By: Lydia Hawkridge, Head of Strategy and Implementation at retail tech specialist Red Ant
It would be difficult to find a business today that doesn’t understand the value of customer experience and isn’t, to some extent, aiming to improve its own experience. However, all too often, the outcome of CX projects don’t live up to expectations, which is disappointing for all involved but mostly for the front-line team and customers.
In my experience, the fundamental reason for these failures is too little investment, and I don’t necessarily mean financial investment. CX projects require the investment of many team members across multiple disciplines. They need the time and space to get it right, and overall, they need commitment from the business to support them to achieve the transformation goals.
There are many ways to execute projects, deliver business transformation and create an industry-leading customer experience but these five key steps will set your project on a path to success. These steps are by no means conclusive, but these are the steps that I believe are most important:
1: Assess the current customer experience
When you begin to think about your own customer experience, you may be aware of a successful strategy implemented by a competitor or have had an impressive experience yourself.
However, you should resist the temptation to begin implementing similar ideas for your business until you have a clear understanding of your own customer’s current experience. There is no value in changing something that does not need to be changed.
Use the following questions to help guide your process:
- Which parts of the experience that you currently offer bring joy to your customers?
- Which parts are frustrating?
- Which areas may not be industry-leading, but are well-established and fit for purpose?
Let the answers to these questions be your guide to the transformation required within your own business. Transformation is a timely and expensive process. Your customers and colleagues will be most on-board with that process if your intention is to fix real problems and challenges which they too want to solve. Implementing something because it sounds cool can be tempting, and even a good PR story, but rarely delivers long-lasting results.
2: Build a multi-disciplined team to deliver the transformation
Customer experience transformation projects are often given to only one department. The problem here is that true transformation must happen across the entire business. Involving the whole business ensures a foundational mindset change rather than simply carrying out an individual project and brings your team’s full array of skills and expertise to the table.
Over the past decade being involved in cx transformation projects, I’ve seen them fail for this reason. Either they were managed solely by the ‘innovation team’ and therefore there was no real uptake from the ‘business as usual’ team. They were managed by the tech team and the non-digital elements of customer experience were completely overlooked. Or, they were managed by the customer experience team and therefore the vision was incredible, but the operational and technical expertise was not available to deliver on that vision.
This is not to say that one team cannot oversee a transformation project, but I encourage you to involve stakeholders and delivery team members from across the business in order to achieve clarity and conviction in your vision, delivery and long-term implementation.
Creating business transformation requires your full team.
3: Know what the vision is, and how you will know when you have achieved that vision
Once you have a good understanding of your current experience, it is critical to define the vision for the next two to five years. I’m specifically not talking about what you can achieve in the next few months here. Change takes time, and although you should start implementing that change as soon as possible, it won’t all happen at once. Having a clear vision for the long-term future helps you to prioritise throughout the project and maintain momentum when things get tough.
Only once you have that vision can you begin to think about how to measure the change.
The breadth of CX strategies and approaches can make it hard to numerically define impact. To determine your parameters, refer back to step 1 and decide how you can numerically track the chosen target areas. It could be improving customer wait time or lowering returned items. You may want to improve repeat customer metrics, dwell time, or employee happiness. Whatever it is, define it and keep track of it throughout to ensure that you are validating your efforts.
There are a lot of different opinions out there on NPS (Net Promoter Score), but when implemented and analysed correctly, I am a big fan of this approach. It’s simple, clear, and easy to understand.
4: Take your time!
Once you have completed these steps it can be tempting to try to ‘do everything, now!’. Whilst I am a big supporter of a quick delivery, it should be delivered with an ‘MVP’ mindset or an incremental approach. Here, you want to pay attention to the primary resource of your transformation project: people. People can only handle so much change in one go before they get exasperated, frustrated or burnt out. If you challenge your team to deliver too much, too quickly, they will struggle to find robust, long-term solutions that provide truly meaningful impact.
With that said, after steps 1-3, you will have a long list of ideas that you want to deliver on, so how do you move forward?
First, use a framework such as ‘Impact vs Effort’. There are many ways to prioritise, but I have found that this is one of the simplest. It is easy to set up and offers an extremely tangible format for your team to quickly agree on what is a good investment now and what can wait until later.
Once you’ve defined your priorities, chunk them into phases across a roadmap for the next 12-24 months.
You will probably want to define the next 2 to 3 months in detail. I’d encourage you to put anything beyond that only into headlines. This allows you to edit as the process unfolds, using new industry trends and learnings from earlier implementations to inform your decisions, rather than trying to foresee what the landscape may look like 3-24 months from now.
This phased approach may look long to begin with, however, by focusing your team’s efforts in stages, you are more likely to implement robust changes, push more thought to the right areas, at the right time, and create true transformation.
5: Ramp up your efforts post-implementation
The final step often carries the greatest opportunity for success or failure. You’ve spent weeks, months, maybe even years crafting your implementation and preparing for launch. At this point, your team are probably ready to deploy ‘and run’ to the next project. Try not to do this. The final implementation is your opportunity to truly embed your project into the day-to-day workings of your business, however, this will only happen if you invest as much time and resource into this stage as you did the project itself.
Projects can fail at this point on the simplest of issues i.e., users are unable to access the new system, so you will need to refocus the team on post-implementation.
Consider employee engagement, customer communications, training plans and teams on the ground to help with adoption and stability. By refocusing and aligning your team in this way you will be ready to resolve these issues quickly and easily.
Your team may also be able to identify areas for improvement and opportunities which they didn’t anticipate during the design and build stage. Providing them with the opportunity to react here allows them to make a great project even better and develops employee advocates when they see that their views are valued.
In my experience, when teams haven’t invested in this step, projects fail to achieve the conviction they require to truly transform the business mindset. When they do commit to this step, they create an army of backers who believe in the change and deliver an even better customer experience than originally intended.