I am often asked ‘what are the key aspects of a successful CE program’? Despite writing four books  on Customer Experience I don’t believe I have the monopoly on good ideas and therefore at Beyond Philosophy we work on the basis that ‘none of us are as clever as all of us’. So, who better to ask than my fellow Customer Experience Professionals? I posed the following question on the ‘Customer Experience Management Group’ on Linked In and 38 people responded. My thanks to them, I acknowledge their names below. The question was:

“What are the three most important aspects of a successful Customer Experience program?

As so much good information came out I decided to collate the comments and used them as ‘votes’ to see what came out top. Listed below, then, are the top five key aspects of a successful Customer Experience program according to the combined wisdom of 38 Customer Experience professionals. I have put them in what I see as a logical order.

Define the strategy
Where are you going? How are you going to get there? What is the vision ? Without a clear defining strategy you’ll end up in the wrong place therefore establishing this and getting everyone to agree is vital.

Leadership engagement
I have written on this subject on many occasions. Without senior managers true support a Customer Experience Program will not work. The problem with Customer Experience is that most people think they know what it is and what it will take to implement. They don’t. If they did we wouldn’t have to endure the types of experiences we do today.

To get true leadership engagement the first step is finding out what their level of knowledge is on Customer Experience. Don’t assume they know everything, even if they tell you they do! During our Naive to Natural® work, on Customer centricity we test people’s knowledge about what needs to change. You would be surprised at some of the results!

I remember a bank stating their vision was to provide the ‘best Customer Experience in the banking industry’. When we undertook a Naive to Natural® Customer Centricity assessment we discovered they weren’t going to achieve this and that it was the senior managements’ lack of understanding of what they needed to do that was holding them back. To overcome this we put a program of education in for them which included taking them on a Study Tour, to some great Customer Experience organizations like Disney, Mandarin Oriental Hotels, Ritz Carlton, etc. to show them what this really meant.

It is important your senior executives understand what improving the Customer Experience really means and what commitment is needed to make this successful. If they do not buy into this and your job is to implement it, I would suggest you move jobs. You won’t be successful.

Employee engagement
It is not the senior managers task to deliver the Customer Experience, it is the employees. Therefore employee engagement is key. Over the ten years since I founded Beyond Philosophy we have seen many good implementations but also some bad ones. The bad ones are mainly because senior execs think that by just decreeing they wish to improve the Customer Experience and customer retention that somehow it will magically happen. It won’t. Employees are not stupid otherwise you wouldn’t have employed them. They watch management’s actions not their words.
It is vital you involve employees in the change, which is why it is one of the many methods we use when we are redesigning a Customer Experience.. The wealth of knowledge they have is amazing. We involve them in outlining the issues and coming up with ideas of how to improve the experience. Employees get really excited when they see that the organization wants to listen to them and their ideas are being treated seriously. As we build these experiences employees will constantly visit us to see how ‘their idea’ is doing and if it will it be part of the redesign. Employee engagement is key.

Once you have established the strategy, gained leadership support and employee engagement you need to measure the hell out of it! In our experience it is important to tie the measures to people’s pay and bonuses.

Customer feedback
Customer feedback is clearly vital to any Customer Experience program. At the beginning of the program it can be used to make the case for change. It can be used to engage employees in the change. There is, though, one downside. All too often I see many organization undertake Customer feedback that no-one pays any attention too. Additionally, many organizations are investing in real-time Customer feedback systems as well. I think these are great, however, getting real-time information that you do nothing about is about as much use as a chocolate kettle. Too many organizations think that by putting in a new system this will solve the issue. It won’t. Before putting in place some elaborate system you need to go through the previous steps, otherwise it will be a waste of time.

One that didn’t make the top five – ROI & Business cases
One notable surprise for me that didn’t make the top five that I think should have is ROI. I would argue this is ultimately the reason for any change in business. I would also argue it’s a key way of engaging senior executives to prove the ‘value’ ($$$) the organisation will get. Certainly when we do our analysis and scientifically prove what is driving and destroying value, and by how much, this rapidly gains the Senior Executives attention and commitment!

This is the wisdom of crowds. These are the top five key aspects to focus on when building a successful program. I would commend these to you and ensure you build them into your activity to ensure your success. Thanks again to those who contributed to the debate on Linked In.

Roll call of those people who contributed to the question in Linked In. Many thanks!

Colin Shaw, 5 key aspects of a successful Customer Experience program

Colin Shaw is founder & CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s first organizations devoted to customer experience. Colin is an international author of four best-selling books. Beyond Philosophy provide consulting, specialised research & training from offices in Atlanta, Georgia and London, England.

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