Overcoming the Barriers to Long-Lasting CX Transformation

image credit: E Source
Melanie Wemple's picture
Managing Director E Source

I am pioneering new and effective strategies to help E Source clients deliver improved customer experiences across all departments and channels--from the efficiency department to the call center...

  • Member since 2010
  • 1 items added with 6,268 views
  • May 31, 2019

This item is part of the Special Issue - 2019-05 - Customer Care, click here for more

We’ve heard for a long time that utilities are trying to catch up with customer expectations and preferences. As other industries raise the bar on customer experience (CX), innovating to predict the future needs of consumers, utilities find themselves trying to meet the new CX minimum. Though often perceived by customers as laggards when it comes to CX, utilities are making progress.

Journey mapping has proved to be an effective way to expose CX pain points, but it’s not a panacea. In fact, our experience with utility customer journey mapping points out underlying challenges that often go unaddressed and cause CX projects to struggle—or fail. These challenges include:

  • A wealth of customer data but a shortage of quality insights
  • An aversion to including software and IT teams in CX projects
  • Poor CX governance
  • Weak change management

These challenges hinder the design, engineering, and implementation of CX solutions. We’ve seen utilities overcome one or two of these obstacles, but it’s a rare utility that conquers them all. Some utilities are good at design because they know their customers, but they lack the resources to engineer and implement the design. Others have mastered engineering because they have strong software and web development teams, but because they didn’t use customer insights they created a solution that failed to meet the customer need. Those lucky enough to design and engineer a CX solution often falter during implementation because of poor change management. E Source has been helping utilities create stellar customer experiences for years, and we’ve outlined ways to address these challenges and achieve long-lasting CX transformation.

A Wealth of Customer Data but a Shortage of Quality Insights

The problem. Many utilities focus too closely on disjointed operational and market research data as a means to identify CX issues and solutions instead of focusing on the drivers of actual customers’ decisions and preferences. Utilities have barely scratched the surface of consumer insights and failed to evolve the market research function beyond its roots in product design and marketing.

The path forward. Use quality insights to infuse empathy for the customer throughout the organization and encourage business units to reflect on why customers make the choices they do. It’s time to embrace human-centered design (HCD) as a way to capture insights about the individuals behind all that data. HCD is about focusing on the person who is taking the journey, using the system, or following the process. Utilities can start using HCD by doing user experience testing, one-on-one customer interviews, or ethnographic research.

Our clients who have adopted principles of HCD invite their customers to participate in the utility’s design projects. They’re able to focus on real consumer needs and stop spinning their wheels as they make assumptions from operational data, click-through rates, and transactional surveys.

While journey mapping and survey data can help you identify customer pain points and uncover organizational inefficiencies , HCD reveals solutions your customers actually want. You can then integrate that knowledge with broader customer and operational data to understand the scope and scale of the issue:-How many other customers behave this way and how frequently? With this information, you can forecast impacts and prioritize where to start.

The takeaway. Don’t limit your use of HCD to innovation projects supported by special teams of software designers, web programmers, and IT staff. The path to CX transformation requires integrating HCD throughout the organization, including those departments that deliver products, services, and information to customers. HCD isn’t just for creating new apps and web features; it can also improve communications, marketing, and the employee experience.

An aversion to including software and IT teams in CX projects

The problem. Today’s CX solutions require technology enhancements, yet the world of software development, core IT systems, and web services remains a mystery to CX practitioners. CX projects become stuck, wedged between enterprisewide implementations and an ever-growing list of feature requests. To IT and web developers, the CX changes become another item on the list, which is constantly being reprioritized. As a result, even if you’ve gained insights from journey mapping or HCD, the CX project never sees the light of day.

The path forward. Our clients are finding flexibility in design and engineering by moving from a traditional waterfall development model to Agile project management. Agile requires a move away from large, siloed teams to smaller, integrated teams that are closer to customers and the business. These teams deliver incremental solutions, providing value to customers and achieving the desired CX.

Agile teams are most effective when they're dedicated to a specific tool, product, or customer journey. The team consists of a product owner who outlines the vision and the path forward, a scrum master who holds individuals accountable to agreed-upon processes, and developers who are responsible for implementing the vision. Teams can also include a business analyst and a user experience designer.

Agile can enable teams to be more productive and faster to market. Having an integrated structure helps improve prioritization and increases awareness of dependencies. It can be a slow process to roll out Agile across the utility, and it can be challenging to collaborate with business units that don’t use Agile.

The takeaway. CX professionals and software architects must come together and recognize how and when to apply Agile. Not every project is a fit for Agile, but CX projects are good candidates because they require iterative development with input from customers. Moreover, your development and IT groups may already be following its tenets—Agile has a long history in software and web development. Now’s the time to infuse Agile across the organization to manage and deliver CX projects.

Poor CX Governance

The problem. What’s often absent in governance is a unified vision of what the CX should be and a structure for delivering that experience at every customer interaction. By not establishing CX policies and continuously monitoring their implementation, you can’t create a repeatable experience, measures results, or raise the CX bar. Because no one department “owns” the customer, the utility must define the CX vision and rally the entire organization around it.

