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One of the many impacts of the Covid pandemic was to accelerate a nascent trend among progressive organisations towards adopting the discipline of so-called “total experience”.
As to what total experience (TX) is and why it is important, Joana de Quintanilha, vice-president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, defines it as “understanding customers’ lived reality, and adjusting your people, processes and technology to deliver a coherent brand experience across all touch points and silos that makes sense from a customer point of view”.
To do so requires recognising, and catering to, customer needs and goals, but also understanding the wider context in which they experience the company’s products or services. This means being aware of the entire customer journey from end to end, which includes any components provided by third parties, such as partners or outsourcing suppliers.
But Bruce Temkin, head of the Qualtrics XM (Experience Management) Institute, takes the definition a step further. He sees TX as a discipline consisting of four pieces of a puzzle: customer (CX), employee (EX), brand (BX) and product experience (PX).
They are all made up of particular competencies that need to be mastered, but they also require a suitable culture to support them organisationally and software platforms to automate relevant processes and collate applicable data from across the business.
In implementation terms, maturity in the CX area to date is “moderate” as it has been around for a good number of years now, says Temkin, although the practice is generally further advanced in the UK and Europe than in the US. The last couple of years have also seen EX uptake accelerate, but its progress is still much less advanced than its older cousin.
PX, which is more closely related to CX, meanwhile, is mostly very early in the adoption cycle, while BX, which is closer to EX, “still looks the same as it did a decade ago”, with the focus mainly being on monitoring rather than taking effective action, says Temkin.
But, in practice, taking effective action is a core consideration in getting TX initiatives right as it is one of the three core components of the discipline. These are:
- Continuous learning – This involves understanding what the people you care about – customers, employees, partners and prospects – think and feel on an ongoing basis.
- Propagating insights – This entails sharing these concerns, interests and requirements across the organisation so that each staff member is aware of them and is primed to do something about them.
- Adapting rapidly – This chunk requires the most work because it is about implementing the changes the company needs to make in order to act on the insights it has received as effectively as possible.
Temkin says this methodology should be applied consistently to each piece of the TX puzzle, with a particular focus on CX and EX, at least initially, as they make up the biggest chunk of the whole.
“TX comes in when you look at CX and EX together, and it’s particularly important in areas with front-line employees, such as banks, retailers, hospitality and travel, especially in contact centres,” he says. “But while a lot of companies believe they offer a good EX, for example, because they periodically survey employees, they don’t treat it as a discipline.”
While Temkin estimates that 40-50% are doing “some level of good CX – although it tends to be in pockets, rather than across the board”, the figure drops to more like 20% in EX terms. This means that, although work on a combination of the two is seeing “rapid adoption”, TX implementation overall is still “very low across most organisations”.
De Quintanilha agrees, but says the pandemic accelerated interest in the area as many organisations “experienced how drastically customer behaviour could change”.
This led them to appreciate the benefits of being able to see and understand what was happening in both CX and EX terms, enabling them to identify opportunities and risks, prioritise, focus resources, and adapt. The same dynamics are likely to be true if the widely predicted global recession takes hold, despite straitened budgets, she says.
“We’re seeing an acceleration in terms of companies investing in things like customer journey analytics or orchestrating teams to deliver on TX, which is a sign that interest is growing,” says de Quintanilha. “But it requires a total organisational transformation, so it won’t happen overnight. These are very new ways of organising, but there are some pioneers leading the way.”
Read more about total experience
- Why you need a total experience strategy to drive CX and EX.
- ServiceNow-Qualtrics partnership tackles total experience.
- The link between employee experience and customer experience.
The first step on the journey, says Temkin, is to develop a clear vision of “how delivering better CX and EX is going to help you differentiate yourself and succeed”. He adds: “It takes time and energy and thinking about the future of the business, so, like any change, it requires effort.”
It also requires creating a (small) cross-discipline team to bring about change. Temkin recommends identifying “people in the organisation that are already driving change in different areas and have connections across the company”.
But as Ash Finnegan, digital transformation officer at consultancy Conga, points out, it is also important to take a “crawl, walk, run” iterative approach, focusing on one prioritised business area at a time, rather than trying to do everything at once – not least because of the significant amount of culture change required.
