How’s your customer experience transformation coming along?

I’m sure you’ve heard (or recall) Hans Christian Andersen’s story, The Ugly Duckling. If not, here’s a quick refresher: It’s the story of a baby swan who suffers abuse from his barnyard companions because of how he looks, i.e., he’s assumed to be a baby duckling, and an “ugly” one at that; until one day, to everyone’s (including his) surprise, he matures into a swan, deemed to be the most beautiful bird of all.

The before and after – that all-important transformation – made all the difference in this bird’s life. Can you see how I might make a connection with that story to customer experience?

Think about it. The customer experience is bad with so many companies today. But imagine the surprise and delight customers would feel if, tomorrow, these companies suddenly appeared as transformed organizations, ready to treat employees and customers well, do right by both, and deliver the experience customers expect. That would be a hoot.

Fact: Transforming the customer experience is extremely challenging. Those of you living and breathing this every day know what I’m talking about. It’s not an easy road. It’s not something that happens overnight. It comes with its own set of challenges, including colleagues who wish to derail or stall the efforts. It’s about baby steps, persistence, building your case, education, and more. Oh yea… it’s a journey. And it takes a special kind of person/team to make it happen.

Transforming the organization is even more challenging, but it’s certainly a precursor to transforming the customer experience. It’s absolutely necessary. Think about it this way: Fix what’s inside before you can fix what’s outside. You know what everyone preaches: Love yourself before you can love others. This is an important concept to ponder and to follow.

But how do we get there? How do we successfully transform the organization? Glad you asked!

I recently came across the findings of some research that McKinsey did on organizational transformations. I’ll let you read the summary of findings, but I thought it was a really insightful and relevant piece of research. (I wouldn’t expect anything less from McKinsey.) The part that really caught my eye was their list of actions that were important to a successful organizational transformation.

First, though, McKinsey lists the following as the five stages of a transformation and notes that companies who take action at all five of these stages have a higher (72%) success rate than those who don’t.

  1. Set goals
  2. Assess the organization’s capabilities
  3. Design the transformation initiatives
  4. Execute
  5. Sustain the changes

To support those five stages, they came up with 24 actions that they believe (backed by research) are critical to a successful transformation. (The actions are listed in the order in which they impact transformational success.)

  1. Senior managers communicated openly across the organization about the transformation’s progress and success
  2. Everyone can see how his or her work relates to organization’s vision
  3. Leaders role-modeled the behavior changes they were asking employees to make
  4. All personnel adapt their day-to-day capacity to changes in customer demand
  5. Senior managers communicated openly across the organization about the transformation’s implications for individuals’ day-to-day work
  6. Everyone is actively engaged in identifying errors before they reach customers
  7. Best practices are systematically identified, shared, and improved upon
  8. The organization develops its people so that they can surpass expectations for performance
  9. Managers know that their primary role is to lead and develop their teams
  10. Performance evaluations held initiative leaders accountable for their transformation contributions
  11. Leaders used a consistent change story to align organization around the transformation’s goals
  12. Roles and responsibilities in the transformation were clearly defined
  13. All personnel are fully engaged in meeting their individual goals and targets
  14. Sufficient personnel were allocated to support initiative implementation
  15. Expectations for new behaviors were incorporated directly into annual performance reviews
  16. At every level of the organization, key roles for the transformation were held by employees who actively supported it
  17. Transformation goals were adapted for relevant employees at all levels of the organization
  18. Initiatives were led by line managers as part of their day-to-day responsibilities
  19. The organization assigned high-potential individuals to lead the transformation (e.g., giving them direct responsibility for initiatives)
  20. A capability-building program was designed to enable employees to meet transformation goals
  21. Teams start each day with a formal discussion about the previous day’s results and current day’s work
  22. A diagnostic tool helped quantify goals (e.g., for new mind-sets and behaviors, cultural changes, organizational agility) for the transformation’s long-term sustainability
  23. Leaders of initiatives received change-leadership training during the transformation
  24. A dedicated organizing team (e.g., a project management or transformation office) centrally coordinated the transformation

This is a pretty comprehensive list, and it supports a lot of what we talk about when we outline the requirements for a successful CX transformation.

Is there an active effort underway in your company to transform the organization before (or while) transforming the customer experience? (If not, your customer experience improvements will not be sustainable.) How many of these actions is your company taking? How long will your customers continue to tease you for being an ugly duckling – and when will the swan emerge?

Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world. -Lucille Ball