In 2017, Farrell Hudzik took on the new role of senior vice president of enterprise customer engagement at Synchrony Financial. Her goal: to bring together customer experience, data management, and analytics to better serve the financial services company and its key partners. It was the next step in the transformation of the 85-year-old company, now going toe-to-toe with fintech startups in a highly competitive industry.
“Our task is to anticipate the stated and unstated needs of our customers and help them move seamlessly to and from the digital and physical,” Hudzik told CMO.com.
Customer experience management (CXM) is central to this next phase of customer-centric business transformation. The cross-organizational imperative to orchestrate and personalize experiences across channels and touch points in real time is a huge undertaking—one that demands strong leadership, whether from a named CX leader such as Hudzik, or from a CIO, CMO, CDO, or another digital leader at the helm.
“CXM pushes companies to evolve their often-siloed channel model, providing common goals and decisioning frameworks to best deliver the right-time, right-channel, right-message experiences,” Hudzik said.
As the primary customer advocate throughout an organization, a CXM leader will spend a good deal of time fostering collaboration between marketing, IT, and business lines, which means relying heavily on a focused team to actually develop, deploy, and optimize meaningful initiatives, said Jonathan Collins, digital program director at Mindtree.
Some early lessons are emerging for those ready to take their transformation efforts to the next level.
Build Around the Journey
Because CXM is a silo-busting discipline, it requires executive-level commitment and support. It’s also critically important that, from the start, incentives and goals are aligned to drive cross-functional delivery. The most fundamental truth about CXM, however, is that it begins—and ends—with the customer journey.
At Synchrony, the CXM team now has around 20 members. At its core is a customer journey organization focused on connecting the larger company to its customer goals, needs, and expectations. That organization “serves as a guide to prioritize the highest return on customer experience (RoCX) investments,” Hudzik said.
Smaller journey teams lead cross-functional efforts, involving the business and IT, in delivering journey-level goals. “Together, customer journeys and agile delivery are the two key drivers we’re focused on to evolve our working model across the enterprise,” Hudzik said.
The other key pillar of Synchrony’s CXM function is the measurement, voice, and insights team, charged with creating a common voice and tone for speaking to customers across channels and delivering customer experience insights through transactional and relationship surveys, qualitative research, and journey-centric analytics.
“For [CXM] to become an active management function with accountability for experiences across channels and touch points, most digital leaders are embracing a matrix-operating model, where CXM owns cross-channel and touch point journeys, while channel and touch point teams continue to operate their respective channels and touch points,” said Abram Sirignano, a partner at Prophet. “Journey management therefore becomes the key organizational construct for the work CXM owns.”
At Sprint, also in phase two of its business transformation, that means empowering those working within channels to understand the customer experience journey with a data-first mindset.
“Each function and partner needs to believe and understand how their role affects the CX journey and what they can do to improve it,” said Sprint chief digital officer Rob Roy. “Digital transformation is only as good as the cultural transformation of the total company.”
CXM is embodied in “the Hive” at Sprint, which Roy described as an “ever-evolving CXM team” depending on the particular goals for a given period.
“The end goal is always the same, though: to give groups the tools and understanding to take back to their organizations and evangelize the larger CXM journey,” Roy said.
After the iPhone X’s unveiling, for example, the Hive created a program in just five weeks that enabled current customers to preregister for the new phones rather than wait and wake up early on the official preorder day to secure their purchases. The move helped the telecom provider capitalize on increased traffic to deliver a differentiated customer experience and give customers another way to engage with the brand, Roy said. The Hive also has partnered with customer care to improve both employee and customer experiences and “build a CXM muscle” that the function can use to improve customer experiences.
“We are working hard to promote the idea that our relationship [with customers] never ends, and that each touch point is a new piece of the puzzle we can leverage to create a better experience,” Roy said.
Argentina-based IT services company Globant takes another tack, creating CXM “pods” of multidisciplinary talent strategists, product strategists, technology directors, and business consultants.
“Additionally, we’ve developed tools and our own methodologies [vision canvas, journey mapping, envisioning tools] that help us predict future outcomes and anticipate behavior based on a data-driven design,” said Emiliano Horcada, Globant’s global design and strategy partner.
‘To The Micro Level’
Erica Yamamoto, who heads up the CXM team at etailer Zulily, which exists within the 150-person marketing team, told CMO.com that CXM is essential for growth.
“We take CXM to the micro level as customers opt in to our shopping experience,” she said. “We believe that if we can better understand our customer, we can better serve her on the right platform, with the right message, at the right time.”
Using proprietary machine learning technology, Zulily’s CXM team has been able to drive orders from repeat customers to 92%, Yamamoto said. While the team is responsible for Zulily’s cross-channel engagement, user experience, and marketing programs, with the objective of driving long-term user engagement as well as testing and launching new customer programs, “ultimately, however, CX is owned by every department,” Yamamoto said.
Customer metrics are integrated into companywide goals, she added, and the team provides real-time CXM insights to executives and departments across the organization, which has helped incentivize and prioritize cross-functional action. Last year, for example, Zulily’s CXM team partnered with UX and IT to redesign their apps and website FAQs and saw an immediate impact on contact deflection, and increase in first-contact resolution, Yamamoto said.
Of course, finding the right people for the CXM team is crucial to its success.
“There is a small community of qualified, experienced CX professionals—usually designers or business leaders who have been exclusively managing CX for years now,” Prophet’s Sirignano said. “But you have to do more ‘conversion’ from other roles to get what you need.”
That means mindset trumps specific skills and experience.
“Business dynamics and technology are changing quickly,” said Ken Ramoutar, global head of client experience at Avanade, a professional services company based in Seattle. “It’s more important to find the right personalities who have the passion for experience management and are willing to engage in a program of change. This kind of work requires continual learning, and practices are evolving rapidly. So while you can search and interview for the core skills like analytics, it’s important to have an agile team who has passion for making a difference.”
The CXM team at Synchrony is a blend of more traditional designers, product managers, and researchers with a common approach.
“They are data- and behaviorally curious storytellers who are not afraid to ask why—or why not—when confronted with long-standing processes and ways of operating,” Hudzik said. While they’re not exactly unicorns, they’re not easy to find. Hudzik tends to look for design thinking or product management leaders trained in portfolio-level scaled agile processes.
Sprint’s Roy said he also values a holistic, data-driven view of customers in his recruits.
“The biggest items we look for are the ability to read and understand data and then, with that, take a holistic approach to the customer view,” he said. “We aren’t looking for folks that have only done this or that. We appreciate a wide variety of backgrounds because that helps us feed new ideas into how we look at the journey.”
Globant uses AI to hunt for skill sets such as listening, adaptability, and analytical thinking within the organization, Horcada said. “By analyzing employees’ hard and soft skills, as well as their experiences on past projects, organizations can build the strongest team possible to meet evolving customer demands.”
Sirignano looks in digital product and digital channel/touch point organizations first for hands-on talent focused on managing and improving the customer experience.
“If they are already focused on solving a customer problem in an obsessive way,” he said, “the shift to omnichannel and end-to-end journey management is normally achievable.”