Friday, June 19, 2015

Aligning the Organization Around the Customer with Customer Rooms

Image courtesy of potiondesign
Is your entire company - executives and employees alike - aligned with and around the customer?

Do they know who your customers are? Do they understand the customer experience? How are you getting employees immersed in the customer experience? What tools or approaches have you been using? Are you looking for some new tools to help with this?

And are you still struggling to get buy-in, to get company leadership on board with focusing on the customer?  You're not alone if you are, trust me.

A couple years ago, I wrote about several different ways to get executive buy-in for your customer experience initiatives and to get a commitment from them to focus the organization on the customer and on driving change to better the customer experience. We know that having executive commitment is critical to the success of any CX strategy. Without it, you'll never get resources - human, capital, or other - that you'll need to execute. So I'm always happy to share different ways for you to ensure your executives and employees are on board and can walk in customers' shoes, thereby helping them to really understand the experience and buy into the need to fix things.

Jeanne Bliss writes about a different approach to achieve customer understanding and organizational alignment: the customer room. It's not new; she wrote about customer rooms five years ago. This year, though, she devotes a few pages in her new book, Chief Customer Officer 2.0: How to Build Your Customer-Driven Growth Engine, to this topic and includes an example from The Irvine Company. I love that she describes the customer room as a visual storytelling tool, "a way for your leaders and organization to step through customers' lives." That's exactly what it is - a way for executives and employees to take on the customer's persona and walk in his shoes.

The customer room will contain details about the customer (personas) and the customer journey; it will include artifacts from that journey, including screenshots, pictures, relevant tools and processes that the customer uses or interacts with (e.g., invoices, order forms, contracts, letters or emails, etc.), recorded customer calls, customer feedback, and more, so that executives and employees can experience the journey themselves - from the customer's viewpoint. It's like a customer journey map that's been brought to life; the room is used to help executives and employees step through the journey, and to educate, brainstorm, and redesign the experience. Create the journey maps first and then build the customer room; then print your maps and hang them on the walls of the room.

Customer rooms are used for:
  • building executive commitment
  • educating and aligning the organization
  • understanding the customer and his experience
  • building empathy for the customer
  • onboarding new employees
  • training employees on an ongoing basis
  • shifting organization thinking to outside-in from inside-out
  • providing inspiration for experience redesign efforts
  • brainstorming and making improvement suggestions
  • recognizing employees and teams after improvements are implemented

Jeanne lists four benefits of engaging executives with customer rooms. Customer rooms allow them to...
  1. Connect the dots to ROI: executives prove they care about the reasons for customer retention and attrition.
  2. Care about the customer: executives can walk in customers' shoes and experience what they experience as they try to achieve some task with the organization; it helps them build empathy for the customer.
  3. Focus, prioritize, and commit: it brings leaders together, to work together in a united manner on those few priorities that matter most to the customer; it gets everyone to focus on those initiatives critical to the overall experience versus siloed efforts on disparate initiatives.
  4. Drive accountability and reward the middle: create a cycle of accountability for those tasked to lead customer experience improvement initiatives.
I think it's pretty straightforward to see how customer rooms are a valuable tool for your organization. If you can't get everyone out into the field to experience what customers experience, bring the experience to them.

Other than The Irvine Company, customer rooms are being used by companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Cigna,  Prime Therapeutics, TD Ameritrade, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospitals, and Bombardier Aircraft.

Have you found any interesting or unique ways to get executive commitment or to build empathy for your customers? Have you thought about building a customer room?

There's a difference between interest and commitment. When you're interested in doing something, you do it only when it's convenient. When you're committed to something, you accept no excuses - only results. -Ken Blanchard


6 comments:

  1. We use a very similar technique for operational improvement Annette.

    It is fascinating how having everything visible and up on a wall focuses the mind.

    James

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    1. Customer Rooms feel like a great substitute for a fully immersive experience.

      Adrian

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    2. I agree. That's awesome. You'll have to share your thoughts/experience with it some time.

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    3. I think you're right, Adrian. If you can't get out into the field (though you should make every effort to), it is a great substitute.

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  2. Really great points on how to build a business around the customer. One of the things we have noticed in our team is the importance of field time (i.e. going to the place where the customer actually interacts with us). Since we are in the construction industry, this means going to the site itself. We also interact a lot with designers, so it is just as important to go to their offices and see them in their environment.

    Thank you for the good read.

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    1. Thanks, Josh. I couldn't agree more. The first choice would always be to get out into the field. Absent that... and it's often a challenge to get every employee out there... the customer room is a solid alternative.

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