Experience at the Core: Identifying and Activating Competencies for the Future, Part II

Author: Diane Magers, CCXP, Founder and CEO, Customer Experience Catalysts

Edited by Christopher Rios, CX Practice Leader, Managing Partner

In her previous article, Experience at the Core: Identifying and Activating Competencies for the Future, my friend Diane Magers (CEO of Customer Experience Catalysts) provided a toolbox to disrupt the status quo of our perceptions on Customer Experience. As a matter of fact, she was bold enough to suggest that today’s customers are not necessarily looking to pit one company against another for their loyalty but rather, she says, your competition is your customer’s best experience. She then went on to specify how you could transform your organization into a more Customer-focused one…one that is EXPERIENCE-based. And, her recipe for the CX Function to be a bold catalyst to shake things up included language like Experience Leadership and Experience Urgency.

In Part II, Diane continues her boldness as she answers questions around top challenges in CX that companies should be aware in 2019; how do you see the future of CX? and what role does an experience professional play in bringing new competencies to organizations…among several others. Her views on how innovation is the new competency currency to how/what Agile and Digital will allow us to do to what are the expectations of the employees and customers to identifying what challenges to the talent economy you need to prepare for and how all this will affect trust in your brand are just a few things Diane asks us to seriously consider. This once again proves why she remains at the forefront of the CX space as an innovator and futurist. It is probably why she led the CXPA these last several years among her many storied successes in corporate America including ATT and Sysco. Hang on tight!

Q. What are, in your opinion, the top challenges in customer experience that companies should be aware of in 2019?

A.  Three specific things come to mind. First, organizations will have to rethink how the work gets done. Organizational alignment will be most critical to not only the market (think customer expectations) but also internally (i.e.: employee expectations) – both will have to be incorporated into CX successfully to drive maximum impact. Number two, Innovation Management and Organizational Agility will become more prevalent on the executive agenda. And third, journey management mastery will be a critical competency of the CX leader of the future; they will have to have a deep end-to-end understanding of the experience to intentionally move it from its current state to a defined desired state.

From an organization alignment perspective, the biggest threat is the talent shortage for cross-functional knowledge-oriented people. The fact of the matter is that the talent for the future has to have cross-functional knowledge (intimate knowledge of how the organization can and should work) to have the strongest impact across all parts of the company – from marketing, sales, operations to customer/employee care and digital. As such, a talent shortage will become evident not only for those workers with the much-needed cross-functional, data, digital and design skills necessary to gain the intimacy of how the organization can and should work but talent in general. In addition to a wide skill set and knowledge of organizational functions, one of the most impactful roles, the collaborator, will be the most glaring talent shortage. Organizations will need those people that know how to include multiple champions to harness the power of the collective for the greater good. Think Agile!

Second to that, innovation will be the new competency currency for organizations. To prevent many organizations from simply scratching the surface from becoming just a functional utility, data, digital and technology transformation will be critical to future success. And with that, executive leaders will have to either be the innovators or find someone who can fill that essential gap.

And finally, value creation will become the differentiator in client partnerships. The ability to identify and create value for both the organization and the client will take discussions to new and exciting levels.

Organizational alignment and agility, innovation management and having mastery of the journey management spectrum will all contribute to creating maturity in a company, thus setting themselves up for success in the evolving marketplace.

Q. How do you see the future of customer and employee experience?

A.  The catalyst for organizational change has been entirely predicated on how consumer and employee expectations have changed. Companies have transformed the way the way they engage, interact and attract people. What organizations have learned from their VoC and VoE feedback has shaken the foundation of many organizations. As companies understand the different interactions customers and employees have with their brands (i.e.: their needs and wants), the way they work, how they make decisions, how they collaborate, how they use data, how they build products and services has all been disrupted. The focus on acquisition, scores and fixing issues has been replaced with outside disruption, market ecosystem expectations (i.e., Blockchain, GDPR) and coordination. And with no real end in sight for how human expectations will evolve, the push for more aggressive changes to keep up let alone get ahead will need specialists to help drive that innovation.

