The good news is that you’ve embarked on a customer experience transformation journey. The bad news is that you don’t think your organization has evolved as much as you’d hoped it would by now. Perhaps you started to see progress, but it suddenly seems like forward movement has stalled.
You’re not alone. A lot of companies are, or claim to be, working to improve the customer experience with little or no visible evidence. Customers are still complaining about being treated poorly.
What’s going on? Many of the reasons why customer experience transformation efforts stall or slow can be attributed to company leadership. Here are six of those reasons:
1. The focus is misplaced or mistaken.
You know the old acquisition versus retention debate. Acquiring customers can be so much easier than retaining; retention is hard work, and it’s a huge part of what the customer experience transformation is all about. Focusing on acquisition can yield a much faster return on investment, especially when companies are driven by growth metrics. Because retention — and hence customer experience transformation — work is slow and difficult, people get bored and tend to fall back into their old habits rather than relentlessly driving toward the ultimate goal. It’s important to recognize that a customer experience transformation is all about baby steps. In order to keep people energized and focused, share quick wins, and celebrate successes as you progress.
2. There’s a revenue conundrum.
Related to the misplaced focus on acquisition is the message you receive from the CEO that starts with, «Revenue is down this quarter. We need all hands on deck focusing on drumming up new business.» Suddenly, all of your customer experience transformation resources are shifted to business development and sales efforts.
Interestingly enough, the first question the CEO should ask is: «Why are sales down?» Is it a quality or performance issue? Is it that you’re getting pushed out by your competition? Do you really understand what your customers’ needs are?
I’ve seen this scenario play out a few times, and each time, if they would’ve fixed what was ailing them, then sales numbers wouldn’t be down. Don’t take your eyes off the ball. Stay focused on the customer and the customer experience. Stay focused on the work that you’re doing to improve the experience. After all, a poor experience is likely why customers aren’t buying.
3. Actions speak louder than words.
In order to successfully transform your culture to be one that’s customer-focused, customer-centric and customer-obsessed, you must start with executive commitment. Without that commitment, you won’t get the resources — human, financial, capital or other — that you’ll need to implement real change.
But if you get a verbal commitment that’s not supported by actions (e.g., actually assigning the resources, modeling the behavior, walking the walk, etc.) or a commitment that had initial support (actions) that has since waned, you’ve got a problem. You’re now in a holding pattern until actions once again shore up the words.
4. It hasn’t been a companywide effort.
When you have executive support and commitment across the entire organization, the change efforts will have a much greater chance of taking hold and being successful. If you don’t have companywide support, or especially if the CEO isn’t on board, sure, you can start making changes within pockets of the organization, but you won’t get far. A true transformation must involve all departments; there can be no siloed efforts. Customers actually know when the focus is siloed.
5. Communications aren’t open and continuous.
I heard this great quote from leadership development expert Susan Scott the other day: «What gets talked about in an organization and how it gets talked about determines what’s going to happen or what isn’t going to happen.» This is so true. Communicating the vision, the how, the why, the what’s in it for me, etc. is so important when you’re going through this type of transformation. And the communication must be open and ongoing. Provide progress updates. Answer questions. Talk about and celebrate quick wins. Keep the conversation going. Things that leaders talk about are deemed important by employees; things that aren’t talked about, on the other hand, aren’t considered important.
6. A sense of urgency wasn’t established and maintained.
According to leadership expert John Kotter, the first step of any change initiative is to create a sense of urgency. Identify your burning platform: Is it customer churn, employee attrition, culture troubles, cost and process inefficiencies, impending financial doom or fending off unwanted suitors? They’re all bad. If you haven’t clearly communicated, and provided ongoing reminders, to your employees what the burning platform is and created that sense of urgency, they forget the why. Thoughts shift to, «Things aren’t so bad; why should we change?» or “It’s just business as usual; what’s the big deal?” And then you lose them; they’re no longer interested in partaking in the change initiative.
No one ever said that a customer experience transformation is easy. It’s a lot of work and requires a dedicated and relentless focus on making things better. If you’ve seen your progress slow, evaluate your efforts using the six items I’ve written about here.
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