Good Governance Boosts Customer Experience Innovation
Consultant and speaker on customer experience. Founding partner and senior advisor to the International Customer Management Institute, ICMI.
The term “governance” might feel out of place in the context of customer experience innovation. In fact, to some, creating a governance process might sound limiting or even stifling. But as a customer experience consultant, I’ve found the opposite to be true. It’s the department-spanning nature of customer experience that is precisely why governance is so important to innovation. Opportunities will impact budgets, the organization chart and the status quo.
Here’s an example. (Of course, your organization and circumstances will be different, but you’ll get the gist.) Let’s say you provide business systems to corporate customers, and your customer feedback points to dissatisfaction in how you train new customers. You currently require them to fly their system engineers to your central “university” for a five-day training class. Or, given Covid-19 restrictions, you give them the option of attending these classes online — a grueling virtual marathon. They must pass a challenging test at the end, timed perfectly to cause your in-person visitors to just miss the early evening round of flights home.
They do it — they don’t have a choice — but lately, your sales reps have been discounting travel and training costs because customers balk at the time and expense. And the engineers hate it. In a recent survey, you even found that one customer said their IT department has been pushing them to change vendors just so they don’t have to send engineers to your training.
Maybe it would be feasible to transition this training and testing to a self-paced format. The only problem? You have a whole department in the central office dedicated to the neatly scheduled, week-long agenda — a staff of trainers, beautiful training rooms, new technology and a team to maintain it all. You could take a heavy-handed approach and force a change to virtual/self-paced alternatives. But how likely is it that the training lead will strongly push back? (My guess is 100%.)
Regardless of who “wins,” how would a scenario like this contribute to an engaging environment? You can make the case for customer experience, but it’s difficult to affect enterprise-wide culture and values when others may be resistant to change.
This is where governance is so necessary and helpful. From my perspective, a governing body is helpful — essential, really — to innovation. Done right, governance shifts the organization from siloed objectives to the customer journey perspective, and that leads your priorities and decisions.
Governance In Practice
An effective governance team consists of cross-functional stakeholders who interpret data and ultimately determine priorities. You’ll need a strong, influential senior leader to facilitate, influence and drive action. This person should be both diplomatic and resolute in driving progress. You’ll also need a team of senior leaders from across functions. While the group’s makeup will vary, it should generally include the customer experience leader, the senior marketing executive who owns the organization’s brand promise, the employee experience lead, the customer service lead, a product lead and a leader from IT.
I’ve seen various names for this group: a customer advisory board, customer experience operating committee, CX change coalition and others. Go with something that fits.
Your goal is to create a group with the fortitude to address the deep, systemic cultural divides. This group should be able to look ahead, push for and facilitate innovation. Good governance might just be the missing piece to robust innovation in your organization.
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