One of the biggest challenges facing Customer Experience professionals is embedding CX into an organisation as a recognised and valued business discipline. Often the CEO recognises an important growth opportunity lies in strengthening customer focus. The necessary customer research is carried out and detailed results are presented to the senior management team. Few around the meeting room table can dispute the insights derived from the on-site, ethnographic research as customers’ needs, wants and behaviours are revealed and benchmarked against product/service delivery reality.
The CEO mandates the need for change. The senior team carries out some quick fixes and everyone seems set on the path to customer-centricity and customer-driven growth. Yet very often the initiative goes no further. Band-aids are applied to the key issues highlighted in the research but no root-cause solutions are found. Management teams are unable to operationalise the findings, enthusiasm wanes, the expected returns do not materialise and CX does not become an embedded business discipline driving growth and innovation throughout the organisation.
This disconnect seems to stem from the fact that senior management teams can be fundamentally averse to change and reluctant to take risks. A culture born out of service delivery rather than ownership leads to a need to constantly seek permission from above before taking any action and fear of losing status prevents more creative and collaborative management methods being put in place.
“The way we’ve always done it” stays firmly in place.
In this context, it is true to say that traditional management-hierarchies have been key to running successful businesses for decades and that they are an effective and efficient tool for running day to day operations. However in today’s business environment the ability to adapt to change with speed and agility is critical for future survival.
As proof of this, only sixty of the companies in the Fortune 500 list in 1955 are still in business today, which is less than 12%. According to the Harvard Business School an important reason for this was failure to adapt quickly enough to change and maintain competitive advantage.
Change management guru, John Kotter suggests that the traditional hierarchy structure is no longer enough to drive a business forward, but rather than be replaced by a totally new structure, he suggests supplementing it with a network structure created by the C-suite and made up of a volunteer group of professionals from all levels of the organisation. Kotter describes this structure as:
“a second operating system devoted to the design and implementation of strategy, that uses an agile, network-like structure and a different set of processes”.
In other words, the creation of a strategy network comprised of professionals from all across the organisation who work together in a non-hierarchical, agile team that delivers creative and innovative solutions. The existence of this initiative driven, problem-solving team therefore frees up the senior management team allowing them to run the day to day operations of the business.
This is very much along the lines of current CX best practice, which creates a group of CX champions to spread CX know-how across the organisation. However, rather than being mandated by the senior management team and following a linear line of reporting to those leaders, the idea is that the network blends with the management hierarchy on an equal footing, made possible by those people who are part of both structures.
Kotter also suggests the key to ensuring success of the network is to create a sense of urgency around one single big opportunity. According to Kotter, on-going urgency around an exciting opportunity not only gets rid of complacency but also creates a strong competitive advantage. This sense of urgency drives people to come into work every day determined to find more ways to grasp the big opportunity.
Perhaps the key to getting CX fully embedded into an organisation lies in presenting CX as that major opportunity and creating a network of people dedicated to its development. This system will certainly give a voice to many people who might not normally be heard as well as a chance to think outside the silos of their daily activity and to prove that they can be instrumental in driving performance.