In this three-part blog series, we will be exploring organizational Customer Experience (CX) transformation. Successful multi-functional initiatives, like a CX transformation, require a strong, yet flexible framework – one that can accommodate ambiguity and rapidly changing markets, but still provides structure to guide teams through ambiguity. At West Monroe Partners, our CX transformation process is built on a framework called DEEPEN, or Define, Envision, Empathize, Plan, E(N)act. The DEEPEN design thinking approach helps practitioners develop a targeted change strategy, iterate on its specifics through testing and validation with its customers, devise a roadmap for implementation, and finally, execute. Part one of our series will dip a toe into the waters of Define, Envision, and Empathize, which creates the basis for which the rest of the program is built.
First, let’s define “CX transformation.” CX transformation is the realization of business value that occurs when utilizing deep and fact-based knowledge of the customer to change an organization’s people, process, and/or technology and meet true market need.
Stage 1: DEFINE
Getting started is the hardest part but knowing where to start is simple.
Transformation of a business’ structure, operations, market orientation, product offering, etc., requires real executive buy-in throughout the entirety of the process. However, just like conquering inertia in any situation, the first phase of CX transformation is the most difficult because it requires executives to prioritize the initiative above almost all other business functions other than day-to-day operations. Additionally, buy-in across executive leadership requires identification, definition, and agreement on the problems to be fixed; no small accomplishment. Once the problem is defined, gaining crystal clarity on the vision for the fixes, or intended outcomes, of the transformation must then be reached.
Our West Monroe team begins defining the problem by looking through the customer lens, or for the more versed CX professional – looking outside-in. This helps to avoid the inclination to focus on operational shortfalls. This is paramount because identifying operational pain points, as opposed to true customer need, is a fast way to lead an organization down a familiar path: marginally improved processes by way of break-fix initiatives that may or may not help customers achieve their objectives. To begin with CX transformation, work with your customers to identify their true needs in the market place and understand their real pain with the organization’s current day approach to satisfying those needs. Once this understanding is reached, an organization can begin with the envisioning the future.
Stages 2 and 3: ENVISION and EMPATHIZE
Looking into the future is about examining the many paths forward.
Envisioning future state ideas for CX transformation that are relevant, salient, and impactful to the customer and the business requires a team to have trust, flexibility, the ability to rapidly ideate, and test those ideas in the marketplace. Testing ideas with customers can come in many forms, ranging from product implementation in test markets to a simple series of interviews. The point is that the desire to come up with a solution quickly based on an internal view of the customer, developed through conversations with executives only, will be great. Additionally, remedial changes due to their safety and clear business viability will be attractive at this stage of CX transformation. And of course – ideas should be viable from a business perspective, but refrain from assigning a value judgement to ideas without having the customer perspective. Get out, talk, and empathize with your customers. Validate your ideas for the future. Opinions should not carry more weight than data.
There are many books written on the topic of creating ideas, rapidly testing them, and failing fast. Go read them. Here’s a pretty famous one from Ideo: The Human Centered Design Toolkit. You’ll know when you’ve done your due diligence after you’ve exhaustively collected data from prototypes, pilots, interviews, customer research, and have a pile of discarded ideas. You’ll especially know when you’ve done the work necessary to define a future state vision when you’ve killed a favorite idea. The point here is to push past the obvious. Generate many, test and discard a majority, refine and explore the ideas that stick. Be attached to nothing. Lastly, beware! It is entirely possible that after prototyping a few solutions, additional customer problems will be uncovered. As a result, the executive team should be prepared to revisit the Define phase throughout the entire ideation (Envision and Empathize) phases.
Without deliberate Define, Envision, and Empathize phases, your CX transformation will likely fail. The amount of technology, process, and organizational change management that is required to be successful with this type of effort is so extensive that implementing a solution before you truly understand the nature of the problem is likely. So, don’t be afraid to dig into this part of your customer journey (see what I did there?). Know thy customer, know thy solution.