Eliot Sykes, Head of Customer Experience
19th March 2020
In a parallel universe people in large, complex organisations spend time in cross functional groups, rapidly solving customer and business problems together whilst happily chuckling over a Latte.
That’s your place, right?
The truth is, in many businesses skills and focus are still contained in department silos. In theory, not always a problem – the problem comes when these silos don’t have the right structures and embedded behaviours to work across and outside of them.
Until you begin to help organisations to solve problems that impact multiple departments, such as improving customer experience, this may or may not affect your daily work practices or the likelihood of succeeding in your objectives. However, when you are trying to make innovative or incremental improvements to customer journeys in complex organisations, navigating this change can be a much bigger challenge than identifying problems and opportunities in the first place. Identification is often more akin to a plumber tracing pipes for a leak or a detective following an evidence trail. CX professionals are fortunate enough to have a myriad of methods and tools at their disposal to help them diagnose problems, however if the leak can’t be fixed because the pipes don’t meet in the middle, that can be a bigger challenge.
The challenge is that silos are not just structural, they often have a bi-product of being attitudinal or behavioural too. In the worst cases this can lead to defensiveness and competitiveness, in most cases it just makes communication and agreement on actions stilted and difficult.
Here are some common frustrations/challenges and problems we hear from in-house Customer Experience experts:
– They have to quickly understand (and garner the trust of) almost every function of an organisation in order to be effective
– They may be the only practitioner in their organisation who is trying to take a holistic view of the customer
– They struggle to get stakeholders to agree on a single course of action when it impacts a variety of areas of business
– The timelines/budgets or objectives of individual departments don’t match, so problems can’t be solved effectively
– It’s difficult to show combined results from various departments in order to demonstrate impact
So far, so what? it’s a tough gig but someone has to do it. The real problem is not that we need to help our lone CX champion (they probably knew what they were getting themselves into), it’s that it slows improvement for the customer. They’re the ones who, in most commercial cases, are keeping the organisation afloat. It’s the customer who probably has other choices for where they might buy this thing or hire that thing and we have to assume they’ve been looking elsewhere to do so, even if they’ve been a loyal customer for some time.
The customer neither knows nor cares about the delay to a system upgrade caused by budget restrictions, or the adoption or different working methods between major departments, or the fact that this team or that team only meet every 3 months. They only care about their outcome.
We don’t expect you to give an extraordinary amount of concern to the pain, frustration or challenges of the CX team. The customer though, that’s a bit different.
Here’s some thoughts from our team that we at Ethology have tried and tested, often in partnership with internal CX professionals, to help bring a bit (even just a bit is good!) of that utopian parallel universe over to your organisation:
Create a properly planned introduction for CX into the organisation
Simple observation of departments and parts of the business in operation can provide a CX professional with valuable insight to help them be more autonomous, helpful and a bigger part of your team.
Get as many people as is practical involved in the process
Each key person should feel they can contribute. Customer Experience is not the job of Marketing or Customer Service – everyone has a responsibility to the customer.
Find and support champions in each department
…and give them the processes or tools to understand the customer and communicate this in plain English to their teams – this could be ‘day in the life’ workshops, or activities such as using Experience Fellow to experience, log and share the activities of a customer.
Instil shared language and vision
Help the whole organisation to understand why putting the customer at the heart of an organisation is both better for business and can be unifying for teams. Try to get Board Level support to share this vision from the most influential places.
Give everyone access to the CX strategy and plans
To clearly demonstrate the activities that other departments are undertaking to help make this happen.
Create and support working groups
…who are led by serving particular customer needs. Ultimately the customer is the constant that connects the organisation. Departments, processes and supply chains can change. The critical needs of customers remain relatively constant.
Ensure customer journey maps exist
And make sure they are easy for people to understand and are presented and discussed frequently. Bake these exercises into regular operations.
Evidence is generally more convincing when you want to change or influence ingrained thinking. Regular research and Voice of the Customer programmes can help colleagues across organisations understand what is happening to the customer in real time and decide how to positively respond. You can try tools like Qualtrics.
The last piece of advice – keep it simple
Ethology helps organisations across the world to identify improvements and invent entirely new customer journeys and services. Over the years we’ve learned that most organisations find wholesale change undesirable and, in many cases, almost impossible. What is true of almost all of them is that the most effective change comes from breaking down complex programmes and tasks into manageable chunks, prioritising and supporting smaller teams and working groups to create change over time. Transforming ways of working, behaviours and most importantly, the experience of the customer happens over time, it does not need to be a huge reveal.
Oh – and if you spot a beleaguered CX colleague running from pillar to post, buy them a coffee. They probably need it.
We help brands across the globe improve their customer experience. Get in touch to speak to one of our consultants.