What Makes A Centralized Customer Experience Team Successful?

Last week I met with a group in charge of driving improvements to the company’s enterprise customer experience. They’re a small team with a big task – make the company culture more customer-centric. What makes the challenge even harder is that this team lacks the formal authority to force other organizations to change the way they do business. Instead they have to make people want to do things differently.

During the meeting they asked a question that I often hear from clients – what have other people like us done that has worked?  I had just completed a new report on that topic and was able to share some of the key findings from that research. Here’s a quick summary of what I told them:

  • Size doesn’t matter that much… People often think that a giant team is required to drive large scale change, but it’s not. USAA’s customer experience team has made great strides in the last few years with only 10 people. And Traveler’s has accomplished quite a bit with even fewer dedicated resources than that. More people can certainly help, but successful teams find a way to get things done by collaborating with peers when they need more hands to do the work. 
  • …leadership and processes do. Successful customer experience teams have leaders who can build strong working relationships with other groups in the company. These leaders typically bring a strong network of relationships with them to start, plus an innate ability to read people, sense resistance, and get collaboration across multiple groups. The way the team works with other groups also plays a big role in success. The earlier you include stakeholders in the process,  the more likely they are to participate willingly when it’s time to make big changes. For example, USAA involves business partners in the customer research process up front and works with them to validate hypotheses and decide on a course of action. And top executives at Sage, including the CC/EO, choose priorities and set goals for each business unit that combine both customer experience and business metrics.

If you’re part of an enterprise customer experience team I’d love to hear your thoughts on this advice, as well as the findings and recommendations in the full report. Feel free to post your thoughts as a comment here, or join me for a deeper discussion of this topic at the Customer Experience Forum on June 29th and 30th in New York. I’ll be presenting this research in more depth on the second day of the event and would love to have the Q&A part of the session be a conversation with all of you about what it really takes for this kind of a group to accomplish its big,  hairy, audacious goal.