Strategy Role of Experience Managers (Part 1)
Today much is said and written about companies steeped in customer experience or customer strategy. Often the writings immediately go to the design of products or services. Articles focus on the value of teams using collaborative design, Design Thinking methods, or focus on digital UX. But these writings miss a key component of what the business managers are charged with and concerned about - namely to seek and act upon the customer experience issues that advance the company’s profitability and growth. Companies that engage an experience manager who takes the lead in presenting customer viewpoints to select, solution and activate business improvement projects are truly applying a business results and customer-centric strategy.
The Experience Manager's Focus
Business leaders are the stewards and drivers of the company’s business strategies. Savvy companies are utilizing “experience managers” to define, create and execute customer focused strategies. These managers think of the collective business to uncover experience opportunities, oversee teams who design experiences, and implement the designed experience into the fabric and culture of the organization. The experience manager is the leader in creating methodologies and tools to help frame the right customer-centric decisions to help senior leadership drive the “nature and direction" of the business.
Most importantly, experience focused managers are able to explain to staff and senior leaders why the company should be focused on customer experience, and what are the products or service experience issues to be addressed. In essence, they take a comprehensive view of the whole business - ie, sales, marketing, finance, operations, workforce and customers - and strive to find the opportunities to improve the customer’s experience. Experience managers really forge what a true customer experience strategy is for the company. They look at all proposed projects pending and ask, “how does this project improve the customer’s experience” and deliver on our strategic goals?
The Experience Manager's Framework
A challenge for all experience managers is having the methodologies or tools to effectively process the myriad of product/service projects, or the customer experience issues. Too often leaders will simply create a list of experiences issues to fix but do not have a clear understanding of how an issue impacts the strategic goals of the organization (profits/growth) or how the list of customer experience issues compare to one another relative to the value proposition they have when resolved. Managers need a structured framework to give them confidence that the experience issues they push forward are the best to advance the business strategic goals.
Recently a national financial management company wanted to expand their services into specific metropolitan markets. They realized that their traditional business model would not work effectively with metro-customers. They also had “legacy” rural and suburban sales/marketing approaches that would not work easily in these targeted markets. Plus, recent customer survey data suggested that their competitors were encroaching into their traditional markets with customer-experience focused product and service solutions. Twenty plus managers were tasked to address these concerns, and yes, they all had varying and multiple ideas to meet the challenge assigned to them.
Shift consultants, acting as the “experience manager” for this company, provided a systematic process and tools to coalesce the team to think strategically and deliver an agreed upon and prioritized list of customer and workforce experience issues to be addressed. In reality, the team needed a process to get past the endless debate on all the various issues being considered. In this opportunity-framing phase, the team went through three steps - gathering the insights from internal data and customers, framing the issues into clear problem statements, and focusing on which issues best advanced the business value of the company’s strategic goals.
Gathering customer insights (via interviews) was central to this customer experience improvement project. The interviews were transformational for the team participants as they realized that the customer often had different ideas and perspectives on what should be improved. The value of gathering the customer data was the reduction in debate on issues being championed. In many cases, team members dropped their personal viewpoints on what should be addressed and accepted the customer view. This expedited the overall process and demonstrated value of “outside-in” thinking verse the “inside-out” mindset of most leadership teams.
Defining clear problem statements offered the team and their management a unambiguous definition of the actual customer issue. Too often problem statements are vague or encompass multiple issues and do not communicate well. If one has to ask, “what do you mean by…” to get clarity on the problem, it is not a good problem statement. This team held to the simple problem statement construct of what/who is having a problem and what is the specific issue they are experiencing.
Prioritization of the issues (problem statements) insured business concerns were being addressed, and it expedited the agreement within the team on areas of focus. Since the number of opportunities was expansive, there was a need to prioritize the issues in order to know their business strategic value and which issues would move into the solutioning phase. This was accomplished by taking the statements and evaluating them against the strategic criteria categories of “desirability, viability, and feasibility”.
Desirable to the customer - something they want
Viable to the business - addressing a strategic business need (profit, growth, etc.)
Feasible to design - does the company have the resources and skills to deliver
But the most important learning point for the team was the modeling of the experience manager role in customer strategy execution. The team witnessed how the use of methods and tools allowed them to take all the divergent ideas/insights and process them into clear problem statements. Processing ideas through such filters assured the company that the top scoring solutions would best advance the business strategic goals to grow profits and expand markets.
This is the first article on the role of the Experience Manager. Future installments of this topic will include details on how the experience manager impacts:
Opportunity Framing (identifying the priority issues)
Solutioning (forming design teams to create solutions to issues)
Activation (implementing the solution)
Shift’s next article will discuss the steps and tools used in Opportunity Framing…..
Interested in learning more? Reach out to Shift to schedule a conversation, we’re always happy to chat.