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How do you know where to start your CX journey?

I’ve been asked this very question a few times in the last couple weeks.

Don’t know where to start?

Just get started. You know you have to transform the customer experience with your company; don’t let uncertainty paralyze you or derail you from getting started.

As you already know, without executive buy-in and commitment, your transformation efforts won’t get very far. It’s mission critical that you have that commitment; without it, you’ll never get resources – human, capital, or other – that you’ll need to execute. I’ve already shared my thoughts on how to get that commitment, so make sure you start there and have that.

Let’s just move past that and start with the next step. Let’s assume that your executives are now on board.

So, what’s next?

In the spirit of “you can’t transform something you don’t understand,” there are two things you need to understand before you can move forward: the current state of: (1) your culture and the employee experience and (2) the customer and the customer experience.

Assess the Current State: Culture and Employee Experience
The employee experience drives the customer experience. If employees aren’t happy, satisfied, engaged, and passionate about what they do, your customers will be the recipients of their backlash. So we need to get a handle on a few things. Below are some tools that you can use identify where you are today in your journey. It’s important to do this level set before you start changing things; in other words, don’t just blindly dive in. You need a strategy.

Customer Experience Maturity Assessment: I put this tool under Culture and Employee Experience because it’s a baseline on where you are with regards to a customer-centric and customer-focused culture. It’s really a great way to start to understand if the customer currently has a seat at the executive table, and if not, how ready each and every employee is to listen to customers about their needs and expected outcomes going forward. It will be a read on where the organization is currently lacking (or not) and can be very eye-opening. It’s a great baseline that can be revisited and re-measured to gauge progress over time.

Employee CX Assessment: What if we asked employees what they know about customers and the customer experience? We then use the results to better frame our training efforts and to provide other (the right) tools needed to ensure employees have a clear line of sight to customers and are equipped to deliver the experience we need (and customers want) them to deliver.

Voice of the Employee: Listen to employees. Get their feedback about how well they feel they can do their jobs and what’s expected of them. Do they have the right tools and resources? Do they feel like their contributions matter? Understand their levels of engagement. Identify what’s missing. Conduct a culture assessment, as well. Do your employees know your purpose, vision, core values, and guiding principles? Do they live them every day?

Assess the Current State: Customers and the Customer Experience
How well do you understand your customers and the experience they are having? Do you know who your customers are? The following are some tools to get you started with understanding the current state of the customer experience.

Personas: Because we can’t design the experience for each individual customer (though we can ultimately personalize when we have the data to do so), and designing for segments is too high level, we develop personas instead. Personas are fictional characters created to describe your ideal prospect or actual customer. They’re derived through primary research. They represent a behavioral segment and are specific to your business, not to the industry. The descriptions include vivid narratives, images, and other items and artifacts that help companies understand the needs of the customer (contextual insights) and outline motivations, goals, behaviors, challenges, likes, dislikes, objections, and interests that drive buying (or other) decisions.

Customer Journey Map: If there’s going to be any customer-driven transformation, we need to think about the journey, not just about individual, singular touchpoints. The map is a way for you to walk in your customer’s shoes, to really understand what he goes through as he tries to complete a task with the company. For the organization, it builds awareness, understanding, and empathy. The research you use to create your customer personas can also feed your journey mapping efforts. Journey maps are the ultimate tool to help connect all employees to how they contribute to – and impact – the customer experience.

Current State Analysis: Conducting a current state analysis will be important to help you understand which improvement initiatives, if any, are already underway so that you don’t move forward with disparate, disjointed, and siloed efforts. This analysis might include creating a feedback map that charts the various sources of customer data, i.e., direct, indirect, attitudinal, and behavioral, also underway. This is a great time to catalog and map your operational metrics, as well, and figure out how you will link them to your improvement efforts.

Voice of the Customer: Listening to the voice of the customer through various channels is a no-brainer; if we don’t listen and learn about the experience, we’ll have no idea where improvements need to be made or where we’re doing things well/right. If we don’t listen, we’ll never know anything about our customers’ needs and desired outcomes. We should take a methodical approach to surveys, but listening through other channels (e.g., social media, call center data/feedback, voice of customer through employees) is an “always on” venture.

Build Your Plan
We can’t just do all of the things mentioned above in a vacuum. And none of them are “one and done” tools. Each one builds on another area, and next we need to put it all together to create a transformation plan.

Governance: Governance is about both oversight and execution. Your governance structure will outline and define people, roles, and responsibilities. Who is going to ensure that there is alignment and accountability across the organization? This is typically referred to as your core program team, and they will provide oversight to ensure the organization executes on the CX vision, strategy, and transformation. This governance will also include clearly-defined rules and guidelines for how the customer experience management strategy will be executed.

Roadmap: To guide execution of your strategy, you must build a roadmap. Take everything you learn as you complete the assessments and utilize the other tools mentioned above to (a) identify action items and (b) lay out your plan for how you’ll execute. Not just how, but who, when, how, how much, impact to fix, time to fix etc. It will be a detailed plan to guide next steps; it’ll include a prioritization of action items and ownership for each.

Training and Education: Perhaps this is a line item in your roadmap, but I thought I’d call it out separately. All of this learning that you do about your employees and your customers can’t remain on your desktop. It needs to be shared out to the organization. If employees are lacking the know-how to do their jobs or can’t tell you how they impact the customer experience, there’s a need for training. The customer understanding and customer experience feedback needs to be shared with those who are expected to deliver a better experience. Use what you’ve learned, plus my 6 tools to create a clear line of sight to customers, to frame training and orientation programs that will yield enlightened employees who know what’s expected.

It seems overwhelming when you think about how to get started. But companies are in business to create and to nurture customers. If you’re not doing this well, the business fails.

So, remember: it’s not where you start… it’s that you start! It’s a journey. A long one. Rome wasn’t built in a day; nor will you transform your customer experience that quickly. You’ll do the items I outlined in this post. You’ll then do the work. Customer expectations will evolve. You’ll transform again. It’s a continuous improvement process. Yea, a journey. Good luck!

Dream big. Start small. But most of all … start. -Simon Sinek