helpful in in-person interactions with customers. In that sense, CX Programs need to view employees as customers as well (something we often see missing).
We are, after all, inhabitants of a digital world. But despite how simple the concept sounds, when it comes to Customer Experience Programs, leaders often fail to include technology in the planning and implementation phases. And that is the reason so many good CX Programs fail. Let’s break down how failure happens. And how to save your CX Program.
No Digital Charter
First, Customer Experience Programs that fail are missed on the CX Program charter. Successful programs do not stop at operations scope, but also embed technology in the program. Another thing we see is when digital experience is factored into the CX program charter only as support, not as co-creator and partner in experience design. That results in major experience gaps later in the life of the program, after an operational intake.
In those cases, the intake reveals technology is absent where it is needed, because no technology tools (or teams) were put in place during the design and planning phases. Simply put, technology is not in the stack. As customer experience consultants, we see this time and again. When we start a project, the CIO and CTO are never on our discovery list. Every offsite, every project, I am the one who adds the CTO to the group of people we must include.
Even digital businesses do not add technology executives to discovery lists. And digital experiences are the core of their business! How can you build and support digital experiences in a technology vacuum?
Not Upskilling Leaders
Lack of a digital charter for experience programs is the first challenge. The second challenge is around leadership’s technology skillset and comfort level. Technology is absent from the table during program design not because leadership is fundamentally averse to it. But because they do not understand when and how technology needs to be involved to shape empowering employee experiences and seamless customer experiences. How do we resolve this disconnect? Improve the digital IQ of leaders.
It is time to upskill leaders so they can have productive interactions with IT. And so they can support the budgets of their IT colleagues, at the right times, to implement the Customer Experience Programs of the future. For instance, a Sales Exec Crew Member with high digital IQ will advocate for a new CRM system for his/her team. And for the need for investment in operations technology required to scale the business. That leader understands that if the operation fails, s/he will not have anything to sell.
Across industries, we are seeing what we witnessed during the Financial Crisis of 2008. I will never forget the words of a Fortune 300 CFO. “Liliana, the financial instruments have become so complex that even we do not even know what we are managing anymore.” Many Board Members did not know the logic of the market then. And many Board Members and Executive Leaders don’t know IT today.
Building digital comfort for employees and leaders is imperative. Upskilling leaders so they know when and how to engage IT most effectively is an opportunity for the entire organization to implement customer-centricity at the right time, in the right way. Yes, this is a commitment of resources (both time and money). But the ROI is clear. Embedding technology in CX program design, and deploying technology strategically across CX program implementation yields consistent, seamless experiences. These are the experiences that set your brand apart from the competition and save you money over time. And in that process you will lower the risk of making the wrong technology decision that can put you in the news, like Southwest Airlines.
Leaders who do not upskill on digital IQ miss opportunities to improve. They also doom their CX Programs to failure. How? Low digital IQ leads to mistakes that compromise CX program viability. The number one mistake is under-resourcing the program when leaders are building the budgets.
Funding Challenges and Cancelled Programs
Without the digital IQ they need, leaders do not understand IT jobs, functions, cost, and time to complete projects. How do you build a budget in that IT knowledge vacuum? Without understanding how IT works, all the budgets coming from IT feel too high. And CX leaders cannot defend them (or build them correctly in the first place). Because they do not understand what needs to be funded and why. They are not looking intelligently at how digital tools create experiences.
How can you support the work successful CX programs require without that knowledge? We need to build the desire to master IT concepts and the role of IT in the leaders who put business cases for customer experience. Education will go a long way to helping them deliver the customer experiences their brand promise.
So, CX programs are mis-funded or under-funded. Or, more pointedly, programs are cancelled entirely because customer experience leaders are unable to sell the IT scope of the program to executive leadership.
No Collaboration in Product Building
CX Programs that fail lack a collaborative approach to building products. Successful programs require cross-functional communication about the experiences a brand wants to build, and the CX Technology that is needed to deliver that experience digitally. And the resources they need to build it.
We have all seen a scenario similar to this one:
A Line of Business tells IT, “I want you to build me a ticketing system.”
Then, IT responds, “well, what do you want?”
