Addressing Silos, Transforming Customer Experience

CX Decoded caught up with Hank Brigman to discuss, among other CX topics, breaking down organizational silos in customer experience.


The concept of transformation has been center stage for businesses around the world for some time now, but taking a moment to reflect on what transformation actually means could radically change organizations seeking new life in turbulent times. 

The specter of a looming recession makes the notion of transformation even more enticing — and terrifying — to many business leaders now — especially customer experience leaders. But how do they go about analyzing where silos are blocking transformation, harming customer experience and leaving organizations in a perpetually “frozen” state?

Hank Brigman, senior vice president practice lead for Service Journey Strategies, helps shine some light on the most challenging aspects of customer experience transformation and discusses the inevitable and painful consequences of non-action.

View all the CX Decoded podcast episodes.

Episode Transcript

Note: This transcript is edited for length and clarity.

Dom Nicastro: Hello all, we’re back with another edition of CX Decoded, season three here. Dom Nicastro, managing editor at CMSWire here with my co-host, Michelle Hawley, senior editor at CMSWire. My partner Michelle, what’s going on?

Michelle Hawley: Hey, Dom, I’m just enjoying another sunny day.

Dom: You are sunny over there. Because how do you know that? Because this is a recording and we’re probably not going to run this for another few weeks or so, so how do you know it’s still sunny?

Michelle: That’s true. I don’t know if it’s sunny. I was gonna say enjoying another hot day and then I figured I definitely won’t know in a few weeks if it’s going to be hot still.

Dom: Okay, yeah, you don’t. How are the Pittsburgh Steelers doing so far? I think you’re a fan of them. Right?

Michelle: I’m a fan of Pittsburgh, mostly baseball. I don’t really keep up with the Steelers. 

Dom: All right, because my Pats are going there as of this recording next Sunday. So we’ll see what happens. We’ll do some trash-talking on Monday morning. All right, let’s get to it, Michelle. Today we have Hank Brigman here, SVP Practice Lead at Service Journey Strategies. He’s here to talk about customer experience transformation, CX transformation. Love it, how to get there. What’s important to know? Steps to take. Actions to take. Can’t wait. What holds organizations back? Hank knows all about that. He’s been in and around CX for many, many years and in and around a lot of organizations. Hank, how’s it going?

Hank Brigman: Dom, going awesome. And I know it’s going to be sunny here in a couple of weeks because I’m in Florida.

Dom: The guarantee is set for that, like what, for a three-to-four-o’clock rainstorm that happens every day, all day. I hear. Is that the case where you are?

Hank: Yeah, this time of year thunder and lightning and rain. Four o’clock, just like clockwork, 20 minutes and gone.

Dom: Four o’clock. That’s when dinner starts right for all the folks down there.

Hank: That’s the early bird. 

Dom: Love it. 

Michelle: Hank, we like to start by getting into our guests a little more. Can you tell us about your role, your company, how you got there, and one fun fact about you that’s not related to work.

Hank: So I have the honor of leading Service Journey Strategies globally. We’re a CX consultancy, and we focus on helping organizations with their journey focused transformations. And my fun fact, I’ll start with it, I actually played a little golf professionally. 

And that was a factor in kind of my evolution into CX because from golf, I got into managing fine private clubs. And I think that’s the most challenging customer experience environment on the planet because when you pay $50,000 for the right to pay $500 a month in dues for the privilege of paying $10 for your burger, you kind of have some high expectations, and so you better be darn good at customer — or in that case — member experiences. So started there and then co-founded a customer experience consultancy that I led through to private equity acquisition, wrote a book on customer experiences, speaking all over the world, and got headhunted into this position and loving it.

Dom: Yeah. And, Hank, I believe when we first started talking, you know, me as a reporter for CMSWire and you as the CX expert that I tapped for commentary, I believe you’re in the Wikipedia as the founder of some term, right? Related to CX, a pretty important term, it is.

Hank: Yeah, so if you’re tired of the word “touchpoint,” I probably deserve some blame because I’m the person that put it in Wikipedia.

Dom: Wait, Hank, we got to clear the air right now because spellcheck in our CMS system, and elsewhere. Oh, right, Michelle, it’s “touch point.” It hates when you make it one word. Let’s finish this as the creator right now. One or two words “touchpoint.” 

Hank: Dude.One word always.

What It Takes to Achieve CX Transformation

Dom: Okay. All right. We have it recorded now, Michelle. So we are stamping this. I don’t care what our editor-in-chief says. I don’t care what our CEO says. Brice, if you’re listening to this, you can’t change my mind. Hank Brigman said it. He created it. We’re going with one word, kids. Okay. It’s done. But hey, thanks for that intro and everything. It’s great to have you on, you know, we’re gonna talk about transformation. 

