Creating a Customer Experience Team: 4 Questions to Ask
Illustration by Erik Blad

If you haven’t recognized it by now, you’re too late. The pandemic hasn’t changed it. Global crises — be they environmental, political, or economic — haven’t altered this reality: We are still solidly in the “Age of the Customer,” as originally declared by Forrester.

In a world saturated with customer choices, customer experience (CX) drives who wins the customer’s wallet share. Most know this to be true for retail, financial services, and hospitality, but it’s true across any industry where the customer has choice.

Consider healthcare, an industry not historically known for customer choice. With new rules requiring increased price transparency, patients (i.e., customers) will be given the opportunity to make more informed choices. If a provider makes a patient feel respected and cared for, they are likely to choose that provider over one who makes them feel hurried or who has bad bedside manner.

If the Age of the Customer extends even into healthcare, what will you do about customer experience in your company? If you don’t already have a dedicated customer experience team, now is the time to create one.

4 questions to ask before creating a customer experience team

Where do you start when you're looking to create a customer experience team? In the words of Lewis Carroll in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: “Begin at the beginning.”

Answer the four questions below, and you’ll be well on your way to creating a CX team that's poised to deliver great experiences for every customer, every time.

1. What do you want to do?

That’s the first step of any activity: determining what you want to do. For example, I love to hike. Choosing a hike starts with considering choices like:

  • Am I looking for an inspirational view?

  • Do I want a great sunset?

  • Do I want a physical challenge?

  • I need some solitude. Where can I find that?

Choices like that determine what type of hike I will take and, more specifically, where I need to go for that first step at the trailhead.

Determining how to build your CX team requires similar choices:

  • Who are your customers and what do they want?

  • Why are some customers churning? Do they have the means to find a resolution to their issues?

  • How can you collect and create analytics to help you scientifically understand your customers?

  • How can you better understand the overall customer journey?

  • How can you bring the customer into your operational decision-making?

  • More positively, perhaps you want to bring a spirit of celebration and understanding into your organization. How can you tell customer stories and praise the employees on your team who deliver great CX?

Fundamentally, perhaps your CFO wants to improve the bottom line and knows that customer experience will drive improvement there — but they need to be convinced that this isn’t just another “let’s be nice” fad. You can do all of the above and help that bottom line.

Begin at the beginning, and it’ll shape your path.

2. What roles do you need on your CX team?

With full credit to Andre Wiringa and StartReverse, I encourage you to think of this in reverse. Instead of thinking of functions, try to answer this question from the customers’ perspective: What would your customers want you to have on your team?

Start with the customers and find your way back into the answer.

Likely, your customers will want to be heard when they have a problem. Your customers will want to know that you will offer solutions (products, services, experiences, etc.) that meet their desires, find them where they are, and offer a value that fits their needs. What does that look like in reverse?

Customer WishFunction

Know who I am and what I want.

Voice of the Customer (VOC)

Understand me as an individual and as part of a group.

Analytics, Journey Mapping, Personas

Help me find the answers I need.

Customer Service, UX, Product

I want to interact with people who care about me and are excited to help me.

Coaching, Training, Celebrations, Communications

Fix things when they go wrong.

eCLF (External Closed Loop Feedback), Restore Relationships

Don’t screw things up.

iCLF (Internal Closed Loop Feedback), Operational Excellence

Provide something of value to me, and I’ll provide my wallet share to you.

Financial Analytics

Clearly the size of your company will influence the size of the team, so the functions above won’t necessarily each be met by a different individual. The key point is for you, in your company and in your situation, to think about what your customer wants.

To hire for this team, consider the skills that will help deliver the functions above. Beyond skills, your primary hiring decision for team members should be, “Do they have a heart for the customer?”

Each role on the team needs to be an advocate for the customer across the organization. That energy can’t be sustained unless there is a true heart for the customer. Similarly, consider the spirit of the individuals you’re choosing, and hire happy people.

Ideally, your CX team will reflect your customers’ diversity as well. Often overlooked (but thankfully coming more to the forefront of hiring decisions today), ensuring your team reflects who your customers are will increase the likelihood the team can truly “get into the customers’ shoes” and understand who they are and what they seek.

This isn’t a check-box diversity play. This is an intentional design decision to recognize that strength comes from securing the range of voices, experiences, and characteristics that true diversity provides. How can your team truly understand your customers if the breadth of uniqueness your customer base holds doesn’t show up in your own team?

3. What can you do to ensure success?

The most important thing you can do to ensure success:

Be the number one CX advocate in your company.

As a senior leader, the organization will find its tone and direction from you. If you advocate for this team front and center, you will enable its success.

Often, companies launch CX programs with large fanfare and excitement but no long-term plan:

  • Day one is overwhelmingly celebratory.

  • Week one holds significant focus and excitement.

  • Month one ends with questions about what the team is doing.

  • Quarter one ends with statements about how “That CX stuff is nice and all but we need to make money.”

Energy flags, motivation disappears, and what was a grand opportunity gets lost due to lack of support.

You have the opportunity to ensure that scenario never happens:

  1. Work with the team to identify “Quick Hits” that will show value in the near term while also providing the resources they need to create truly sustainable, long-term customer experience changes.

  2. Be front and center in making customer-centric decisions that at first glance might be a higher cost, but which you are certain will drive long-term value.

One of the best places to find these decision points often sits in your customer service team. Stop considering it a cost-center and instead consider it a customer-insights center. What can the data they’ve gathered tell you about your customers’ experiences and how they can be better?

You — the senior leader — have the singular opportunity to advocate for this team and be the driving force behind the organization’s support.

4. How will you know you’ve reached your goal?

I said you should “Begin at the beginning,” but that’s not Carroll’s whole sentence:

Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end; then stop.

When it comes to culture, set up your CX team to have a designed end.

The moment that customer obsession lands in the hearts and minds of employees across your business, your CX team has done its job. When they know that customer obsession and delivery of great experiences for every customer, every time is business as usual, the CX team has achieved its goal.

I strongly encourage you to centralize those functions that should be centralized, keeping that structure for the long term, but consider the exponential effect of having everyone in your company function as the “CX team,” all owning the responsibility to create a great experience for customers.

This is an important decision as it requires a leader who will continue to have their finger on the pulse of CX. To mitigate the risk of losing CX focus, continue to drive processes from your centralized team that the rest of the company can be inspired by and participate in.

In a team focused on a key division for a large U.S.-based financial services company, we set the centralized CX team up to have a shelf life tied solely to when we felt CX was embedded in the culture of the company. When employees started referring to “families helped” as opposed to “files worked,” we knew we were on our way.

Begin at the beginning

I’ll close with the opening. The information above may seem overwhelming, but (caution: cliche ahead) all journeys start with one step. If I worried about every detail of every hike I’ve taken, I may never have started. In fact, half the fun is the discovery along the way.

You want to create a CX team? Begin at the beginning.

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