Q. How should we overcome those challenges?

A.  First, those aggressive changes that are the result of changing customer and employee expectations will need architected but authentic experiences with built in capabilities to positively impact those customers and employees and not just fix their issues or track scores. In order to be successful, companies will need to drive a profound yet strategically orchestrated organizational transformation to have lasting sustainability for years to come. This will require experience-based transformation experts capable of designing the strategy that will ultimately help drive authentic and real systemic transformation. By developing more collaboration and alignment across the entire company – from how companies measure to how they use metrics, to processes, governance, and workflow – will there be lasting change.

Next, executives across sector and industry will need to understand more than just bottom-line statistics. Rather, the C-suite must lead their company’s culture shift by taking an innovative approach that incorporates more than just P/L responsibility. They must also look at how their people work together, how people are motivated and compensated, how to hire differently, how priorities are evaluated and decisions are made, and how value is exchanged with the customer.

Both of these are the aggressive actions that are required for many organizations and lead to business model changes, more extensive rigor on digital enablement, an acute awareness of customer behavior in the market and hypersensitivity to knowledge in the market of ever-changing impacts on organizations (i.e., data security, the gig economy, AI, machine learning). The Experience-based Transformation Professional coupled with an innovative executive willing to change the company’s approach can help facilitate these changes and as such, be the catalyst every company needs to enter into the future.

Q: What are your thoughts on understanding the mind of the customer and their evolving needs?

A.  Experience expectations are driving the way businesses have to work, perform and be perceived in an ever-changing market.  True transformation will only come as brands and organization develop new competencies with data analytics, emotional intelligence, digital, innovation, collaboration, and agility. Experience intelligence – not only understanding the “what” but also the “why” of human behavior – has brought the social sciences including psychology, anthropology, sociology into business with remarkable results. Wearables, biometrics, physiological responses and neurochemistry will all become a part of how organizations continue to realize the science of the minds of the customer. I think we will continue to see the emotional intelligence of organizations rise.  And, on the other side, the technology that enables and expands experiences will continue to explode, disrupting and upending many industries.

Those organizations and brands that have prepared and are moving to stay ahead will survive. Not just building technology but deeply changing the organizational psychology and design of how they work. Brands must “live with the lives of their customers;” they must adapt to them in the context of their lives; they have to design hyper-personalized, intelligent, contextual experiences; they have to continuously explore and discover where they are understanding needs, wants, and even unknown expectations. And then, build their organizations to deliver those experiences.

The largest change to impact brands is the shift of human experience expectations within – those of the employees. Think about the changes in our sociological needs – gig economy, search for purposeful and meaningful work that gives back to society, entrepreneurial start-up mentality, shift to homogenous and commoditized access to any product. In order for legacy brands to keep up, they will need new ways of thinking and working. They will have to open doors typically closed and listen to what their employees need/want and hire against these trends. In addition, they will need to reevaluate what skills and competencies are needed to compete in the market. Otherwise, instead of thriving like Netflix, they will collapse like the Blockbusters of the business world.

2019 is a crucial time for many companies. Innovators must be allowed to teach new ways to stimulate and escort their organizations into the future and starting with the mind of the customer and their needs is a great place to begin.

Q. What role does an experience professional play in bringing new competencies to organizations?

A. Never before has there been such a great opportunity for the experience professional to leap ahead. For many, CX has become a buzzword. However, for those of us in the profession, our passion, focus, courage and consistent push for our organizations to achieve the goals and visions of differentiation in the marketplace has never been more critical; we are the catalyst for transformation. As the landscape rapidly changes about the how and why brands thrive, exist or collapse, understanding the minds of the market and leaders will fall squarely on the shoulders of experience professionals. We will be the catalysts for our profession that constantly forges the path of highest impact. Our role is critically essential in helping create the understanding of our impact to an organization as they compete in an ever-evolving marketplace. Furthermore, it is our responsibility to continually raise awareness of the experience profession as a pivotal, crucial and critical role for organizations of all sizes!

