Today I’m pleased to share a long-overdue guest post by Sarah Simon.

Throughout my career, I’ve enjoyed the thrill of several transitions between parallel (related, but different) professional camps. In each case, there was some level of misalignment between professional villages, ranging from misunderstanding to distrust and even acrimony.

Three Major Transitions I’ve Made

#1 From MR to VoC

My first leap was departing the world of traditional market research, with its admirable but hidebound methodology adherence, for the move-fast-and-break-it world of SaaS Voice of Customer data collection, analysis, and action platforms. A mentor cried out that I was making a huge mistake pigeon-holing myself in the customer satisfaction space! Market researchers criticized VoC practitioners for not sticking to academic rigor, while CX metrics folks reminded them that business decision makers can’t wait three months for stacks of indecipherable crosstabs and Power Point decks that are outdated before they’re finalized. Whew, relations between those two camps remained (remain?) so rocky that I was inspired to write a post on making the transition.

#2 Merging VoC and CX Strategy

As I sharpened my Voice of Customer listening and insights skills, I was painfully aware that so many teams consuming VoC data were unsure what to do with it! Countless blog posts, keynotes, webinars, and more were dedicated to reprimanding VoC teams to “put their customer data to work.” But people struggled, not the least because the same personality attracted to noodling with CX metrics is not always the same personality ready to campaign for organizational change – to persuade, negotiate, and cajole leadership to build the people, processes, and technologies needed for meaningful improvements to the customer experience – let alone to become an executive change leader themselves. In fact, many teams seemed to forget that their customer listening programs were, in fact, part of the customer’s journey and needed to be designed with consideration for the customer’s point of view. In this post, I argued for putting CX principals before the quest for VoC insights, when it doubt.

#3 Aligning CX Research and Design Strategy with Customer Service and Contact Center

Again, I stand at an exciting junction: Where pure-play, enterprise CX Strategy and the Contact Center, including voice and digital, should come together, but collaboration between the two seems more the exception than the rule.

I’ve seen cases of open distrust between these teams. The CX strategy team, armed with “statistically reliable” surveys and noses raised in the air, tells the Contact Center: Your data can’t be trusted. It’s unstructured, unsolicited, raw, and limited to a single touchpoint on the customer’s journey – we have no use for it. The Contact Center, meanwhile, grits their teeth, suspicious that the customer issues they work so hard to resolve are often downstream results of failures in CX strategy! For either team, “those other people” just don’t get it, so the defenses go up.

In other scenarios, CX players have a gauzy idea that there’s “some other” CX team in the organization, but their understanding and collaboration is zero. This isn’t due to animosity but to silos, which in many organizations take a much larger amount of energy, passion, dedication, and grit to overcome than many professionals have in their workday. Both teams seem content to assume the other team practices “that other” type of CX, so we’ll do our thing and let them do theirs.

In reality, these two teams need one another more than they know, and they need to work together to improve the experience for the customer.

Ingredients for the Solution

In many cases, the ingredients for a solution already exist:

  • The Contact Center enjoys direct access to the customer but not always direct access to strategic resources within its own organization. It is bursting with rich customer data, unstructured, unsolicited, and authentic. They interact first-hand with customers all week, sometimes around the clock, and get to know the customer as an individual and a cohort. The treasure trove of business intelligence from the customer service center not only contains voice and digital CX insights but also includes new product and service innovations, emerging competitive threats, breakdowns elsewhere in the journey, and more. Without the right corporate relationships, however, this valuable customer information doesn’t see the light of day beyond this team.
  • The CX Strategy team, meanwhile, lacks direct access to the customer and customer interfaces but enjoys access to research methodologists and analysts to help maximize customer insights and can even apply their human-centered designers to crafting real, concrete customer experiences. These researchers and designers can tap into strategic resources in Marketing to ensure brand voice and other standards are woven into customer interactions. And all of this can be leveraged toward both tactical improvements and strategic transformation to craft the Contact Center experience that yields demonstrable CX ROI. Sadly, more CX Strategy teams than I would like to see are solutions looking for a problem, prevented by business silos from making meaningful, direct customer impact.

Growing Case for Unified CX

As Customer Support becomes increasingly multichannel and 24/7, it ceases to be break-fix touchpoint and morphs into an always-on digital experience that touches the customer at every phase in the chaotic, organic customer journey. To the customer, the swirl of website and digital app, products and services, live agent chat and virtual AI agent, branding and voice, conversational IVR and live voice agent, and advertising and logo becomes the composite experience of your living, breathing brand. And it’s here that it’s more obvious than ever that CX Strategy and the Contact Center need to link arms and collaborate closely to design and deploy the dynamic, comprehensive customer experience that ensures their company thrives into this next decade. Use collaboration to open your processes and specialization to sharpen your execution.

Stop arguing about which of you is the “real” CX team. The customer doesn’t distinguish between your brand, your digital user experience, your comprehensive CX Strategy, and your Customer Support quality. I argue, increasingly, neither should your company. 

Sarah Simon, CCXP is a CX Design Partner for Verizon Business Group where she designs digital and voice CX solutions. She created and took to market the industry’s first academically-validated CX maturity model, the Confirmit Compass CX Assessments. She is the 53rd Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP) on record with the CXPA and is an alumna of their CX Experts panel.

Sarah believes great customer experiences don’t just happen; they must be mindfully crafted and nurtured to evolve over time. To this end, she leverages a background in research methodology with design thinking principles to build creative CX solutions. An obsessive Colorado outdoorswoman and lifelong athlete, she has summited hundreds of mountains around the world and section hikes roughly 75 miles of the Appalachian Trail northbound each year, a labor of love that may outlast her knees.

Image courtesy of Pixabay.