All characters, company names, and city names in this blog are fictional, any resemblance with reality is purely coincidental.
It was three weeks into the COVID-19-induced lockdown, San Lucio was no different from other parts of the world and affected just as much, however, Intelex, a mid-scale firm in the town was surprisingly resilient. Every business meeting instead of being suspended was conducted through web conferences and this not only included leadership meetings, but even workshops, brainstorming sessions, and every activity that required participation from different stakeholders and had historically required the participants to fly in from diverse geographies.
Zane a customer experience consultant to the firm was scheduled to hold two week-long workshops with the executive and operations team. While initially she thought that the workshop will in all likelihood be cancelled, Dina, the Chief Digital officer of the firm, was more than hopeful that the workshop would go per the plan, in her phone call to Zane she allayed cancellation concerns and replied:
“You know Zane, this workshop will be on schedule and on the brighter side, no participant can shoot a last-minute cancellation mail. It was so difficult to get everyone in one room before, specially the sales team, but this time I want to make sure they actively participate in designing our future CX strategy. I am shooting the invitation mail. Looking forward to your sessions”.
Zane and Dina dialed into the virtual web conference and so did others namely Jeff, head of sales; Bhaskar, head of IT-Procurement; Dustin, the COO; and Karen, the CEO. After the initial greetings and exchange, Jeff was swift to take charge of the conversation.
Jeff: Dina, isn’t this our 13th session to formulate a comprehensive CX strategy, or perhaps it is the 9th, if I count the wash outs. We have discussed the voice of customers, customer engagement, customer journey maps and what not but I am yet to see anyone in my team ever talking or using these tools while closing deals.
Dustin: My team is picking up the customer journey centered thinking quickly, I would say we need to align our operations strategy fast and I am looking forward to Zane, as to what she has in store.
Dina: Zane should have something in store for both of you, I know Jeff, you may be frustrated with certain things, but the emphasis today is about setting the agenda for our next-gen digital customer experience management and customer engagement.
Karen: So, Jeff, while we are here in this room, the focus for us is to have a strong alignment between you and Dustin. I do not want one version of CX in operations and the sales team propagating its own version.
Zane: Thanks, Karen, for setting this out so clearly and I cannot emphasize more on the need for a strong leadership to drive digital-first programs. Even with the best of tools and talents, unless we prepare ourselves to transform the way we do business, such initiatives will yield little results.
Jeff: I am sorry but despite sharing all your concerns, it’s my guys who will need to go and sell our stuffs and my team cannot spend too much time on transformation initiatives. The goal of the digital strategy should be to support sales strategy. Isn’t that simple in theory, and yet remains so elusive in practice?
Karen: Jeff, the solutions must be co-created, and I need all four of you to drive this together. I can see Dina running several programs across commerce systems, content management, workflow automation, and customer engagement but I still do not think we have a single view of the customer.
Zane: Have all of you looked at designing incentive structures of your teams that are aligned to customer needs. This forms the crux of a sustainable CX program and while some of those KPIs are setup at a project and functional level, it is really the cross-functional disconnects between these KPIs that prevents us from having a coherent and uniform approach toward customer experience management and customer experience strategy.
Bhaskar: Could you please elaborate on what that means?
Zane: It essentially means getting rid of KPIs that focus on channels and products and rather design broader KPIs like Net Promoter Score and Customer Lifetime Value. These KPIs once aligned need to be cascaded downstream following which roles and responsibilities within each project needs to be carved out to support these cascaded KPIs.
Karen: This has been attempted several times, however there are tactical challenges to accomplish this vision in totality.
Zane: I think the reason such tactical challenges exist in most organizations is because a great effort is spent behind creating customer journeys, but those journeys never get orchestrated. If we can set up and track the journey of every customer in real time, then omnichannel personalization is within our reach.
Dina: I cannot agree more, the challenge has been magnified by a scenario-based focus on journeys without an end-to-end mapping to business goals. While we have an excellent buyer journey, how that translates into impacting the NPS and CLV, is an exercise that requires manual effort and is often subject to perception and biases.
Bhaskar: Besides that, I think the reliance on IT is too high even to analyze simple journeys. My team’s focus today is to have tools that empowers the business to execute customer journey-centered analytics on its own. I do not want IT to be bothered for every data pull, staging, and rendition request.
Zane: That goes without saying, Bhaskar, and besides self-service analytics capabilities, It is important to have capabilities for customer profile segmentation, reporting, dashboarding, visualization and above all data governance through an intuitive user interface that reduces reliance on IT and makes business more confident of the data that they are handling. The importance of IT comes in configuring this tool for each business function so that each of them may have the capability to personalize the digital customer experience.
Karen: Yes, an optimized personalization architecture is what I have been stressing for a while, this should incorporate journey design and tools that leverage Artificial intelligence to provide insights. Zane, I think that’s what we need, can you talk about a few companies in the industry who have done it?
Zane: Sure Karen, there aren’t just a few, but many that we can talk about.
Dina: That sounds very interesting, I will schedule a separate session for that, hope we all participate!
Jeff: I hope, with all this it doesn’t comes to bringing another IT system and asking my team to enter all the data there.
Dustin: Ha-ha! Jeff, I must admit that this session got you going. Yes, I concur with your views on the need to reduce data entry by the sales and operations teams
Bhaskar: That, my friends, has been a great paradox so far, we constantly evaluate platform capability to provide great user experience but how seamlessly it automates data flow from CRM, ERP, finance systems, websites, apps, and all the third-party touch points. The idea should be to unify data streaming and create journeys in real time and feed the different business applications. Rest assured, I have it noted.
Karen: Well, Zane, I must thank you since for the first time I feel all four wheels of my car are moving in alignment! We would now like to see the broader strategy framework that you have created.
The meeting continued and as Zane shared her screen, we present to you one of the most important slides that she presented to the Intelex leadership in that meeting.