Embed Your Customer Experience Philosophy and Empower Your Organization

Part 4 in our Creating a Killer Customer Experience Series

Think back to your school days. You’re sitting in class, slunk down in your seat and trying to avoid eye contact in hopes that the teacher won’t call on you. Meanwhile, the student two desks over looks like she might just dislocate her shoulder if she raises her hand any higher. She’s practically jumping out of her skin, begging to be called on. What’s the difference?

Why confidence is key to a great customer experience

When we don’t have the answers, we tend to disengage. We hang back, even tune out. But when we have something of value to contribute, we often can’t wait to share what we know. It’s the same with your employees and how they approach the customer experience.

When employees don’t feel adequately informed and empowered to respond to customer needs, they are not confident. Without confidence, your employees withdraw and the customer experience suffers. When employees clearly understand what the customer needs and how to help, they’re more willing (if not eager) to step up to the challenge and go beyond what’s expected. That’s why it’s so important to embed your customer experience philosophy across your organization.

First, let’s recap how we got here

In the first segment of this five-part series on Customer Experience (CX), we shared how the Disney Company employs its mission of “Creating Happiness” to create a magical customer experience. In the second story, we explored how to create effective customer profiles. In the third segment, we used those learnings to visualize the key touchpoints in the customer experience by creating a customer journey map.

In this installment, we’ll use all that as a foundation to help embed your unique CX philosophy across your organization.

Whether you’re a company of five, 500 or 50,000, engaged organizations perform better

It all starts with a great employee experience

We’ve observed that a great majority of leaders fail to communicate with their employees on a regular basis about the purpose and strategic direction of their organization. Sadly, many leaders consider the process of building engagement only marginally effective or even a waste of time. But striving for and actually enabling extraordinary engagement is the top responsibility of a leader.

Whether you’re a company of five, 500 or 50,000, engaged organizations perform better. Because when employees are able to understand and deliver a company’s value proposition through an amazing customer experience at each interaction, business results follow.

A study from FranklinCovey and Harris Interactive found that companies that dedicate themselves to a high level of employee engagement achieve up to 57% greater profitability than companies with low engagement. So don’t think about spending more on headcount and training. Instead, ask yourself what resources and time you would invest to produce these types of financial results.

At Disney, every employee from the C-suite to the custodial staff is considered a “cast member.” It’s a perfect analogy. In business, just as in a movie, there are countless different roles, but each one plays an important part in how the overall “show” comes together. Assigning this common title to all employees gives equal billing (and responsibility) to all employees for creating a successful result.

Deep engagement fosters strong commitment. That commitment shows up in the way your employees serve your customers. But only if they understand how to help at every interaction point. That’s where your customer journey map comes in.

Make the most of your customer journey map

Your customer journey map is the compilation of all the important information you’ve gathered about your customer experience. The last thing you want to do is let it languish in a file drawer somewhere.

This visual asset is a simple yet powerful reminder for your team of what your customer is thinking, doing, feeling and hoping for at every step of the process, and it’s your blueprint for creating a killer customer experience. Print it. Post it. Share it. Use it as a teaching tool to show employees at every level where they fit into the customer experience and how they can contribute to making it truly exceptional. Review it frequently in town hall meetings. Role play with it. Build a workshop around it. Add it to your new hire onboarding process and use it for training your channel partners. Just get it in front of your entire organization and discuss it frequently. To create alignment and consistency, tie it clearly to your incentive structure. (We will cover this in more detail in part 5 of this series when we discuss measurement.)

Remember, the customer journey map is intended to be a living document that changes with experiences and trends in the market. Be open to invest in it and evolve it over time. As employees continue to engage more deeply with the map and with customers, expect that they will have thoughts and ideas to add. Make this feedback a regular part of your process and include a simple way to document and evaluate these notes so you can readily incorporate new insights into future iterations. Be sure to date each new version of the map and share updates regularly to keep everyone on the same page.

How do you make sure all that happens? In rolling out any new idea across an entire organization, success requires a balance of structure and simplicity.

Create a customer experience structure

In order to deliver a great customer experience, employees need to understand what customers want, be educated and empowered to respond, and be supported by the leadership and organizational structures around them. In the previous step of the process, we recommended assembling a dedicated CX team. This is a great starting point, but it may or may not be what you need for the long term. For instance, if you leaned heavily on an external partner to help get the ball rolling, you’ll want to get the internal pieces in place to maintain that momentum over time.

