Why You Can’t Transform #CX

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In my last post, you were met with heartfelt congratulations for wanting to step into the exciting world of customer experience management.  It’s certainly the right thing to do, and your pursuit of a transformed customer experience is to be commended. 

Having said that, here now I offer the harsh embrace of reality, as we throw cold water on the giddy rush to transform the customer experience, and tell you why, for most, it’s never going to work… In so doing, together we will remove the blinders and re-direct your vision towards a path leading to true transformation, and your ultimate success. 

Why do I say that for most, CX transformation is never going to work?   To understand, let’s first clarify what it means to ‘transform’.  According to Merriam-Webster, the dictionary definition has three main meanings, the first of which is relevant to our purposes and which itself has three variations: 

  1. to change in composition or structure
  2. to change the outward form or appearance of
  3. to change in character or condition :  convert

Look at this definition a few times. Re-read it, reflect on it…and then read it again.  As you do so, think about the implications of your CX vision…

So, to transform the customer experience we want to do several things, some of which may involve changing the ‘composition or structure’ of the customer experience itself, some of which may also require changing the ‘character or condition’ of the experience.  The nature and scope of the challenge—of the journey many aspire to set their sights on—should now be abundantly clear.  Can YOU really do this?  Do you have the authority to impose your vision for a transformed CX…?  If yes, then kudos and renewed congratulations to you, as you’re on the right path. 

However, for those unable to answer in the affirmative, the reason many may be setting themselves on a path towards disappointment and failure is simple: for whatever reason, no one has helped you honestly assess the true implications and related requirements of a successful CX transformation.   Sadly, then, many CX plans will fall short of their goals simply because their plans are replete with blind spots. 

These blind spots are the downfall, the enemies, of successful CX transformation.  What are they, then?  I won’t kid you, a plethora of challenges exist, but from our vantage point the primary and central enemies of every CX transformation initiative emanate from two strongholds:

  • (Lack of) Leadership: If you don’t have daily support from the highest levels, your efforts will only go so far; you may achieve some measure of change and progress, but will never achieve true transformation.  True CX transformation requires the CEO’s voice (either directly or indirectly, through a c-suite ‘General’ who speaks with the CEO’s voice, backing and support) to communicate and beat the drum for the company’s new customer-focused direction and related culture shift.
  • Silos: Where you sit within the organization hierarchy matters to your success.  Desire and good intentions will only take you so far…as a result, robust CX transformation can’t be driven by the market research department alone, or the customer experience department, or by operations.  No one group can make it happen in isolation.  Why?  Everyone in the organization impacts the customer experience, be it directly (‘on stage’) or indirectly (‘back stage’).  CX transformation is thus a team effort, requiring an ‘all hands on deck’ mentality–indeed, a culture shift–in order to identify and drive the full range of changes required.  Silos arise as hindrances and obstacles to your ultimate CX vision—bridging them takes assessment, planning, buy-in and ongoing communication to succeed.

That’s it.  So simple, yes, but sadly too often overlooked.  How, then, are they missed? 

Sometimes, it’s the ‘Superman complex’, we convince ourselves (or allow ourselves to be convinced) into thinking we can do more than is really possible.  Like leaping tall buildings in a single bound or running faster than a speeding bullet, without leadership buy-in and involvement we won’t have the ‘super powers’ (scope of authority, willpower and resources) necessary to achieve true CX transformation

Sometimes it’s the ‘thrill of shiny objects’.  When confronted with the promise (and truly amazing capabilities) of the latest VOC reporting platforms, the thrill of seeing what these systems can do and the understandable desire to share these ‘shiny objects’ within your organization can lead some to overlook or downplay the broader needs of true transformation.  While you may have the budget authority to acquire access to these terrific new tools, without leadership buy-in today’s latest technologies won’t help you break through the organizational silos blocking your path to CX transformation. 

To be honest stewards of the customer experience, CX practitioners (research, software or transformation consultants) need to focus less on acquiring the latest tools/making the sale and more on the big picture.  If CX transformation is the end game, then we all need to honestly assess whether the people at the table have the authority, willpower and resources to involve all of the right players required to ultimately affect a truly transformed customer experience.  To achieve a transformed customer experience, then, let’s remember to keep the following six truths in mind:

Transforming the customer experience…

  1. …is a never-ending JOURNEY, one without a fixed destination.
  2. …is a LOT more involved than merely surveying customers.
  3. …requires a culture shift away from a pure cost-focused mentality towards one that’s mostly (if not entirely) customer-focused.
  4. …requires business owners who can act on key insights. 
  5. …requires more than a single metric (whatever it may be).
  6. …requires engaging customers in a two-way dialogue.  
    CUSTOMERS DO NOT LIKE TALKING TO WALLS.

As should now be clear, none of us can do this (transform CX) alone.  It’s my hope that in throwing this ‘cold water’ onto the CX conversation, those caught up in the excitement of the movement (and the rightful imperative to make the customer experience their company’s #1 priority!), won’t begin their journey with blinders on.  With awareness and proper planning, all of these challenges can be worked through, as long as you remember to honestly assess where you stand in the light of day. 

For more in-depth support for your new initiative, contact us any time at [email protected], where…We. Know. How.

