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Digital transformation has been a primary focus of companies for a few years now. By shifting to digital processes, companies can do more with less — automating many processes, and providing automated outreaches and personalization to customers and enabling them to service themselves for many issues.

But is transformation all that it's cracked up to be? Kevin Oakes, founder of the Institute for Corporate Productivity, argues in his new book "Culture Renovation, 18 Leadership Actions to Build an Unshakeable Company," that companies benefit when they retire the transformation language and adopt one of renovation: identifying what works, jettisoning what doesn't and continually maintaining to ensure success. And while Oakes was looking at the internal culture, we wanted to see if we could apply the same outlook to the customer experience (CX) world. Consultants agreed, and shared some ideas on what renovation would look like in CX.

CX Change Takes Time, Consideration and Consistency

"Transformations sound sexy," said Ali Cudby, adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at Purdue University and managing director of Alignmint Growth Strategies. "Companies love transformational processes and transformational results. However, when organizations engage in change management activities, transformation is overwhelming."

Too much change at once makes it hard for employees to successfully implement, Cudby explained. If employees can’t keep up with new procedures, the customer experience will likely become inconsistent as a result. In the world of CX, inconsistency leads to messiness, which can in turn cause customers to lose trust, which is never a good outcome.

“Rather than focusing on transformation, try an agile approach,” Cudby said. “Using agile techniques is more likely to produce consistent, long-lasting change that allows employees to feel successful and customers to feel valued.”

Start with a cross-functional team representing different departments, then determine the outcome the company wants. From there, design a series of steps to hit your goal, Cudby explained.  “After each step, evaluate the success of what you’ve accomplished, share any new information that’s been unearthed, such as hidden loyalty blockers or inconsistencies between departments. Any time you identify blockers or inconsistencies across groups the team will need to figure out how they’ll be resolved.”

Cudby added: "The ultimate goal of your CX audit is to give every person who engages with your company — employee, customer or vendor — a way to be seamlessly successful in your new environment. Change management needs the time and consideration of renovation, not the bulldozer of transformation."

Related Article: Goodbye Digital Transformation, Hello Cathedral Thinking

Focus on the North Star

“Executives remain wary of starting a full CX transformation, but they want their existing programs to flex into the new environment they find themselves operating in today and they want that flex to happen quickly,” said Mike Rowland, a director in the cx practice of West Monroe.

The consulting firm helps clients define their North Star. Yet too often it finds CX teams move past their North Star definition, ignoring it as they make incremental fixes to customer touch points. Rowland said. “This is a mistake — without vision alignment, results do not create the projected value. From there, an audit of existing initiatives and processes is completed to understand whether the estimated value to the customer and the organization remains or if it has shifted. This leads to a reprioritization of CX work.”

For example, a large quick service restaurant had allowed its customer support to drift from the company’s customer-first vision, Rowland said. While the company was undertaking a large digital transformation, it needed to reevaluate its customer support area. Executives did not want a separate transformation project, instead they required the change to be part of the existing program.

But the inefficiencies and poor NPS scores were due to processes that had been added over time that were costing millions of dollars in added inefficiencies, impacting both customers and employees, according to Rowland. "Customer support was realigned to the company’s CX vision through a series of detailed journey maps and focus groups. The implemented plan has built a nimbler team to solve its customers’ issues using a more customer-centric process reducing inefficiencies and unlocking millions of dollars in savings."

Related Article: Everyday Innovation: Small Steps to Big Progress

Renovation First

Every transformation has to begin with a CX renovation — or even a CX rebuild, according to Jeb Dasteel, founder of Dasteel Consulting. “There is little point in implementing a digital transformation, for example, without addressing your customer strategy. You can certainly gain efficiencies by transforming how you work, where you work, how you measure your effectiveness and even your product and services portfolio. But what is the point in doing that if each aspect isn’t rooted in how and where you interact with your customers, how customers measure you, and how your customers utilize your products and services to create business outcomes.”

Dastell recommended starting with an audit of CX practices by interviewing customers and employees to determine:

  • How well your goals align with your customers.
  • How connected you are with your customers.
  • How well you glean knowledge from the customer data you collect.
  • How productive your customer relationships are.
  • How well you demonstrate leadership for and with your customer.

“Well-constructed dialog with customers and employees will always yield actionable insights to improve your tactics and strategy,” Dasteel said.