customer experience governanceB2B customer experience governance can generate stronger growth when it’s tied-in to the way that B2B ecosystems work. B2B firms often have dedicated sales teams who pursue strong relationships with customers. They may have already discovered customers’ intended outcomes as part of their outcomes-based selling and consultative selling approaches. You may also have sales operations, revenue operations, and marketing operations teams who are committed to efficiency, effectiveness, and silo-smoothing for customers and touch-points. All this, in addition to customer success and customer service organizations who strive to strengthen customers’ post-purchase experience, loyalty, and lifetime value. Your CRM (customer relationship management) system is typically used by all of these parties.

Governance of any endeavor is strongest when it’s integrated as your company’s way of life.

Built-in B2B Customer Experience Governance

1. Give credit where credit’s due. To setup or refine your B2B customer experience governance, first take inventory of who’s already caring for customers’ well-being. Acknowledge the good that’s in-progress through all these parties. Build from these strengths. In addition to the groups listed above:

  • Marketing managers are creating content and campaigns to educate and nurture prospective and existing customers. They may have created customer segments and personas.
  • Brand managers are establishing value propositions and have an inherent interest in the integrity of what’s promised versus what’s actual, from customers’ viewpoints.
  • Reference, loyalty and experiential marketing managers have programs underway to collect case studies and references, drive repeat purchases, and engage customers in advocating your brand. They may have customer stories useful for customer journey maps.
  • Website, user experience, digital marketing, and IT managers are improving customer touch-points, personalization, and information flow.
  • Customer intelligence managers are assimilating and analyzing patterns in behavioral, sentiment, digital and operational customer data to create models and optimize various aspects of operations and customer engagement.
  • Predictive analytics managers are collecting customer data and creating algorithms for real-time and what-if scenario right-sizing of information, offers, and solutions.
  • Quality and continual improvement managers are striving to prevent problems and increase efficiencies for customers.
  • R&D managers may be collaborating with customers to co-design and co-innovate solutions. They may have researched customers’ jobs-to-be-done.
  • Accounts receivable managers are communicating with customers to arrange and collect payments for products and services provided.
  • There may be several other groups in your company who are interfacing with or directly addressing needs of customers.

Why this accelerates B2B CXM maturity: This built-in extended CXM team is a treasure trove of customer insights, engagement, and value-generating opportunities. It’s crazy to think you must start from scratch with a council that may be unrelated to what’s actually underway. When you build upon current strengths, you’re more likely to take on a holistic view of B2B customer experience right away. Customer experience is already being affected by these parties, so it’s simple logic to rapidly embrace them.

Why this propels stronger growth: You get further faster by acknowledging what’s in-play and rallying around commonalities. Don’t waste time and resources by reinventing the wheel in B2B customer experience governance. Make these managers your allies in your enterprise’s CX excellence quest.

Governance is coordination of efforts for effectiveness, transparency and synergy.

Silo Focus for B2B CXM Governance

2. Show the right hand what the left hand is doing. From the lists above, you currently have “a village” working on customer experience. Imagine what great strides could be made by de-silo-izing all these siloed efforts. Check-in with each of these groups to establish an alliance among them. Plot out a practical timeline that allows you to start where people’s minds are now, and migrate over upcoming quarters and years toward a stronger alliance. Decide on methods to share information across these groups: what cadences are followed for customer outreach, and what are each group’s goals and processes? Use your intranet or other portals that make it easy for everyone to see what’s happening and what’s changing. Find ways to discuss intentions, cross-pollinate, and streamline. In ClearAction’s 5-year global study of B2B customer experience practices, we found that coordinating those who manage customer experience is one of six key drivers of stronger business results.

When I led company-wide customer experience at semiconductor equipment manufacturer Applied Materials, we set up B2B customer experience governance councils at a couple of managerial levels. A smaller group of senior representatives from the various groups met regularly to decide strategy and policies. A larger group of junior representatives met regularly to coordinate tactics and cadences. These councils were instrumental to establishing consistency, improving strategic impact, and driving efficiency. By governing in this way, the customer experience was improved and business results were stronger.

For strongest maturity, establish your C-Suite as CX Steering Committee, over-arching the two B2B customer experience governance council levels described above. As such, your C-Suite will realize that everything they do either contributes to or detracts from customer experience. They’ll recognize that every C-Suite member’s organization is vital to customer experience excellence.

Why this accelerates B2B CXM maturity: When you coordinate the efforts of everyone who is already engaged in customer experience work, you’re expanding your strategic reach and impact without significant expansion of your own CXM core team. By facilitating standardization, cadences, and goals across all these groups, you’re smoothing silos. This makes B2B customer experience more seamless and more mature.

Why this propels stronger growth: Greater coordination generates savings for customers and your company: time, resources, duplicated effort, stress, turnover, and reputation. Freeing up resources and time means wherewithal to pursue growth opportunities.

Governance is about definition and execution of strategy, to achieve overall goals.

