6 Steps to Successful Grassroots Cultural CX Adoption: A Real World Case Study
Last month the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA) held their annual Insights Exchange conference in Phoenix, AZ. I had the pleasure of not only attending, but also presenting my Oracle Service Cloud Technical Support case study: Driving Grassroots CX Adoption with No CX Budget from the Bottom Up. It’s been my experience that of the CXPA’s 6 core competencies, Organizational Customer Experience Adoption is the most challenging to understand and successfully achieve. Attempting to define a process by which to get an organization to buy into and embrace the principles of customer experience management can be a vexing prospect. What follows is a step-by-step tactical blueprint of how, in a 15-month span, we were able to take a 125-person, highly skeptical group of support engineers with an organizational CSAT rating of 75.2% and turn it into a customer-first powerhouse carrying a CSAT of 92.0%.
Setting the Scene: Our Organizational Landscape
I was hired as a liaison between our customers and partners and our support team to address a list of specific pain points. The role was newly created and most of the areas of focus hadn’t previously been addressed through any type of systematic approach. It was immediately evident to me that inside out thinking permeated the team and they widely believed successfully resolving technical issues was all that was required to satisfy our customers. Additionally, there was no understanding of Customer Experience Management as a business discipline, no overarching CX strategy and the organization as a whole was quite siloed. Sound familiar? A couple of things we did have in our favor was a visionary leader who was open minded to new ways of thinking and an abundance of qualitative and quantitative data.
Stage 1: Identify Customer Pain Points/Develop Improvement Initiatives
Entering an organization with no formal CX exposure, identifying pain points wasn’t tremendously difficult. From the outset, I realized it was more important to kick things off than it was to develop a comprehensive, all-encompassing list. The crucial piece in our situation was ensuring that we truly understood the difference between our customers’ pain points and our internal interpretations of the problems. This meant leaning heavily on the qualitative feedback listening path we already had in place: our existing support tickets. By combining a detailed review of these tickets with journey mapping methodologies and ethnographic research, we were able to identify the most significant issues. Once we felt we had a preliminary understanding of the pain points that caused our customers the most frustration, it was time to create projects to address them.
Stage 2: Continuous & Strategically Phased CX Improvement
As we reviewed the results of our pain point analysis, it became clear they fell into two broad categories: processes resulting in poor experiences and suboptimal agent interactions. We viewed these as interconnected, but distinct areas that we could focus on in parallel.
For decision making purposes regarding customer experience process improvements, we developed three criteria on which to base our prioritization: easy wins, those which provided the most customer relief for the least amount of effort and making deliberate strategic choices based on taking small initial steps. It was tremendously important to phase these steps in slowly so that each built successively upon the previous effort. Allowing time between each improvement initiative ensured that our customers and team members never experienced too much change at once. It also kept individual improvement efforts from bleeding together, thus providing a true sense of being rolled out one after another.
A philosophical pivot was required to address agent interactions. Concurrent to my hiring, we also hired a talented and cutting-edge Curriculum Manager. Understanding that people are much more likely to retain knowledge when it’s delivered frequently and consumed in small doses, she introduced micro-trainings. These modules ranged from weekly 2-minute videos accompanied by assessments to one sentence reminders greeting agents upon their daily login. As with the process improvements, this allowed us to introduce CX concepts and terminology gradually and in measured strides.
We also launched a blog that served as a bridge between our process improvement efforts and agent CX training. Topics fell into three categories which addressed unique customer pain points. Product and policy blogs discussed commonly misunderstood areas, filling knowledge gaps. Original customer service and customer experience content allowed us to demonstrate thought leadership and expertise in areas that are meaningful to our customers’ businesses. Posts discussing experience improvements made customers further aware of positive ongoing change. To tie this all together we augmented internal training by making the blog required reading, thus providing another avenue to nurture development of a CX common vocabulary and direction.
Strategic initiatives, especially ones requiring cultural shifts, require patience and are ideally driven from the top of an organization down. Lacking the formal authority to achieve this myself meant that I had to find an alternative way by which to encourage organizational buy-in. One method by which I was able to achieve this was by becoming a Customer Experience mentor to my manager. Formally passing along my knowledge not only assured that we were in lockstep strategically, but allowed her to effectively advance our improvement and training initiatives for me.
Stage 3: Promote Wins While Increasing Credibility & Influence
“If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
In other words, if you execute a CX initiative aimed to improve the lives of your customers and you don’t tell people about it, did anyone actually notice? After our first couple of efforts launched with little notice, I came to realize that creating a customer experience enhancement wasn’t enough. Trial and error revealed that both our customers and our internal teams needed to be made aware of three key items regarding any CX improvement:
- A change took place.
- How the change is intended to improve the customer experience and
- This isn’t a one-time effort, but part of a very deliberate, long-term strategy to which the organization is fully committed.
