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PHOTO: Joel Mott | unsplash

“If you want to truly understand something, try to change it.” ― Kurt Lewin

A decade ago, I worked with the CEO of a large telecommunications company. He was a strong proponent of converging the company’s multiple business lines into a single, common “face to the customer.” He advocated for leveraging the relationships held within each of the business lines to become the sole communications and in-home entertainment provider for many of the organization’s customers. He wanted to jumpstart loyalty and increase efficiency by providing seamless service and billing across all products, improve profitability by increasing share of wallet, and embrace customer experience as a number one priority.

Although most business unit leaders acknowledged his goals and the occasional initiative such as cross-product bundling was introduced, they mainly continued to run their individual units as they always had — independently.

The mandate for CX was certainly there, as was the money. However, these were not enough to translate the owner’s vision into a reality. And if you consider what a key measure of loyalty and CX, the Net Promoter Score (NPS), looks like today — cell phone service (34), cable and satellite service (-2), internet service (-3) — it becomes clear not much has changed in the ensuing 10 years.

The problem isn't just in telecommunications. The 2021 NPS benchmarks show only one industry tops the 50 or higher mark (department and specialty stores). Most are in the 40s and 30s. And these scores are actually declining over time. Something more is needed.   

Planning for the Critical Customer Experience Success Factors

The factors that can impact the success of a CX initiative typically center around cooperation, integration and overall cross-functional enterprise planning and support. Customer experience is a true team sport that sometimes looks more like an enterprise philosophy than a project or initiative. Reaching the finish line requires both an understanding of the critical success factors and enough innovation to facilitate the significant changes that these success factors are sure to necessitate.

Implementing a Coordinated, Cross-Functional, Customer-Focused Business Strategy

Customers do not care about business unit strategies and goals. Because the customer journey always bounces back and forth across the organization, CX requires companies to implement business strategies that promote customer focus across functional boundaries. To be effective, these strategies must be accepted throughout the organization. As is evident with the telecommunications company mentioned earlier, a company can have an enterprise goal to become more customer-focused or to increase satisfaction, however if the underlying strategies that force cooperation and coordination are missing, the likelihood of moving beyond product focus is low.

Some examples of cross-functional strategies include central marketing campaign coordination, such as next best offer that incorporate lead lists from multiple marketing areas, collection policies tailored to customer behavior and value rather than by individual product, and customer contact policies that specify contact frequency and priority across various types of contacts (e.g., sales, complaint, service, marketing, etc.).

Most companies will have to assess current conditions and implement change plans for these strategies to work. Things to look out for in the planning process include organization structures that discourage cross-functional cooperation, departmental goals that conflict with each other or with the customer focus, technology that inhibits the strategy, and business unit resources who do not fully understand their role in the big picture strategy.

Related Article: To Achieve True Customer Centricity, You Need a Cross-Functional Dream Team

Establishing a CX-Savvy Organization Culture

Culture, while intangible, can hinder the move to CX, particularly if the company has experienced a history of failures at implementing major changes, high employee dissatisfaction and turnover, or failed attempts at developing complex technology applications. A poor relationship between the IT department and the business community can also exponentially impact CX because of the strong need for integrated systems and data to support the effort.

Two aspects of culture can significantly affect the outcome of CX initiatives. The first is the ability to effect major change and the second is the degree to which the business units work together, compromise and facilitate shared strategies. These qualities are difficult to measure. Managing them requires the organization to honestly assess its weaknesses and develop a proactive plan to turn these weaknesses into strengths.

Some questions to ask while conducting the assessment include the following:

  • Does each business area have a positive view of other area contributions to the organization?
  • Do any current processes require cooperation or collaboration between business areas?
  • Do the business areas compete for customers, profits or activities?
  • Is sharing of information or resources done with any regularity?
  • Are the sponsors of the CX initiative able to influence peers, executives and employees?
  • Are there CX champions at various levels in the organization?

Related Article: The 3 Pieces of Customer Experience Transformation: Cultural Change

Implementing an Integrated, Data-Driven Martech or CX Stack

It goes without saying that CX initiatives must be driven by integrated technology and a comprehensive 360 customer view that is accessible in real time. Considering the 8000 vendor solutions in the last marketing technology landscape super graphic, this is not an insignificant factor.

The importance of this success factor gains even more clarity when considering what the CMO council found when they asked marketers about gaps in marketing leadership. The top four answers all centered around technology:

  • Modernization of marketing organization, systems and operation 42%
  • Proficient technically savvy managers in key digital roles 40%
  • Greater customer knowledge and market understanding 37%
  • Adaptive informed decision-making based on good data 34%

Qualities for Innovative CX Leaders

Leaders who can be innovative enough to overcome the challenges posed by the CX success factors share a clear set of qualities.

Transformative — Forging dramatic change. This ties directly to the requirement to develop and implement multichannel strategies and business processes. 

Cohesive — Well-integrated and unifying. Being cohesive is indispensable because leaders must foster cooperation and coordination across business units to implement the sweeping cultural change necessary for multichannel business strategies such as experience management. Forging solid partnerships with areas ranging from IT to HR will be imperative. 

Cogent — Telling a clear and compelling story. Data-driven CX leaders must be able to use customer insights and advanced analytic techniques to present a clear and compelling story to the rest of the organization, about market direction, about customer behavior and value, and about ROI on marketing and experience management activity. Spearheading development of an integrated CX or marketing technology is crucial.