In our periodic blog series, Ask the Experts, we ask COPC Inc. experts questions about specific areas for improving operational performance in call centers, customer experience (CX) operations, vendor management organizations, and procurement.
In this edition of Ask the Experts, we discussed change management with Judi Brenstein, COPC Inc. vice president. Judi has extensive experience helping brands make operational changes that have a lasting impact on improving the customer experience.
When a company makes a commitment to changing operations that support the customer experience, what are some proven methods for getting the ball rolling and staying on track?
Judi: Communicate clearly and communicate often. Starting at the top of the organization, it is critical to communicate the objectives of the operational change and to gain organizational alignment and support behind the initiative very early on in the timeline.
Every initiative should have a clear message of:
- What we plan to achieve
- Why we are making the changes
- How and when we plan to deliver the improvements
- Who will be most impacted by the changes
- How we will measure our success
The most effective way to ensure commitment to operational change is to know your audience and to communicate with your audience through frequent updates that build awareness, generate excitement for the change, and provide guidance for how to successfully adopt the change. Parallel to the work of the project team to implement the changes, there should be a detailed plan for how the stakeholders will be kept informed, trained and supported. Many organizations get started on change management activities far too late, which can leave those who are most impacted with very little time to become ready and accept the operational changes that are needed to be successful in creating a better customer experience.
What role does company culture play in creating successful change at an organization?
Judi: Company culture plays a very important role in creating successful change. Here are a few of the most important cultural norms that may help or hinder a change effort:
- Does your company share information candidly throughout the organization?
- Do the functions in your organization work cooperatively, in an environment of trust and support?
- Can your organization adapt quickly to changes in technology, processes, and business requirements?
- Do you have a culture that invests in strong communication and training support for employees?
We have found organizations to be the most successful with changes when they have a culture that is adaptable, growth-oriented, collaborative, and responsive.
What sort of challenges occur when a change implementation spans across regions (even across the globe), and what are some effective ways to deal with those challenges?
Judi: Change implementation often involves leveraging centralized technology, implementing consistent processes and procedures, and applying proven best practices. When launching CX changes globally, it is more difficult to ensure consistency and to transform at the same speed because of unique challenges by region, by country, and by language.
The most successful customer experience improvement projects ensure each region has a change management expert focused on their stakeholders, with a centralized team to support consistent messaging, materials and solutions. Each region should be required to implement the changes as consistently as possible while allowing for regional differences where needed. These differences may include: government regulations, technology, labor relations, cultural practices, and many other factors that may impact how changes are implemented and adopted by the organization across regions.
Once an implementation is complete, how should a brand measure whether or not the effort was successful?
Judi: At the start of any important initiative, the sponsor and project owner(s) should establish the goals of the initiative and quantify, wherever possible, the results to be achieved. Many organizations omit this part of the project planning in an effort to accelerate the project work and also because it can be difficult to quantify the benefits of a project that is just getting underway. However, this is an important step. Even if the target results of the initiative are based on educated guesses, these should become the baseline for measuring the project’s success. In fact, if the expected benefits cannot be quantified at the start of the project, it begs the question, why is the project being done at all? Be sure, as a project owner or project manager, to know the results you must achieve before the project is too far along. Otherwise, you may find yourself getting off track to chase goals.
Lastly, it’s important to remember that achieving the established goals of a specific project is an important measure of project management excellence. Improving the customer experience is a big deal! Every win is important. So, be sure to celebrate quantifiable success. It’s a great way to motivate the organization to embrace the changes that have been made as well as any future changes.