7 COMMENTS

  1. Good points, Bob. I think it makes a lot of sense to talk more about “transformation of the company” than CX transformation.

    It’s nearly impossible to change customers. It’s hard, as you point out, to change the company. Yet, changing the company to ***align*** with what’s needed by customers is the name of the game.

    Alignment of the company with customers’ needs is the commonality shared by companies that are on the “top CX” lists. The companies that are benefiting financially from their CX efforts have built-in company-transformation to all their CX endeavors from the get-go. Efforts that side-step that, or hope to adopt it sometime down the road are selling themselves short, and risking skepticism, disillusion, and disbanding of the whole shebang.

    I agree that it boils down to leadership and silo-busting as you wisely point out.

    Lynn

  2. Many thanks Lynn! I’m glad to have your voice, and support, here.

    As you correctly pointed out, when talking about “Transforming CX” I absolutely mean “transformation of the company”. Other than hoping to ‘transform’ their spending habits to win a greater share of their wallet, customers aren’t the ones we’re talking about changing!

    There are surely many moving parts to successfully transform a company’s culture and its approach to the customer experience, so definitely focusing on brass tacks here. For me, those two–leadership and silo-busting–are universally major ‘must haves’, as well as hurdles too often overlooked or under-appreciated in their impact, and role, on this journey.

    Bob

  3. You’ve recognized the possibility for ‘can’ within ‘can’t’. The positive view often requires chaning the enterprise DNA and culture and, as addressed in my recent blog, organizational architecture, engineering, plumbing, and carpentry: http://customerthink.com/inside-your-c-i-a-enterprise-architecture-and-engineering-plus-plumbing-and-carpentry-for-optimal-customer-performance/

    I’ve helped guide clients through this process, and also observed other organizations that have made transformation their holy grail, and reached it, One that stands out as an exemplar is Baptist Health Care in Pensacola, Florida. Especially given that Baptist provides services in the complex world of patient care, the organization is unique: http://customerthink.com/a_customer_centric_war_for_talent_battle_victory_in_healthcare/

  4. Bob – I love that you have taken the time to define what ‘transform’ really means, which helped me recognize how much hype there is about it. People talk about transforming this and transforming that, or about automation tools as being ‘transformational.’ But according to these definitions, true transformation is quite rare, and possibly highly unncessary. When I saw the meanings spelled out in your article, my first question was ‘how many businesses really NEED CX transformation?’ and how many are waywardly chasing it down, when what they really need is something more moderate and achievable, like incremental change?

    My intent is not to devolve into semantic nitpicking, but I saw the same silliness with the hype about disruption, finally realizing that disruption, as a strategic goal, makes little sense, not to mention the fact that no one can possibly proclaim ‘disruptive’ without historical perspective.

    The immediate question is not whether a business can transform customer experience, but whether the effort has strategic benefit. If you consider what conditions or forces merit radical (i.e. transformational) change, we can winnow down the scenarios to a few: 1) cataclysmic debacles where consumer trust has been shattered (Chevy Cobalt, Rolling Stone Magazine), impending bankruptcies or organizational restructuring (Kodak), a sustained history of failed outcomes and substantial erosion of brand equity (Washington DC’s professional football team). Others? I’m sure this list can be extended.

    Aside from those, if you’re a CX executive waving the ‘transform or else!’ flag, you’re probably barking up the wrong tree. . . It’s just that it’s so much more exciting than screaming ‘incremental change, or else!’

  5. Thanks for weighing in Michael and Andrew.

    Michael, you rightly noted my emphasis on ‘can’. I’ve lead with can’t to grab readers’ attention, but in the end it should be clear that true transformation remains both possible, and desirable.

    Andrew, you make some good points, and I agree that putting the definition out there helps re-focus the conversation. However, rather than seeing this as another catchphrase or shiny object movement, I believe strongly in the merits and necessity of companies actually achieving the CX transformation I’m speaking about.

    My hope is to open eyes for those who THINK they’re on a transformational path, because for many they’re really not–not yet. While they may have bought great EFM systems or launched VOC listening initiatives, eventually they’ll come to realize that those tools are incremental steps in the right direction, but are not in and of themselves ‘transformative’.

    Thus, I raise these points as red flags to help shed light on their current situation as well as the essential role these two pillars (leadership and silo-busting) play as cornerstones of change.

    While it’s essential to begin VOC listening, integrating VOC is a cog in the engine of change. Building VOC listening programs is critical–I’m a big proponent, having guided many of the world’s leading companies to do so–but for those initiating listening campaigns without doing the heavier lifting I’ve highlighted, they aren’t going to achieve the kind of CX-focused change…culture shift…they may think they’re working towards. To your point, Andrew, they can help achieve incremental improvements, but to be a market leader in your category, I would say no, incremental change is not the proper end goal.

    True transformation–becoming a customer-focused enterprise–to me, that remains the proper aspirational goal all should strive for. Getting there involves real culture change and ,as such, requires a lot more firepower as well as engagement by a wide-ranging collaborative team.

    It’s all very do-able, with proper preparations…my hope is for many to see this as a wake up call, and a call to arms…

  6. Gautam, many thanks for the feedback, very glad to hear you liked it (interesting that you found it ‘hard hitting’…I was intentionally blunt, I concede).

    I really appreciate your encouraging comments!

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