So I want to start with just talking about transformation at a time like this. It’s such turbulence. You know, when I think of transformation, I think of a whole project, the whole to-do list, a whole revamping, you know, total 180 in an organization. Maybe I have that right. Maybe I don’t, but I don’t think, it doesn’t sound like a lot of organizations should be going with that kind of approach if they’re in a recession, if they’re trying to do cost savings. So what do you think in a recession — looming recession maybe — should organizations take on transformation in CX?

Hank: I think we have to. And there’s a lot of talk about transformation in the dictionary it says it’s the act or process of changing completely. And we need to change completely, Dom and Michelle, because there’s a structural conflict in our organizations that inhibits our ability to optimize customer experience. And so, you know, we’ve heard about it for years — decades — the complaint about silos, the silo focus, that vertical focus, on the tasks within our silos, and silos can be a department, can be a team, can be a responsibility. I’ve even seen it be an individual.

But the focus on the tasks within the silos is in conflict with the journeys that traverse through and across those silos. So to me, until we transform away from a vertical siloed focus on tasks, to really focusing on what the customer is trying to accomplish in their journeys, we can’t be as good at customer experience as we can be. And that trickles down into as good as we can be with processes, as good as we can be with technology, as good as we can be, really, with our bottom line as organizations. So I think it is time to transform, it’s always time to transform and those that transform now around this will be in a competitive advantage position from my perspective.

Related Article: How to Make the Customer Journey More Data Driven 

What CX Transformation Is and Getting Buy In

Dom: Is the word “transform” a little too aggressive? And I mean that Hank, like not in terms of what they’re going to do, but how they’re selling it in their organization. I mean, is the CFO going to get behind, is a CEO going to get behind, like, “Hey, we’re transforming customer experience,” because if I was the CFO right now that would scare the heck out of me.

Hank: Well, you know, I think it’s around the context to a degree. So we hear a lot about digital transformation. Well, what does that mean? And we’re talking about transforming tools. And so the analogy I like to use is if you’re building a house, do you transform tools? Do you have a tool strategy? We want to talk about channel strategy and transforming omnichannel, transforming digital. Those are all tools. We don’t transform tools. If we’re building a house, what we want to do is focus on the blueprint, the purpose of what we’re doing. So to me, I would be excited about my organization if it wanted to transform to what the customer is trying to accomplish, as opposed to transforming around smaller things, or tools. Make sense?

Dom: I can buy that. I’m not a CFO, but I’d buy it if I were one. Start small. Start with the customer. If I’m a CFO, I’m saying yes, yes.

Michelle: Hank, I want to take a step back, if we can, too, because you mentioned the word “silo” and that caught my focus. And you had mentioned that one great opportunity for CX transformation is to go from a silo focus to a journey focus, can you kind of tell us what’s the difference between those two, what is a silo focus, what is a journey focus?

Hank: Happy to. So let’s look at the departmental silos. We have an owner, we have a team, we have metrics, we have a budget, we have things we do and things we measure. And typically we measure what we do within that silo. So that focus is all vertical up and down within our silo. Whereas the conflict, that the problem we need to solve is that our customers start before our silo, chances are, come into our silos, deal with our tasks, and then go out of our silos. 

And let’s just take the example of Michelle, in your house, you need your dishwasher fixed, or you need somebody to come and fix your cable or your air conditioning. Let’s think about the silos involved with that. So we have marketing — because maybe you go to the website — need to read something about how to get it repaired. There’s an app team, if there’s an app that’s involved, the web team, certainly because maybe you can schedule on the web, you’ve obviously got the call center, because a lot of people are going to call. Now you have dispatch sending out the repair person. You have the repair person themselves. You have pricing. Because you know, there’s different things they may charge for. You’ve got accounts receivable because they have to be billed. Now you have to collect the money. So you probably have an app team, and you’ve got the IVR. And you’ve got the call center — all needing to be able to collect that money. And then, if they don’t pay, you’ve got collections. 

So how many silos did we just name to get your dishwasher fixed? And all of those silos are focused on what they do. They’re measuring what they do. The call center’s measuring their call time and first call resolution about getting you scheduled, what you want, the purpose of you getting your dishwasher fixed is so you don’t have to wash your dishes by hand. That’s your purpose. That has nothing to do with all of those silos and what they’re doing. And so there’s just a disconnect, and therein lies the conflict.

Dom: That’s a great example, Hank, and if I could ask you like, where should the focus be for a CX leader when you’re talking about transformation? In that scenario, obviously, you got the call center. That’s very CX, right? What else again, where does the CX leader’s role in that whole process of, you know, marketing, recruiting, procurement, everything — is selling, buying loyalty, where do the CX leaders fall?

Hank: You know, to me, this is the opportunity, Dom. Our CX discipline is young — we’re perhaps early teenagers. If you look at the disciplines of marketing and sales and management and accounting, those are old disciplines compared to CX. And so our discipline started kind of with mapping and looking at touchpoints and experiences and eventually journeys. And that’s all really important not to take away anything from that. But when we talk about transformation, again, it’s the act or process of changing completely. And here, we do need to change completely, we need to change how we think and how we act away from the tasks within our silos to what the customer is trying to accomplish. And so to me, the CX responsibility is to help the organization see the benefit — and the ROI of that transformation. 

