Medallia Experience 21: Leaders Share 5 Steps to Develop a Customer Experience Management Program

Develop a customer experience management program

During Medallia Experience 21, leaders across industries shared how to develop a customer experience management program that will scale as an organization grows.

2020 was proof that keen attention on the customer experience is vital for an organization’s success. Those companies that rose to the challenge of adapting and innovating for a new world did so with the right data powering their decisions. After all, the pandemic showed that customers were not afraid to shift loyalty — with 76% of consumers changing brands or shopping habits — if they felt a competitor offered a better experience. 

Forward-thinking businesses knew they needed to lean in on what their customers were telling them — or, in many cases, not telling them — in order to compete. They captured the signals from the silent majority, acted on feedback from customers, and focused on unifying the customer experience with the employee and digital experience to truly deliver in a time of uncertainty. Medallia CEO Leslie Stretch put it simply during the opening keynote of Medallia Experience 21: “2020 was proof that we can change outcomes through massive engagement.”

During the three-day virtual summit, thought leaders across industries shared best practices with their peers. Connecting themes across multiple event sessions featuring experts who are leading the charge, here are five steps for organizations that want to develop a customer experience management program.

 Develop a customer experience management program

#1 Create a strong foundation

When tech giant Facebook set out to create a customer experience program almost two years ago, leaders knew it was important to create a strong foundation. They started by recruiting customer experience professionals.

“They know the world of customer experience and understand the nuance of voice of customer research with user experience research or marketing research, because it’s different,” said Pegah Valeh, Head of Global Customer Experience for Facebook Reality Labs, which brings together a research and development team to build the future of connection within virtual and augmented reality (think: the company’s Oculus technology).

For Mahesh Chandrappa, Assistant Vice President, Digital – Analytics, Transformation, State Farm®, it’s all about getting the basics right, “starting from strategy to business needs to the process of technology enablement and integration and data.”

Leaders across industries said that the following steps help to build a strong foundation to develop a customer experience management program. Equally important, they empower such a program to scale as an organization grows.

#2 Develop buy-in and create a customer-centric culture

So, who owns the customer experience? State Farm’s Chandrappa said that isn’t the right question to ask.

“Everyone in the company has to play a part to create the customer experience,” he said. “Everyone every day has to wake up and ask how they can make the customer’s life better.”

Buy-in from organizational stakeholders and leadership is paramount. “Because at the beginning of your program, you want to get a lot of buy-in. You want to create a lot of insight so you can show the value of your program to get the adoption,” said Facebook’s Valeh.

To get that buy-in at the start, she said it’s important to communicate a clear vision and back up the “why” behind launching a program. Make it simple for others in the organization to understand and easy to digest.

“We said we know we want to be a customer-centric company. We know in order to do that, we need to continually improve customer experience. In order to do that, we need to continuously listen to customers. We need a customer experience program to consistently monitor customer feedback. And now that we know the vision, we can go out there to evangelize,” Valeh said.

Creating a customer-centric culture sounds great on paper, but how do you put it into practice? You have to be willing to truly understand the core operations at the frontline, for one.

“A lot of times the first response is we’re already doing that or we’ve already tried that.

You have to show your peers that you’re willing to invest and that you care about what they do,” said John McFarland, Vice President and Chief Customer Officer, Portland General Electric. Depending on what industry you’re in, that could mean going out at 2 a.m. to help restore power, spending time at a medical facility, or working with coders who are pulling all-nighters. 

“You have to show that you’re committed and willing to understand,” McFarland added.

At Schneider Electric, customer-focused rituals help to build a customer-centric culture. For example, leadership doesn’t start its meetings with a financial review. Instead, they begin with a customer story, according to Kyle Hamm, Vice President, Customer Transformation, North American Operations. The key, he said, is to look for opportunities based on customer feedback.

“It’s great to see validation and that you’ve got a promoter. But you’ll probably learn a lot more by reading through and thinking about opportunities, comments, and vertabims that will help you put that next step of evolution for your program in place,” he added.

Additionally, Schneider Electric has implemented an ambassador program that empowers employees who volunteer to be customer experience champions. “It’s about acting as a change agent within the organization. It’s been more successful than originally expected,” Hamm said. “These ambassadors are injecting those rituals, making sure their leader knows a good customer story. They are actively collaborating with my team and thinking about how to drive continuous improvement activities.”

#3 Start small and don’t be afraid to go slow at first

Speakers throughout the Medallia Experience 21 event referred to the phrase “don’t boil the ocean.” And, the sentiment rings true for organizations looking to develop a customer experience management program.

Facebook’s Valeh advised to start with an area you can have the most impact and create the most insight because you have the most control. For example, her team started its customer experience program with customer support.

If you’re launching your program with a survey, she reiterated to make sure you focus on what will give you the most insight. “Don’t just start your program with one open-ended question. That won’t give you the insights you need to convince the business of the value you can bring. You need different layers of drivers. You need a strong text analytics platform to be able to parse your verbatim and extract insights out of your data,” she said.

Laurel Straub, Assistant Vice President, Strategic Resources, State Farm, said it’s important to pause before you start and to move with intention. “The tendency will be to start collecting feedback and sending out surveys without pausing at first to get together and figure out what kinds of questions to ask. Is it on a 5- or 10-point scale? How will we measure across dashboards? How granular do we want to go? Without doing that first, you’re going to have a lot of feedback but your ability to make actionable decisions will be diminished. Take time up front to go a little slower to help with a more impactful program down the road.”

“You have to go slow sometimes to go faster later,” State Farm’s Chandrappa added.

#4 Select the right tools

Working to develop a customer experience management program takes a lot of talent and buy-in, but it’s also important to have the right tools in your kit.

“Do your research,” said Facebook’s Valeh. “Be very thoughtful and intentional with the platform you’re selecting because you want to select one that you can scale. When you grow your program, that solution can grow and scale with you.”

Schneider Electric’s Hamm said that the 180-year-old industrial company has become a tech company. And, the pandemic has turned how organizations do business on its head. So, it’s crucial to keep a finger on the pulse every day.

“We think tech now,” Hamm said. “It’s important for us to be mobile-first. If it’s not in the palm of your hand, it’s not convenient.”

#5 Drive accountability

Once your customer experience program is launched, holding stakeholders accountable will drive success.

For Samsung, which has implemented a cross-functional Champions Council, it’s all about recognizing company heroes. For instance, technicians were on the frontlines during the COVID-19 pandemic as they visited people’s homes to make repairs. “When you recognize the people on the frontline, it drives accountability because they know they’re being noticed. They are being recognized for the interactions they are having and the great experience they’re giving to customers,” said Guilherme Koga, Director of Care Analytics, CX and Strategy, Samsung Electronics America.

Portland General Electric’s McFarland said you also need to give people control and a seat at the table. “There’s nothing more defleating than being handed a metric you have no stay on. Let them help set metrics and control the resources,” he said.

Bringing it all together and unifying the customer experience

It takes a lot to develop a customer experience management program. But one thing is clear: You can’t do it alone in a silo. As customer needs and wants keep evolving, smart organizations know adapting and innovating will open up new opportunities. Unifying the customer experience across the board by bringing together the employee experience and digital experience will ensure continuing success for both organizations and customers.

For More Customer Experience Best Practices, Watch These 6 Sessions:

You can watch more recorded sessions of Experience 21 on demand.