An end-to-end approach for managing customer experience strategy and delivering on its promises...
Over the past 24 months, Customer Experience Initiatives (Cx programs, as they have come to be called) have climbed to the top of the radar screens of most leadership teams. Organizations are abuzz with projects to identify “touchpoints,” map “customer journeys,” and strengthen their customer-facing business processes. Alongside these initiatives are even larger investments in acquiring the data and analytics required to feed and sustain these service improvement strategies.
Big Promises/ Bold Expectations:
Like many other large corporate initiatives that compete for resources and executive mind-space, the Cx mantra was a big one, and came with a bold promise. It would change the way we think about customers. It would drive institutional awareness of what moves customer perception and behavior. And it would establish and institutionalize practices for continuous improvement across all our touchpoints and service delivery channels. In essence, it would transform our business into a customer-centric enterprise, ostensibly bringing with it increased customer satisfaction, loyalty, sales, and, ultimately, ROI.
Judging by the size of these investments (easily in the high six figures incrementally per annum for a maturing Cx program), leadership and company boards are expecting payoffs that are as big and bold as the promises initially made by their CCO’s and Marketing Executives. As programs mature, many leadership teams and boards are asking (or re-asking) some basic, yet seemingly tough-to-answer, questions:
- What does success look like when our Cx Program matures?
- How will we measure progress toward our Cx “end-game ?
- How fast can we expect to start seeing results?
- When will we “ring the cash register” with real ROI for the business? (i.e. how will gains in satisfaction and loyalty translate into tangible benefits to the business such (customer retention, sales, profits, growth, etc.)
The Case for Better Cx Governance:
Ideally, many of these questions would have been answered (at least in part) before the initial ramp-up of their company’s Cx investments—enough so that we’d at least be seeing some regular tracking of progress metrics (beyond basic activity tracking and monthly project updates), and we’d know with some clarity which strategies were working and which ones needed course corrections to keep our ROI projections on track. But for many companies, even those with “mature” Cx initiatives in place, the answers to these questions are often shallow and lack the specificity and rigor that the size of these investments should command. And in some cases, there is no answer—just the sound of, well, … crickets.
As intuitive as it may be to continue investing in Cx (after all, who wouldn’t invest in better customer service?), the absence of good answers to the above questions, and the lack of credible results and measurable successes create doubt in the future of these programs. And the risk of Cx being just another passing fad (think reengineering, six sigma, Lean, and the myriad of other buzz-word programs that were sent to an early grave) looms large. Unfortunate, given the momentum so many of us have generated through our early investments in Cx renewal.
What we’re really talking about here is a lack of basic governance. The number of Cx programs that possess the types of measures and tracking systems necessary to efficiently manage and deliver on their Cx commitments is far less than the number of new Cx investments and initiatives that are announced everyday by companies across the globe. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that effective Cx governance is neither costly nor necessarily complicated to put in place, particularly when compared with the size and magnitude of what companies have spent to date on their Cx program in the form of customer surveys, focus groups, touchpoint and journey mapping exercises, and “big data” analytics. But it does require that you make it a focus and priority of your Cx program, and assign to it an importance commensurate with all its other critical activities.
Defining Your Line of Sight…
In our view, good Cx governance, at its most basic, is about establishing a clear “Line of Sight” between your strategy and the desired outcomes of your program, with clear linkages to all the moving parts and initiatives that comprise it. This involves clearly defining strategy and desired outcomes, aligning stakeholders, defining accountabilities, and establishing internal commitments. It involves putting in place a process that translates your goals, values and standards into an efficient and repeatable process for assessing and renewing your customer channels and touchpoints. And, most importantly, it includes closed-loop reporting and monitoring to manage the pipeline of ongoing improvements that emerge, and ultimately lock in the expected benefits and ROI. Establishing that kind of seamless, end-to-end management structure for your Cx program requires that you spend some quality time on each of these areas, and the integration points between them. The most important of these are:
- Defining (holistically) what success looks like when your Cx program hits its stride. This often means stepping back and taking a much broader view of what success implies. The answer goes far beyond commonly used satisfaction indicators or even Net Promoter Scores. For example, good Cx programs can have enormous impact on organization efficiencies and cost savings (ironic since cost savings and satisfaction have conventionally been viewed as tradeoffs). Done right, Cx can, and often does, lead to fewer service interactions, channel transfers, and process rework. In retrospect, these benefits should have been part of any good Cx value case in the first place. But if they weren’t, declaring them soon is vital.
- Create measureable goals (even if they are not your final ones)- Companies often bypass this step because they feel they don’t have enough data, intelligence, or history to establish a good target, so they opt instead for goals like “improve x” or “reduce y” without assigning a quantifiable target to it. But the reality is that some of the most successful initiatives STARTED with leadership making a bold declaration of the ambition in quantifiable terms, and setting a clear stake in the ground, long before the program or initiative was fully mature. For example, Six Sigma programs do this by their very nature (the actual quality level implied by the name). Lean programs use bold, and often radical savings goals and standards to actually catalyze projects and keep them focused on the right magnitude of aspiration. An aggressive and measureable goal that is adjusted based on what you learn during execution will always yield more than a goal that is left unquantified.
