Is this about customer experience management or is it about stakeholders management?

This is how the webinar started as hosted by NEDonBoard. Mike Ashton (Managing Director of ABCG) kicked off the event with a clear statement: Customers and Stakeholders are very much interlinked and businesses cannot address these 2 in silos.

Customer Experience is how customers and stakeholders perceive the sum of their interactions with an organisation.

Mike Ashton from ABCG in NEDonBoard event (March 2021)

As customers, there are certain triggers that help formulate our experience. This applied for both business to consumer or business to business. These triggers would make us form a decision and either become repeat customers or go to another business. Partners, supporters, media, funders, employees, gatekeepers, influencers all impact the full customer experience.

The interesting part for me is when Mike explained that according to Forrester research, majority of organisations underwhelm customer expectations and deliver moderate net promotor score (NPS) performance, thereby ‘putting business at risk through churn of undermining competitive advantage‘. This is a reality check that each leader, executive, and brand manager should keep this fact in front of them and make sure the continue to assess how their stakeholders perceive their brand. It is refreshing to see someone make this direct link between customer experience and business sustainability who is not from my own Quality network.

There is a gap in perceptions between leaders and customers.

Mike offered 5 areas for Board members to consider and start at their boards to help bridge the gap between leaders and customers perceptions.

  1. Belief: Do our leaders understand CX and believe it matters?
  2. Alignment: Do we have a shared vision for CX success and a clear plan that prioritises CX investment across our organisation?
  3. Way of Working: Do our teams collaborate effectively across functional boundaries to develop and deliver their CX that consistently meets expectations and is responsive to changing customer needs?
  4. Engagement: Do our staff understand our CX plan and how well we are doing? Do they know what they need to do to contribute to success?
  5. Performance: Does our approach to L&D produce CX behaviours we need to succeed?

After Mike completed his session, Joanna Baldwin shared her insights and wanted to emphasise the need to be rigorous in defining ‘stakeholders’ for each business. This has to be clearly defined and characterised in order to come with a clear and successful engagement plan.

Joanna was sharing her experience with HMRC. She brought to light the difference between being customer centric vs customer focused. It was important to ensure HMRC were customer focused and not centric. At the start, I felt myself disagree, but as she moved to explain why that was necessary, it was an aha moment 💡 for me. I can see the difference and I can understand how a business co smiting to being customer centric can bring an extra layer of pressures compared to being customer focused. I suppose for businesses who are starting their structured journey into putting customer experience at the heart of what they do, it is a great advise and good way to drive their focus.

NEDonBoard brought this topic to action and what it meant under Directors’ Duties Section 172: Duty to promote the success of a company.

So what are my thoughts about this?

My entire career has been centred around Quality, Service Quality and the benefit of positive customer experience and mapping that against the cost of Quality. ISO 9000 family defines stakeholders as Interested Parties in the business’s quality management system (or business model for an easier term). Project Management Institute defines stakeholders as those actively involved in a project or whose interest impact – positively or negatively – the life of a project. Now take a pause from the definition of stakeholders and look at a core principle in Quality: the PDCA or PDSA: Plan-Do-Check-Act or event Plan-Do-Study-ACT. The principle highlights that nothing in a business model can be done in a linear way. It has to be an evolving cycle where inputs, activities and outputs feed into each other to formulate this cycle of continuous improvement. Now unpause and combine the PDCA/PDSA with your stakeholder engagement. Hopefully, you will be able to find ways to put the stakeholder engagement for your business in the same improvement loop, and recognise that is not something you advertise or put on the agenda as an item to cover once a year.

Both Joanna and Mike were fantastic at sharing their knowledge and insights giving some tips on how to deploy these concepts at a board level. 5 was the magic number in this session and both shared fantastic questions. I will stick with the magic number and give you my favourite 5:

  1. Have you mapped your stakeholders’ (internal and external) behaviours, wants and needs?
  2. Do you have a metrics framework to assess your maturity level of customer engagement?
  3. Have you set your goals for what good looks like for each of these stakeholders groups?
  4. Are you able to quantify the impact on your business (financial, operation or reputational) if their expectations are not met?
  5. Do you know when things go wrong with meeting these expectations and why something is broken?

The event had a high level of engagement and I really enjoyed hearing leaders from various sector flag various important points, 2 of which are:

  1. How do you ensure that your organisation is fully engaged with its stakeholders [including your supply chain]? Key point is supply chain. This is a very good point because I think the term stakeholder is far more encompassing and inclusive than the term customer.
  2. If you are unable to define a clear metric for your stakeholder engagement, does that mean you cannot measure it and thus remove it from your strategy? This is was an interesting debate around ‘what gets measured gets done’ vs ‘what gets measured gets exposed’.

And to all business leaders, trustees and non executive directors, I leave you with this one question which was flagged by one of the event participants:

If we were to shutdown tomorrow, how long will it take before our customers (or stakeholders) miss us and go elsewhere?

All in all, an excellent event by NEDonBoard, I am glad I joined. Have you clearly defined who your stakeholders are for your business? How are you managing these relationships and keeping them a live topic in your organisation?

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