Six Questions to Ask when Transforming Your Customer Experiences

March 3, 2020 Sebastian Barnes

Have you ever driven a mountain highway at night—the roads that are two lanes and chiseled into rocky slopes with high cement walls on one side and a thin guardrail followed by a steep fall on the other? During the day, the scenery is spectacular, but at night, headlight glares and sudden twists around dark bends force the drive to be slow, jerky, and unnerving.

What does this have to do with the governance of your customer experience (CX) transformation program? Better yet, why does governance matter? If your customer service department knows what needs to get done, then what’s stopping it from being successful?

It has everything to do with the success of the program. And although a well-intended group may believe it understands all the work, a multifaceted CX program rarely rests within the boundaries of just one department.

Governance is essential for program success: Governance is how people find the best way to work together. Programs, by definition, are complex as they are a series of projects meant to change how people, processes, and technologies behave to improve how things are. It is critical that the “work” of running a program doesn’t get in the way of the “work” that needs to be done for a program to be successful. This is why program governance is essential.

Let’s get real about CX: Customer experiences cover a wide array of interactions, including email, website visits, social media posts, and more. Each one shapes the impression consumers have of your brand. When quality experiences are seamlessly provided, you’ll have a great chance to build customer loyalty and develop reliable sources of revenue.

Yet the truth is that this is not easy. The monumental investment it takes to transform a company’s customer experience is often underestimated. It’s nebulous and requires many supporting teams that will likely have conflicting priorities. Misalignments may make reaching the next milestone a complicated endeavor.

It’s like driving on a mountain highway at night. So, what can we do to bring up the sun and shed light on the scenic views so we can roll out a successful transformation? Start by asking six questions.

  1. Have you assembled the right players? 
    Take the time to understand all operations on a granular level. How will sales, supply chain, business operations, and IT be influenced by changes to CX?

    Make sure the decision makers and influencers from these groups are, at a minimum, informed of program goals and benefits. Invite all involved departments to the conversation. A lack of transparency, even accidently, could create needless contention.
  2. Do you have the owner’s buy-in?
    Identify owners for every team, process, and technology that will be affected by the CX program. Ensure everyone understands why the program is needed, what their participation will entail, and the benefits they’ll get out of the program.

    Beyond that, ensure owners are not just accountable, but also are champions of any changes to the roles, processes, or technology they are responsible for. There must be shared success. Without it, the changes may simply not happen, and the program may falter or fail.
  3. Have you considered other departments’ commitments? 
    Understand that the CX transformation program may not be every department’s number-one priority. Having visibility into another team’s commitments will create a realistic view of how and when those teams will support the CX program efforts.

    Also be proactive in determining how much effort other departments will need to devote to the program. When everyone has clear expectations of what is to be contributed and when, then delays and misunderstandings can be avoided.
  4. Have you calculated the price of running the program?
    The price of running a CX program is more than a one-time spend. There will be technology implementations and ongoing investments, such as licensing, and strategic vendors like Appirio will be engaged to help complete the program.

    There will also be investments of time and effort, such as doing the research needed to define how processes will transform, conducting testing cycles of any system changes to support the transformation, and determining the ongoing adoption demands to ensure employees and customers are ready for that change.

    And in this process, acknowledge that no plan is perfect, and although any program may attempt to account for all factors to ensure an on-budget and on-time transformation, always include contingencies for unexpected solution delivery delays.
  5. Have you planned for program dependencies?
    Initiatives may be in motion that must conclude prior to commencing broader CX transformation objectives. This can include a wide array of projects. Program leaders should consider, at a minimum, the following factors: data quality investments (such as accounts, orders, and assets), process and technology modernization, telephony and call-routing improvements, and team reorganization and call center consolidation.

    While doing this, consider the sequence and the priority of the projects that will drive CX transformation. Start with critical-path processes that are foundational to how customers interact with your company. Understand the data, systems, and teams required to run those processes. Evaluate any active or pending work in those areas before you proceed.
  6. Did you forget about IT?
    Every organization has a different blend of technology ownership. Some companies have shared accountability where business operations teams manage the system landscape. Others have a centralized model where IT manages all technology changes. In either paradigm, any CX transformation will be one such magnitude that it requires IT’s expertise and influence. Be sure they have an advising role.

    Remember, the right IT leadership can be a critical ally in any transformation program. They can be leveraged to handle vendor relationships, and they can also offset much of the adoption and process transformation work. And if your IT organization plays a centralized role across departments, they will possess a singular view of all active technology initiatives. This view will help understand company priorities and the capacity to support the program.

People and culture are at the heart of any transformation. The underlying principle of these six questions is simply this: Are the right people talking to each other and agreeing to the same goals?

When faced with major changes and challenges, it may not seem so simple to have these conversations. But by asking these questions, and honestly answering them, what might first appear as a midnight mountain highway will start to brighten. And in the daylight, the path to your successful CX transformation program will be far more enjoyable, and the view of that mountain road will undoubtedly be spectacular.

To learn more about how Appirio defines and delivers successful CX transformation programs, contact us.

About the Author

Sebastian Barnes

Sebastian has 15+ years of consulting and technology thought leadership experience. He was a CRM Director for a +$2B Technology Firm, overseeing a large, global team of technical and business architects. His specialties include leading large-scale business transformation initiatives and building organizations to scale that face growing demand and resource challenges. Sebastian has been a Strategist at Appirio for two years.

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