They repeat, “a ticketing system.”
IT repeats, “ok, send me what you want and I will look into it”
So, what is going wrong in this conversation? Again, experience leaders and IT leaders are standing at the top of what ideas are. They are not collaborating or designing together. Technology teams are waiting for the business to send requirements and are not offering a collaborative product development mindset. And experienced designers are failing to understand the needs and language of IT. In this framework, there can be no funding to work together to create products since no one is taking the next step to create detailed documents with the desired functionality, business goals, wireframes, and resource hours to scope and fund the project.
Of course, this is not true of all organizations. SaaS companies have product teams with Product Managers, because digital products are their bread and butter. But every other industry: banking, airlines, retail, manufacturing needs to fund and create Product teams that are embedded between IT and the Line of Business. And that design and implement the User Experience of digital technology for customers and employees. To do this, they must create teams that own the product and can translate business requirements and business needs to technology requirements and technology needs.
Let’s return to the ticketing system example. To move from concept to product, a ticketing system needs someone to ask the right questions. That includes, “Is this an internal or external ticketing system?” “Will we enable the customer to create a ticket or self-serve when they have a problem?”
These questions marry technology and experience. This is how you pave the way for the digital experiences of the future. But, if experience and technology (or brand and technology) can’t understand each other, they can’t create together.
Productive collaborations involve reporting. So do successful CX Programs. Think about what needs to appear in reports to move programs successfully, validate funding, and support collaboration. Think about what happens if executive leadership cannot understand the elements of the reports or if they do not know how the output can be manipulated (and misreported). We are back to digital IQ and upskilling leadership.
Easy-to-understand reporting also brings transparency both to the CX Program and to the relationship of the brand with the customer. To show progress in an understandable way CX Programs must where the budget is going and how IT is using it to build and test experiences.
Successful technology adoption requires implementation training for the CX Technology that is part of the CX program. The Technology used will vary depending on the program and it may be as sophisticated as a complex CRM system and as simple as mastering all functionalities of a web-based tool like Monday.com. In any program you need a budget for change management and training to empower your employees to leverage the tools you paid to build. Executive leadership needs to support this flow to close the loop on experience technology design and implementation. And to start seeing the adoption and ROI of their experience technology investments.
Not Driving Employee Adoption
The third reason customer experience programs fail is organizations do not drive employee adoption. Technology-enabled customer experience programs require employees (not just leadership) to be upskilled and comfortable with technology. It’s time to acknowledge that some employees, across generations, fear technology. Or doubt their abilities to work with it confidently.
Even more than skills building, for true adoption, we need to prioritize curiosity across organizations. At all levels, employees should ask “How will this technology help me do my job better?” “In what ways can I use these digital tools to help my customers?”
In our own organization, we recently onboarded with Monday.com. And, guess what? Our whole team is watching videos for hours and hours. We logged at least 20 hours of videos since we introduced the platform to our business because we know this will be our go-to software. We discover things, we exchange ideas. And we share with each other. By stoking that curiosity, we are engaging with and embracing technology. And, as a result, we will be able to do more with it. And it will be able to do more for us – which is exactly what the claim they make to customers.
And it certainly is a big claim. Well, that claim only works when an organization maintains an attitude of curiosity around technology adoption. Then uses the technology in that spirit every day, to the point employees reach a level of mastery. So, in other words, employees need to master technology, not fear it.
Your CX Program cannot feel like an add-on. It needs to be part of an employee’s list of responsibilities and expectations. CX programs need to be embedded in HR. Make technology adoption part of employee goals. Involving HR ensures CX program success is included in goals and remains a priority across the organization.
Remember, great Customer Experience Programs start with a great CX strategy and CX design, but the majority fail in the implementation phase. We see this all the time. Often, by the time we come into an organization, they are on their third or fourth attempt at implementing impactful customer experience. What we see is that our colleagues who were there previously have done a fantastic job up until implementation and adoption.
And that is why make this claim without any doubt. Failure to embed technology in customer experience program design is the single biggest reason experience programs fail. No one goes to the IT level of implementation and dives in to solve the problem from the inside out.
Will you? We can help.