Commentary

Customer Experience Should Take On The 'Agility' Imperative

These days, marketers and other business leaders across industries are asking themselves the same question: How do we keep pace in the age of Amazon? 

The digital behemoth and its ilk are driven by an adaptability that defies traditional company structure. Instead of functioning according to rigid corporate hierarchies, big digital players and small startups alike follow an agile approach, which prioritizes continuous development over perfect design, and transparency over departmental silos. In this model, customer demands can be met faster and more effectively than ever before

This approach is challenging traditional businesses to evolve — or be left behind. That’s where it pays to put the customer experience in charge. 

The problem: Keeping pace 

For enterprises, adaptability is creating an unprecedented challenge to traditional operating models. Last year, 7,000 brick-and-mortar stores closed. And big names were not immune to closures, with longtime national retailers like GameStop and RadioShack announcing broad closings of retail locations. These store closures don’t signal the end of brick-and-mortar, but rather highlight the consequences of de-prioritizing the customer experience and resistance to change. In the case of RadioShack, for instance, the store’s 2017 closings were the direct consequence of a business strategy that failed to keep pace on the ecommerce front and overlooked strategic, customer demand-driven pricing strategies. 

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RadioShack’s trajectory isn’t unique. Across industries, companies are seeing traditional methods eroded by digital enterprises that have their finger on the pulse of the consumer. For companies resistant to this, it’s only going to get worse. 

The solution: Put CX in the driver’s seat

For enterprises rooted in tradition, the mandate is clear: Adapt and evolve. But what’s the best strategy to get there?

The answer is to, first, make sure someone owns the strategic initiative. Right now, this point person doesn’t exist in most companies, and that’s where customer experience professionals have an opportunity to really take charge. 

In our recent study of customer experience professionals, 61% of those surveyed reported that their company considers adaptability to be a central business priority. But our study also reveals there’s not a clear consensus about who is leading the push toward greater adaptability. While 28% of respondents said responsibility lies with the CEO, others look to marketing (23%) or IT (20%) to lead the charge. Twenty-three percent of respondents said nobody is leading the adaptability push at their organization. 

These results may point to a lack of clarity, but they also highlight an opportunity for customer experience professionals to step up as the established business agility leader. There are two key reasons why customer experience leaders are uniquely qualified to take responsibility for agile strategy:

  • First, their job already involves examining business strategy from the customer vantage point — and when it comes to designing a more adaptable business model, this perspective is critical.
  • Second, customer experience professionals already operate in an agile framework given the nature of their work. Because they must work across departments and functions to accomplish their bottom-line goals, customer experience experts are familiar with an interconnected approach to workflow. This collaborative strategy gives them a good basis upon which to design a more adaptable business model for their organization.

Once customer experience leaders are at the helm of agile efforts, they can devise an actionable strategy to achieve greater agility. For all companies, this strategy should begin with designing a higher-performing technology architecture — one in which monolithic systems are gradually phased out in favor of scalable and adaptable tech. It should also come with mapping out an internal company culture of engagement where all employees feel comfortable working in a more open and “flat” culture.

When customer experience professionals are empowered to lead the enterprise agility push, they can draw on their existing collaborative skill sets to advance a more adaptable framework. And in the race to keep pace with digital disruptors, cultivating this adaptability is essential to long-term business success.

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