Once I realized the necessity to communicate this information, I then had to determine how to accomplish it effectively.
As I mentioned earlier, one of the purposes of our blog was to introduce and socialize our latest CX enhancements. In addition to covering the what, the why and our continued commitment to improving their experiences, I would also discuss how customer feedback led to this improvement and make clear if they weren’t happy, we were open to suggestions. By including these concepts, I was able to demonstrate that we were embracing a collaborative partnership that tangibly improved their experience with our team. Once a blog was published, understanding how to effectively use social media became essential to spreading our message and growing influence.
Since we’re a B2B business and I had no budget, Twitter and LinkedIn seemed to be the natural place to turn to create some buzz promoting our CX progress milestones. Through experimentation, I developed my own social media strategy that included managing an Oracle (@OSvC_Support) and personal (@EdwardHobart) twitter account, creating original tweets incorporating the latest expert content and using each account to retweet the other. By doing this I was able to create value for our customer-followers by making the latest thoughts on topics that mattered to them easily discoverable. Utilizing two Twitter handles also gave me the ability to craft two distinct voices with different, yet related areas of interest. This permitted me to cover a wider variety of topics and reach a larger audience: eventually approaching nearly 10,000 followers.
After posting, I would tweet about the blog and then retweet. I would do this multiple times a day for the first few days, knowing that you have an entirely new Twitter audience approximately every 20 minutes. I would also engage other Oracle Twitter handles to do the same. A few days later, to reach a different audience, I would post the same content on my personal LinkedIn page. After I posted on LinkedIn, I would reach out to other Oracle Service Cloud team members, encouraging them to “like” it and “share” it with their network.
The blog, Twitter and LinkedIn were all great resources with which I could earn credibility, but that wasn’t enough. I felt a need to demonstrate my knowledge and leadership in a more formal way by earning my Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP) designation. Successfully passing this examination meant I had become the first and only person at Oracle Service Cloud to earn this distinction. As it turned out, this was a game changer. With the combination of demonstrating expertise through my writings, developing a substantial social media following of CX and customer service professionals and earning my CCXP, I began to realize credibility and influence beyond the official title I held.
Stage 4: Continuous Improvement Cycle to Shift Customer Perceptions & KPIs
By the time we reached Stage 4, the tactical cycle was being successfully executed regularly. We had a continuous improvement process in place being powered by our feedback listening paths. Micro trainings were occurring at a regular cadence, CX improvements initiatives were being strategically rolled out, the promotion of those wins had become second nature and our collective social media presence and influence grew stronger. Once this had been ongoing for a period of time and our customers were convinced that the process was being fed through their own inputs, they came to believe in our team’s devotion to their customer experience. As that realization sunk in, we had begun to change their perception of our team and our company. With that perceptional shift came a shift in our customer scored metrics. With this, we’d reached the tipping point.
Stage 5: Internal Team Customer Experience Value Reinforcement
With the shift in our customer’s perceptions of the organization and the subsequent KPI shift, there was tremendous opportunity. As we began to receive positive quantitative and qualitative feedback, we shared it with the team and celebrated outstanding individual performances. By doing this, we were able to provide evidence to the skeptics that our experience changes had a very real and positive impact on how customers viewed our team. This type of reinforcement provided further motivation to our CX evangelists, while beginning to win over the detractors. There was a palpable sense of pride spreading quickly among team members and whereas I knew customer experience wasn’t yet woven through the fabric of our culture, momentum was in our favor and adoption had taken root.
Stage 6: Outside Teams Take Notice
As most CX professionals know, storytelling can be a tremendously powerful tool. In most organizations, a dramatic change in metrics will garner a lot of attention, but nothing is quite as gripping as vocal customer endorsements. While most other teams were aware that some positive changes had taken place with our team, it wasn’t until our customers spoke glowingly about us at our annual meetings that the impact of our hard work was more widely recognized. The result of our customers’ responses to the positive transformation of their experience left our counterparts asking us what we had done to tilt the playing field in our favor. While it’s too early to understand the long-term impact of our CX strategy on other teams, customer experience is something that’s now being regularly discussed across the entire organization.
Creating a strategy to successfully change a culture can be very difficult to put to paper and even harder to accomplish. Admittedly, this design isn’t the most sophisticated or complex, but when you’re driving transformation from the bottom of an organization upward without a budget, creative maximization of what’s available to you is paramount. Cultural shifts do not normally take place overnight. Having patience and maintaining unwavering belief that, in combination, these small steps will ultimately lead to a long-term customer-centric culture is essential. For us, the key to CX adoption was setting in place a continuous improvement process fueled by customer feedback and using it to create positive momentum with our customers. Once the team began to see that the customers’ mindset toward us had changed, largely because of our customer experience-focused strategy, they began to feel differently about their work. When that happened, the rest of the organization began to take notice.
What customer experience cultural adoption strategies have worked for your organization? Which have fallen short? What have you learned?