Employ a CX Center of Excellence for Consistently Better Customer Experiences

Eighty-nine percent of companies surveyed plan to compete primarily on the basis of the customer experience by 2016, according to a recent survey by the Gartner Group. As a result, many organizations have either completed or are now embarking on projects to document, assess, and ultimately improve their customer experience.

The increased attention and urgency now focused on customer experience often leads to multiple business units launching CX initiatives. Simultaneous efforts may yield a host of new challenges, including a lack of cohesiveness in the implementation of CX strategies, inconsistent or unleveraged customer research and insights, and distributed teams of CX professionals that lack governance or support.

If these challenges sound familiar, then an internal CX Center of Excellence may be the solution.

What is a Center of Excellence for Customer Experience?

A Center of Excellence (COE) is an enabling set of capabilities, resources, and best practices. Whether large or small, rapidly forming CX teams need a strong foundation and proper internal support to make valuable contributions.

When it comes to CX team structure, there is no “one-size-fits-all.” CX teams can operate in a central physical location or in virtual communities distributed around the globe with access to shared practices and resources. One of the drawbacks of a highly distributed approach is that it may result in divergent practices, as individual teams adapt to the specific needs and culture of the business unit they are embedded within.

Regardless of whether your organization is using a distributed or centralized model, a Center of Excellence allows team members to support each other by spreading best practices, co-facilitating innovation sessions, and sharing promising solutions and design patterns. For example, methodologies and insights obtained from customer research and customer journey mapping projects can be shared and leveraged across the organization.

Why Create a CX Center of Excellence?

A center of excellence focused specifically on CX has the power to fortify an enterprise with strategy, expertise, process, governance, and tools. A CX Center of Excellence can help you:

  • Provide Focus and Align Priorities.

    Creating a Center of Excellence is an effective way to align differing priorities, particularly in organizations that grapple with complexity issues. For example, a large financial services firm typically has multiple unique digital applications, but will need to create a cohesive experience strategy for designing and developing these applications. A COE can help prioritize customer needs across individual teams, based on a consistent experience across multiple products.

  • Leverage Knowledge Cross-Divisionally

    Creating a COE means creating a hub that harnesses and sustains knowledge from CX experts, fosters collaboration, and promotes that knowledge across divisions. For example, this knowledge base can define and promote a set of best practices or style guides to bake user experience into the infrastructure of an enterprise. A COE can set standards to ensure CX professionals have opportunities to broaden their knowledge, as well as develop new and deeper skill sets.

  • Distribute Resources Properly.

    A COE can ensure that people, research, insights and tools are efficiently allocated across the organization. The Center of Excellence can also act as a platform for developing and distributing new capabilities.

6 Steps to Establish a Customer Experience Center of Excellence

If creating a CX Center of Excellence seems like a daunting challenge, remember that there’s no one right way—and you don’t have to do it all at once. Many companies are running with very lean teams and small teams have to pick and choose their battles.

Based on our experience, here are six steps that will help you establish a CX Center of Excellence:

1. Determine the internal support/readiness level.

The first step is to assess the current environment. Here are examples of the kinds of questions you should be asking:

    • What is the best timing to invest in a CX Center of Excellence? Is there a strategic project on deck that you can use to drive the need for a COE?
    • How are you “selling” CX company-wide, if at all? Have your cross-divisional and leadership teams embraced the value of CX, or do they still need convincing?
    • Do you have CX success stories that have been communicated to your leadership team? If not, create a list of past projects you’ve done that can be used to demonstrate the value of CX. Whether it’s through presentations, demonstrations, written copy or videos, be sure to drive home how deploying customer and user experience strategies can impact a company’s bottom line.

2. Formulate a vision and game plan.

CX Center of Excellence

The next step is to create a plan that defines your approach. Begin by defining overall goals, scope, timeline and metrics. Make sure to consider such aspects as:

  • Scope: Define the core elements and capabilities to be created. Consider, for example, whether the Center of Excellence will encompass user experience (UX) teams and initiatives.
  • Sponsorship: Support and input will need to come from across the organization, so lining up a sponsor with cross-organizational pull is important. Consider who the change agents are in the organization. Find out who will help make this happen and recruit them to be part of your core team.
  • Funding: Don’t forget to address how the COE will be funded. Some organizations will fund from a corporate-level budget, while others may prefer that business units all contribute on an equal or proportional basis.

3. Choose a governance model.

As we discussed, a COE can be centralized or federated, distributed with committees, or matrixed. It can be led by marketing, product, IT, operations, or customer service departments, or it could be a corporate level function reporting directly to senior management.

Regardless of its structure, a successful Center of Excellence should incorporate a governance framework that can enable the creation and establishment of processes and standards. Think about how internal monitoring, management, and rolling out decisions and communications should occur. For example, regularly scheduled town halls and global ‘show and tell’ web meetings for information sharing can be very effective.

