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Using Accountability to Drive Customer Centricity—A Bloody Affair

By Cassandra Nordlund | November 22, 2019 | 0 Comments

MarketingCustomer Experience

Based on the title, I’m sure some of you are wondering if I’m going to reveal the CX equivalent of a never-been-seen scene comparable to the Red Wedding from Game of Thrones! Sorry to disappoint, no guts and gore here. Just a story about a routine office visit to get my blood drawn. So what does this have to do with customer centricity and accountability, you ask? Read on.

When it comes to building a customer centric culture we all know that if all employees understand customers – and consistently consider the impact of their decisions and actions on those customers— we will be more successful in our efforts to continuously improve the experience we deliver to our customers. There are many ways to approach building a customer centric culture. In fact, a favorite tool for achieving this customer- centric state is enterprise-wide accountability through some customer-sourced CX metric.

However, our Gartner research suggests the bar for accountability is high. In fact, we learned in the most complex decision making situations involving greater investments or more stakeholders, whether or not CX business partners are accountable to CX metrics does not influence the likelihood that they will make more customer-centric decisions.

Let me share with you my experience where the company’s customer-centric intentions were good, but the execution as it related to metric that drove accountability was flawed.  I recently went for routine blood work at a local lab. The overall experience was as standard as it comes—I arrived ahead of my appointment time, the waiting room was packed, and the two employees on duty struggled to check patients in while explaining insurance coverage and billing in addition to the actual task at hand of helping patients with medical testing.

I wasn’t called up until almost 45 minutes after the allotted appointment time and on top of that the particular test I was there for required me to wait an hour in between blood draws. So I did what anyone does these days—opened up my smart phone checked email, then the news, social media, texted a few people. Just as I was about out of mind numbing things to “check” an email came in from the lab… “How was your lab experience today?”

Jackpot! As a customer experience subject matter expert I usually want nothing more than to see what questions companies ask, how, and if they are doing anything innovative or different that improve my overall experience. What immediately came to mind was the fact that I was still “mid-experience” as I waited to be called back after a less than stellar initial check-in experience. Clearly the system wasn’t synced up to know that my visit wasn’t complete—STRIKE! I decided to wait to fill it out as it didn’t seem fair to share my uninformed opinion until the experience was complete… and besides another few more interesting emails hit my inbox moments later.

As I sat down for the final blood draw, I promptly looked the other way as not to faint and told the technician that this wasn’t really my cup of tea. Her reply was great— “I’ll look for the both of us. What do you do?” I responded in hopes of keeping myself distracted, “Customer Experience. In fact I just got your survey in the waiting room and I’m anxious to take a look.” Her cheery tone immediately changed, which isn’t the best situation to be in when someone is about to stick you with a needle.

She proceeded to tell me exactly the NPS score her facility needed to receive in order to meet satisfactory levels let alone qualify for the incentives, the dismal response rates, and complained about several of the factors that were out of her immediate control (like ease of finding the location, under staffing, etc.) that ultimately impacted the score, and more importantly her overall performance assessment, which was directly linked to her incentive pay.

Here was a woman, doing her BEST, not just with her “bedside” patient-centric demeanor but also with what she had to work with. She was the definition of customer obsessed in the way she handled the taxing situation in the waiting room with all the patients—all while smiling. It was not because of the NPS score, which she felt she had little control over. It was because she cared, she wanted to do the right thing for the people in the community she served. On some days it felt hard to do the right thing given everything else going on.

This story demonstrates what we found in our own research at Gartner. We studied whether and how CX leaders can hold partners accountable to CX to produce more customer-centric outcomes. The inclusion of CX metrics on business partner performance objectives does not on the whole lead to more customer-centric decisions by business partners.

Bottom line: To drive customer-centric decision making, avoid a one-size-fits-all approach to CX accountability. CX leaders must look for other ways to influence business partner performance objectives. Instead of adding a universal CX metric to dominate business partners’ performance objectives, which typically require CEO-level mandates, CX leaders can work within existing metrics and see similar results. A more successful approach is for the CX team to align with something business partners and their teams are already doing. Specifically, the CX team should consider how to align their priorities with existing KPIs and objectives relevant to individual business partners. After all, it is much easier to help business partners improve things they already do than add goals for them to achieve. This is the way towards customer centricity.

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