Throughout Strativity’s 17+ years in CX consulting, we’ve developed fundamental principles and frameworks 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 fourth post in our ‘CX Consulting 101’ series, we look at the most important elements for bringing your customer experience strategy into the real world with successful employee activation.
If you’d like to start at the beginning, see part one of our lessons from CX consulting series on How to Align Your Organization to Activate Change.
When CX Design Meets Employee Activation
Execution is a critical stage in any customer experience project. Many organizations have conducted journey mapping and future state design workshops, they’ve developed a CX vision and mission and even launched VOC programs…, but the moment of truth is employee mobilization (or activation). This is the turning point that determines if your customer experience initiative will actually achieve measurable results.
At Strativity, we’ve discovered that in order to develop and execute an effective employee activation it’s crucial to approach things differently than a typical training program. Unlike training programs, the objective here is for employees to develop intrinsic motivation along with new skills to deliver exceptional customer experiences. They need to be inspired and empowered, not just informed, which requires activation of the hearts, heads, and hands of those involved.
Start with a Bang and Disrupt the Status Quo
Know that employees will be watching the magnitude of your activation program. If you deliver a low-key in-house training they’ll regard it accordingly and understand that this is mandatory, but not much more than that. You need to signal to your team that this initiative is a legitimate priority. Devise a big bang event with clear investment, and they’ll start believing you’re for real when you ask for change.
Think of it as a major multi-sensory engagement event and use as many tools as you can (from videos and music to games and role-playing) to create excitement and, quite frankly, a bit of a shock. You want employees to experience something they’ve never experienced before. This excitement will illustrate to your employees that your company is in fact changing. Even more, you’ll make it a program they want to attend, rather than have to.
For example, with one automotive client, we challenged each dealership to create the “ultimate day” for their customers and employees (all on the same day) to show appreciation and generate excitement. The dealerships had a lot of freedom to do whatever they felt would best embody the guiding principles we’d aligned on, and we captured and shared the various versions of the ultimate day to create a fun community experience across the network.
Empower Employees to be Amazing
In order to empower your employees to activate change they need to believe they’re being given new tools and real agency. Your employee activation program ought to include clear empowerment guidelines around tools and how to use them, beyond a vague pitch for customer passion.
Know that it’s natural for employees to be fearful of making mistakes by following through with change — the norm feels safer. So facilitate practice and share stories of employees who have leveraged the empowerment tools to deliver amazing experiences. Make employees believe these tools are meant to be used and establish these examples as the new standard for customer experience performance.
Remove the fear while growing their capabilities and confidence around your new model for exceptional CX. This may also include removing existing barriers to empowerment. With one client in the arts and entertainment industry, we walked through the main performance hall and corporate office with cash to reward employees for telling us “stupid processes” that hindered their ability to serve customers. We got a lot of great input and even ended up finding a process improvement that more than funded the whole initiative.
Prepare Your Managers to Lead
We often find that the weakest link in mobilizing around CX is not the employees so much as the managers. Many managers have been with an organization for a while and they develop a cynical approach to change. Additionally, many managers lack the skill set to truly engage employees. They’re managers of KPIs, not leaders of people.
Preparing your managers to lead and providing them with a tool kit to sustain your program is critical to the success of your CX initiative. In our own customer experience consulting, we provide programming specifically for managers so they’re able to lead by example, coach employees who struggle with the change, conduct team huddles, and reward employees who demonstrate commitment to the CX program.
For many of our clients, we find that providing a basic process, template, and starter content for things like daily team huddles and monthly team action planning bridges the gap between positive intent and real, tactical action.
To some this may sound like a standard leadership skill set, but in our experience, this kind of education hasn’t been provided to the majority of the managers — even when many are actually seeking career development.
Deliver the Message with Surround Sound Communications
Inspiring employees to deliver exceptional customer experiences isn’t a one-time event. In fact, following an exciting employee activation session, some employees will expect your CX program to die on the vine. We all know that they’ve been through many program du jour campaigns and they’ll anticipate your organization’s commitment will wither as it finds the next shiny toy. Prove them wrong.
From day one, design your customer experience program with 12-24 months of surround sound activities. Envelope employees with frequent communication, ideas for execution, examples of early success, and recognition of employees who made it happen. Communicate across all available channels from internal portals to your company LinkedIn and physical walls in the office. Immerse your employees in an environment where the message is clear: “Customer experience is not going away — join the movement!”.
One of the most powerful tactics in this area is simply taking a programmatic approach to collecting, selecting, and celebrating stories of your CX strategy being executed in practice. It creates strong social proof that things are changing, and it gives you something to highlight on a regular basis even after the initial “big bang” has passed.
It’s going to take repetition for your employees to believe that you mean business when you talk CX. Be ready to deliver a complete communication campaign that will remove any doubt about how serious you are.
Customer Experience is About the People Who Create It
Remember that CX strategies aren’t executed from the top. They’re executed by the thousands of employees who decide every day to deliver exceptional performances at what they do.
Prioritize your activation with an unwavering program that captures the heart and commitment of employees, prepares managers for a new level of leadership, and builds confidence around executing your new customer experience.
With our next post in this lessons from CX consulting series, we’ll delve into key elements for reinforcing and accelerating your customer experience transformation.
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