You don’t need money to alter the way you treat customers or people.

If your hands are financially tied, you’re operating with limited budget or influence don’t be disheartened. There are ways to make an experience impact.

Background

A recent CX project posed a conundrum. One many experience professionals will have encountered.

A company I was advising enviably looked at leading organisations, famed for their customer first reputation. They wanted a piece of this. They aspired to be held in this light too.

They’re established and highly profitable. However, their success hadn’t been built through customer centricity.

They haemorrhaged customers but countered this by becoming acquisition experts.

Companywide CX adoption was voluntary. There was no official directorate from on high.

They’d frequently make changes to move the short-term profit needle, irrespective of customer fall out.

My dilemma was transforming a juggernaut of an organisation displaying a lukewarm reception to the notion of CX.

There’d be no overnight transformation. A measured and phased approach was needed.

Phase 1 – Data & Collaboration

This hadn’t been done before. It was entirely new territory. What to do?

  • Customer Support teams were a natural ally, a fountain of knowledge on customer issues and an obvious starting point for data collection and analysis.
  • I went onto launch a comprehensive Voice of the Customer programme. Within a few months I had in depth feedback. Consistent patterns were emerging. I didn’t spend any actual money. The investment was simply time. Admittedly a great deal of it.
  • A small supportive team of linguists kindly collaborated by picking up the phone to our global customer base. This brought people into contact with customers who’d never normally encounter them. It became infectious. More people wanted in when they heard colleagues sharing stories
  • Business Intelligence teams were my best friends. Their help in analysing data and behaviour was pivotal in proving the link between satisfaction and ROI. The project couldn’t have moved forward without this supporting evidence

Phase 2 – Relationship Building

I now knew what I wanted to do, and what needed to be done, but that was irrelevant.

The next part of the puzzle was primarily about relationships and trust.

  • The prospect of transformation was daunting for the majority
  • They were entrenched. The status quo was rarely challenged
  • The culture wasn’t set up for radical rapid change
  • It was going to take resilience and time
  • Listening was paramount, as was understanding organisational challenges and winning hearts and minds
  • Sharing and discussing customer insight at every opportunity was essential in influencing people, teams and the organisation

Phase 3 – Determining Priorities

I understood the obstacles and culture now.

My focus had to be on the achievable, even though that meant side lining some experience open goals.

Proving customer experience works by taking incremental steps was key to adoption.

I created a 7-step checklist, weighting each experience improvement based on:

  1. How disruptive would it be to the organisation?
  2. Would it require development?
  3. How much of a drain on resources would it be?
  4. How long would it take to implement?
  5. How long would it take to see the tangible impact?
  6. How significant was the financial impact if it was introduced or ignored?
  7. Would it benefit employee experiences too?

Phase 4 – Output

This weighting gave us focus on what we could address and implement with the minimum of fuss.

A newly formed prioritised experience backlog combined behind the scenes activities and customer facing work.

We initially focused on 10 areas, that represented the most prudent of starting points.

  1. Design sprints and other similar collaborative approaches were used to resolve the key sources of customer frustration
  2. UX tweaks were made to improve conversion rates at key customer journeys
  3. CS teams committed to reducing response and resolution times
  4. As an organisation we made ourselves more accessible to customers
  5. Unnecessary processes were simplified or where possible totally removed
  6. Employees were encouraged to become customers of the products and services they created
  7. Customers were thanked when they helped us, kept in the loop with new initiatives, and participated in post-implementation feedback
  8. We no longer made business changes that impacted customers until concepts were rigorously tested first
  9. Work became prioritised based on evidence, value to the customer and organisation
  10. We completely overhauled our customer communications by:
    • Speaking to customers in a human conversational way
    • Removing industry jargon from our digital comms
    • Dispensing with a stream of never-ending sales pitches
    • Moving to a mode of being outwardly supportive and helpful

Not everything worked perfectly first-time round, but customer effort had been reduced.

We didn’t have to wait too long before witnessing the positive impact from our endeavours.

I often refer back to this project, as a reference point. Asking myself:

Would a budget have helped?

In this instance no. A budget could’ve accelerated change the organisation simply wasn’t ready for.

Retrospectively would I have done things differently?

Absolutely, but I’m proud of what was accomplished. Whilst it was incredibly challenging, I would’ve learnt far less were it easier.

Would greater financial resources have ensured we were more efficient and effective?

Yes. We had to operate in a rudimentary manner, but we made it work.

Will a budget change any future approaches?

I doubt it. However, it would depend upon the organisational maturity and appetite.

Is the organisation now totally customer centric, as I’d like them to be, and as they aspired to be?

Definitely not. It’s just not their thing.

However, they continue to be successful and so many of their approaches are now rooted in an experience led more compassionate way of thinking.

Summing Up

Is this just another article about improving customer experience? Perhaps.

My primary challenge was building an understanding of what customer experience truly is. Overcoming resistance, silo mentalities and an appreciation for change is where the real effort lay.

This project highlighted the importance of not overcomplicating what needs to be done.

So, whilst a lack of budget initially appeared as a constraint, it transpired to be advantageous.

It got me thinking that CX can be overly engineered. Would you agree?

Make it easy for yourself and others.

You may not always get to implement cutting edge stuff, but the basics can often be amply sufficient.

Too many CX initiatives fail. Don’t become one of those statistics. Focus on what’s right for the situation you find yourself in.

Have you improved experiences when swimming against the organisational tide or with little to no budget?

Please comment or reach out if you’d like to exchange experience stories.

If I can assist you with your experience initiatives, don’t hesitate to contact me.

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