By Smija Simon, Citrin Cooperman
Many initial customer experience (CX) efforts are spent on creating a CX strategy, defining what customer journeys need to look like, and then orchestrating the business processes and systems to deliver on the vision. CX transformations take time, and the responsibility of the transformation often falls on the shoulders of the marketing or customer service teams. However, CX should not be seen as solely the duty of customer service and marketing teams. Creating a sustainably excellent customer experience requires cultural alignment throughout the organization and strategies for embedding CX into each aspect of an organization’s culture.
How We Define “Culture”
Organizational culture is a combination of values and behavior that influences how people interact, both internally within the company and externally with customers or stakeholders. There are many tangible and intangible drivers of culture. Examples include the tone of leadership that is set from the top, core values of a company, national culture, vision, company history, products/services, and even economic factors. Though culture may not be easy to quantify, when positive and enabling, it’s the “secret sauce” of a company’s potential.
Linking CX and Organization Culture
A customer experience transformation requires deliberate change management. Below are four, key aspects to consciously address as part of a CX transformation:
- Executive buy-in
- Enterprise-wide involvement
- Focus on a few critical behaviors at a time
- Technology enablement
Most research cites executive buy-in as the number one enabler and success factor in change management initiatives. However, what does this practically mean for an organization?
It is not enough to have the CX vision strategy endorsed by the executive team. Leadership also has to set expectations through goals, processes, and behaviors that will support the vision, and support those with actionable plans that will help the rest of the company adopt the new way of work. This could be something as simple as the executive team pulling together a group of individuals from across the company to be CX champions, formally giving the group the mandate of driving the CX goals throughout the organization, and periodically having feedback meetings with the group to measure progress against the plan.
The next important factor to consider is finding ways to get the majority of the company involved in the transformation. If an initiative is seen as the responsibility of a select group, then large parts of the organization will feel excluded. Those who aren’t aware of how they are required to contribute to the initiative’s success most likely won’t support the initiative, potentially leading to change resistance. Practical solutions to consider include company-wide communication of the CX vision and mission, soliciting ideas from all teams in the business (and also customers) to identify ways to improve the customer experience.
There are also indirect ways to involve the workforce. For example, let’s say as part of the CX goals, there is a desire to improve Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) scores by 3% in this financial year. After some analysis of factors that affect CSAT, it is apparent that employee engagement is a direct factor that affects CSAT – after all, if your employees are despondent, your service will suffer. Working with HR and/or performance coaches, a culture transformation plan with specific activities to improve engagement and embed the desired culture can be defined.
Focus on a Critical Few Behaviors at a Time
Every organization has a threshold for change fatigue; it is important to know what level of change a team can absorb and to prioritize changes accordingly. A 2013 survey conducted by the Katzenbach Center cites the number one barrier to sustainable change as “too many competing priorities, creating change fatigue.”
Let’s assume that as part of the target state of CX excellence, you want everyone to display 8-10 behaviors that reinforce the desired customer experience. Rolling out all 10 behaviors at once would not only be near impossible to manage, it would also create confusion among employees as to what the priorities are. There is a higher chance of success if you identify 2-3 behaviors to work on at once.
Having the right tools to generate insights can often be a challenge. If your information systems are not orchestrated in the most convenient way to generate the insights that you are looking for, and the effort to track and measure CX is onerous, this can be a slippery slope to disengagement from the CX journey. Selecting and implementing the right systems and tools and incorporating BI and Analytics into your transformation is another important enabler of the requisite organizational culture to support CX.
Citrin Cooperman is among the leading, nationally-recognized full-service CPA and business advisory firms – currently ranked in the top 25 firms in the United States. It has worked with auto dealerships since 1979.
Smija Simon is manager of the strategy and business transformation practice at Citrin Cooperman. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.