4. Determine the required expertise, skills and environment.

The next step is to assess the people and skills currently available and determine where you have gaps. Make sure to cover the wide variety of roles needed for an effective CX team, including research analysts, experience architects and designers, visual designers and prototype developers.

Consider whether you have all the necessary roles/skills in-house. If not, is hiring or outsourcing your best option? We’ve helped a variety of companies define the team structure, skill sets, and even interview for key roles. We also make sure to create a transition plan to help the internal team grow organically over time.

CX Center of Excellence

Think about how teams will interact and communicate. A COE doesn’t necessarily have to have a physical space, but those who comprise the team should be accessible and have access to critical resources and contributors. Many firms are creating collaboration spaces, “war rooms” and off site innovation labs for research with clients and users. These “war rooms” can have plenty of whiteboards and wall space to hang up storyboards, design artifacts, and images—all certainly fantastic ways to inspire both the CX team as well as project stakeholders.

5. Standardize on a set of preferred methodologies.

Determine the right techniques and approaches (e.g. Lean, Agile, hybrids) to use going forward, both within and across individual teams and departments. Deliberate the various ways to conduct research, persona creation, journey mapping, usability testing and other activities, such as product design sprints. Select a consistent approach to creating these assets to enable disparate teams to create more consistent customer and user experiences.

Evaluate ways to effectively promote these methods both within and outside your CX teams. A COE should champion a proven set of methods to integrate customer experience across every touchpoint. To overcome internal biases and divisions, engage the expertise of outside experts where appropriate.

6. Identify existing assets and establish standard UX/CX software and tools.

UX/CX assets include journey maps, personas, research guides, interactive style guides, widgets, pattern libraries, wireframes, prototypes, style guides, etc. Find out what assets already exist and consider creating templates to guide the creation of future assets, aka a ‘CX toolkit.’

Determine your preferred software and tools to create UX/CX assets such as personas, journey maps, scenarios and task models. These assets should always be up-to-date and easily accessible to align your entire organization around your customers’ needs. And to ensure a seamless digital experience, your latest research and insights should always available to your software development teams.

Conclusion

The increased attention and urgency now focused on customer experience often leads to multiple efforts that are loosely coordinated, at best. Many CX leaders are overcoming this challenge by establishing a CX Center of Excellence. A COE is an effective method for establishing and promoting a set of common roles, methodologies and tools that will align the entire organization around your customers’ needs.

Image credits: CX/UX Center of Excellence Image created by Mark Di Sciullo. Drawing on walls by Gavin Tapp licensed under CC 2.0

Eighty-nine percent of companies surveyed plan to compete primarily on the basis of the customer experience by 2016, according to a recent survey by the Gartner Group. As a result, many organizations have either completed or are now embarking on projects to document, assess, and ultimately improve their customer experience.

The increased attention and urgency now focused on customer experience often leads to multiple business units launching CX initiatives. Simultaneous efforts may yield a host of new challenges, including a lack of cohesiveness in the implementation of CX strategies, inconsistent or unleveraged customer research and insights, and distributed teams of CX professionals that lack governance or support.

If these challenges sound familiar, then an internal CX Center of Excellence may be the solution.

What is a Center of Excellence for Customer Experience?

A Center of Excellence (COE) is an enabling set of capabilities, resources, and best practices. Whether large or small, rapidly forming CX teams need a strong foundation and proper internal support to make valuable contributions.

When it comes to CX team structure, there is no “one-size-fits-all.” CX teams can operate in a central physical location or in virtual communities distributed around the globe with access to shared practices and resources. One of the drawbacks of a highly distributed approach is that it may result in divergent practices, as individual teams adapt to the specific needs and culture of the business unit they are embedded within.

Regardless of whether your organization is using a distributed or centralized model, a Center of Excellence allows team members to support each other by spreading best practices, co-facilitating innovation sessions, and sharing promising solutions and design patterns. For example, methodologies and insights obtained from customer research and customer journey mapping projects can be shared and leveraged across the organization.

Why Create a CX Center of Excellence?

A center of excellence focused specifically on CX has the power to fortify an enterprise with strategy, expertise, process, governance, and tools. A CX Center of Excellence can help you:

  • Provide Focus and Align Priorities.

    Creating a Center of Excellence is an effective way to align differing priorities, particularly in organizations that grapple with complexity issues. For example, a large financial services firm typically has multiple unique digital applications, but will need to create a cohesive experience strategy for designing and developing these applications. A COE can help prioritize customer needs across individual teams, based on a consistent experience across multiple products.

  • Leverage Knowledge Cross-Divisionally

    Creating a COE means creating a hub that harnesses and sustains knowledge from CX experts, fosters collaboration, and promotes that knowledge across divisions. For example, this knowledge base can define and promote a set of best practices or style guides to bake user experience into the infrastructure of an enterprise. A COE can set standards to ensure CX professionals have opportunities to broaden their knowledge, as well as develop new and deeper skill sets.

  • Distribute Resources Properly.

