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Human-centered CX: Uniting stakeholders across the enterprise


Customer experience is said to be a top business priority for most companies around the world. Many experts agree that investing in CX establishes a competitive advantage against companies that choose to solely prioritise the bottom line.

While customer experience is a noble and important catalyst for business transformation, becoming truly customer-centric requires an introspective approach. This takes stepping back to define what customer experience really means from the customer’s perspective – what they truly value and also what’s primed, broken or missing to deliver next generation CX.

For example, the organisational infrastructure of many companies is modelled to support the traditional sales funnel. Like the funnel itself, many of the departments designed to support it are compartmentalised. This is why we have silos and why many CX evangelists say that we need to “break down the walls” between them.

But functions such as sales, customer service, marketing and retention were historically designed to serve objectives. These objectives were meant to best serve the customer in the respective stages. The idea and expense of integration was nonsensical in that the reach group was funded and measured by how they operated and served customers independently, not through integration. To challenge this would often go against the “steady as she moves” approach or worse, the risk averse culture that governs many organisations.

The human component

The truth is that traditional business models were designed in an era before the consumerisation of technology. Customers (and employees) are empowered by technology and by the connections social media, mobile and connected devices facilitate. As a result, the basic premise of how companies sell, serve and support customers now requires new models and methods that meet the behaviours and expectations of a more discerning generation. This is why I believe that one of the biggest trends in business today, digital transformation, is as much about technology as it is about people, operations, processes and perspectives.

Digital transformation is the realignment of, or new investment in, technology, business models, and processes to deliver new value to customers and employees in an ever- changing digital economy. In fact, in my research, I’ve found that customer experience is often the greatest ally in digital transformation efforts.

To establish what customer experience is, let’s start with what it’s not: It’s not the investment of new frontend and backend technology to fix and modernise touchpoints. It is human and is defined as the sum of all engagements a customer has with you company in every touchpoint throughout their lifecycle. Starting with anything other than a customer-centric perspective is an easy mistake companies make.

Experience by design

Believe it or not, CX is often a technology-led approach. This isn’t necessarily negative, it’s just incomplete. For example, everything from customer journey mapping to CRM to content management and data analysis are aiming to help companies integrate and scale customer experience initiatives. But without understanding people, what’s important to them, and how they, and their preferences and values, are evolving, businesses are not actually innovating in CX or basing what’s supposed to be customer-centered efforts on empathy or relevance.

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If customer experience is the aggregate sentiment and resulting reactions of people in each moment of truth, then all work must focus on delivering consistent, efficient, relevant and meaningful experiences. And, previously separated business units must now collaborate to build a consistent and integrated customer journey. That takes experience design. Then, the supporting strategies, technologies, processes, operations, governance and metrics are plotted in experience architecture work, which drives a resolute charge toward digital transformation.

Some of the most advanced companies I’ve studied invest in CX as the catalyst for digital transformation and do so with a human-centered point of view to give technology and operational investments purpose.

Opposite attracts 

The direction each business takes in pursuing change is complex, and there is no one way to excel. Nor is there one tell-all anecdote, framework or app to map the journey of your next steps toward programmatic transformation. Rather, companies that succeed do so by taking an empathetic approach. They also seek executive sponsorship to support the formation of a cross-functional steering committee to 1) find critical missed opportunities, 2) fix what’s broken or causing friction and 3) identify areas for immediate and long-term innovation, 4) develop a roadmap for CX and 5) guide the company’s digital transformation.

To help, I assembled a series of best practices as informed by those leading CX initiatives and transformation in companies such as Discover, GM, Harvard, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Nestlé, Sephora, Starbucks, among many others. This resulted in what I hope is a useful framework and report, Eight Success Factors of Digital Transformation: How businesses are taking an OPPOSITE approach to business as usual.

The framework offers insights and new understanding of technology, data and the connected customer. By learning from these companies and following the OPPOSITE approach, digital transformation and all the work, resources, and plans around it becomes identifiable, approachable and attainable for organisations.

OPPOSITE is an acronym that offers companies a step-by-step approach to digital transformation:

  1. Orientation: Establish a new perspective to drive meaningful change.
  2. People: Understand customer values, expectations and behaviours.
  3. Processes: Assess operational infrastructure and update (or revamp) technologies, processes and policies to support change.
  4. Objectives: Define the purpose of digital transformation, aligning stakeholders (and shareholders) around the new vision and roadmap.
  5. Structure: Form a dedicated digital experience team with roles/responsibilities/objectives/accountability clearly defined.
  6. Insights & Intent: Gather data and apply insights toward strategy to guide digital evolution.
  7. Technology: Re-evaluate front and back-end systems for a seamless, integrated and native customer (and ultimately employee) experience.
  8. Execution: Implement, learn and adapt to steer ongoing digital transformation and customer experience work.

The OPPOSITE framework was designed to visualise building towards digital transformation and reshaping the customer experience. It’s also meant to help create alignment among different stakeholder groups to drive a larger, more unified movement in the modernisation and, in some cases complete innovation, in business dynamics and models.

For companies looking to align their CX efforts with customer preferences, behaviours and values, look beyond your existing infrastructure and processes to unite stakeholders across the organisation, create a shared vision, develop an innovative experience architecture and roadmap and take more meaningful steps towards thriving in the new digital reality.

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