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PHOTO: Mike Szczepanski

On the quest to become a more customer-centric organization, companies sometimes fail to take a holistic view of all of the elements necessary to successfully make the change. For some organizations, this switch will require a wide-scale rethinking of all business processes, operations and more. For others, the changes may be less dramatic, but still require a concerted effort in three, broad areas: culture, operations and technology.

In this, the second in a three-part series, we'll look at some of the operational changes involved in becoming a customer-centric organization and challenges that often arise.

The Strong Link Between Cultural and Operational Change

“As seen with almost every company, what is lacking culturally blends right into what the company isn’t doing on the operations side,” said Todd Wright, SAS head of customer experience and data privacy solutions. “Operational change can only occur if company’s operations fully integrate customer experience and business processes aren’t in a silo. Customer experience operational challenges often are a result of an inability to blend all the organizational silos that might be present.”

For example, an organization might not be able to foster collaboration across the many areas that “own” a piece of the customer journey, Wright explained. At a functional or department level, a group might perform analytics without considering the complete customer perspective across all the other areas (e.g., digital looks at customers within their channels and the call center may not care as much about digital activity.) The analytics must look at customer behavior across the board — and conflicting objectives, processes and campaigns must be unified.

To succeed, organizations should ensure business processes are cross-functional and objectives across departments do not conflict, Wright said. As with cultural change, operational change requires customer experience governance — a few individuals charged with mapping the customer journey. This CX mapping includes determining who should be at the table in each individual journey, how and when to engage customers, and securing the proper system to make the plans feasible.  

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

Operational Success Requires Realignment Across Functions

Operational challenges to customer experience transformation and even improvements fall into two categories: Politics and processes, according to Mike Rowland, West Monroe Partners customer experience director.

Politics challenge the organization to collaborate, share ideas and budgets to align around the customer, Rowland explained, adding that these issues should be addressed early in the process. “Silos, inflexible operating models, and leaders who value their span of control over the organization’s success are the impediments to successful CX improvement. To begin solving the politics challenge, it is important to be as inclusive as possible to start your journey. Cross functional teams comprised of both advocates and skeptics need to be involved in crafting the path forward for the organization.”

Such teams provide checks and balances to help to define what is realistic for the organization, while also helping prevent a corporate “whack-a-mole” situation, where you improve an issue in one area, only to cause a problem elsewhere.

“Cross-functional alignment means identifying key metrics and goals that are applicable to the entire company, not just certain departments,” added Amanda Schmidt, UJET vice president of customer success. “It’s also essential to look at the overall customer journey not just from the customer perspective, but from an operational perspective as well. Where do certain teams fit into that journey and how can you align roles and departments in order to enhance and build around the customer journey and experience. Finally, it is important to understand that realigning a company around customer experience is not something that is going to happen over night.”

Processes develop over time and seemingly are never revisited, according to Rowland. In order to understand the impact of processes on customers and the experience in working with a company, journey maps can be used as a tool to evaluate the impact of existing processes on either delivering good experiences or putting customers through a friction-filled experience for no good reason. The best journey maps are developed by cross-functional teams who can bring perspectives into their creation.

Related Article: Stop Operating in the Dark: Remove Departmental Blinders for Better CX

Change Starts With Leadership

The operational changes are harder to embrace when the leadership is not working to enhance and align the culture, according to Kurt Schroeder, Avtex chief experience officer. He outlined a handful of operational challenges that need to be undertaken when realigning an organization for customer experience:

  • Funding decisions on projects or other investments should take into consideration the effect it will have on the customer experience. ROI should include CX improvement for cost justification.
  • A defined set of CX standards that apply across the organization should be instituted and followed.
  • A CX project portfolio should be managed and funded like any other project portfolio.
  • If the organization has a project management office (PMO), the PMO should be equipped and trained on how to manage CX analysis, design and improvement projects.
  • A defined and standard CX methodology for analysis, innovation and design should be adopted.

The next and final post in this series will look at some of the technical changes involved in realigning around customer experience and how to overcome some of the related challenges.