“Love is like a rubber ball. You can drop it a few times before it loses its bounce. Trust, on the other hand, is like a glass ball…” – Anon
Engaging your customers with CX-iness depends on how well you orchestrate the implementation of your Customer Experience Strategy and influence Adoption and Accountability throughout your organisation. Your brand experience will radiate desirability and it will show in your outcome metrics.
Nothing in your business should happen by accident – especially in how customers experience doing business with you. Yet, most businesses expect experiences to just happen, without defining where customers are coming from, what they do when they’re with you and where they go after they leave.
Complexity is a natural consequence of growth and, as businesses grow, fully functional touchpoints require coordinating many parts of the organisation. Everyone needs to know the part they play and the ripple effects of their actions. It’s like having too many responsibilities and obligations in your relationships. Who owns them all? Who is accountable for things running smoothly?
Sometimes we think it’s obvious, but it really isn’t. We have to decide what’s important and what we compromise on. The trouble with deciding is we need to predict outcomes, and “prediction is really hard – especially about the future” (attributed to Niels Bohr, the Nobel laureate in Physics).
Many organisations find it easier to focus on the predictability of viable and feasible product design and its timely delivery as a measure of performance – hoping this translates into success. As in our personal relationships, people are shocked and surprised when, despite being honest and reliable, their partner is not predictably happy and feels their needs aren’t being met.
Is this because people are unreasonable and unpredictable, or is it because their needs are mutually incompatible? Have we been paying attention?
Your customers typically predict they’re going to be happy when reaching out to you for help. However, when they encounter mismatches while trying to evaluate, get and use your products, their experience gets bumpy and frustrating. That’s hardly desirable or sustainable. Using customer insights from your VoC program to map customers’ experience, helps you see where to prioritise and focus on improvements and innovation efforts.
Healthy relationships are based on caring enough. If you care too little, you will create disappointment and anger. Care too much and you’ll become intrusive and annoying, maybe even creepy.
For example, just because you track my predictable weekly shopping habits at your supermarket, doesn’t imply that I want your emails offering alternative choices to my usual purchases, half-an-hour before I go shopping.
If you care enough, then you’ll start paying attention to what people actually want. If what they want is not what you want to do, then find a different audience or do something else. Everyone will be happier. Paying attention leads to anticipation. Anticipation leads to aligned behaviours. At scale, you can’t do this without some automation, augmented intelligence or machine learning, combined with test and learn processes baked into your operation.
You also can’t do it without accountability. Trust is the art of accountability. Accountability is the art of caring.
Accountability isn’t about who takes the glory or who gets the blame; it’s about who should and does care enough. So, what’s the difference between start-up business relationships and established organisations with a bit of history?
CX-iness is for everyone, young and old
In his book, “The Lean Start-up”, author Eric Ries describes a lean start-up as “a human institution designed to create new products and services under conditions of extreme uncertainty.”
Start-ups exist to find out how to build a sustainable business. Success is really hard to predict. Eric suggests a learning phase, where assumptions are validated scientifically by running frequent experiments. This means cultivating a culture of prototyping, testing and customer-centricity – and the learning never stops. It’d like rehearing your dance moves before embarrassing yourself on the dancefloor.
This also happens in long-term personal relationships. When the learning stops, we live with a status quo – or limbo. The relationship is then only as good as the other person’s degree of comfort. In his book “Satan: His Psychotherapy and Cure by the Unfortunate Dr. Kassler, J.S.P.S.”, Jeremy Leven dedicates his book to “…all those people who can’t choose their own suffering, and their hope”.
Tempting as it is, we must try not to confuse hope with prediction. In limbo, business leaders, employees and customers all hope things will work out, but suffer anyway. You can and do choose what you put up with.
The thing with human nature and hope is, many people with great ideas are over-confident and bypass or simply underestimate the need for ongoing learning. In start-ups, there’s also an urgency to start building something and get it out there. Start-up teams often try and short-circuit the process and burn up resources without moving forward.
In established businesses, the opposite can happen. Just like in long-term and over-familiar relationships, complacency sets in and the ‘way things are done around here’ isn’t questioned and taken for granted. So often organisations discover their well-trodden paths longer works when it’s too late.
The key difference with a start-up is that, unlike larger established enterprises, they must tightly manage wasted effort and ‘frivolous pursuits’. That’s where the Lean part of Lean CX and Agile comes in. Because start-ups are so constrained, the team must be efficient, collaborative and innovative. Many established businesses are finding that the 2020 pandemic has put them back in the start-up phase.
Start-up leaders should foster high-performing team behaviour where cross-functional and multidisciplinary specialists collaborate around a shared vision – just like any good relationship or well-choreographed dance. Typically, start-ups are in danger when C-suite and managerial problem-blindness and over-confidence is at odds with feedback from customers and customer-facing employees.
On the other hand, established enterprises can have a conflict between their strategic goals and their delivery teams’ ways of working. In these businesses, the customer doesn’t have a voice or a seat at the decision-making table. However, the customer eventually pays for any mistakes the business makes. Every day, organisations waste a fortune on rushing to solutions without CX, UX, SD or Agile to validate the thinking upfront and customers bear the brunt.
These sorts of problems aren’t CX-y and become just part of the way things get done – a.k.a. organisation culture. The pressure to deliver can squash the ‘care factor’. Many established enterprises have strategic goals that aren’t customer-centric, which can also be disconnected from understanding or caring about how we go about influencing customer experiences in ethical ways.
Established organisations generally don’t pivot quickly and have long decision making cycles, which are too long for CX-y feedback loops. For CX-iness to work, we need to be timely and responsive, but also take time and care to design and set up experiences properly. You can’t put upset, disappointed and angry people on hold – and that means a lot of opportunities get missed. CX-y design, implementation and governance can embed timely and relevant caring into your business and satisfy your customers.
So, who’s paying for all of this?
Ultimately, the customer pays for everything. I once heard a PhD in Accountancy say that “accountancy is simply the practice of ensuring the incomings are greater than the outgoings”. If only it were so simple, but we need to treat our customers like our salaries depend on it.
The purpose of enterprise-level financial governance is to tightly manage the cost of doing business, so EBITA and Return on Capital is as high as possible within a given timeframe. Established enterprises usually have more financial muscle to flex, which leads to concurrent initiatives with multiple teams working on multiple things. That means multiple project owners compete for funding to advance their particular project. This leads to focussing on how efficiently a project was delivered in the short-term over how much of an impact the project made on the customer’s experience in the long-term.
The biggest challenge to enterprise CX-iness is having the discipline and governance to say no to projects that don’t align with the CX vision and to limit the work in progress at manageable levels (a.k.a. prioritisation). Trying to do too much will have a negative impact on team morale and product quality. All too often, delivering a project is just ‘ticking the box’, rather than solving a business or customer problem. In the past, I’ve seen managers confuse their personal ambitions with the organisation’s purpose.
In business today, enterprises are challenged to change the way they fund and manage teams working in CX/Agile environments – this means deliberately defining CX-y ways of working and the governance that informs and guides the decision-making.
Read the first part of the article here.