How to drive change in customer experience

Customer experience is hot on the agenda of most, if not all, businesses. In a world changing at dizzying speed, a single-minded focus on the customer is our defence against disruption. So why are so few doing it well?

The reality is that customer experience often falls through the gaps. The Digital team are cranking on conversion, Marketing are trying to return value back to the business, and Operations are flat out keeping the train on the tracks. For the Exec, while great in theory, investing in customer experience can look expensive and risky. Sound familiar?

Things ends up being left to chance, becoming a product of internal silos, legacy systems, and the distorting effect of measurement frameworks.

But customer experience deserves deliberate design intent. For real impact, it requires new tools, techniques and coalitions. So how do you move beyond the theory and start to drive change?

Earlier this month we talked to three people who’ve taken on this challenge: Lulu English, instrumental in the creation of Team Knowhow, Clive Grinyer, who’s introduced service design thinking at Barclays, and Andy Caddy, who developed an iconic new experience for Virgin Active.

Here’s our collective advice. 

1 Define the lasting impression
It’s counter-intuitive, but customer experience isn’t about websites, campaigns, call centres, retail spaces and visual identities. It’s about the lasting impression we leave. As Robert Jones, our Head of New Thinking once said, brand is ‘the thoughts and feelings in the minds of consumers and employees. Everything else is branding.’

By defining the way people should feel after an interaction, in a way that’s unique to your brand, you can work everything back from there. For Lulu, this meant designing signature moments crafted to create the right lasting impression. These were ‘the things that could amplify the brand, that would be the differentiator and that would create that engagement’.

2 Know the ‘as is’ inside out
Barclays hasn’t lacked investment in design but it hasn’t always shifted the dial. For Clive, what’s been missing is a deeper, more empathetic understanding of the ‘as is’ customer experience.

In many organizations, there are great aspirations for how the experience should go, guided by thoughtful flow charts, but they start too late and finish too early to truly reflect how memories of the experience are formed. To have impact, you need go through a discovery process that takes a ‘ridiculously customer-centric and colleague-centric view of the world, that completely ignores what your business thinks is going on’.

3 Pour fuel on the burning platform
Building the case for change in a complex business requires urgency. Clive recommended establishing a sense of crisis. Lulu advised getting stakeholders into customers’ homes to experience the service for themselves, then ‘there’s a reality that you can’t ignore.’

Sometimes, this means getting creative. One speaker told us, ‘If you can’t get people to the customer experience, bring the customer experience to them. We had an epiphany moment when we went analogue. We physically mapped out a journey together and we put a red post-it note at every point where there was a significant barrier. It was then that people realised the mess.’

4 Kill ego with vision
To galvanise the business, you need vision. Andy from Virgin Active told us that once he’d defined the focus for their new gym class experience – togetherness – things became simpler. ‘It was a real ah-ha moment, with everyone around the table saying, “I get it now”.’

Turning the vision into something people can touch and feel brings it to life, and a compelling concept prototype can take on a life of its own. Clive told us prototypes were ‘hugely powerful’ for stakeholders, to the point where ‘they immediately stole it and would rush off to important meetings to say, ‘This is where we’re going’ and I found that fantastically useful’.

5 Pick your partner
New leaders present an opportunity to drive change, as they’ll engage with a problem without judgement. Clive told us they appreciate customer experience teams helping find a problem they can solve. ‘We’ll let you point it out, you will get the funding, we will facilitate improvement to your service, and you will be the hero.’

For leaders who’ve been in post longer ‘you have to be delicate: an aggressor and a diplomat at the same time’.

Partner with the right people at the right time, who have the mandate and appetite, and you can drive real change rather than paper the cracks.

Overall, we really enjoyed the conversation, and will be following up on more of themes. As always, please share your thoughts with us in the meantime.

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