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Unwritten Ground Rules: Key To Success Of CX Initiatives

Unwritten Ground Rules

All of us know that customer service training can be diminished or made completely obsolete by a culture that doesn’t support training or customer service. How do you ensure a culture that supports training and customer service?

Unwritten Ground Rules

A number of years ago, I was drawn to an article in a business journal from its title, which was ‘How do you create a culture of customer service?’.

Because culture and service are the two areas in which I focus, I enthusiastically began to read the article, which was a collation of interviews with senior Australian business leaders. The more I read, the more disappointed I became.

Business Leaders referenced their –

  • customer feedback strategies – mystery shopping, customer surveys etc.
  • customer service training they provided to their staff
  • the fact that customer service was one of their top five corporate priorities

Each of the leaders interviewed for this article missed the point. What they outlined was the mix of customer service-related tactics and strategies they deployed and that they hoped by osmosis would filter through to the culture. None of these leaders talked about culture directly.

My point is this – If the culture isn’t ‘right’, then customer-related tactics and strategies can count for very little!

All of us know that customer service training can be diminished or made completely obsolete by a culture that doesn’t support training or customer service. All of us have encountered companies that go through the process of measuring customer satisfaction that becomes an end in itself and fails to impact on staff. And all of us have experienced situations where a company has so called ‘priorities’ which are merely tick-box exercises to placate boards or other stakeholders.

While this article was penned a number of years ago, in many respects little has changed, which is a vital issue given the advent of the CX movement.

Do not overlook the fundamental premise – Culture is Key to the success of CX Initiatives

The real risk when it comes to CX is that it is seen as a customer loyalty improvement project, or worse, a technology project. Again, culture is key to the success of CX initiatives, and in my view, this fundamental premise is too often overlooked.

One of the key reasons why culture is not addressed directly relates to its complexity. Read any book on corporate culture and almost without exception, if a definition is provided, it will be complex, academic or philosophical.

That’s where my concept of UGRs® – unwritten ground rules – has a big part to play.

Steve Simpson, Customer 360 Symposium

So What are UGRs and how do you implement them to drive people’s behaviour?

UGRs are defined as people’s perceptions of ‘this is the way we do things around here’. They drive people’s behaviour yet paradoxically, they are seldom talked about openly.

Sample UGRs in a company I’ve worked with include:

  • At our meetings it isn’t worth complaining as we know nothing will get done
  • The only time anyone gets spoken to by the boss is when something is wrong
  • The company talks about the importance of customer service, but we know they don’t really mean it so we don’t have to worry about it

It’s the UGRs in a team or company that constitute its culture.

For a CX initiative to realise its potential Culture + UGRs – must be right.

As a first step, I propose that a vitally important question ought to be considered to ensure the cultural side of the equation is addressed. The question is: What Key Cultural Attributes (KCAs) do we need in place for our CX initiative to be truly successful?

I call this ‘envisaging’ the kind of culture that is necessary. And I would recommend the final list of KCA numbers no more than six. For illustrative purposes, let’s presume the following KCAs are identified among the top six:

  • Quality inter-departmental relationships
  • Customers considered as part of all key decisions
  • People are keen to look for better ways to do things

Once the priority KCAs have been agreed, it makes sense to get a fix on the prevailing culture as it relates to those KCAs. We do this by undertaking a ‘UGRs Stock Take’ – a methodology that was created after two Australian universities funded world-first research into UGRs. To get an understanding of the current UGRs, get people to complete the sentence to ‘lead-in sentences’.

Using the above KCAs as an example, we could get people to complete the sentence to these:

  1. Around here, when it comes to dealing with other departments…
  2. Around here, when decisions are made, the customers’ perspective is…
  3. Around here, when it comes to change…

We have undertaken a large number of UGRs Stock Takes in companies across the world. I can assure you, the results are often a surprise!

Learn ways in which the UGRs concept can be deployed to improve the culture strategically here

Once the Stock take has been undertaken, we recommend getting people involved in identifying areas of concern, then generating practical, realistic actions that can be put in place to address those concerns. People need to feel a sense of ownership of the culture and this process is a potent way to create that ownership.

CX on the Inside – Implementing an Improved Customer Experience

Too often, the CX ‘space’ risks being hijacked by a segment (IT?) of the organisation when in fact, CX ought to be the province of everyone in the company.

Because corporate culture is the foundation stone upon which everything sits, it ought to be given due priority in any move to implement an improved customer experience. In a sense, we could consider corporate culture to be CX on the inside!

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About Steve Simpson - Director, Keystone Management Services
Steve Simpson is an international speaker, consultant and author based in Melbourne. Described by UK based e-Customer Service World as ‘Australia’s leading corporate culture authority’, Steve has created the concept of UGRs which is receiving global acclaim as a tool to understand and improve organisational culture. Steve has spoken at two World Conferences on Customer Service Management, in the US – where he rated in the Top 10 speakers. He has recently spoken at UK Customer Management Conference in Edinburgh, the Regional Conference for the Academy of Chief Executives in London, and the International Leadership Symposium in Johannesburg. He is the author of two books and a contributing author to a further two books.