Throughout Strativity’s 17+ years in CX consulting, we’ve developed fundamental principles to help our clients avoid roadblocks and accelerate success with their customer experience initiatives — and now we’re sharing what we’ve learned with CX leaders like you.
With this first post in our “CX Consulting 101” series, we look at how to gain power from the past, intercept cynical voices, and build organizational alignment to kick off your customer experience transformation the right way.
The Why: How CX supports your larger business strategy
There is always good reason to improve your customer experience, and I don’t just say that as a CX consultant. Even so, without contextualizing CX within your organization’s overall business strategy you won’t have the full support you need to get from point A to point Z.
Customer experience initiatives involve multiple areas of a company and require a good bit of organizational change in order to deliver results. That means CX needs to stand for something beyond itself. Whether that’s something business-focused (like customer retention or wallet share) or mission-focused (like medical treatment efficacy or lives impacted by charity work) make sure you’re communicating how customer experience fits into your business strategy. Do this, and the necessary cross-functional collaboration and active support will be much easier to achieve.
Understand your organization’s past to build a bridge to the future
In customer experience consulting, it’s pretty standard for us to spend some time immersing ourselves in a client’s business before going full steam ahead on a program. We often find that internal teams overestimate their institutional knowledge and end up overlooking things as a result. It’s critical to understand not only your industry and organization at a general level, but also the specific perceptions, key initiatives, and past experiences of your stakeholders.
For each of the functional areas involved in your initiative, sit down with the key team members to understand what they’ve been working on and what they have planned. See what’s worked well for them in the past, what they hold sacred, and what’s fallen flat. This early step will allow you to do a few important things; you’ll reduce resistance by making people feel heard, gather valuable past work that will accelerate your success, and avoid even the perception of redundancy. You’ll also position yourself to build a clear bridge from the past to the future by referencing and building upon the key initiatives and outputs that have come before.
Identify barriers to CX success (which are probably human)
As you’re talking with stakeholders and reviewing past work, listen for barriers to success for your own initiative. The stories of past failures and successes will tell you a lot about what you’re likely to encounter. These stories will also start to uncover more insidious barriers to change – your organization’s “cynical voices.” These are not cynical people per se, but the widespread beliefs, often expressed under our breath or in the “meeting after the meeting,” that convince us something will fail.
It might be a team equating CX with another major initiative that failed. (“Oh man, this sounds like HR transformation all over again.”) It might be a belief that nothing more needs to be done. (“We’re bending over backwards for customers already!”.) Or it could be an expression of strategy fatigue. (“This is our third corporate strategy in two years. I’ll just wait it out.”)
Whatever form it takes, cynicism will kill your customer experience strategy. By actively listening for cynical voices and other potential barriers to success, you can begin to target them early and continue to tackle them at every turn — especially as you begin engaging employees more broadly across the organization.
Align your organization to actively support the journey ahead
Listening and understanding is important, but it’s not enough. As customer experience consultants, we almost always recommend – and usually deliver – a dedicated management team alignment meeting to officially kick things off. Even if people nod their heads and agree to support CX individually, bring them together to affirm their commitment.
You can use this session to:
- Establish a baseline understanding and common language around CX (which often means different things to different people)
- Acknowledge the past and demonstrate that you appreciate the context in which you’re operating
- Make sure all the key players understand what the path forward looks like and what’s expected from them at each step
We also encourage you to wrap up your team alignment meeting with a formal confirmation of support. Whether you do this like a flight attendant confirming you’ll fulfill the duties of the exit row or ask people to sign a written pledge, it’s a nice punctuation mark for the occasion.
Bring your customer experience goals to life
What happens if you skip these critical first steps? Your customer experience transformation may get stopped in its tracks before it even gets started or fall flat in execution from of a lack of buy-in. Even the best CX strategy development or customer journey mapping can’t overcome a lack of organizational alignment and shared vision for the future.
So start your CX strategy three steps ahead with a solid understanding of the past, a keen eye for barriers, and an explicitly aligned management team. You’ll be glad you did.
With our next post in this lessons from CX consulting series, we’ll dig into best practices for understanding the customer experience you have today.
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