30 Sep Why your CX program will fail
According to marketers and consumers , organisations are still missing the mark with regards to delivering a good customer experience and actually identifying their needs. More than 60% of customers polled feel that brands do not do a good job of predicting their needs and marketers agree.
Are our CX programs to blame?
Firstly, if you have not come to the realisation that people are your number one priority – employees and customers, you may not get much satisfaction from this article.
For those of you who have been verbalising a “customer centric” mantra for the last decade, then this will be challenging for you to read.
For those of you who are still deciding how to achieve differentiation and sustainable growth – then you might find this of interest (at the very least you will be aware of the pitfalls of engaging in a customer centric strategy without real purpose and commitment to people).
After decades of work in customer experience, product development, marketing and management it has been the last few years that I have found the missing piece of the customer experience and business performance puzzle. It was an “aha” moment during studies of “neuroscience in leadership” and has changed the way I design customer experience programs, employee engagement, organisational change and leadership initiatives.
As a country, our government and businesses are operating in a state of “unrealised potential” within our leadership and executive teams and within the organisation itself via its entire workforce. This is having great impact on our organisational growth, our innovation, and most importantly our people.
I write this with honesty and candidness, not blame nor lack of accountability. In various organisations you might have experienced all of the scenarios below or only some. But be sure it is definitely happening out there. There is light at the end of the tunnel, but a clear challenge for boards and executive teams today and in the words of Albert Einstein:
“We cannot solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them”.
Setting the CX scene
There are many drivers (good and bad) for leaders wishing to undertake Customer Experience or Experience Management programs – to help a startup, to develop new products and services due to regulatory changes, to correctly calculate a Net Promoter Score prior to ASX listing, to conduct research to support leadership views, gain customer insights to drive membership, to train teams on “customer experience”, or because leaders realised that this was their ability to differentiate and compete in a given market (few and far between). In many of them, the boards are “on board” and may also believe that the solution for growth remains in customer centricity. Great right? Not really…
I have been fortunate, in my experience, CEO’s, marketing and customer advocacy leaders are all passionate about their customers, exhibit a strong desire to find a solution to performance issues and are good team leaders. But one thing is for sure – no one ever stays the true course, we become diverted, disrupted, distracted, disengaged and detractors of our own experience. I’ll show you how and why.
These leaders demonstrate great courage – they admit they don’t have all the answers. They seek to understand more about their customers. They seek answers from their staff and their customers. They involve their staff in strategising. They seem to have great relationships with their employees. So why are our CX programs doomed to fail?
The key challenge for any customer strategy is the lack of real commitment. The commitment and understanding that this is an organisation wide initiative from the whole board to all of the executive team to everyone on the ground. So unless you have the ability to assess, monitor and improve performance across all levels of the organisation, with all of the leaders regardless of what their key performance indicator, then we are really lacking commitment.
Employee engagement, leadership, psychological safety, and commitment to the priority of people are the biggest threats to your customer experience and organisational performance.
Engaged employees are those who work with passion and feel a profound connection to their company, it is their ability to relate to the organisations purpose and values. They drive innovation and move the organisation forward.
Employee Engagement + Psychological safety is critical to rolling out experience management across customers, employees, products and services and brand. Frontline employees especially those who interact with clients are critical to delivering a great experience to customers – but we are not doing this well (and it shows). In this example I am not talking about employee experience – that is one strategy to drive positive employee engagement .
According to Gallup – Activity disengaged employees (24%) outnumber engaged employees (13%) by nearly 2 to 1. The reality of employee engagement and its impacts on any customer experience initiatives are profound. So why the lack of engagement, let’s take a look.
- According to our national average, within twelve months, almost 23% of those employees that showed so much promise and enthusiasm for CX (including the leader who drove the whole customer centric strategy) will have left the organisation. Churn rates of employees means we start all over again in our training and creating good customer habits and committing to customers as a priority.
- The enthusiastic CX team will continue to be engaged until a conflicting directive comes down within 30 days saying that the new focus is (insert your own adventure here, I will use privacy). Good habits and behaviours that were just starting to see positive results are dropped as they start to work on other initiatives. Team collaboration and sharing of information to drive improvement is reduced or forgotten and everyone is in a state of uncertainty as a new initiative commences.
- The team that understood and viewed their customer as a priority for the business will be directed to focus on the implementation of a new technology platform (insert your own adventure here, I will use billing and CRM tool) that has been designed with little input from the team but will be used by the team every day. Removing any autonomy from the team to have input about their needs to service customers better, and removing any certainty about how to further support customers over the next 12months (although you can insert your own adventure here to….)
- The team will be reporting on the basics Net Promoter Score and Customer Satisfaction or Customer Effort (it will change depending on where the greatest success is demonstrated rather than working on NPS) scores that are only truly assessed and analysed on an ad hoc basis – there is not strategy to it, it just gets rolled out. It might only be taken from one element of the business and not necessarily the most important interaction according to customer value – but it’s a figure that they talk to at every annual conference. Inherently, we know we are not using these metrics correctly, nor rolling out a true customer centric strategy but the board and senior executive team are only monitoring the score so it does not matter. Teams across the business are not analysing customer feedback and insights, service meets customer expectations or worse, we stop looking at dissatisfaction and churn of customers as begin to go back to an easier way to view success with revenue or net profit.
- The great ideas created by the team to drive a superior customer experience and improve processes, are taken up the chain and ignored, not once, not twice, but let’s face it by this time we have lost our engaged staff. We now have staff that have lost any sense of relatedness with the organisation or their leader. The “purpose” they are so busy talking about is really just another way of “saying what is expected”. The behaviours are not in any way demonstrating the purpose of the organisation so now we have lost trust in the organisation.
