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Annette Franz

Quality Insider

Successful Transformations: The Ugly CX Duckling

The five stages of customer-service transformation, and 24 actions to get there

Published: Wednesday, May 6, 2015 - 09:08

You’ve no doubt heard (or can recall) Hans Christian Andersen’s story, “The Ugly Duckling.” If not, here’s a quick refresher: It’s about a baby swan who suffers abuse from his barnyard companions because of how he looks—he’s assumed to be a baby duckling, and an “ugly” one at that—until one day, to everyone’s surprise (including his), he matures into a swan, deemed to be the most beautiful bird of all.

The before and after, that all-important transformation, made all the difference in this bird’s life. Can you see how I might make a connection with that story to customer experience?

Think about it. The customer experience is bad with so many companies today. But imagine the surprise and delight customers would feel if, tomorrow, these companies suddenly appeared as transformed organizations, ready to treat employees and customers well, do right by both, and deliver the experience customers expect. That would be a hoot.

Fact: Transforming the customer experience is extremely challenging. Those of you living and breathing this every day know what I’m talking about. It’s not an easy road. It’s not something that happens overnight. It comes with its own set of challenges, including colleagues who wish to derail or stall the efforts. It’s about baby steps, persistence, building your case, education, and more. And yeah, it’s a journey. It takes a special kind of person and team to make it happen.

Transforming the organization is even more challenging, but it’s certainly a precursor to transforming the customer experience. It’s absolutely necessary. Think about it this way: You must fix what’s inside before you can fix what’s outside. You know what everyone preaches: Love yourself before you can love others. This is an important concept to ponder and to follow.

But how do we get there? How do we successfully transform the organization?

I recently came across the findings of some research that McKinsey & Co. did on organizational transformations. I’ll let you read the summary of findings, but I thought it was a really insightful and relevant piece of research. (I wouldn’t expect anything less from McKinsey.) The part that really caught my eye was the list of actions that were important to a successful organizational transformation.

First, though, McKinsey lists the following as the “five stages of a transformation” and notes that companies that take action at all five of these stages have a higher (72%) success rate than those that don’t.
1. Set goals
2. Assess the organization’s capabilities
3. Design the transformation initiatives
4. Execute
5. Sustain the changes

To support those five stages, McKinsey came up with 24 actions (backed by research) that are critical to a successful transformation. The actions are listed in the order in which they affect transformational success:
1. Senior managers communicated openly across the organization about the transformation’s progress and success.
2. Everyone can see how his [senior manager’s] work relates to [the] organization’s vision.
3. Leaders role-modeled the behavior changes they were asking employees to make.
4. All personnel adapt their day-to-day capacity to changes in customer demand.
5. Senior managers communicated openly across the organization about the transformation’s implications for individuals’ day-to-day work.
6. Everyone is actively engaged in identifying errors before they reach customers.
7. Best practices are systematically identified, shared, and improved upon.
8. The organization develops its people so that they can surpass expectations for performance.
9. Managers know that their primary role is to lead and develop their teams.
10. Performance evaluations held initiative leaders accountable for their transformation contributions.
11. Leaders used a consistent change story to align organization around the transformation’s goals.
12. Roles and responsibilities in the transformation were clearly defined.
13. All personnel are fully engaged in meeting their individual goals and targets.
14. Sufficient personnel were allocated to support initiative implementation.
15. Expectations for new behaviors were incorporated directly into annual performance reviews.
16. At every level of the organization, key roles for the transformation were held by employees who actively supported it.
17. Transformation goals were adapted for relevant employees at all levels of the organization.
18. Initiatives were led by line managers as part of their day-to-day responsibilities.
19. The organization assigned high-potential individuals to lead the transformation (e.g., giving them direct responsibility for initiatives).
20. A capability-building program was designed to enable employees to meet transformation goals.
21. Teams start each day with a formal discussion about the previous day’s results and current day’s work.
22. A diagnostic tool helped quantify goals (e.g., for new mindsets and behaviors, cultural changes, organizational agility) for the transformation’s long-term sustainability.
23. Leaders of initiatives received change-leadership training during the transformation.
24. A dedicated organizing team (e.g., a project management or transformation office) centrally coordinated the transformation.

This is a pretty comprehensive list, and it supports a lot of what we talk about when we outline the requirements for a successful CX transformation.

Is there an active effort underway in your company to transform the organization before (or while) transforming the customer experience? If not, your customer experience improvements will not be sustainable. How many of these actions is your company taking? How long will your customers continue to tease you for being an ugly duckling—and when will the swan emerge?

“Love yourself first, and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.”
—Lucille Ball


About The Author

Annette Franz’s picture

Annette Franz

Annette Franz, CCXP is founder and CEO of CX Journey Inc. She’s got 25 years of experience in both helping companies understand their employees and customers and identifying what drives retention, satisfaction, engagement, and the overall experience – so that, together, we can design a better experience for all constituents. She's an author (she wrote the book on customer understanding!), a speaker, and a customer experience thought leader and influencer. She serves as Vice Chairwoman on the Board of Directors of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA), is an official member of the Forbes Coaches Council, and is an Advisory Board member for CX@Rutgers.