A focus on client experience is no new thing to Sift Media. In fact it’s something we pride ourselves on. In previous years I’ve written about our measurement of client experience and the actions we’ve taken armed with this feedback.
Prior to this year, we didn’t really have a client experience strategy. We just sort of ‘did it’. Our tactics were reactive – we surveyed our clients, reviewed the feedback and took action where needed.
And on the whole we “did it” pretty well. Clients seemed happy, feedback was mostly positive. But as the business grew we noticed inconsistency creeping into our survey results. In some areas results were excellent, but in others it was clear there was work to do.
So 2015 started with a project to refocus our customer experience strategy. To articulate what our client experience actually looks like when everything goes to plan, and what we should aspire to when it doesn’t.
Now, a customer experience strategy is not something to be entered into lightly – even for a client-loving company like us. I’ve spent the last five years listening to our clients and taking steps to provide them with service excellence at every opportunity. But what about the rest of the business? This was not a one-woman job after all, I needed buy in from colleagues across the entire organisation.
I started with research – lots of research. I needed to know the pitfalls that made customer experience projects fail, and most importantly what made them succeed.
Our own MyCustomer.com was an obvious starting point. In particular, this piece from the team at Mu Sigma helped me visualise the stages the project had to go through to become fully integrated in every part of the business.
Articles and resources from experience experts Nello Franco and Shaun Smith meant I started to think about customer experience in completely new ways – and in more detail than ever before. Concepts like Time to Value, Hype Cycle and Customer Journey Mapping were vital considerations in planning and executing our customer experience strategy – but just as vital was translating this CX jargon into a language my colleagues could not just understand, but believe in.
I started reading “Bold, How to be brave in business and win” the brainchild of Shaun & fellow experience and brand expert Andy Milligan. This book alone was hugely beneficial in showcasing how some of the most successful brands in the world approach the complex issue of CX and, most importantly, how they manage that intrinsic link between customer experience and employee engagement in the process.
It was clear from pretty early on in the process that we needed a working group. A team of colleagues which touched every department in every part of the business. This team included people who were customer facing such as sales and campaign delivery, but also those who weren’t – editors, analysts, marketers, project managers, publishers.
And it was hard going. The first few sessions we tore ourselves apart with discussions around what we didn’t feel was working and where we could improve. We’re a team of perfectionists you see and strive for excellence. It was tough, but thereputic. By our third session we were in a position to start discussing our vision for the future. We focused on replicating what worked and understanding what didn’t.
We completed empathy maps to better understand our clients. We took a long hard look at why things fell down. We interrogated our client experience metrics and wrote and rewrote our survey to ensure we were measuring what truly mattered. We found new ways to map our customer journey and we identified the four pillars which underpin our customer experience.
The four things on which everything else is built.
- Attention to detail
- Roles & responsibilities
Getting our collective thoughts to this point took about six months. Our next challenge was how to share this thinking and thought process with the wider business. The CX team had to roll this out to their wider teams.
My initial thoughts (right at the beginning of the project) had been that our thinking would culminate in some sort of client experience training day. A day where each individual would leave the room feeling they truly understood our clients. Wisely, my CX team steered me away from this.
Understanding the customer is hard. It had taken us six months to achieve all we had. Expecting the rest of the business to “cotton on” in a few hours was unrealistic. The reality would have been an exhausting day where far from inspired, the business felt overwhelmed and that our CX project was was little more than “management speak”.
The group instead came up with the concept of a playbook (which incidentally was one of the five steps Mu Sigma had identified). At Sift Media we have a strong autonomous culture. So a handbook of guidelines and processes “do this like this, do that like that” would never have worked for us.
The idea behind the playbook is that it’s a document which inspires the right client experience behaviours and decisions. It is an honest reflection of how things tend to play out when they go well, and a reminder for what we aspire to when they don’t. You can check out the playbook on slideshare.
Of course, a playbook on its own isn’t enough. The next stage for us is how we bring this to life across the organisation. Empowering each individual to deliver a consistently amazing client experience whilst retaining their autonomy. More updates to come next year.