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Opinion CX Execution

Why British Airways Created A Separate Customer Experience 'Department'

Why does an established company take the responsibility for customer experience out of the hands of line managers? It’s a question that British Airways has many people asking with the creation of its new dedicated Customer Experience department.

Here’s our answer.

Dabbling vs Transforming

You can't turn the dial up and down on your customer experience intiatives like a stove.  There are distinct levels of commitment that a company has to show -- ranging from dabbling in customer experience to totally transforming it.  Each level is a leap that demands a shift in leadership and resources.

The msot basic effort (we call it dabbling in CX) usually targets specific silos in the organization -- usually the easiet ones to change.  

When a company wants to make its customer experience a competitive advantage, it requires a transformational holistic approach to changing the entire organization.  First among these transformations is putting in place a dedicated leadership function.  Its main function will be to fight the inevitable resistance to change that exists in most organizations.

The Era of the Customer

We are in a new era — one where the customer is more empowered.  Customers now drive companies to change.  With social media as an important marketing channel, brands that fail to adapt will leave themselves exposed to the wrath of angry customers.  Months of branding success can be undermined by a single incisive viral post about a bad customer experience.

Thus, it is imperitive that companies seize the initiative and transform risk into opportunity.  They do it by leveraging the power of customers to spread the word about their CX advantages.  The key is to realize this is no longer an option for brands and those operating in denial are dealing themselves a death blow over the long term.

The newly ampified customer voice needs to be transformed from a broadcaster of CX failures to your biggest channel for promoting your CX advantage.  This requires that brands break free of denial and recognize the need flick the switch on transformational change to the customer experience.

The Indirect Competition with 'Adjacents'

Customer expectations are no longer merely set by direct competitors. So called adjacents, businesses which provide similar channels of sales and support, are also benchmarks for quality of customer experience. If a customer finds that an airline does a great job of handling an online billing issue, they’ll expect the same from a retailer or a clothing store.

Online, mobile and social platforms are very similar across industries, so customers build expectations from a wide range of businesses. Your competitors in customer experience are those on the same platforms regardless of whether you share product or service commonalities.

Conclusion: the wider range of CX ‘competitors’ demands a higher level of leadership to match up.

Integration is Key and It Demands Leadership

Once they commit to customer experience leadership, the biggest challenge companies face is consistency and continuity across channels and platforms.  The latter is particularly difficult, because it requires integration of systems and teams. For a customer to get a ‘continuous’ experience (seamless transition from mobile to online to call center to in person) a company needs to achieve a higher level of integration. Legacy systems and processes often make that a difficult hurdle.

Integration demands cross functional leadership and most companies are finding that a new senior role is needed (or in British Airways case an entirely new department).  The new function / department needs to be tasked with driving the integration and buy-in from all teams that affect the customer experience (regardless of whether there is direct customer contact).

In the end, British Airways decision represents a full recognition of 4 key realities of the new customer environment they operate in:

#1: There is a massive leap from simply improving to actually transforming CX

#2: All industries are operating in the new era of the 'empowered customer'

#3: Customer experience ‘competitors’ exist inside and outside a company's industry

#4: Integration of systems and teams demands integrated (centralized) leadership

Feb 13, 2015  

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