“But, I just need to know where to start!!”

We’ve been talking for the past few months about nailing those CX basics. Here’s #5 in our back to basics series!

I’ll never forget the first time I completed a Future State Architecture Map™. We had identified more than 500 items that we knew our customers expected and wanted — and we weren’t currently providing any of them. And figuring out where to begin? It was so beyond overwhelming to tackle.

The questions I still get, over and over, 20 years later: where do we start? How do we prioritize? How do we know it is the right bet to place?

Recently, I was with a group of practitioners, talking through what I’ve found to be the best approach to true customer experience transformation:

  1. Gather your voice of customer data and do any additional research (prove your case).
  2. Define the customer experience strategy and get the executive team to own it.
  3. Design the future state architecture map, prioritize it, and get the executive team to own it.
  4. Evangelize the vision with the entire team (and I mean everyone!).
  5. Create the culture where people can shine — and your CX can too (#EXdrivesCX).

We were walking through the Chief Customer approach, talking through each step. Why each is important, why the order.

We got to the end of the conversation and the first comment was: “But, I just need you to tell me where to start.”

And my answer? “It isn’t that easy.”

Over and over again, Chief Customer goes into new clients, clients who have spent a ton of time and money on fixing “things.” On “journey mapping.” On a whole host of inspirational speakers from fabulous brands.

What they haven’t done though, is the hard work to figure out what they actually need to do to change their company. The culture. The products. The services. The whole thing.

Every single company is different. You all have different brand promises, different DNA, different corporate strategies.

I recently addressed a group of C-suite folks from large telecomm companies. They all want more market share. Fine. I get it. What I said to them, though, was that they needed to start thinking of themselves as retailers. There is Dollar Tree and there is Barneys. And then there are hundreds of spots in between those two places. There is a spot for everyone — each and every company — as long as you find your market, define your brand and your experience, and then treat your employees well.

You can declare where you want to be, but I firmly believe that you have to do the work first — then you can prioritize how to get there.

You can’t prioritize without completing steps 1 – 3, above, first.

Wait. I’ve misled you. You can.

For those of you who want the quick and dirty version of how to prioritize what to do first, there is a way.

Know you’ll have to go back and set a strategy and do the work to design the future. But if you need fast impact because: a) you don’t want to get fired, b) you need to show progress, and/or c) you work in an environment where you have to prove it first before you get more funding, read on.

Prioritization the fast and dirty way. AKA, shooting from the hip.

There are several things I’ve found to be true regardless of industry, brand, or strategy. They seem to be industry-agnostic deadly sins. (I have a series I started 4 years ago on the deadly sins of Customer Experience. I may just have to revive that thread for 2020.)

For those of you who don’t want to read the whole post, here are the highlights:

  1. If you’re difficult to do business with, start there. Not sure if you’re hard to do business with? Here are several things to look for that are clear indicators:

    • Are your phone number and email address easy to find and use on all your print materials, websites, apps? Or are you hiding how to contact you?
    • Are you accessible beyond M – F? People need you outside of those hours. Chat, phone, and email during “operating hours” are a clear sign you’re tough to do business with.
    • Do you need approvals, hoop jumping, or multiple steps to do anything? Three steps or less has always been the best rule I’ve shared. People have the attention span of a gnat. Literally 8 seconds as of 2018.
  2. If you’re hard to understand, change it. We’ve written extensively about the impact of jargon on trust, relationships, and loyalty. De-jargon your communications. Ban acronyms. Stop hiding behind the complex language of your industry.
  3. Find out what your customers don’t like. Sit down with your customer service agents and ask them what people complain about most. Sure, you could dig through piles of data, but I’ll tell you, there are two places in an organization that already have the majority of the answers to what is broken:

    • The people who serve your customers.
    • The people who sell to your customers.

  4. No offense to the rest of the org, but those two groups can give you more intel on the top three things that need to be fixed ASAP than any amount of pouring over reports.

  5. Clearly communicate the behaviors you expect your team members to exhibit. So often, we walk into companies that have a new vision or mission on the wall, but they haven’t taken the steps to communicate — show and tell — their teams what they expect them to do differently. Training programs. Compensation programs. Hiring models. Listen to their feedback. All the things.
  6. Connect your customers and your executive team. This is one of the most important things to do as a part of your work. It will help them to hear the pain — which will in turn will help you to get more money to fix things. Make them see/feel/hear/experience the pain your customers feel.

One of my favorite moments was when I was working with a company that had a true burning platform. They’d made some decisions that meant they were being skewered in the marketplace. The exec team was hiding in their board room trying to figure out how to come out from under the barrage of bad. The thing about being cloistered, though, is that you don’t experience the pain. And they were staring to think it was subsiding. So, I connected the live twitter stream to the TV in the board room — and they could see how ticked off their customers still were. I like to believe that bringing that pain into that “safe room” helped them to make better decisions faster.

The end of the story is, you can make some tactical strikes, but you do have to do the hard work. Putting it off only means it will take you longer to make the real — and impactful — systemic changes.