By Ronni Marshak
SVP and Sr. Consultant/Analyst, Patricia Seybold Group
In Part 3 of the Customers.com Handbook, What Roles You'll Need to Implement Your Customers.com Strategy, Patty stresses the importance of making sure that the role (or roles) that lead the customer experience charge has clout in your organization. Her suggestions for a new customer-centric organizational structure include:
1. Put Your Top Execs in Charge of Customer Experience Governance
2. Give Customer Segment Owners P&L Responsibility
3. Nurture Customer Communities by Customer Segment
4. Drive Company-wide Priorities based on Customer-critical Issues ACROSS Segments
Sound advice. But many organizations have already put people and projects in place that don’t necessarily follow these guidelines.
In our experience with client projects, the most successful co-design and customer innovation initiatives always have high-level executive support. But in those projects that die on the vine (before even getting started) or get stalled after a promising start, the person given the mandate to improve the customer experience is lower down on the corporate totem pole, and doesn't have the unfailing support of the powers that be.
Customer-Centric Initiatives that Never Happen
Getting a customer experience initiative off the ground requires proper scoping of the project and defining valued deliverables, all of which requires deep and thoughtful listening to the sponsor's requirements and ultimate goals. However, a well conceived project doesn't necessarily get approved. This is especially true when the sponsor is below the VP level and isn't responsible for a line of business with the associated P&L. Typically, someone at the C level recognizes that the company should be doing some customer experience programs, and puts the onus on a VP level exec to figure out how to make that happen. The VP looks for someone to take ownership, and often turns to someone at mid level in marketing, who either doesn’t have other specific responsibilities but is a good worker, or someone who has a lot of responsibilities, but makes things happen.
Unfortunately, by the time this customer-experience program leader gathers all the information on what type of project can be done and can be successful, the senior executive has moved on to other priorities and is loath to commit any significant budget to the initiative.
In some cases, the executive is on board and commits time and resources to the project championed by the customer experience program leader. In our experience, the initial 'event,' whether a customer co-design workshop, forming a CAB, or creating a community for customer innovation, goes well. Everyone gets on board (sometimes reluctantly, but with a push from the executive).
However, after the successful launch of the project, other priorities get in the way of effective follow up—both internally (people procrastinating on delegated action items) and externally (participating customers don't receive the promised follow-up status information). When the customer experience leader tries to get his colleagues to do their follow up, he is met with unreturned emails and phone calls, or promises that "I'l get to it." Because he has no clout in the organization, he has to play the corporate political game of going to his boss, who is often reluctant to go up the ladder to get the authority that is required to keep things going. The poor mid-level marketer is frustrated and powerless. And, even more significantly, the customers who gave their time and effort to be part of the initiative feel abandoned. We have heard over and over from customers that their providers ask for their input, and then do nothing with it. They aren't going to be willing to participate in the next customer-facing project because they don't feel valued and feel that they have wasted their time.
Make sure that if you are investing in customer-focused initiatives that you have given the authority, and not just the responsibility, to the person who has the passion and the insight to see them through. If you are not investing in customer-focused initiatives…well, Start Now!
What Roles You'll Need to Implement Your Customers.com® Strategy
A Handbook for Your Customers.com® Initiatives—Part 3
By Patricia B. Seybold, CEO and Sr. Consultant