One of the reasons big brands are at the top of their respective market niches is the care and passion they put in providing a stellar customer experience (CX).
These companies invest significant budgets in marketing, sales training, and brand awareness, so it may seem a bit of an overkill to focus this heavily on CX as well. However, market research shows that positive customer experiences are crucial in establishing a strong bond between customers and brands. CX is the method to get happy customers who will stay loyal (even when things get tough), and who will relentlessly promote your business to anyone who is willing to listen (word of mouth).
So yes, any brand that wants to get to the top and stay there has to invest in building a strong and reliable CX team. And, since customer experience is such a complex process, it’s best to think about putting together a cross-functional team, with multi-skilled members, who know different facets of your business.
Now, cross-functional teams sound good on paper but when you try to apply the concept in reality things start to get a bit haywire. While teamwork and collaboration between teams and coworkers seem to work out just fine, cross-functional teams have a few important hurdles to overcome before they can work as a cohesive unit.
Therefore, today we will talk about optimizing CX cross-functional teams and how these actions are necessary when you’re striving to become the best in the niche.
Ironing Out Interdisciplinary Wrinkles
An ideal CX cross-functional team brings together professionals who work in the same company, but in different departments. As a group, these people have the necessary skills to understand the customers’ needs and wishes (related to the brand) and transpose them into a more suited product or service.
The newly-formed CX team needs to be flexible in order to respond quickly to any changes in the market. However, because these people are not used to working together (they are part of different departments), it is hard to get a good grasp of the big CX picture and coordinate rapidly with each other.
Getting Acquainted & Mediating Conflicts
The initial phases of a cross-functional team are a bit bumpy, as people need time to get to know their new colleagues and understand their perspectives on the project. Additionally, there may be some conflict that needs mediating (usually by the manager or another figure of authority in the team).
To make the process smoother, the company can use a few team-building tactics and activities that help members to get acquainted. However, it’s important to keep in mind that you can’t rush this process. It takes time and patience to build a solid team!
Identifying Customer Needs
In plain terms, the job of a CX team is to advocate for the customers’ needs to the other departments in your company (sales, marketing, financial, product development, and so on). Still, this task is one of the most difficult to accomplish because it takes a combination of specific skills to first identify the customer and then understand their needs.
Therefore, an efficient CX cross-functional team needs to gather together a series of skills that will allow them to analyze, process, and understand customers. They should also be able to translate their findings for the marketing and sales departments (or any other departments involved in the process.
So, your optimal cross-functional CX team should have people with a background in:
- Analytics or Business Intelligence
- Product development
- Customer services and/or logistics
- IT & testing
As you can see, such a team will bring together a lot of different working styles and thinking processes. Still, things could go a bit smoother if the company works with a well-designed and reliable human capital management system that allows HR and managers to properly keep track of talent and their progress within the company.
If you skip the first step (ironing out differences), you will have a dysfunctional cross-functional team, mostly focused on the business’s needs. As a result, your efforts won’t have much impact on increasing brand awareness and building a loyal base of customers.
Striving For Simple, Unified Solutions
It takes time for a team of individuals to start thinking and working as a unified front. The initial skepticism and lack of trust will create conflicts and friction. This is why any cross-functional team will need a unifying force (usually the managers or other decision-makers) to keep everything together.
Moreover, this force also needs to keep the team grounded in the search for simple and elegant solutions. Otherwise, your plan of action, as a brand, can get unnecessarily convoluted. When this happens, the customers will be the first ones to sense the effects of your mistakes.
For instance, think of each member of your newly cross-functional team as a silo representing their department’s interests (financial wants budget cuts, marketing wants more campaigns, and sales wants more exposure). So, if everyone has their own agenda, a meeting where the team has to come up with a simple plan to improve customer retention can turn into a battlefield. With everyone trying to get their own way in front of the others, the simple plan will become a monstrosity that will take too long to implement and won’t provide the wanted results.
Therefore, every team needs to have that filter and unifying force that keeps everyone in check and makes sure everyone’s point of view is heard and understood.
Acting On The Available Data
In today’s day and age, data is easy to come by and use as long as you have the right specialists and tools. So, anyone who wants to cut a bigger slice of the market for their brand must make sure they have a fresh stream of accurate data coming in at every moment in order to make decisions that are grounded in reality.
Now, the same stream of data can be used to keep a cross-functional team together and avoid conflicts. When you work with tangible, irrefutable metrics it’s easier to convey the facts and ask for ideas.
At the end of the day, in order to build a skilled and powerful CX team, you have to:
- Make sure everyone is focused on the customer’s journey, not their own point of view
- Make decisions and discuss based on hard data, collected from the market
- Don’t allow team members to forward their individual agenda
- Keep the plans simple and elegant to avoid complications
Also, keep in mind that cross-functional teams are the best method to understand the customer experience from different angles. Since you’re gathering people with different backgrounds, experiences, and thinking processes, each team member will have a unique perspective on CX.
Depending on the complexity and size of your company, the CX team may not be a permanent structure. For instance, in small and medium-sized companies, the people assigned to the CX team will most likely keep their initial functions and tasks. Therefore, it’s important to establish communication protocols and decide how often and where to meet.
In conclusion, even though it may be a bit of a difficult task, a CX cross-functional team is a fantastic way to build up your brand and improve awareness (which leads to a boost in sales and brand recognition). You just have to make sure to properly combine the skills and knowledge of your employees and offer them the right environment for teamwork.