Rising customer expectations are pressuring organisations to deliver a better experience, leading to more and more businesses pivoting towards a customer-centric culture. Many companies start by analysing and improving the customer journey. However, successful and swift customer journey transformations demand new ways of operating, different capabilities and a culture of innovation – there are many considerations that can be overlooked.

When our Global Customer Growth and Innovation Evangelist Tiffani Bova and transformational change expert Bruce McGregor collaborated on a customer journey transformation in Brisbane, they bonded over a shared passion for using design thinking techniques to deliver an exceptional customer experience throughout the customer journey.

We recently sat down for a fireside chat with Tiffani and Bruce – they each shared their experiences, insights and learnings on the subject, and provided advice for others in tackling the multitude of considerations that customer journey transformations bring about.

Where do you start on a customer journey transformation?


Tiffani Bova (TB): Firstly, you need to understand what you want to achieve. A big mistake I see a lot of businesses make is that they set out trying to do everything, and not really knowing why. They don’t know what opportunities they're trying to capitalise on, what problems they're trying to solve, and they aren’t looking through the eyes of their customers as honestly as they probably need to be, because the insights can sometimes be quite confronting.

Bruce McGregor (BM): That’s absolutely right. The most successful transformations start small. Find an area where you can prove a customer journey transformation is going to deliver advantages, and grow from there. It’s about being disciplined.

What are some of the key components in laying a strong foundation for a customer-centric business model?


BM: The buy-in of senior leadership – including the very top i.e. the CEO and board – is critical. Transformations are long, difficult and complex processes – if they weren’t, everyone would be doing them. To ensure your transformation is headed for success, you need clear top-down leadership. It’s not only an important enabling aspect that helps build a strong foundation, but it ensures employees have the support to follow through on becoming a truly customer-centric business. This is particularly important when things gets hard, which inevitably they will.

As an example, leaders need to be empowering customer service agents to stay on the line for however long is required to deliver a great customer outcome. They need to know that it’s ok to spend 15 minutes on certain calls that need more time to resolve issues.

TB: I would also add that if your KPIs aren’t aligned to customer-centricity then behaviour won’t change. If that customer service agent is being assessed on how quickly they get the customer off the phone, their decision-making isn’t going to be focused on what’s best for the customer. Metrics drive behaviour, and a change in KPIs make the mandate real for individual contributors – customer-centricity becomes much more than corporate speak.

How should collaboration with customers play into the process of defining new customer outcomes in a service transformation?


BM: Talking to customers is a very important and powerful piece in any transformation. If you don’t sit down with customers and have authentic, face-to-face discussions, you’re not going to uncover the real customer experience and pain points. Yet, it’s surprising how few organisations actually do this.

Why is emotion-based design important?


BM: Emotion-based design has taken customer-based design to a new level, allowing you to uncover, reflect and track the true emotion of a customer throughout their journey with your organisation. This benefits implementation enormously because it allows the project team to track the new service design back to an emotion and measure its impact on that emotion.

TB: Emotion-based design is important because, now more than ever, how a brand makes a customer feel – whether that’s through offline, online, face-to-face or phone channels – has a huge impact on ongoing brand loyalty. Customers are now not only voting with their wallet one time, they're voting with it over and over again.

Can you talk about the significance of the journey wall?


BM: Journey walls are essential because they illustrate the experience your customers are having with your organisation. They’re also particularly useful when other parts of the organisation believe change isn’t necessary, that the customer experience isn’t so bad. The wall proves otherwise. It gives you the truth, with no hearsay or individual opinion, and it’s right there in front of you. It’s very difficult for anyone to argue against that. Yes, it’s a little bit confronting, but it ultimately unites the organisation for the better.

TB: With so many different areas of the business directly touching the customer, it’s very rare that anyone sees or experiences that full customer journey, except the customer. Quite often, organisations can’t believe what they find. They can’t believe that there is 19 steps to complete actions that they considered to be simple.

What’s your advice for businesses battling with traditional systems and legacy thinking?


TB: This is a serious stumbling block for many organisation's customer pivots. When companies fail to innovate and work through any disruption, more often than not it’s an internal problem, not an external one.

If you're going to successfully transition to being a customer-led business – and away from being product, engineering or technology-led – it has to be in the company’s DNA. This requires a significant change management exercise, and everybody needs to be rowing in the same direction. If you have a leadership team that’s willing to challenge the status quo, but the CEO isn’t, it doesn’t work, and vice versa.

BM: Again, it comes back to leadership. There needs to be clear vision from the top down, and the entire organisation needs to understand why you’re doing it and the benefit to them. Yet, you can have all this in place, but still fall down if you’re taking existing processes and rolling them onto new technology. You must take the time to redesign the process – from the customer's point of view. That way, new technology becomes the key enabler for the new process and experience.

Finally, the importance of partnerships, not supplierships, shouldn’t be underrated. Organisations I’ve seen truly succeed in their transformations have built an ecosystem of partners – people who’ll participate in the monthly steering committee meetings and have buy-in to the project.

Bruce’s top advice for others embarking on a customer journey transformation

  1. Be authentic with your customers. Have that in the plan, and talk to your customers, in person.
  2. Make sure there’s strong leadership, a clear change management strategy and everyone knows what’s in it for them.
  3. Start small. Don't try and boil the ocean.

Tiffani’s top advice for others embarking on a customer journey transformation

  1. Help employees come to the conclusion on their own. The only way to get real buy-in from the floor is if you give staff the opportunity to see the brand experience through the eyes of the customer. While having this happen organically takes a bit more time, you’re going to get a greater level of buy-in in the long run. This is much more effective in achieving sustainable change than dictating a mantra of customer-centricity from the top down.
  2. Have a beginner's mind. It’s so easy to get trapped by the status quo, but if you’re not open to change or be willing to challenge your thinking then this is going to be a rough path forward.
  3. Narrow down the options. While I believe in being customer-led, we can’t chase all the mice. Customers will throw you in a thousand directions. You have to be able to decide which options are going to give you the biggest return.

The connected world has created smarter customers, and they expect smarter interactions with organisations. Learn what businesses can do to stay ahead of changing customer expectations in the State of the Connected Customer ebook.

Tiffani Bova is Global Customer Growth and Innovation Evangelist at Salesforce. Read more from Tiffani.