- Map the connections and interplay between your goals and your program’s initiatives. No improvement initiative should begin without knowing which of your goals and targets it is attached to. For example, many companies have initiatives in place to reduce call wait time and track progress toward that end. Best practice companies on the other hand draw clear connections between these kinds of improvements and the higher order goals of their service improvement strategies. One of my clients, for example, spent considerable time analyzing and correlating their wait time initiative to one of their board level satisfaction metrics. By doing this, they were able to determine that a 1 second reduction in wait time translated directly to a .004% improvement in overall satisfaction. As a result, those focused on the initiative now had a clear window into what success looked like and how it would cascade up the value chain. Equally important was the clarity it provided to the organization’s leadership. Executives now had a window into how all those seemingly random initiatives translated into things they were directly accountable for and cared deeply about, and had no problem investing accordingly.
- Monitor and manage your “pipeline” of improvements – One of the characteristics of a mature Cx program is a healthy “pipeline” of small and well-focused initiatives delivering ongoing improvements to customer touchpoints and delivery channels. This is similar in some respects to Six Sigma and Lean programs that are set up deliberately to spawn hundreds of continuous improvement projects, each of which are closely monitored against their own specific value case, as well as their contribution to the enterprise goal. That’s what makes programs like these successful- creating wins and making them repeatable. Cx is no different. The real measure of a Cx program’s success has less to do with those large infrastructure and systems investments, and much more to do with the capacity of the organization to spawn continuous improvement and repeatable success. Developing and maintaining the processes to fuel and manage that pipeline is a critical part of Cx Governance.
- Closed loop reporting – Most of the work you do in the above areas will go for naught unless you establish some ongoing reporting of progress at both the program and activity levels. The number of reports, content and frequency of distribution will be unique to the needs of your program. What’s important is that reporting against your goals and standards occur on a regular basis and with a high degree of transparency. For Cx to be truly embedded within the culture of your business, the individuals and stakeholders driving these improvements at the “work-face” need to see how they impact the ultimate success measures of your Cx program. Making individual improvement successes visible and aligned with the standards and values you’ve set can go a long way toward reinforcing the kind of culture you want working in your business.
Of course, good Cx governance also requires that the processes and oversight needed to execute the above requirements be in place with accountabilities clearly defined. This doesn’t have to be a huge staff function, and ideally it shouldn’t be. But it should be a declared accountability in the business, responsible for ensuring that all of the components of your line-of-sight framework are in place and being managed. That function can also provide the oversight needed for your ongoing program, and will often work through the leadership team (via steering teams, councils, or other vehicles) to reinforce and oversee progress and manage the ROI of the program.
If the above recipe for Cx governance feels a bit like motherhood and apple pie, it’s probably because to a large extent it is. In many respects, it’s “Management 101” and should be applied to any major initiative or program within a commercial enterprise, and at the enterprise level itself. Unfortunately, as new project investments and priorities ebb and flow across the business, the importance of this basic management practice is often pushed aside in lieu of the firefights and priorities of the day.
Today, many Cx programs, especially those in early stages of evolution are at risk- not because of what they are doing, but because of what they are NOT DOING. By not focusing equally on the governance processes and activities required to manage and sustain their Cx investments, they risk unwinding much of the momentum they’ve created and are ultimately putting the future of their program in jeopardy. Don’t let that occur in your Cx program. The strongest Cx programs are those that make governance a top priority, and yours should too. Start today by asking the tough questions that many of your executives and board members are already asking …
- What does success look like?
- How will we measure our progress?
- When we be able to demonstrate initial success?
- How and when will all this translate into tangible ROI for the Business?
Let the answers to these questions be a catalyst for developing and guiding the development of YOUR Cx governance framework.Bob Champagne is Managing Partner at onVector Consulting. Bob has over 25 years designing and delivering performance management and governance solutions at the Enterprise and Business Unit levels of the organization. Bob can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or through LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/bobchampagne onVector’s Line of Sight solution suite has been utilized by its client organizations to establish the critical linkages between strategies, initiatives and KPI’s; enabling better alignment, higher levels of performance and a faster path to ROI. onVector’s Line of Sight methodology has been adapted to facilitate the unique management and governance needs of many strategic initiatives across the organization, including Customer Experience. To learn more about Cx Solutions available through onVector, including:
- Organizational Cx Readiness Assessments
- Enterprise Alignment and Cx Standards Development
- Touchpoint Identification and Journey Mapping
- Channel Audits and Touchpoint Assessments
- Targeted Touchpoint Renewal and Improvement
- Cx Governance Solutions
visit us at http://onvectorconsulting.com/cxsolutions