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The Critical Importance of Governance to CX Success

This story was originally published on Nov. 20, 2018, and is brought to you today as part of our Best of ECT News series.

Today’s customer feedback world is extremely complex with data coming from a variety of sources. With the growing number of cross-functional teams and silos within an organization, leaders have been finding it increasingly difficult to capture the full 360-degree view of the customer to drive true change within an organization.

While it’s clear that problems exist, what’s less straightforward is why CX practitioners face these challenges and how governance can make a big difference.

Challenges and Outside Forces

Organizations tend to struggle with their CX programs for a few key reasons:

  • Lack of Structure: One big issue is not having clear ownership, roles and responsibilities to govern management of the customer insights that might be coming (or not coming) from an organization’s customers. This can make it difficult to drive actions throughout the company.
  • Lack of Support: Another challenge is around accountability and support. An extension of not having ownership, this lack of support can lead to an absence of metrics or leadership to back the key initiatives that have been identified by the insights an organization is getting.
  • Lack of Skillsets: There’s also a lack of proper methodologies, mechanisms and the skillsets needed to define and drive continuous improvements throughout the organization. Having a program or process in place is often the critical missing component to provide CX practitioners with the tools and skills needed to drive change, manage initiatives and drive influence.

The common thread here is that organizations have been struggling because they don’t have the right infrastructure and mechanisms in place. This means it is difficult manage and support any customer experience initiatives that they have implemented.

Lack of customer satisfaction often results from the breakdown of internal processes, creating disparate functional gaps across an organization. In today’s one-click society, organizations need to adapt. Added to these challenges are external forces that drive the need for structure and transformation even further. The following have become necessary within many organizations:

  1. Digital Customer Transparency: Customers expect a lot from most organizations. They want full transparency into products available and services on offer. They demand a range of customer support tools, like instant chatboxes and live customer support (vs. prerecorded messages or prompts). Customers expect organizations to know who they are, what they have bought, and how satisfied they are about a product or service. They do not expect to have to explain themselves.
  2. Single View of Customer: Organizations have been working to solve the puzzle of unstructured data by bringing together financial, operational and customer experience data to get a full view of the customer. For example, a customer may log onto a business’ website to ask for help but be unable to complete the request due to a technical issue. Wouldn’t it be great for a call center to contact a customer proactively to help them complete the request, rather than requiring the customer to follow up?
  3. AI/Predictive Analytics Models: This is a hot topic right now, spoken about at a lot of conferences, and it is a definite buzzword in the industry. Organizations have been exploring ways to integrate predictive analytics and AI into their customer experience. Keep in mind that AI isn’t perfect yet — it’s still growing and adjusting. Be patient and don’t rush into adopting AI just because you may feel pressured to keep up with the trends. Wait until you find the right fit, not just any fit. In most cases, AI will augment humans — it won’t replace them.

The Role of Governance

To meet these challenges, governance can support organizations as they adapt and change. “Governance” can be viewed as a dirty word, but it plays a critical and necessary function, in particular during times of flux — it can hold things together and create solidarity while the culture is changing.

It can be helpful when employees are trying to adopt more customer-centric behaviors, or when organizations are integrating new technologies, new interaction flows or new ways of working. Governance is an often-overlooked part of developing a good customer experience model, but it is a critical component in helping organizations change their culture.

A Customer-Centric Culture

Governance can help organizations in two ways: First, it can create processes that produce superior experiences; and second, it can establish standards that enable quality experience delivery by default. Both have been helpful and valuable in providing a better customer experience in general, and they have been particularly useful to businesses trying to transform their culture to be more customer-centric. Good governance processes include the following:

  1. Cross-Collaboration on Design: The first process that produces superior experiences is standardized design practices. Organizations create a way to approach design and make it available broadly across the organization. Organizations including Airbnb, Facebook, IBM and Intuit have created their own versions of design processes, or a glossary of terms that provides detail and guidance to standardize the process across the organization.
  2. Consistent Customer Journey Mapping: The second process that many organizations roll out is a consistent, organization-wide approach to customer journey mapping. This may seem obvious, as virtually every organization is mapping customer journeys now, but some big businesses have a variety of ways to map customer journeys — sometimes in double digits! If there is not a consistent way to journey map within an organization, practitioners cannot compare journey maps or work off them to benchmark and improve upon them. It’s important that journey mapping is not just completed, and in a consistent way, but that actions are taken to improve those journeys, and responsibility is assigned for those actions and next steps.
  3. Equal Assessment of Customer Impact: A third process is the implementation of a consistent way to assess customer impact. Organizations must look at which customer experience drivers matter most to customers. Even if those drivers are outside of the organization’s control, it’s important to identify and acknowledge that they exist. Organizations are not just determining those drivers but finding a way to bring them into the existing business case (both approach and process).
  4. Post-Launch Reflections: The final process (with the implementation of the first three) is comparing projects post-launch to pre-launch predictions. This may seem obvious, but many organizations have not been doing this, and it represents a big missed opportunity. Is it having the impact that it was expected to have? Are the predictions accurate? Have the right projects been prioritized? All these questions need to be considered post-launch to track back to the original goals and purpose.

In addition to establishing processes, organizations must set standards that enable quality experience delivery by default. This is another important part of governance, and one that is particularly relevant to individual employees as they look to adopt customer-centric behaviors. Standards are critical to prevent avoidable experience mistakes, to ensure consistent experience delivery, and to set a high bar for experience quality.

Implementing the Goldilocks Scale

Standards must be just right. They should not be too loose or too restrictive. They should provide guidance to employees, making it easy for them to be customer-centric, without putting them in a straightjacket and making them adhere “just so” to a process or to a way of saying something.

For example, in a customer interaction, employees should not have every interaction scripted or deprived of the tools they need to answer questions fully. Rather, employees should have the information they need to answer questions and provide information in the way that meets the customer’s needs. Think of it as freedom within a framework.

So, how can an organization implement the Goldilocks Scale?

First, standards should have a clear reason for existing, and the evidence of why the company has put the standard in place should be shared and communicated to employees.

Standards also need to be relevant to role, department and geography to make them feel unique and tailored for each employee.

Most importantly, as needs change, standards must adjust, recede or even go away entirely. Standards should be flexible and adaptable, so that governance still serves a purpose and provides value for employees. If employees start to fight back against governance, that is a good indicator that it may be time to revisit some of the standards or processes in use within the organization.

In Conclusion

To conclude, things have been moving quickly, and there is much work to be done. It is important to have governance and standards in place to help an organization execute a better customer experience strategy in the long run.

Employees need standards and processes to work from — as long as they are not too restrictive or too loose. Finally, getting the right people involved cross-functionally, and getting them aligned with the organization’s processes and structure is a recipe for success.

Spending time up front in these areas will make it easier in the long run to produce better work, develop and determine metrics and ROI, and further ensure the success of a CX program.

Roberta O'Keith is senior director of customer experience consulting at Confirmit.

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