Virtually every business now has a line in its mission statement declaring its commitment to being a customer-centric company. “We put the customer at the heart of our business”, “Customer First”, “Our focus is on building a partnership with our customers”. We’ve all seen them. And I am not mocking them. They are, when more than rhetoric, wholly commendable. Any attempt to ensure that every business decision is informed by the customers’ perspective and considers the impact of each decision on the customer is a good thing.
However, it is not enough to know what needs to change, we need to make it happen. There’s no magic wand. No secret sauce. No shortcut to changing the way people behave.
How do you ensure that your teams not only have the insights available to them to make the right decisions, but more importantly, actually inspire them to change? No one really likes change and we’re all well aware of the challenge of asking potentially large groups of people to move out of their comfort zones and try something new. Even the most inspiring away-day, full of best practices, examples and encouragement are easily forgotten once everyone is back at their desk with the same day-to-day issues in front of them.
Absolute clarity around ‘what good looks like’ in a specific role and modelling expected behaviour is a given. But how do you encourage employees to take a risk, break out of the mould and transform the way they do things? In short, how to we take change viral – and make it easy….ish?
Throwing some CX shapes
Viral change typically involves a trailblazer who dares to be different and proves that a new behaviour is not only possible, but desirable and valued. This is beautifully demonstrated by the now-famous video of a man at a music festival dancing alone. At first, he looks like a lone oddball. But then someone joins him. Then more people join, until almost everyone is dancing and the only oddballs are those who haven’t joined in. It may seem like a strange analogy, but it’s incredibly close to what businesses need to achieve to take change viral.
The focus has to be on enabling people to change. The ‘sheep dip’ approach of a big day out, full of slogans, isn’t going to get people dancing in the long term, but there are a number of things that will. Consider the following three approaches and how they may fit into your business.
Forget ‘Command and Control’
It’s tempting to try to ‘own’ the customer experience process, but no one person or team can control the customer experience itself. That way lies overwork, exhaustion and ultimately madness, so it’s vital to put the insights into the hands of the people who can use it. This means providing as many people as possible in the organisation with a window into the feedback generated through the Voice of the Customer programme.
Think of it as dozens – or indeed hundreds – of mini control centres driven by a central hub. Each employee is responsible for using that insight to impact the customer experience in their area of control, in their own way but aligned to a shared vision and ethos. When an action needs to be taken that’s beyond their remit, the control centre should enable them to escalate issues to the right person.
Make it easy
As we’ve already identified, data alone won’t drive the behavioural change that will really make a difference to the customer experience across all touchpoints. This means we need to focus on making it easy for people to change the way they respond to the insight they access. Part of this is about making sure your teams know they have the autonomy to make decisions themselves without fear of being blamed if that decision wasn’t right. But there is more that can be done.
It’s tempting to try to ‘own’ the customer experience process, but no one person or team can control the customer experience itself.
An area that’s growing in interest from a CX perspective is nudge theory. Effectively, giving people a little nudge in the right direction so that it’s easy – or even fun – to change what they’re doing. It’s been investigated by government as a way to encourage people to eat more healthily or drink less alcohol, but its applications in a business environment are significant.
Some retailers, for example, give staff the ability to give one customer a day either a freebie, or a discount at their discretion. It’s a simple way to encourage customer-facing teams to focus a bit more on the customer and decide who’d best benefit from a little more love.
Build a network of champions
Back at our dancing analogy, how do we get people to join us? Data is a great start, and nudging people to make change easier will help further, but how to we take it to the next level and get that viral change that really makes an impact? If you think of the core CX team (i.e. you!) as the first dancer, madly flinging themselves about, what we really need is that first follower. The person who starts making people see that something is beginning to happen.
Something I always recommend to businesses who are building a VoC programme is to build a network of champions around the business. These champions can not only answer questions and help to ensure the value of the programme is understood, they can also become your first dancing partner. If they begin to adopt the behaviours you’re looking to cultivate, and most importantly, talk about those behaviours to show they work, then people will begin to join in.
Key tip: choose the right people. They need to be brave, they need to be slightly wacky but most importantly they need to be people who the rest of the teams will relate to. They are like me, they do the job I do, they know the reality and they are making the change.
Asking people to change their behaviours can be an uphill battle. As the old joke goes, how many psychologists does it take to change a lightbulb? One, but the lightbulb really has to want to change. What is critical is that you ensure that your teams have access to that mini command centre so they are basing their behaviour on something solid. There’s a fine line between a big group of people dancing together, and anarchy. And that line is accurate customer insight.