- The customer centric leader has now joined the 23% churn casualty and the uncertainty of any remaining survivors is at an all time high. They say that people don’t leave organisations, they leave their leaders/managers – but really, is it not the same thing? Until your sitting at the top – where does the top stop – the board? Are the board really getting the information that they need?
- We take the organisation through a major rebrand due to an acquisition. Unfortunately, we don’t bother with testing psychological safety of the organisations prior to acquisitions or mergers so we certainly would track any cultural conflicts as part of combining two businesses. Our staff are thrown into uncertainty, autonomy is reduced as new management teams are built, our sense of belonging (77% that are left) is threatened and customers are now far from our list of priorities other than the one metric that might still pop up on the odd team meeting.
- Due to the large amounts of money we have just spent on rebranding under the new structure we need to tell all teams to cut costs. Management in key design and implementation teams are told that there is a priority for fast projects and cheap projects as there is pressure from external sources. Our designers who are meticulous about program timeliness and costings due to previous “safety first” cultures have been red penned cutting project timelines estimates and costs in half. We have just removed any sense of autonomy, value and pride from this employee and put a whole team who is responsible for implementation at risk (physical safety) risk.
- Within the next six months, a high number of deaths or incidents start to occur on site. Leaders lament about the poor culture and the cost of rolling out new culture change programs putting culture first and our “privacy” (insert your own adventure) project is abandoned whilst we have a “safety first” culture initiative. And we lament about how “long” change takes and that this is going to be another long program of change.
The one metric that should be added to every report is psychological safety. This is the one metric that every department should be interested in from marketing, HR, People & Performance, WHS, Legal. Psychological Safety has a direct correlation to key performance indicators across the organisation including People metrics such as absenteeism, productivity; WHS metrics such as complaints, accidents, incidents; HR metrics such as staff turnover, staff complaints; Marketing metrics such as NPS, Customer Satisfaction, Customer Effort; Legal metrics such as Workcover claims, settlements, court actions.
We are using metrics as our indicators of success but we are not getting to the real heart of the “unrealised potential” of the organisation. What can be done to improve the metrics, what are our people saying/feeling, what are our customers saying, feeling, suggesting. If we are relying on metrics to forecast and predict people issues then we need to find the right metric and ask the right questions.
Employee engagement is outcome of people feeling safe within the teams they operate. Safe and comfortable enough to contribute, participate without the threat of being humiliated, embarrassed or punished. You will never have engagement without having a foundation of psychological safety. Yet, we do not measure psychological safety. You cannot put wellness programs in place with “activity rooms” and well designed workplaces and expect them to make a difference if you haven’t got a foundation of psychological safety. You cannot educate and train and expect it to “stick” without first providing psychological safety. You cannot expect teams to deliver exceptional customer experience, or innovate or create process improvements without first establishing a workplace of psychological safety.
Teams not individuals
We continue to assess, evaluate and appraise and reward people as individuals. But we operate in teams, we collaborate as a team, we work within a team. Individual psychological profiles are not providing the team level assessment tools, the diagnostic on how to get the team performing whilst feeling safe. This needs to be a priority. One team member affects the whole team. Importantly, leaders of teams have 70% influence upon performance (Gallup 2019). So stop looking only at the individual. Start looking at team level support.
Start with our leaders (including our boards). I cannot say it often enough but leaders are responsible for 70% of the variation in performance. Our leaders need to be taught people skills. Training in social intelligence, emotional intelligence and attentional intelligence. Our leaders need to find new ways to solve the challenges in the workplace that are different to what they have been using. They need to focus on their people – employees and customers as they will drive performance and drive growth. Our boards are tasked with the accountability of organisational performance yet they reflect a lot of the conflict found in organisations.
Commitment to purpose
The above scenario explains the reason “change” takes a long time. You need to have commitment to a purpose and follow through to allow education and training and participation – the creation of habits and behaviours to drive the desired performance. But importantly a foundation of psychological safety because quite frankly if it wasn’t the current leadership team that F*&%ed things up it was the one or two before you.
Organisations seem to be either stuck in the quagmire of least effort. If we stay the course things will change, if we go digital things will change. With an increase in mental health issues, and claims, an increase in customer expectations, we need to think differently and start taking action. Commit to a way forward and do it at 100%. Regulatory, compliance and profits are not at the expense of customers. In any cases regulatory and compliance and governance are to protect people – customers and employees.
Technology is becoming a hindrance rather than an enabler of good people experience. We need to relook how we view technology. In a recent interview, one organisation is tracking 32 different metrics and all of them have up to 12 different technology platforms to generate meaningful data. By the time this information is provided to a board or reviewed in an executive meeting –it is out of date.
Our brains work in mysterious ways
As humans we tend to take the path of least resistance. Any effort required is exhausting and requires focus. We need to keep our change initiatives simple whilst demonstrating and driving habits and behaviours to achieve the desired outcome. Give projects focus and allow people the opportunity to gain certainty, increase their autonomy and maintain their connection with the people and teams around them. One thing we all have in common is a desire to mitigate any threats and we are motivated by rewards. Throughout the scenarios above we are constantly putting our people (employees) in a state of threat and are not providing the tools, processes, technology to support them. This is having the greatest and most profound impact on our Customer Experience.
About us: 6peas marketing and engagement aligns people and purpose to drive profits. We focus psychological safety and customer experience. Our solutions are founded in neuroscience.