Designing and starting up a customer-experience transformation

Challenges and benefits that come when companies truly put customers first.

To successfully initiate a broad improvement program, decide on a structure, select the sequence that’s right for your type of company, and don’t forget to recruit change agents.

As improving customer experience becomes a bigger component of corporate strategy, more and more executives will face the decision to commit their organizations to a broad customer-experience transformation. But it’s not sufficient to understand that the benefits of change are great. The immediate challenge will be choosing how to structure the organization and rollout, and deciding where and how to get started.

Seeing through customers’ eyes

Seeing through customers’ eyes
McKinsey principal Ron Ritter explores the challenges and benefits that come when companies truly put customers first.

These are critical issues because, like many far-reaching and complex business programs, customer-experience transformations frequently fail to live up to expectations. The foundations of such transformations require organizations to make cultural changes and to rewire themselves operationally and financially. Customer journeys, which are cross-functional by nature, cut across traditional organizational boundaries, and changing this dynamic is tricky.

It is important to think about program design before you start: decide on a structure, examine the best sequence for your type of company, and make sure you are engaging change agents and minimizing the inevitable resistance. You’ll also want to think about where to start, so you can be sure to deliver near-term impact. This is crucial for gaining momentum and organizational buy-in and for identifying the funding and capacity to reinvest in your transformation.

Choosing an overall architecture

The first step in setting up any customer-experience transformation is establishing the right overall architecture. A typical program involves five elements. Senior executives will want to set a clear, inspiring vision for the ideal customer experience, including a change story to underline the importance of delivering on goals. Drawing up a governance blueprint is also important, both to set up a mechanism to make decisions on cross-cutting initiatives and to align new and ongoing initiatives in each function with overall customer-experience objectives. Drafting an initiative road map will serve as a portfolio of actions to deliver on the vision. Metrics and initiative objectives should be set to gauge progress. It’s important to monitor both “hard” metrics on performance and “soft” metrics that relate to organizational health. Finally, establishing purpose-driven change-management principles will define a new way of working, embed it in the organization, and guide frontline employees across functions (Exhibit 1).


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