    A COE can ensure that people, research, insights and tools are efficiently allocated across the organization. The Center of Excellence can also act as a platform for developing and distributing new capabilities.

6 Steps to Establish a Customer Experience Center of Excellence

If creating a CX Center of Excellence seems like a daunting challenge, remember that there’s no one right way—and you don’t have to do it all at once. Many companies are running with very lean teams and small teams have to pick and choose their battles.

Based on our experience, here are six steps that will help you establish a CX Center of Excellence:

1. Determine the internal support/readiness level.

The first step is to assess the current environment. Here are examples of the kinds of questions you should be asking:

    • What is the best timing to invest in a CX Center of Excellence? Is there a strategic project on deck that you can use to drive the need for a COE?
    • How are you “selling” CX company-wide, if at all? Have your cross-divisional and leadership teams embraced the value of CX, or do they still need convincing?
    • Do you have CX success stories that have been communicated to your leadership team? If not, create a list of past projects you’ve done that can be used to demonstrate the value of CX. Whether it’s through presentations, demonstrations, written copy or videos, be sure to drive home how deploying customer and user experience strategies can impact a company’s bottom line.

2. Formulate a vision and game plan.

CX Center of Excellence

The next step is to create a plan that defines your approach. Begin by defining overall goals, scope, timeline and metrics. Make sure to consider such aspects as:

  • Scope: Define the core elements and capabilities to be created. Consider, for example, whether the Center of Excellence will encompass user experience (UX) teams and initiatives.
  • Sponsorship: Support and input will need to come from across the organization, so lining up a sponsor with cross-organizational pull is important. Consider who the change agents are in the organization. Find out who will help make this happen and recruit them to be part of your core team.
  • Funding: Don’t forget to address how the COE will be funded. Some organizations will fund from a corporate-level budget, while others may prefer that business units all contribute on an equal or proportional basis.

3. Choose a governance model.

As we discussed, a COE can be centralized or federated, distributed with committees, or matrixed. It can be led by marketing, product, IT, operations, or customer service departments, or it could be a corporate level function reporting directly to senior management.

Regardless of its structure, a successful Center of Excellence should incorporate a governance framework that can enable the creation and establishment of processes and standards. Think about how internal monitoring, management, and rolling out decisions and communications should occur. For example, regularly scheduled town halls and global ‘show and tell’ web meetings for information sharing can be very effective.

4. Determine the required expertise, skills and environment.

The next step is to assess the people and skills currently available and determine where you have gaps. Make sure to cover the wide variety of roles needed for an effective CX team, including research analysts, experience architects and designers, visual designers and prototype developers.

Consider whether you have all the necessary roles/skills in-house. If not, is hiring or outsourcing your best option? We’ve helped a variety of companies define the team structure, skill sets, and even interview for key roles. We also make sure to create a transition plan to help the internal team grow organically over time.

CX Center of Excellence

Think about how teams will interact and communicate. A COE doesn’t necessarily have to have a physical space, but those who comprise the team should be accessible and have access to critical resources and contributors. Many firms are creating collaboration spaces, “war rooms” and off site innovation labs for research with clients and users. These “war rooms” can have plenty of whiteboards and wall space to hang up storyboards, design artifacts, and images—all certainly fantastic ways to inspire both the CX team as well as project stakeholders.

5. Standardize on a set of preferred methodologies.

Determine the right techniques and approaches (e.g. Lean, Agile, hybrids) to use going forward, both within and across individual teams and departments. Deliberate the various ways to conduct research, persona creation, journey mapping, usability testing and other activities, such as product design sprints. Select a consistent approach to creating these assets to enable disparate teams to create more consistent customer and user experiences.

Evaluate ways to effectively promote these methods both within and outside your CX teams. A COE should champion a proven set of methods to integrate customer experience across every touchpoint. To overcome internal biases and divisions, engage the expertise of outside experts where appropriate.

6. Identify existing assets and establish standard UX/CX software and tools.

UX/CX assets include journey maps, personas, research guides, interactive style guides, widgets, pattern libraries, wireframes, prototypes, style guides, etc. Find out what assets already exist and consider creating templates to guide the creation of future assets, aka a ‘CX toolkit.’

Determine your preferred software and tools to create UX/CX assets such as personas, journey maps, scenarios and task models. These assets should always be up-to-date and easily accessible to align your entire organization around your customers’ needs. And to ensure a seamless digital experience, your latest research and insights should always available to your software development teams.

Conclusion

The increased attention and urgency now focused on customer experience often leads to multiple efforts that are loosely coordinated, at best. Many CX leaders are overcoming this challenge by establishing a CX Center of Excellence. A COE is an effective method for establishing and promoting a set of common roles, methodologies and tools that will align the entire organization around your customers’ needs.

Image credits: CX/UX Center of Excellence Image created by Mark Di Sciullo. Drawing on walls by Gavin Tapp licensed under CC 2.0

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2017-06-05T21:52:42+00:00