What typically slows people down most, she says, is “not knowing where to start as they don’t ask the right questions from a business perspective and not including others in the conversation”. Possible useful questions here include what are customers’ pain points, what isn’t working and what does good look like.
Another key challenge is that most companies’ organisational structures are based on individual functions, rather than being focused on supporting the customer journey, which leads to silos and gaps in CX terms. Even when cross-discipline teams are established, they often simply “become an overlay on traditional working practices, which means things like targets are still based on old metrics and processes”, says de Quintanilha.
A key problem here, she says, is that “companies don’t always embrace a bold enough vision or understand the amount of change management required to work cross-functionally like a well-oiled machine”.
But to get it right, de Quintanilha acknowledges that employees have to “work in a very different way”. As a result, understanding and optimising the EX is also vital. Two employers that have gone down this route are Recognise Bank and Experian.
Case study: Recognise Bank
“Happy employees make happy customers and we see a direct correlation between employee feedback and the scores we use to measure customer service and satisfaction,” says Craig Pocock, chief people officer at Recognise Bank.
The City of London-based challenger bank was awarded its licence to operate in 2020 and focuses on the small to medium-sized business community. It decided during the pandemic that it was vital to give its 70 staff a forum on which to share their views and insights into their own EX as well as the overall CX.
“We wanted something more dynamic than just the usual annual surveys,” says Pocock. “As a challenger bank that was growing quickly, we wanted to respond effectively to issues and concerns and give people a voice in a world where things were moving swiftly.”
As a result, the organisation introduced Winningtemp’s employee feedback system to complement existing input forums, such as daily huddles, and provide staff with anonymity if answering initially weekly, but now fortnightly, questions on potentially sensitive subjects.
This “constant flow of information” has led to a number of positive changes to both the bank’s EX and CX. For example, not only has a flexible menu, rather than a fixed set, of benefits been introduced to cater more effectively to employee needs, but customers’ access to loans has also been speeded up.
While a “credit committee” approves the provision of such loans once a week, staff suggested that establishing “daily deal forums” to explore whether a given transaction was likely to be successful or not before it was passed on to the committee could expedite the process. The proposal was accepted and is now integral to the bank’s way of working.
As to the secret behind getting the “personal touch” that the organisation prides itself on right, Pocock believes it rests on two factors – the customer-focused messaging that comes from the top, and hiring the right team.
“Everyone’s working for the common good of the customer,” he says. “We’ve hired experienced staff that have done it all before and seen things go wrong at other organisations, so everyone is careful to ensure there are no silos building up and no power plays. It’s much easier starting from a blank sheet of paper.”
Case study: Experian
Experian is currently working on half a dozen large EX initiatives with the aim of becoming one of the top 25 places to work in the world – a move it believes is already enhancing both its customer satisfaction scores and profitability.
The organisation, which employs 20,600 staff in 40 countries, has already been accredited as a “Great Place to Work” in 22 territories. Pertinent initiatives to this end include bringing all of its diversity and inclusion activities together under the remit of a chief diversity officer.
Another initiative has involved setting up a resource hub to offer a “world-class development curriculum”, says Jacky Simmonds, Experian’s chief people officer. While the hub has started by offering technical and digital skills training, the goal is to broaden out its offerings into other areas, including leadership development.
Meanwhile, to help the firm reach its goals, especially during the pandemic when it was particularly keen to monitor EX and see how to best go about enhancing it, the company decided to implement Qualtrics’ experience management platform.
“It gives a way of monitoring so you can respond and act quickly if you need to,” says Simmonds. “There are processes and mechanisms in place to capture data and you can use those insights to course correct and enhance and change things to give the best experience possible.”
Not only have the company’s internal employee engagement scores increased year-on-year as a result, but its scores on the Glassdoor employer review website have improved as well. This, Simmonds points out, has “seen our ability to attract candidates remain as strong as ever”, despite generally high levels of staff turnover across the wider market. Although no figures were available, she also pointed to enhanced Net Promoter Scores (NPS) among customers.
“There is a clear correlation between EX, customer NPS and profitability,” she adds. “It’s hard to say which one drives the other, but all three have a strong correlation, so we monitor them all as we believe they’re all closely linked.”