An initiative of this magnitude must start at the top. When we ask building materials companies if they have someone focused on the customer experience, the answer we often get is, “Yes, Charlie is our VP of Sales.” It’s important not to confuse the leadership role of customer experience with the role of the VP/Director of Sales. This is because your customer experience encompasses much more than just sales. As we discussed in part 2 of this series, your definition of “customer” should extend well beyond those you invoice. Many others can play a role in the consideration process, including thought leaders, code officials, editors and bloggers, and even your customers’ own peers. And the “experience” of each customer is unique and is impacted by collective and comprehensive interactions. It is something that everyone in the organization (and even your suppliers and channel partners) owns and creates. Therefore, your customer experience leader must have reach and vision beyond your sales organization.

One of the primary thought leaders on the topic is Jeanne Bliss, who some say pioneered the concept of the Chief Customer Officer (CCO) position with companies that include Lands’ End, Allstate, Coldwell Banker, Mazda and Microsoft. Today, it’s not uncommon for large corporations to have a dedicated CCO or Chief Customer Experience Officer (CCEO).

The CX initiative must be deemed important enough by senior leadership to have at least a dedicated CX leader in place. However, if a dedicated internal CX team supporting that leader isn’t an option, you’ll need to create a structure that distributes the function across a team – internal and potentially external. The key here is to make sure that your CX team has the authority, access and resources to drive meaningful change across all levels and departments.

Keep it simple

While structure is important from an organizational standpoint, too much structure can get in the way of effective and efficient execution. Imagine a giant customer experience handbook listing the prescribed protocols and procedures for every possible customer situation. Not only would it be burdensome to create and to use, but this kind of approach turns customer interactions into a series of mechanical and uninspiring tasks—exactly the opposite of what you’re trying to achieve. Complexity kills customer experience, simplicity allows you to act.

A great customer experience is all about creating a great connection between the people who are your customers and the people who are your company.It’s about being able to understand and respond to needs in a way that feels genuine and personal.

That means putting appropriate guidelines and guardrails in place, and then enabling your employees to execute independently and spontaneously in each situation. This only happens when your guiding principles are easy to internalize.

A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to experience a Zappos training session first-hand. After a 60-minute overview of their philosophy, they let me loose to handle a couple calls all by myself. As an acting member of the Zappos customer loyalty team, I was empowered to use my best judgment to “deliver WOW through customer service.” How does one “deliver WOW” exactly? That was my job to decide in the moment based on the needs of the customer. It’s an empowering, spontaneous, authentic approach that makes customers feel like they’re doing business with a human being, not a corporation.

Customer experience leaders such as Zappos, Ritz-Carlton Hotels and Nordstrom saturate their employees with training and simple, clear expectations on the kind of experience they want to create for each customer. Similarly, Disney’s singular purpose of “Creating Happiness” is supported by just four simple priorities: Safety, Courtesy, Showmanship, and Efficiency. By creating a simple framework that’s easy to understand, remember and use, you empower employees to respond appropriately in almost any situation.

Empower your employees to delight your customers

Embedding a customer experience philosophy in your organization requires ongoing, company-wide collaboration. Use your customer journey map to bring together employees at all levels with a common understanding of your customer experience, then empower your entire organization with the structure and a simple framework to put their new perspective into action. Empowerment brings the confidence and ownership your team needs to deliver a powerful customer experience that sets you apart from the rest.

In our final installment, we’ll look at how to align, measure and optimize your customer experience, so you can understand where and how your efforts are paying off.

Originally published in ProSales on Jan. 18, 2017

More Good Reads

7 tips for successfully navigating a merger or acquisition

So you’re managing a new acquisition. How do you prepare to create one happy family? In our experience guiding c-suite leaders as they navigate the process, we've noticed there is no one-size-fits-all solution. But there are seven critical questions that make the difference between a graceful implementation or a floundering one. Learn how to answer them with confidence and ensure your newly expanded organization can thrive.

AI is here to stay. Are you ready to leverage it?

The building materials industry is at a unique crossroads: customers want more personalized service than ever before. And AI may lend itself best to the needs of the building materials industry to deliver that. Executive Creative Director and Brand Strategist Anita Holman explores how this game-changing tool could enhance every brand’s ability to develop personalized advice in ways that were never humanly possible before.