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Guest Post: How to Build a Customer-Centric Organization

Welcome back to our “Customer Service Heroes” series, where we invite inspiring customer service leaders to share their advice for running successful teams. 

Michela Cocco is the Global Customer Experience & Innovation Manager at Nespresso. Nespresso is an operating unit of Nestlé Group, providing coffee, brewing machines, and services to coffee lovers around the world. Cocco oversees the design experience of new products, devising strategies to encourage “members” (as Nespresso refers to customers) to interact with different brand touch points, discover new products, and remain loyal to the Nespresso brand name. 

I have a unique role at Nespresso where I’m responsible for integrating customer service projects and strategies into the innovation and product development process. While I’m not a traditional customer service agent or manager, every role at Nespresso is responsible for customer service and experience to some degree. It’s all part of a larger strategy to integrate customer experience governance into our organization and ensure that every decision is made with the customer in mind. 

What is customer experience governance?

Too many organizations today build a strategic roadmap that stems from internal priorities or assumptions about what customers want. But for a company to be truly customer-centric, all decisions about product development and design must track back to established customer needs. That means that companies need to invest time and resources upfront into uncovering customer needs and analyzing the impact of different products and services before diving too deep into any particular project. 

Customer experience governance turns this idea into an actionable framework — with established processes, deliverables, and clearly assigned roles throughout the organization. The end goal is for customer experience to be integrated into the fabric of every part of the organization, instead of siloed within just a singular department or project.

Bringing customer-centricity to your organization

Building a customer-centric organization and adhering to a customer experience governance framework is easier said than done. For organizations that don’t already have a governance framework in place, my advice is that it’s best to start small. 

Any department can be the first to adopt a customer-centric mindset on a single project level. In product development, for example, this could mean testing a new approach to the product roadmap structure. Product roadmaps typically forecast costs and revenues. But with a customer-centric approach, the product team may also integrate Net Promoter Scores (NPS) and customer satisfaction scores into each project, to gauge how customers will respond to each product decision. With a new structure in place the team may approach its next project by first interviewing customers to understand their needs and current experience gaps and executing shadowing sessions, before building a financial forecast and development timeline. 

Once a single customer-centric project is executed, the team can report takeaways from the process and the project results back to key stakeholders within the organization. Using that test project as a proof point, if successful, can make it easier to garner buy-in from key stakeholders within the organization. 

With enough momentum from these one-off customer-centric projects — and executive support — you can look to create organization-wide change. That’s when the real work begins. To truly commit to this new approach, organizations need to build the customer experience governance framework by assigning ownership and putting standards and practices in place officially. This may include scheduling standing operational meetings, hiring for new roles, documenting practices and processes, introducing new ways of working or human-centred methodologies, and more. 

Measuring success as a customer-centric organization

When making a shift toward becoming a customer-centric organization, the team structure and KPIs may look different than they did before. Some sure signs that you’re on your way toward becoming a truly customer-centric organization may include:

  • Your organization has a documented CX plan, including objectives, initiatives, and organization-wide KPIs.

  • Your organization appointed a Chief Customer Officer, or a similar title, who is specifically responsible for shaping, managing, and adhering to that CX plan.

  • Customer KPIs — and the impact your initiative is bringing to customers — are used to prioritize the IT development roadmap. 

  • Employees throughout the organization understand basic customer experience metrics, like NPS, and track them regularly — regardless of what department they work in.

There are also a variety of metrics beyond NPS that organizations who aim to be truly customer-centric should pay attention to. These may include something like a Customer Effort Score — a measure of how difficult or easy it is for customers to use a product or complete certain actions — or things like Churn and Early Churn Rate. I think Early Churn Rate is especially important. Too many organizations invest heavily in acquiring new customers, but forget to invest time, effort, and resources in nurturing those customers once they convert and creating ongoing brand loyalty. You can’t consider yourself a customer-first organization if your Early Churn Rate is a problem. It’s a sure sign that customers aren’t getting what they are looking for and your brand isn’t living up to expectations.

Customer experience governance in action

At Nespresso, one of our main priorities is ensuring that new members have a great brand experience. In taking a customer-centric approach to this goal — we first interviewed customers about their experience and drilled down into specific questions about early brand touchpoints. Ultimately, we found out that some new members didn’t feel as welcomed by the brand as expected once they purchased Nespresso products. 

We researched different sides of this issue and came to the conclusion that it was a specific problem with customers who purchased online versus in store. The online buying experience is vastly different from what you experience at a Nespresso boutique, where coffee experts personally walk you through the buying experience. In order to replicate that experience for online buyers, we had to create something that emphasized human experience and allowed members to share their preferences in the product selection process.

The result: a new digital welcome hub that features an interactive video experience. Within this new hub, customers can share their coffee preferences and tailor the video experience based on their real-time selections and feedback. In the future, the hub will also feature video chat functionality so buyers can speak directly to coffee specialists. The project was a huge lift from a development standpoint (we used the same interactive video technology that the popular Netflix series ”Black Mirror” used recently) but it showcased Nespresso’s commitment to nurturing member relationships.

I believe any department within any organization can adopt the same mindset and adapt project processes to be executed in a customer-centric way. It all starts with one.