Do You Have The Right Culture for a Customer Experience Initiative?

A Guest Post by Esteban Kolsky, industry influencer (pictured left)

In my last post, I talked about how Customer Experience has evolved from company-driven interactions to today’s customer-driven communications. With CX being such a prevalent concept, you might be asking yourself if you need to implement a Customer Experience initiative at your organization.

But how do you know?

You can start by considering the readiness of five areas—people, process, technology, measurement, and governance—to help you make your decision. In this blog I will cover people (usually known as culture) and will follow up soon with posts on the other four areas.

A Customer-Centric Outside In Perspective


When talking about people readiness, we are mostly talking about organizational culture and the basic skills and talents of your employees. The implications of this section are that to deliver customer experience it first takes a collaboration-sensitive organization made up of employees who are focused more on the well being of the customers than on the well being of the organization. Second, it takes a thorough knowledge of the customers.

Remember, the experience is from the perspective of the customer and driven by the customer—there is no way any organization can deliver a Customer Experience initiative without being able to answer these questions:

First, is your company culture amiable to a customer experience initiative?

Ask yourself: do the people in your organization understand what it means to be customer-centric? And if they do, can they deliver? If they don’t understand how to be customer-centric and how to deliver customer experiences as determined by the customer—what do you need to do to get them ready?  Is this something that needs to be trained (seldom the case by itself, usually accompanied by other culture changes)? Is this something that requires different people (not always, but almost always you will need more and new people with different talents). As for delivery, if the will and the skills are there, it is a matter of training the people in the organization on the new processes (if any changed) or new tools.

Where to start:

1)  Conduct an internal survey to determine the perceptions of your people in regards to customer-centricity and customers’ expectations.

2)  Find out what skills your organization may need to acquire to become more customer centric. Based on the survey, is it a lack of skills among your people? Or a matter of changing processes? Do you need to implement new technology?

3)  Create a plan to become more customer-centric and set a timeline to do so before embarking on a customer experience initiative. The trick is not to replace your good people that may not be ready, but use them as agents of change to lead the charge in finding what the customer wants and how to deliver to it.

Second, can we entice our people to make the changes they need to make?

It is not sufficient to have the right people to get the right behaviors and results from them.  You also must incentivize them accordingly. Compensation is not only about paying people the right amount – but paying the right amount for the right actions and providing the right benefits.  In other words, incentivize them to do what is needed by focusing on the actions you want them to do, empowering them to do them well, and rewarding them accordingly.

Where to start:

How are you compensating your people who are involved in customer-facing activities?   Remember how Maslow’s pyramid applies to employees—they will do what they need to do to ensure their security and collect their pay. Act accordingly.

The second step is to figure out which actions you want to reward and how; this is linked to the experiences you want to deliver for your users. Once you document the experiences, as delineated by your user expectations and needs, you can find the areas you need to focus on.

The third step is to put it all together, find the actions you want to entice, find the rewards you need to award, and create the plans.  Of course, this is all part of the larger customer experience initiative and must be done in accordance with the changes in processes and technologies.

Third, do we know how to communicate with our customers?

To paraphrase a failed presidential candidate, customers are people to.  It is not sufficient to focus on the people inside the organization, especially when we are moving to a customer-centric world.  We also need to ensure our customers focus on the right efforts and actions and that they get rewarded and recognized for doing so. However, there is a difference in the messages we use to communicate with them. It is about them guiding us (the organization) as to what they expect from the organization.  Both finding out what they expect and enticing them to continue to tell us are the focus of the communications with our customers.

Where to start:

What do we know about our customers? How are we communicating now? Is this a one-way communication (we put out information and they consume it) or two-way (we have processes in place to listen to customers and use what they give us)? The answers to those questions will show you where to start.

Needless to say, in a customer-centric model we need to find out what they want, what they need, and what they want to tell us directly. Then we need to figure out what messages are getting through (in both directions). Finally, we need to set a plan to make sure that the right information gets through—again, in both directions. In other words, we need to find what their expectations are, and we need to let them know how we are delivering against them.

Fourth, do we know how to communicate with our people?

Knowing how to communicate with our customers is just one-half of the solution; communications with our users and employees is equally critical to make sure people are included in the development of customer experiences. If we are to empower people, as discussed above, to do what they need to do to ensure good customer experiences, how are we letting them know – and more importantly, how are we setup to listen back?

People in customer-facing positions are the front-lines of any business; until overnight delivery companies figured that out, they were totally unable to capture feedback and recommendations on what to do. The overnight service split between early and late morning was a result of letting the drivers of those companies speak up and be heard.  Part of empowerment is the ability to communicate with managers and other stakeholders who are listening to what is going on.  We must ensure that the lines of communications are fully open in both directions for employees, as well as for customers.

Where to start:

Similar to how we communicate with customers, communicating with employees is about finding out what we are doing, where we are deficient, and how to fix it.  Look for the common ways to communicate in each direction today (e.g. newsletters from managers, employee surveys from customer-facing people). Document the content and frequency, then find out what you are supposed to be doing on both elements and revamp the communication channels around that.

A very important step on this re-engineering is to provide a way for employees to provide anonymous feedback as to how it’s working—without this you won’t truly know what they think (at least not quickly enough).  Finally, ensure that all communications in both directions are to aid the effort to become more customer-centric and to create better experiences for customers.
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