Governance: The Key To Customer Experience Management

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Customer Experience
At its core, customer experience management comes down to governance. But what is governance, really? You've probably got a hundred different governance processes in your organization, none of them exactly the same. The word "governance" may stir up images of executives in closed-door meetings talking about compliance. And yes, teams of senior decision makers are an important component of governance practices at many organizations. But customer experience governance isn't about a committee that hands out edicts from on high. And I'm not suggesting that you form a police force to issue tickets for customer experience infractions.

At its core, customer experience management comes down to governance. But what is governance, really? You've probably got a hundred different governance processes in your organization, none of them exactly the same. The word "governance" may stir up images of executives in closed-door meetings talking about compliance. And yes, teams of senior decision makers are an important component of governance practices at many organizations. But customer experience governance isn't about a committee that hands out edicts from on high. And I'm not suggesting that you form a police force to issue tickets for customer experience infractions.

Customer experience governance is about helping you drive accountability by assigning specific customer experience management tasks to specific people within your organization. It's also about developing new business processes and establishing oversight across your company's customer experience initiatives. When implemented well, governance practices will help you monitor customer experience quality, improve it on a continuous basis, and keep bad experiences from getting out the door in the first place.

In Forrester's soon-to-publish book, http://blogs.forrester.com/kerry_bodine and tweets at @kerrybodine">Outside In, Harley Manning and I illustrate the importance of customer experience governance through a case study about the software company Adobe. Adobe recently created a physical listening post in its headquarters where it aggregates the voice of the customer. Flat screen panels, each displaying a different type of input, dominate one wall of the room. Screens on the far left show insights from Facebook, Twitter, and other social forums; the middle screens pipe in real-time video from the company's call centers in Asia, Europe, and North America; and on the right screens display the top issues bubbling up in Adobe's customer relationship management system and customer surveys.

Of course, the good folks at Adobe don't collect all that data just to satisfy their curiosity. They collect it because it's a critical input into the company's customer experience governance program.

Adobe has established a customer advocacy council with senior leaders from multiple functions and its two largest business units. Every month, and as needed, this group convenes to look at the latest customer data. They size, scope, and prioritize issues that they believe will make the biggest improvement to the customer experience and have the biggest financial impact.

Adobe's customer advocacy council partners with another important cross-functional group: the business process improvement council, which sponsors customer experience improvement initiatives and allocates people to work on them. This group also defines the desired end state and measures of success for each initiative. And, in monthly meetings, they review the status of all open projects and make adjustments to resources and staffing as needed.

Now, if you've ever managed a customer experience improvement project, you probably know all too well that fixing CX problems can be like herding cats. That's why the business process improvement council also assigns an executive sponsor for each project, who's then responsible for plowing through any roadblocks and making sure that people from individual silos are working together.

With this governance model, Adobe has successfully completed a number of short-term projects, it's managing several long-term initiatives that are currently in flight, and it's created an ongoing pipeline of additional initiatives for the future. When fully completed, these projects will have a combined business impact of tens of millions of dollars.

Governance is just one of six disciplines that companies must master if they want to achieve the full potential of customer experience. The others are strategy, customer understanding, design, measurement, and culture. Of course, most of these concepts aren't new in the business world, but they do take on a slightly different twist when it comes to customer experience. If you'd like to know more about the six disciplines and how they'll help you create great experiences for your customers, please visit outsidein.forrester.com.

About the Author: Kerry Bodine is a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research serving Customer Experience professionals. She blogs at http://blogs.forrester.com/kerry_bodine and tweets at @kerrybodine

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