The organizational silos that have inhibited digital transformation initiatives for years didn’t go away during the pandemic, despite the changes it forced businesses to make. These siloes hamper efforts to transform and improve customer experience (CX). To eliminate the silos between the front, middle, and back offices, CEOs and their leadership teams must align their business behind clear goals and align employee experience (EX) with CX through company-wide communication. Further, instead of just adding new processes and technical debt, they must reinvent processes leveraging technology that focuses on business outcomes.
At a recent HFS roundtable on CX transformation with 20 CX executives, in partnership with Virtusa, we discussed the changing nature of customer service and the challenges of the accelerated digital transformation the pandemic forced.
How does customer service change to operate in the new hybrid working environment? HFS’s latest research suggests that throughout the broad mix of working patterns in Exhibit 1, employees will spend approximately 40% of their time working remotely and 60% back in the office over the next 12 months. The mix differs by industry and business function, and it will shift dramatically based on company culture and individual experiences.
The pandemic’s forced transformation pushed businesses to rapidly reinvent experiences for customers and employees. Some leaders successfully accelerated their CX and EX transformation in tandem by breaking down the silos between their organization’s front, middle, and back offices, aligning with the HFS OneOffice vision (and mindset) for digital transformation in action. The enterprise leaders at our roundtable shared the rapid shift required to keep the wheels turning in a remote environment—rapidly digitizing and fixing claims processes, hiring new creative and problem-solving talent, and quickly pivoting to new business models. As the dust settles on the new hybrid workforce, enterprises are looking back on 18 months of rapid change and figuring out “what’s next” for their businesses and the roles employee and customer experience will play in success or failure.
Sample: 800 respondents from Global 2000 enterprises
Source: HFS Research Pulse Survey, April 2021
CX and EX drive third-party services spending massively and equally—to the point where we could just call the whole thing “experience.” But when we cut the data in Exhibit 2 by CX leaders, we found that they significantly deprioritize EX. Our roundtable delegates were understandably surprised by this data; CX is deeply tied to EX for several reasons, including employees’ passion for work, successful use of emerging technologies to augment and improve jobs, and work-from-home (WFH) and work-life balance. CX leadership must step up and give EX the priority it deserves, aligning EX foundations with CX and company goals.
Sample: 800 respondents from Global 2000 enterprises, customer service respondents = 78
Source: HFS Research Pulse Survey, April 2021
For our roundtable delegates, the most daunting challenges in transforming their customer services are the silos Exhibit 3 displays—whether it’s integrating data, getting customer service out of its own silos, or understanding the whole customer journey across a multitude of siloed channels to create a seamless experience.
Sample: 20 customer experience leaders
Source: HFS CX Transformation Roundtable, 2021
Our delegates also offered up a wealth of experience and success stories about breaking down these barriers. The following themes resonated strongly within the discussion.
A key takeaway from our roundtable is the need for leadership teams—especially the CEO—to align whole organizations behind company goals to get rid of the silos in Exhibit 3 for the benefit of their customers. These goals extended to the influence of global business services (GBS) by aligning horizontal services that connect all a business’s functions underpinned by top-down support from the CEO—consolidating and flattening the organization while facilitating the adoption of technology throughout the organization in a standardized form.
“The single hardest part is setting a goal; then it’s a case of how to get the whole organization aligned to one outcome and take them on that journey. Set it up with a clarity of outcome and vision; make the narrative the same over and over again.”
— A multi-national business transformation executive
Leaders need to listen to their employees and set up a mechanism to do so, especially for innovation—let employees teach you about what’s broken in CX, EX, and company-wide processes. Get them to believe that you care. Highlight their achievements at the highest levels. Communicate; let them know when their ideas work and why they might not. Get insight from your process experts. And don’t let failures impede progress; ideas will inevitably fail, so your organizational culture must be OK with that and keep plugging away on the next idea.
“Leaders have come closer to their businesses this past year; hierarchies have flattened. Self-motivation is key for employees, and they’re now closer to the most senior leaders. These leaders need to communicate their visions and goals to drive team spirit across groups. The manager role is changing into a mentor role rather than a supervisor.”
— Phil Fersht, CEO and Chief Analyst, HFS Research
“Our people are the key. They embraced change globally, which meant we went through the pandemic’s forced change [relatively] easily. The talent we’re hiring is different: problem solvers and change enablers.”
— Head of GBS at a global entertainment giant
Few would question the importance of people and the employee experience. But leaders must develop the strategy in tandem with business-outcome-focused technology and complement it with data consolidation, standardization, and governance. Make sure employees have the right tools; people get burned out looking through different and disconnected systems. A top-down CEO and leadership team drive can facilitate the design of technology programs and platforms that bring the CX and EX together, breaking down barriers between the front, middle, and back offices.
“In the contact center, you support your employees and agents. How do you get out of their way as a leadership team and leverage AI and other technologies to release your agent to deliver a great customer experience?”
— Insurance consumer sales director
“As we digitized our client function, we neglected how complex interactions are, which made a mess for agents handling queries. Now we’re focused on user interfaces and experiences (UI/UX) from a data perspective, getting insights to drive decisions, actions, and priorities based on what’s important to clients.”
— Head of CX automation and analytics at a global bank
Despite its importance, a fantastic employee experience doesn’t inherently fix broken and disjointed processes, and it is not an excuse to rack up and pack down process and technical debt. Reinvent your processes; don’t just tweak decades-old processes. The technology is available, but you need a mindset to be more focused on CX, EX, and the “experience experience” for all.
“The crux of good experience is not spectacular experience; it’s consistent experience.”
— Ian Barkin, author and former CMO, Sykes
All too often, leaders are eager to implement the next technology promising greater efficiencies, call deflections, or cost savings. A crucial part of implementing new tech is designing it through the lens of experience. Consider how this new tech implementation impacts your customer or employee experience. For example, businesses sometimes use their customers as guinea pigs to try out early-stage chatbots that are nothing more than FAQs, impeding rather than enhancing the customer experience. The technology to transform CX and EX is currently available, but you must design implementations through a business lens, align company and implementation goals, and clarify your desired outcomes. Redesign processes to be as slick, lean, and standardized as possible and form an experience around a shared understanding of end goals.
Align all things behind business goals and outcomes that generate the most value from your investments in transformation projects and third-party services.