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Now over 20 years old, the Agile Manifesto outlined four principles for software development: individuals and interactions over process and tools; working software over documentation; customer collaboration over contract negotiation; and responding to change over following a plan. These ideas still apply to every aspect of life, business and customer experience (CX), according to Jeb Dasteel, founder of Dasteel Consulting.

"Too often we see companies present a CX strategy that describes desired behaviors to become more customer-centric. That’s not enough," said Dasteel. Companies instead need to focus on the agile capabilities to foster those behaviors:

  • Relationships over interactions: The right customer strategy needs the right account management and executive sponsorship approaches, measurements and tools to guide the organization to form partnerships with customers. The challenge is to achieve a balance between interactions and collaboration — and define what mutual success looks like.
  • Results over process: Mutual success means an investment in your customers’ business outcomes that will enrich your own business. CX teams are often so entrenched in process mapping and improvement that we lose sight of the goal that buyers and sellers must share: measurable outcomes.
  • Engagement over deals: There’s nothing wrong with deals or transactions. They equate to revenue, and that is the lifeblood of every business. Our challenge is again one of striking a balance — between keeping the blood flowing and establishing capabilities and benchmarks for customer engagement across every segment of our business.
  • Flexibility over policy: This is the balance between protecting the business from risk and having cooperative, problem-solving techniques at your disposal. It comes down to ease of doing business and eliminating the friction that customers feel (and react harshly to) when working with us becomes a barrier.

“We have to consider how to apply these principles — and build the right capabilities for sustained customer acquisition, retention, product adoption, value realization and brand advocacy,” Dasteel said.

Ability to Provide Timely, Effective Responses

"Timely and effective responsiveness is the way we understand agile CX in our company," said Stephan Baldwin, founder of Assisted Living Center. "It entails listening intently to the customer to fully understand his or her issue. Then, applying solutions to the customer's perceived concerns in a heart-centered or empathetic way. It goes beyond listening only for certain keywords and following a script in response to these keywords. However, it isn't enough to simply provide solutions. The solutions need to be provided in a timely manner. The time also for the customer to reach an agent needs to be the minimum possible time that is acceptable to the customer."

So agile CX encompasses timeliness and effectiveness of responses to customer concerns coupled with cutting edge technology, according to Baldwin. “Technology that supports these parameters needs to be in place. In today's hybrid workforce environment, this requires cloud-based solutions, not just on-premises ones, to support work-from-home agents to deliver exceptional CX.”

Related Article: Variety Is the Spice of Agility

Ability to Understand and React to Quick Changes

Agile CX teams should be comprised of individuals who understand that CX processes are fluid and change quickly, said Jonathan Moran, product marketing manager for SAS Customer Intelligence. They should have a “fail fast” and often mentality, knowing that as they fail, opportunities for improvement arise. They should understand that warning signs for needed CX change lie in the data. Embracing planning is key, and individuals should know that planning out and understanding CX processes will allow them to address pain points in the journey.

“The size and scope of the CX team, as well as its organizational makeup, varies broadly based on industry, size of company and type of customer being served,” Moran added. “The best agile CX teams understand working closely with digital experience, digital intelligence and analytics, business process optimization and data management teams. They take input from sales, service, support, marketing, product development and design teams as well.”

Other key elements for agile CX teams should have very strong data literacy and analytical skills, Moran said. “They should have knowledge of their industry but also be able to transplant best practices from other industries and business models into their work.”

In creating an agile CX team, Baldwin recommended consider the following:

  • Carefully screen and hire the right candidates. Determine their ability to be empathetic, to listen, and to be quick on their feet in offering service-centered solutions.
  • Provide regular training and some level of mentorship to your CX team to update their knowledge of the tools they use and in delivering exceptional customer experience.
  • Know your agents well. Meet with them regularly to determine their needs, strengths, and in which capacity they are most fulfilled and effective. Is it in email? Live chat? Maybe through phone calls? Listen to their observations, feedback and experiences with customers.
  • Empower your CX team to make decisions in accordance with company values regarding customer satisfaction. Provide them with the tools necessary for them to be able to do so.

Related Article: How to Structure Your Digital Team: 16 Critical Roles