The path forward. Convene a cross-functional steering committee—including a mix of operational employees who will set the course and gain agreement on business unit performance—to create the CX governance plan and to meet regularly to manage it. The CX governance council must have autonomy to make decisions, help secure resources and budgets, and remove roadblocks. Without autonomy, the council will be ineffective and disruptive.

The takeaway. CX governance is necessary to ensure consistency and transparency. Assess your policies, processes, and procedures to identify gaps and determine how to address the weaknesses. Here are the key elements of a successful CX governance plan.

Executive leadership who:

  • Has a direct line of sight into the CX efforts; this can be through a chief customer officer or a representative on the CX governance council
  • Provides authority for the allocation of CX funding
  • Educates the other corporate leaders on CX, how CX relates to the utility’s goals, and their role in leading the charge

Integration with corporate strategy that:

  • Ensures that the utility’s mission, vision, brand promise, and values all include the customer
  • Defines or augments the CX strategy to include organizational structure, role clarity, business case, change management plan, and execution roadmap
  • Aligns CX goals with corporate business planning

An employee engagement plan designed to:

  • Foster a dialogue about CX and employees’ role in delivering it
  • Ensure that employees understand how their jobs connect to customers and their needs
  • Provide the knowledge, skills, tools, and resources employees need to meet the CX goals
  • Empower employees to contribute to the CX design
  • Align rewards, recognition programs, and performance management with the CX strategy
  • Share CX key performance indicators and customer feedback with all employees

Monitoring and measurement efforts that:

  • Allow for ongoing key driver analyses for CX metrics
  • Track and measure the impacts of CX initiatives
  • Include customer insights and market research
  • Share the results of key CX measures with all employees

Weak Change Management

The problem. Most utilities focus on departmental process changes and fail to create enduring organizational change. Long-lasting CX transformation goes beyond system- and process-level changes; it requires cultural and organizational change.

The path forward. Developing and successfully implementing a comprehensive change management plan leads to a sixfold increase in business success, according to Prosci, a global leader in change management solutions. While customer journey mapping can increase the likelihood of buy-in and accountability for adopting change and achieving the desired CX future state, it’s not a substitute for a change management plan. The important elements of a successful change management plan are:

  • Active, visible sponsorship
  • Committed managers who adopt the changes themselves
  • Trained employees who successfully implement the changes

Active, Visible Sponsorship

The number-one factor for successful change management is active, visible sponsorship throughout the life of the project. Most often, sponsors get the job because they’re at the highest level of the company, theoretically giving the project the most visibility. Given the executive’s workload, the sponsor may show support in kicking off and ending the project, but leaving the change management team to run the implementation. But active, visible sponsorship means continuous public commitment to the project through advocating, building coalitions to ensure the adoption process, and communicating directly with peers, managers, and employees.

Committed Managers

Change doubles a manager’s workload: They have to go through the change management process themselves, and then they need to shepherd their employees through the process. The key to producing committed managers is understanding that they’re people first and managers second. Utilities fare better when they emphasize the benefits of change, including trust and respect for leadership, incentive or compensation, ownership for the future, acquisition of power or position, career advancement and affiliation, a sense of belonging, and enhanced job security.

Trained Employees

Training is imperative to employees developing the ability to implement the change. Knowledge comes before ability: Employees need to know how to change and how to implement new skills and behaviors. The biggest mistake utilities make is assuming that knowledge equals ability. There can be no change until employees demonstrate the ability to do so.

Take the First Step

E Source has outlined how CX Governance, HCD, Agile and Change Management fit together (see top image) to inform and support CX initiatives. Evaluate how your organization utilizes these practices and ask yourself some of the following questions:

  • Does your CX Governance fulfill key activities?
  • Do you utilize Human centered design practices to drive CX solutions and priorities?
  • Do you use Agile to ensure top priorities drive value for your customers?

The reality is that CX solutions aren’t one-and-done initiatives; customers and technology will continue to raise the bar for CX and you must be equipped to respond. Evaluate your organizational drivers and determine whether your utility is equipped to design, engineer, and implement CX solutions that meet customer needs. Look at the critical areas discussed here and determine what your utility does well and what it needs help with. Ultimately, your customers will demand it of you.

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Thank Melanie for the Post!
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Audra Drazga's picture
Audra Drazga on May 31, 2019

I had the privilege to sit in on the session "Reinventing Customer Experience Through Journey Mapping" at CS week.  Speaker Sylvia Smith at Nashville Electric Services used the pizza delivery experience as an example of what customers have come to expect.  Through apps, we can now see when our pizza is being made, when it is in transport and when it will arrive at our front doors.  Using this model, I believe in conjunction with Esource's help, her team worked on laying out a similar experience for those who were waiting for power for a new home or development.  We can thank Amazon, Grub Hub, and Uber who have changed CX and set new standards for what is expected.  It is now a world of immediate gratification and up-to-the minute status updates.  I would like to hear from other members of the community if they have used Journey mapping and how it worked.

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