Let me give you just a quick example. So I was working with an insurance company, and they had a team that collected monthly premium payments. And so that team, that journey was again called the task that they do, which was payments. Well, when you talk to the customers about how they viewed their premium payments, it wasn’t about paying their premium. To them, what they were trying to accomplish is maintain their eligibility for their insurance coverage. And so the organization changed the name from “payments” to “maintaining eligibility.” And what that did is changed the way people thought and the way people acted internally. Those changes moved metrics. 

So first call resolution around maintaining eligibility or payments improved, transactional net promoter score improved, this was a multibillion-dollar company that many people think that changing that name, improved the cash flow for that organization. And so it’s taking the focus away from the tasks that we do as CX leaders and getting the organization to look at what the customer is trying to accomplish. And is there any greater definition of customer-centricity than focusing on what the customer is trying to accomplish?

Related Article: Drive Growth by Improving Your Customer Experience Strategy 

Why ‘Renaming’ Is an Important Step in CX Transformation

Dom: I can’t think of one. Touchpoint. No, no. Okay. That was a different conversation. That was a different conversation. Okay. What’s in my mind, though? One word, one word? No, well put. Great example, too. I love these examples you’re giving, they’re really helping us see it. Right. See it in action. 

So in speaking of transformation, another thing you talk about, Hank, is discussing, transforming CX is to do these things, it’s to identify, it’s to rename, adopt and measure journeys. One of the things that intrigued me in those four is the “rename.” That’s very interesting. What do you mean by the renaming of transforming CX?

Hank: Well, that example I just gave was the company renaming, but it’s a great question because this is an extraordinary step that can be relatively simple, that has amazing impact on organizations. Because again, if we can identify, so the first step that you mentioned, is identify. 

So we need to identify our primary journeys, what are the five or eight primary journeys that our customers take with us, that together make up their end-to-end journey. And so we need to identify those and then we need to rename them all. The adopt part is to adopt that nomenclature. And then we need to measure now what those journeys are. So we talked a little bit about the call center measuring first call resolution or call time? Well, we need to keep that. That can be important. But we need to measure the customer’s ability to easily accomplish the purpose of their journey because we have those little measures in our verticals. And then we have net promoter score, which is kind of a macro relationship metric. But really, we need that in-between metric, that measurement of what the customer is trying to accomplish. So the rename, once we adopt that, as an organization, it helps everybody in the organization change the way they think, and then change the way they act. And this relatively simple step of identifying, renaming, adopting, and then measuring around that can be accomplished relatively quickly. 

And this has and has had and shown to have extraordinary impact on customer-centricity. It moves culture. And back to your question about what can a CX leader do around transformation. You know, we all talk about customer-centricity. But that’s a cultural play. How do we change culture? I just described a way that we can change culture, move people’s perceptions and focuses from the task that they do to what the customer is trying to accomplish. That can change culture, and it will move needles in the meantime and deliver potentially in probably an extraordinary ROI. So the renaming, great question, because it’s a relatively, I won’t say simple, but it’s simple compared to the extraordinary benefit it can deliver in the steps of transformation.

Related Article: The Most Important Components of the Customer Experience 

How to Move CX Transformation Needle and Break Up Silos

Dom: And reminds me of when I was at a daily newspaper, one of our editors forced us. Like when we were doing the story budget for the next day, you know, listening to stories, we had to fill in a little section that said, “Why should our readers care?” Right? And right, so because we could come up with the best story idea, and you know, the best pitch and it sounds great, I have a great working headline, I talked to three people, got a great story coming out, it’s going to be a blockbuster. And we would always ask that humbling question, though. Why should readers care? Right? Well, how is this going to impact their life? Are we moving the needle with them? Are we making them mad, glad, sad, scared, what’s the goal? Right? What’s the goal of that story? How do we, how are we helping their lives? 

So I love it. I love that approach of asking just that simple question of how does this tie back to our customers’ goals, life, objectives and hopes and dreams? I mean, it adds up. Hank, as you’re talking, is this going to take a lot of resource time, energy, effort? Because I’m trying to remember I know, you know, you might work with larger organizations, large and small. I’m trying to remember that team, right, that maybe doesn’t even have a chief customer officer, they just kind of do it. They don’t really know who owns CX, is this transformation process going to be taxing on a small team? Can they pull it off as well? 

Hank: The question is, what’s the pain if they don’t? Because the inefficiencies that the silos create, and especially over time. So you know, we think about an organization that starts and as they grow, and especially if there’s fast growth, and large old companies can all of a sudden engage in fast growth. 

But you know, every engagement I’ve been in, in customer experience employees have said to me, “Hank, if I could get this department or this person, or this team to do this, it would be so much better for the customer. So much better for our efficiency.” Organizations are extraordinary at bolting things together just to keep going and getting things done. But that bolting process and tools and again, the silos become a factor here. 

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