Is complete organisational restructuring around CEM possible... or even necessary?

13th Jun 2012

The question was posed by Natalie Bursk at the Customer Experience Management Global Summit discussion group. She went on to ask:  "If CEM is to become part of company-wide culture, does that mean established organisational workings can ever continue?  Are dedicated CX departments, led by a Customer Experience Officer, really enough in practice?"

Here is my take on the topic:

The answer is... 'it depends' :) 

Seriously: organisations may have different objectives when they try to improve customer experience, as well as different benchmark (experience level) targets. Assuming that 'desired' is different form 'current', this calls for some (!) change. 

- Change may be radical and deep, especially in those elusive cases where boards and C-level leadership are earnestly committed to a customer-centric business model. Then the significant change will impact everything: operating model, processes, and inevitably - organisation design. Organisation change not only in structure (reshuffling the org-chart), but in relationships and responsibilities, in 'people' practices (from recruitment through training and motivation, to reward and recognition and career development) etc. etc. Change may be so radical, that it scares management and staff alike, and is rarely (if ever) undertaken. 

- Change may, in other instances, be operational and medium-term in nature. Then it doesn't have to impact the entire organisation, but will certainly cover most end-to-end customer processes and parts of the organisation directly involved in those. Front- and back-end parts, as we tlak of end-to-end processes. Cross-functionality is very likely to be required, which may involve destroying a few silo walls. Not as drastic as the previous scenario, but still a level of change that less than 10% of companies ever undertake. 

- With less ambitious targets, less competitive environment or (God forbid) more selfish and short-sighted leadership, change may be only tactical - eliminating the 'nuisance' of customer dissatisfaction and superficial churn reasons. Then it is likely to focus on the front end, the experience touchpoints: both as events (fragments of the end-to-end process), and organisational interface points. This is what the majority of self-proclaimed 'customer centric' companies try to do. It is still better than doing nothing, but the outcome is less convincing as interdependencies with unchanged parts of the business pull back any progress. 

- Finally, a 'change' may be only cosmetic, a lip-service exercise which does not even change all touchpoint experiences, but makes PR statements in the hope this may change some customers' perception about the company. Sadly, this is very real and we see it all the time - because actually you can cheat some of the people, some of the time... Needless to say, in those cases the answer to your question is 'No'. Organisation change is not necessary - why bother? 
- - - 

In the broader economic and social universe, a 'Pareto' principle is always in force: a minority of participants are responsible for the majority of any action or outcome. In CEM very visibly only a (small) minority of organisations go for the serious changes and those businesses achieve remarkable results. Down the pyramid benefits from CEM are strictly proportionate to commitment and effort. Few do a lot (and gain a lot), many do less - and get less in return. Then we wonder why the prevailing (mass) opinion is that 'CEM does not work and is not worth it'.


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