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Ideation Drives Discovery in Customer Experience

Doug Collins - Friday, September 08, 2017


Organizations mint Chief Customer Officers (CXO) as readily as they mint Chief Innovation Officers.

What is it about the Digital Age that causes organizations to mint chiefs of all stripes in the way sheriffs from the Old West would mint deputies to join them on the posse?

One answer might be that the leadership of the organizations want to signal to their employees and shareholders that they are serious about the subject at hand, whether it be fomenting cultures of innovation, quality, sustainability, or safety.

One other answer might be that the leadership team wants one throat to choke, should things go sideways (e.g., churn skyrockets). Newly minted chiefs know that death by asphyxiation from a pair of well-manicured hands awaits them around every corner.

What is the tyro CXO to do?

Herding Cats

CXOs who succeed in the role embrace one aspect of the work, in particular: herding the goats, cats, and other forms of organizational livestock in the same direction when it comes to making sense of the customer experience. The CXO shepherds by helping the organization explore the following critical questions.

Do we have a shared understanding of goals? Goals around customer retention, for example.

Do we share a common language? For example, what does delivering a compelling customer experience mean for the organization? Is the view all-encompassing or is the view somehow narrower in scope, relative to all the ways in which the organization touches the customer?

Do we share common practices? How many people in the organization, for example, are skilled in facilitating customer journey mapping exercises for stakeholders such as the call center managers or the retail managers? Who owns the journey for a group of customers?

Do we share a common understanding of what the data is telling us about customer retention and growth?

It’s in Our Data

In a recent posting, “Moving Customers from Cost Center to Asset,” #CX consultant Jeanne Bliss writes…

If I go work with a company on their customer experience delivery, oftentimes I ask executives if they know the volume and value of their new customers. Do they compare this data monthly? Weekly? Annually?

Can they contrast it with the value of lost customers?

This is what I commonly hear back at first: “It’s in our data.”

Bliss continues…

That’s not a good enough answer, because that means (to me): “It’s there, but it’s buried.”

Bliss advises the following practice as a remedy:

At each meeting report the number of lapsed or lost customers by volume and value

Report how many increased their purchases

Report how many decreased their level of engagement

Sort the above by segment

Point to behavioral patterns that show increasing/weakening of customer relationships

Present data on movement of customers across and within value segments

Highlight one or two referrals from existing customers

The Link between Customer Experience and Collaborative Innovation

Bliss’ practice, when adopted by the CXO and the leadership team, leads naturally to a set of questions about the current state of the customer experience and how that state might be improved through a series of interventions—experiments.

The CXO might convene the organization at large on questions such as…

How might we re-envision the experience we deliver customers through our social media channel?

How might we minimize the churn of a segment of customers through our retail channel?

How might we maximize the likelihood of first call resolution when the customer contacts us through the call center with a certain type of issue?

The CXO thus has not only a convening role, but also an inquiry role and a resolution role.

In the convening role the CXO helps the organization to determine the true nature of things—as Bliss observed, What does the data tell us?

In the inquiry role, the CXO helps the organization to form and pursue the critical questions that promise to improve the customer experience for the customer, the client, or the consumer.

In the resolution role, the CXO helps the organization work out how best to try—to experiment with—the ideas that the people who work most closely with the customer have about improving the experience they deliver.

The three roles—convening, inquiry, and resolution—complement one another and define the essential charter of the CXO (i.e., why an organization would mint such a role as opposed to carrying on as usual without the benefit of an additional chief).

People familiar with the practice of collaborative innovation will recognize the nature of the inquiry and resolution roles, along with the convening role. It’s here, in developing the holistic practice of customer experience, that the CXO begins to look a lot like their chief innovation officer counterpart. The material difference is focus: whereas the chief customer officer is by design focused on all matters related to the customer, the chief innovation offices find themselves working further afield in domains such as new product development or joint ventures, for example. The essential practices look remarkably similar, however, and ideation plays a critical role.

Over time, as the CXO helps the organization to improve the customer experience, they find themselves engaged in continuous improvement. The practices tied to customer experience, collaborative innovation, and continuous improvement are intrinsically linked (figure 1). It’s useful, however, for the CXO to understand how the threads weave together in their organization to know how best to navigate forward in their journey.

Figure 1: the intermingling practices tied to the customer experience, collaborative innovation, and continuous improvement

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