Build a Team That Will Center Your Product Around Customer Experience

By on 17th July 2017

Customer Experience (CX) is generally described as the interaction between an organization and a customer. This interaction includes a customer’s attraction, awareness, discovery, cultivation, advocacy, purchase and use of a service.

Why Build a CX Team

Building a team that considers and can influence all of these touch points is important in acquiring and retaining customers. It requires individuals with different skills and experiences to fully realise and assist customers while on your product journey.

As companies grow, each facet of that journey is divided with marketing, sales, service and product owning different parts of the customer experience.

Somewhere along the line the customer becomes a concept rather than an actual person. Click To Tweet

The Reset

Descaling such organisations and bringing the fundamental customer-product relationship back to its core and humanising it again can be very difficult with inter-department collaboration, risk management and compliance all difficult factors to navigate, as KPIs become detrimental to their own original intent.

That being said, large organisations are focusing more and more on end-to-end customer experience, with many spinning off innovation labs away from the company proper to allow the freedom needed away from red-tape and bureaucracy.

Terms like; Lean, Agile, Design Thinking and Innovation get bantered around quite frequently in our industry, the Tech industry, which is now everyone’s industry. However you want to label it, the idea is to get closer to the customer because of technology, not in spite of it.

Discovering market need, either directly or indirectly related to your current product and services, requires a way to keep a finger firmly on the pulse of your wider domain.

My Approach

I spent the past year and a half at Elastic Grid building and nurturing a CX team which helped the company improve its product offering, connect with its users, validate (or disprove) new ideas, and use a variety of micro-services to speed up to-market trials of new product or service initiatives.

I’d like to share some of my learning on how to build and nurture a CX team but before I elaborate on how we went about it, let’s understand the end-to-end customer journey in our context.

Elastic Grid targets Channel orientated brands (specifically their channel marketing managers) who can become publishers of marketing content on the platform that their re-sellers use to generate leads with.

We acknowledged the ideal customer journey for us was:

  • Suspect: Anyone in need of a demand generation tool.
  • Prospect: Someone who shows interest in our product through our demand generation efforts.
  • Opportunity: Someone who is sales-qualified and being nurtured through our funnel.
  • Customer (Re-seller): Someone who signs-up for an account and used their supplier’s campaigns.
  • Customer (Brand): Someone who publishes content on our marketplace.

We acknowledged the journey for customers and how they perceive/interact with our:

  • Marketing: How we position ourselves as a product and channel marketing leader.
  • Sales/Sign-Up: How we on-board users and clients.
  • Product Experience: The software’s user experience.
  • Support: On and offline help.

Understanding this, we wanted to create a holistic, consistent and on-vision conversation based on our brand, market position and messaging platform.

This is how we approached it.

Define The Culture

First thing is first, if you want to build a successful, innovative, customer focused team it will need to exist within a culture which celebrates learning, allows for failure and accepts change. There MUST be a focus on cultivating an environment where that will thrive.

How can you gauge the culture? Ask yourself the following types of questions:

  • Are there company values? Are they realised?
  • Are people asking questions?
  • Are questions being answered?
  • Is there banter among teams?
  • Are teams helping each other succeed?
  • Does everyone understand how they help the company head toward its vision?
  • Do they know the vision?

Building a fearless culture is the hardest step, but it will make the rest easier. I won’t focus too much on this here as it is a topic well covered across Pulse and not solely applicable to CX teams but a company in general. Suffice to say, the CX team can also help drive cultural change by treating employees as customers.

At Elastic Grid, the CX team focused on making evangelists out of the employees through initiatives such as cross-team workshops, lightning talks, development show and tells, social-media groups as well as more formal training such as introducing knowledge base documentation and a learning management systems to scale staff training and lift company wide expertise in the domain.

Spread The Skills

Here’s the thing, your team shouldn’t be made up of CX designers, in fact, I’d go as far as saying no one’s role or function in a company should be “CX designer”. The team should be cross-functional and responsible for designing the customer experience together. At Elastic Grid, the team included:

  • Marketers (for content, product positioning and communication)
  • UX Designers/Animators (for product design, user research and assets)
  • The Product Owner (for prioritizing product development)
  • Customer Support (for supporting and enabling product users)

The team should be led by someone very knowledgeable in the business and product domain. As Elastic Grid’s product owner, I led the team by connecting the customer experience and product development both ways, adapting the product to customer needs while ensuring facilitation and communication when the product changed due to domain trends, new technologies or business goals.

Create a CX Vision

The goal of the team was to create a cohesive and consistent experience for customers, by improving the existing product/service, introducing innovative ideas and opening a dialogue with users.

The cohesiveness and consistency of the experience came out of the following:

  • The style of messaging, brand and tone.
  • The consolidation of documentation, processes and systems as well as our approach.

We determined what tools we would use, the mediums we would adopt and the workflows between systems. You can read more on our approach to micro-systems in my article, Deconstructing Monoliths: Rise of The Micro-services.

As an example of what our basic goal was, any simple change of service or new feature would involve communication externally through marketing, alignment with a development roll-out within the product development team and internal training from our support administrator.

The CX team ensured everyone was aligned on how it would all work together and that everyone was on the same page, users, brands and employees. This way, anyone in the organisation could talk about the change to customers in a way that added value.

We also kept track of everything by setting up a sophisticated monitoring system (more on that in my article Stop Reporting and Start Monitoring.

The End-To End CX Cycle

The cyclic flow of work across marketers, product teams and support staff works to improve the product and increase customer satisfaction. The product is at the center, feeding marketing and support with information on how they should position or support users. Marketing and Support also feed the product team on how the product is perceived, what market or domain changes are coming that the product should consider; Giving both subjective and objective feedback on user pain-points.

Something like this:

Why It Works

The customer, of course, is at the center of the entire focus of each sub-team or functional area and give feedback (directly or indirectly) to each team.

In early 2017, after many CX focused product initiatives we ran a comprehensive survey to understand the sentiment of our user-base. We were pleased to see that ease of use, support and satisfaction (based on expectations) rated very highly. However, due to the structure of the team, we were also able to act quickly in addressing any negative feedback we received and followed up with each respondent personally through our support teams. You can read the full customer feedback report on the Elastic Grid Blog.

Takeaways

In conclusion, the customer needs to be unified within a company, the same person who talks to sale representatives will one day talk to a support representative or follow social media channels. Too often, each division starts treating a customer as exclusive or as if they are brand new (think of how many times you have explained yourself to different service representatives when dealing with a service provider).

A customer experience should just feel right and true to the company’s values, whether it be on an interface, or talking face-to-face within the various contexts, be it advertising, product use, support and service, recruitment, supplier relations or even legal policies.

In short;

  • Cultivate a customer focused culture.
  • Build a cross-functional team which representatives from each stage of the customer journey.
  • Initiate a two-way conversation with customers.
  • Create constant iteration loops to validate and improve product/service initiatives.

This article first appeared on LinkedIn Pulse on July 5, 2017

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Lead UX designer and Design Team Lead at Elastic Grid, responsible for the user experience of the platform and the products visual brand. Lorenzo has extensive experience designing simple digital solutions for large, complex commercial projects, including e-Commerce, marketing campaigns and content management platforms.

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