Organizations with high volumes of customer interactions across multiple channels wrestle with the ability to deliver the best possible customer experience - both externally for their customers and internally as they develop the project. Recently, there’s increasing awareness of the challenges and opportunities of implementing such solutions. When rolling out new customer experience strategies and their related technology implementations, companies face intense pressure to complete the implementation in an acceptable time frame with rapid ROI. In many cases, project teams have been unable to meet the planned development schedule, provide the functionality promised and deliver high-quality solutions for improving the customer experience.1

This article provides an overview of six best practices for a customer experience transformation project and looks at some of the guiding principles for getting it right - the first time. Before you begin, you need to look at the strategy, process, organization and existing IT systems.

  • Strategy: Concentrate on a customer-focused strategy that aligns the project with business goals.
  • Process: Develop a project process focused on how to implement the project within time frames and budgets.
  • Organization: Involve the right stakeholders across the organization, and ensure they are ready to collaborate.
  • System: Create a development cycle that delivers the performance required within the existing IT environment.

 

1. Develop a Customer-Focused Strategy

Tips to develop your customer-focused strategy include:

  • Identify the real customer needs and define measurable goals clearly focused on a positive customer experience. Examples could be measuring improved customer satisfaction, higher rates of cross-sell during inbound calls or faster time to competency for new agents.
  • Use feasibility studies as the foundation for conveying business and project objectives, with an understanding of the expected ROIs.
  • Look at the current and strategic infrastructure environment. For example, the size of the operations center, the cost of providing a high-availability server environment, and the need for and costs of additional hardware and software.
  • Clear request for proposals are critical to communicate the solution goals, selection process and decision points to members of the project team in the early stages.
  • Consider the strategy’s relationship to corporate philosophy. How does an improved customer experience reflect the company’s philosophy and enhance its brand? This helps bring in marketing and general business groups to embrace the transformation.
  • The strategy must enable the organization to continuously control the user’s experience and balance that experience with organizational objectives. Developing a successful strategy requires thinking like the user. Every detail must be considered in terms of its impact on the user.

The strategy must take into account all types of relationships the customer will have with the company, such as how the system will be used when agents are talking to a new buyer, a customer likely to defect or a customer who owns multiple products or services. The strategy needs to consider activities such as how propositions will be presented at various stages of the customer relationship. This includes the sequencing of outbound communications to stimulate contact and how call center agents will enact a new relationship or manage an irate customer.
This also forces the elimination of organizational silos. For example, if the deployment will result in the same deals for customer acquisition as for retention, then the acquisition and retention teams will have to collaborate to develop the appropriate strategy.

2. Use How-To Project Management

When considering project management methodologies, look for one that offers:

  • Standardization and reduction of variability in the process. Any reduction in the variability of the process provides efficiency benefits.
  • An approach that uses smaller delivery iterations in order to provide frequent feedback to the business owner. This enables early adjustments and realignment with goals.
  • Budget and time-to-market control mechanisms, which allow for continuous assessment of progress.
  • A mechanism that allows for the creation of smaller cross-functional teams with responsibilities and accountability to deliver specific requirements on time and with appropriate quality.
  • A project methodology that uses the following four key tools can also facilitate effective project controls:
    • The issue register is the central and official collection point for all issues. Any issues must be logged before discussed, which forces all issues to be resolved.
    • A decision register requires that the sponsor or designated decision-maker approves all decisions in writing to eliminate any debate.
    • The action items register is a comprehensive list of who needs to do what and when.
    • The risk register includes risk information (time to market, technology, resources, costs, etc.) and possible actions for decreasing or avoiding such risks.

3. Establish an Effective Project Team

The critical factors are highly qualified individuals dedicated to the project and its goals as well as team environment with a high-degree of collaboration and problem-solving. Key team members include project manager or scrum master, architect or technical lead, and business owner. A key facet of the project manager’s role is to establish the project culture and enable it to develop in a positive way. These may seem obvious, but are not always followed:

  • Clearly articulate the reason for the project, its goal and the importance of the team to meeting that goal. Emphasize the projected ROI.
  • Set behavioral ground rules including professional courtesy at all times.
  • Fully define the role and responsibilities of each team member.
  • Establish communication protocols and encourage open communica-tions through the proper channels established in the project management methodology.
  • Prohibit team members from proceeding along an independent path. Eradicate decision-making in silos, because few decisions affect only a single discipline within a team-based workflow.

4. Lifecycle Guidelines

Gathering and agreeing on application requirements is fundamental to the project’s success. Functional requirements drive the definition of business domains that are modeled as business objects and implemented through business services. An effective way to document functional requirements is through use cases, helping define requirements that are easily understood by the business owners.

Nonfunctional requirements describe the performance and system characteristics of the application. Key internal requirements include ability to integrate, maintainability, extensibility, reusability and testability. External requirements include availability, performance, reliability, scalability and security.

Identifying legacy integration requirements is typical because the customer experience solution must reside on top of it. It is important to use a service-oriented architecture (SOA) to hide the legacy system behind the customer experience solution interface. This also leads to rapid implementation.

Designing for reuse requires object-oriented analysis and design using unified modeling language (UML). Object reuse is only one form of reuse. Other kinds provide added productivity gains. For example, when designing solutions to implement a consistent, channel-independent customer experience, a specialized offer service can be created to provide access to offer-generating algorithms regardless of the channel.

Constructing the code should be a fraction of the total project effort (80/20). The following methods are particularly valuable:

  • Daily build and smoke test. Build and test the product daily.
  • Continuous integration (as defined by Martin Fowler). Team members integrate their work frequently, at least daily. Each integration is verified by the daily build and smoke test.
  • Peer reviews. These are especially useful when trying to produce top software at top speed. All artifacts from the development process are reviewed including plans, requirements, architecture, design, code and test cases.
  • Plan for testing, quality and defects management. Proactively create a testing plan as part of the design process and use a defect tracking system linked to the source control management system to help better gauge when a project is ready to release.

5. Preparing for Organizational Transformation

Customer experience solutions are by their nature transformational. For customers, it should translate into a very positive, satisfactory interaction. For internal staff, it can also lead to an improved workload and level of satisfaction. For example, call center agents who pride themselves on delivering a great service experience may not see themselves as sales agents. So when a new customer experience solution requires them to deliver sales offers, without proper training their ability to do so effectively may be compromised.

Planned change management is essential to make a successful transition. This includes not only training on the application but also teaching agents about the intent of the project and how it can facilitate meaningful and relevant conversations with customers. Agents need to understand that they will be delivering even better service by making offers that are perfect for the individual customer. They can also make these offers in a conversational manner, making them much more receptive to customers. With proper training, buy-in is higher, because they realize both the improved customer service as well as their own improved job satisfaction.

6. Continuously Measure Success

Once the new solution is launched, every decision executed by the application, the customer’s subsequent behavior, and the economic and resource implications of that behavior should be monitored. This forms the basis for reporting on the performance and compliance of the propositions the company is offering as well as the effectiveness of the decision logic and processes used in the application.

Using these guidelines, an organization can take the steps toward a healthy customer experience project development process that results in a solution closely aligned with business goals, streamlines deployment and leads to effective transformation into a customer-centric environment.

Reference:

  1. The Standish Group International, Inc. “Chaos: A Recipe for Success,” http://www.standishgroup.com/, 1999.

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