Q. What do you think are the biggest challenges in setting new standards in customer experience?

A. First, “morphing with expectations.” In times past, setting standards helped build great momentum in systemizing repeatable and reliable processes; customers knew exactly what to expect from your brand. However, the key to the future is now predicated on setting a new expectation of constant evolution and responsiveness to what is happening outside the “walls” of the organization…a more outside in approach, if you will.

Second, becoming a “living brand;” meaning, design contextual, in-moment interactions to show that your organization has a deep understanding of the value it has created for its customers (e.g.: save time, minimize effort, maximize positive emotion, etc.). What this means is you have to get the basics right to set the path for evolution. Trying to set standards that are unachievable leaves everyone feeling overwhelmed. Rather, set the stage by using deep change management phases to draw everyone in to the change steps and create visibility to the path the brand will take. Then, include celebrating and validating your forward progress as instrumental to moving your brand to new and higher standards.

Third, Support and Governance. Setting standards doesn’t work unless there is accountability. And, not just that the job gets done but understanding what each person needs to accomplish the standards, i.e.: addressing obstacles and finding what enables them to achieve those standards. Accountability (rather than irrelevant metrics or lofty visions) means you set that clear path and define the new way of working that empowers people – from identifying the power of change to the benefit to each person and to their personal and professional lives, the standards must be relevant and connected to your brand’s cause and purpose for everyone to feel inspired. But also that they have support in the tools, data, support and resources to perform.

Finally, Focus. Focus. Focus. Not on the shiny objects, but the core of the brand and what you mean to the customer’s life and the value you create. Standards tied to clear, relevant and meaningful goals will unite the company into one cohesive organism that benefits both customer and employee!

Q. In the world pushing for higher technology with AIs, machine learning, bots and innovative digital applications, new approaches are continuously being rolled out. How should brands offer top customer experiences while simultaneously matching the emerging customer needs with continuously advancing technologies?

A. Louis Hyman, a professor at the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University was quoted by John Frazer his Forbes article, How the Gig Economy is Reshaping Careers for the Next Generation: “The history of labor shows that technology does not usually drive social change. On the contrary, social change is typically driven by decisions we make about how to organize our world. Only later does technology swoop in, accelerating and consolidating those changes.” I believe customers will continue to want the personal care and human touch regardless of the channel. Focused personalization via video, contextual and in-moment interactions is the value a brand provides that keeps people engaged. But technology is rapidly changing today’s workforce, creating new roles while displacing others. Emerging jobs now require more technical skills and fluency but at the same time, the demand for greater levels of soft skills (i.e.: personal care and human touch) remains incredibly high. And as the talent economy continues to morph and change in dramatic ways, roles are becoming more complex and we’re seeing a hyper-competition for the same skills across industries, making it even more difficult to find and hire critical talent. As such, balancing technology proficiency with the skills needed to deliver on expectations – on the front line as well as app dev, digital teams and others – will continue to be a competency challenge.

CX professionals should consider enhancing their skills with these additions to anticipate the challenges ahead:

  • Be able to tie financial results to Experience Efforts – while CX starts with the ability to gather information, generate scores and fix problems, its evolution is about changing the brand experience to drive business results from a revenue and cost perspective.
  • Employee Experience – not just engagement. The critical nature of how the employee experiences the brand, their ability to perform their role with the right leadership, tools, information and empowerment and to be engaged with the brand with a purpose and impact for everyone involved will become the new norm.
  • Journey Management – while journey mapping is a key competency in the CX toolbox, the profession has evolved its approach to not only helping design the story but driving how the organization will move from its current state to its future state which includes all of the orchestrated moving parts and pieces needed to make that happen: data/analytics, digital, infrastructure, leadership, skills, technologies).

Diane Magers will be attending the CXPA Insights Exchange in Salt Lake City in May.

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