Achieving a great customer experience in today’s digital-first world is more challenging than ever. Customers interact with companies in a dizzying array of places. They are no longer only interacting with a call center operator or delivery driver; they connect with email campaigns, chatbots, review sites and social media. Companies have struggled for years to adapt to a digital-first, multi-channel environment. But many have failed to create a great, unified customer experience. Research has shown that outstanding customer experiences are fueled by new, cross-functional collaborations between organizations. Customer experience can no longer be driven by a front-line sales representative or even a dedicated customer experience team; everyone has a role in your organization. This article explores how leaders can lay the foundation for great customer experiences within the walls of their company before it’s delivered to customers. It requires cross-functional commitment and collaborative implementation.
In late 2021, online food delivery company DoorDash announced that all employees, including its engineers and senior executives, must participate in food delivery (“dash”) at least once a month. The goal of the employee initiative was to foster “customer obsession” by bringing employees closer to the customer, all in an effort to make service “1% better every day.”
Many companies have gone to such great lengths to improve the customer experience, and for good reason. Improving this, even by a fraction, can generate tens of millions of dollars in revenue, reducing customer churn and increasing customer spend.
Achieving a great customer experience in today’s digital-first world is more challenging than ever. Customers interact with companies in a dizzying array of places. They are no longer only interacting with a call center operator or delivery driver; they connect with email campaigns, chatbots, review sites and social media.
Outstanding customer experiences require new cross-functional relationships.
Companies have struggled for years to adapt to a digital-first, multi-channel environment. But many have failed to create a great, unified customer experience. Customer satisfaction ratings in the US are at an all-time low, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI).
At The Work Innovation Lab by Asana, a future-of-work think tank helping companies adapt to the changing nature of work, much of our research is focused on helping companies understand how they collaborate and how they can do so more effectively. We call this operational understanding “common sense.”
In our research, we found that outstanding customer experiences are fueled by new, cross-functional collaborations between organizations. Customer experience can no longer be driven by a front-line sales representative or even a dedicated customer experience team; everyone has a role in your organization.
For example, delivering a great customer experience depends on strong collaboration between your customer experience and product teams, more so now than in the past, according to our research. A strong feedback loop between these teams allows the voice of customers (current and prospective) to be more quickly and representatively incorporated into product development and, in turn, give life to better customer experiences.
A common way to improve customer experience is to share and learn from customer feedback. However, customer feedback is often only shared with a subset of employees. When feedback is shared more widely with all employees, it can drive better customer experiences. This was the case with the home improvement company BuildDirect, a business that Rebecca Hinds and Stanford professor Bob Sutton have studied in depth.
Initially, only senior executives at BuildDirect could access negative customer reviews. But over time, the company decided to provide reviews to all employees to serve up a better customer experience. Everyone from all parts of the company began to feel more accountable for the customer experience and operationally invested in improving it.
Take a more cross-functional approach to “testing”.
DoorDash’s employee program is a modern example of “pilot testing” (using your own product as a customer would, to find out what works and what doesn’t) or “drink your own champagne” (when employees test their company’s products .” and internal maintenance before or during delivery to customers).
To deliver next-level customer experiences, pilot testing in the traditional sense is not enough. Instead, employees must work together in new cross-functional ways to share products and other knowledge across their organization.
At one company we studied, Guild, a B Corp that partners with HR and people teams at leading Fortune 1000 companies to implement career mobility programs; employees use the company’s career mobility platform in a way that helps develop a great experience for customers. Salone Shah, director of the company’s Work Lab, explained to us that the team of people at Guild and the larger employee base of Guilders not only “drink their own champagne” using the Guild’s career mobility platform, but also act as ” garden garden”. “. As end users of a platform designed to support their career mobility journeys, Gilders are encouraged to provide real-time feedback and share new use cases with the company’s product and partnership teams in ways that drive better customer experiences because they are based on real-world experience. :
Depending on your business and who your “ideal” customer is, the cross-functional relationships that are most important to achieving a great customer experience will vary. As a leader, you need to be able to measure how the various functional teams in your company work together to deliver the ultimate customer experience. Then you can decide if the partnership is strong enough, and the right course of action if not.
Investing in new technology is not enough to create great customer experiences.
When companies want to enhance the customer experience, a common tactic is to invest in new algorithmic or artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. These shiny technologies are enticing and can be valuable, for example in creating more personalized customer experiences. But they are unlikely to deliver economic results if their end users are not deeply involved in the implementation.
By studying how dozens of companies have implemented AI-enabled technologies, we found that many companies do not involve cross-functional teams in the development and implementation of new technology as much as they should. Customer service teams are encouraged to use new technology (eg, to better anticipate customer needs) without understanding how this technology was selected or developed. In these cases, they are likely to see the technology as a threat to their expertise and autonomy and resist using it, or they may simply pretend to use it.
IT and data science teams cannot operate in silos when implementing new technologies. You should involve other functional groups as “people in the loop” during the implementation process. At the large department store chain that Hinds studied as his Ph.D. According to the study, the company invited front-line customer service employees to meet with engineering teams twice a week as it introduced new AI-powered customer experience technology. As a top company executive explained to us, “walls came down” as new collaborative relationships were formed and customer service workers began to embrace new technology to enhance the customer experience, rather than resist it.
Before implementing new technologies to improve the customer experience, assess how much collaboration is happening between your frontline customer experience employees who will use the technology and your data science or IT teams who are formally responsible for the implementation. Developing new cross-functional practices, such as stops, check-ins, or other feedback loops before and during a release, can help ensure a more successful release.
All employees must participate in the customer experience together.
Each of your employees plays an important role in improving the customer experience. At DoorDash, even the CEO is expected to participate in monthly dashes. At one company we studied, the CEO began listening to customer support texts personally so he could step into the customer’s shoes and understand how to create a better customer experience.
But a great customer experience requires more than just a company-wide effort. it requires cross-functional collaboration and fewer silos. A good place to start is making sure that there is a highly visible place (such as a Slack channel) for any employee, in any function of your company, to present opportunities to improve the customer experience and propose and design cross-functional solutions.
In a digitally enabled world, there can be an almost compulsion to invest in new technologies when enhancing the customer experience. But more or flashier technology isn’t the key to success, it’s the cross-functional pursuit of better customer experiences. Leaders must lay the foundation for great customer experiences within their company walls before delivering it to customers. It requires cross-functional commitment and collaborative implementation.