Customer-Centered Charter

3. Create a customer-centered charter. From what you know about customers’ frustrations and aspirations, specify these groups’ collective purpose. A good charter is a statement of why you exist, reflective of top management’s goals and customers’ goals. Ideally — or eventually, these sets of goals should be identical. That in itself may be part of your B2B customer experience governance charter.

A charter sets the standard for each participating group to reflect upon. What do they need to adjust to get in sync? What would make their work more customer-centric? How can their work better contribute to corporate goals?

An effective charter stimulates passion. In the charter itself, or its roll-out, tie into everyone’s motivations by quantifying some costs of poor customer experience. How much is it costing your enterprise to fix things that customers don’t like? It may be daunting to attempt a total calculation; it’s quite effective to call out various examples. It’s more compelling when citing your company’s money rather than external benchmarks. What are some of the opportunity costs? How might the resources represented by these costs otherwise be re-allocated to higher value?

In generating your CXM charter, consider what your customers have indicated about the overall intended outcomes they’re pursuing in the course of using your product/service. Are there certain aspects of your value proposition that are sacred to your customers? Zero-in especially on what’s needed by your core-growth customers: you must hit the nail on the head for this group. When you can characterize this in crystal-clear terms, it can become not only central to your CXM charter, but also to your CEO’s north star. This is vital to synchronizing everything in the C-Suite’s and Board of Directors’ purview to CX excellence. Anything in the way the business is managed that’s at odds with what’s needed by your core-growth customers is shooting yourself in the foot.

Why this accelerates B2B CXM maturity: A charter strengthens the collaborative spirit of the diverse groups managing customer experience. They don’t necessarily need to be reporting to a single executive if there is a well-established sense of alliance among them. By making it customer-centered — defining what customers really want ultimately — paths may become visible for each group to shift from remedial to proactive purpose and goals.

Why this propels stronger growth: A charter reflecting top management’s goals elevates these groups’ strategic intent. It highlights inherent connections between strategic pillars/objectives and customer experience. CX excellence as the north star for all aspects of running your enterprise establishes the true context for financial and other goals. It’s your company’s gold standard for every policy, process, review, and reward. This synchronization is felt by all, reducing turnover and opportunity cost, and translating to consistently stronger lifetime value and growth.

Governance is empowerment and facilitation.

Facilitators of CX Excellence

4. Position your CXM core team as facilitators. A charter helps other groups enterprise-wide to understand your purpose and how they relate to it. Ideally, all groups in your company will get engaged in owning their ripple effect on customers. This means that your councils and/or your CXM core team will facilitate customer understanding company-wide. It means every group will receive ongoing information about customers’ expectations versus their realities (e.g. perceptions and experiences) and how they can help close that gap. It indicates cross-functional workshops, techniques, processes, and cadences that need to become systematized for each group to improve their synchronization with customers’ standards.

Accordingly, your CXM core team will be working through others 80-90% of the time. By establishing a point-person in each group across your company to champion customer experience performance as it relates to their group, your CXM core team can remain small, yet they will make a gigantic impact. The key is to weave-in CX topics and tasks with what people are already doing in their day-to-day work: meetings/reviews, agendas/approvals, strategies/development, workflows/handoffs, reporting/metrics, recognition/rewards.

Key strengths needed in your CXM core team include change management, organizational learningquality management, and business savvy. These strengths will help your CXM core team systematize customer experience excellence as a way of life for everyone in your enterprise ecosystem. Your goal is to minimize the gap between what customers expect and what they experience. This occurs only through (a) prevention of issue recurrence for your whole customer base and, ultimately, (b) prevention of issue occurrence.

Preventing issues requires “all hands on deck” in monitoring and minimizing the expectations-experience gap: internal messaging about VoC, revised department charters and job descriptions in light of why customers are funding them, silo-smoothing and cross-functional collaboration in assuring seamless customer journeys, transparent reporting of progress in preventing issues, and dashboards and recognition that stimulate teamwork, prevention, and connected views.

Perfect customer experience technology does not guarantee perfect customer experience. Always reserve 50-70% of budget and bandwidth to address the non-technology aspects of CX excellence. Work through others, build from strengths, and augment with technology on an as-needed basis. When your enterprise is shifting toward prevention of issue recurrence and prevention of issue occurrence, you’ll be able to shift from value-remedying to value-creating investments.

Why this accelerates B2B CXM maturity: Customer experience is affected by any group’s decisions, outputs, and handoffs. It takes far more than a program, initiative, department, council, or village to achieve consistently superior and profitable customer experience performance. Like the keys on a keyboard, any weak spot detracts from effectiveness and efficiency.

Why this propels stronger growth: Engaging everyone to own their ripple effect on customers is the heart of customer experience management. Pebbles must be removed from customers’ shoes, so to speak, for them to fully embrace and reward new value offered to them. Customers will follow the path of least resistance, and this hand-in-glove feeling has a magnetic attraction for retention, referrals, and lifetime value expansion.

B2B Customer Experience Governance Strengths

This 4-step B2B customer experience governance approach is quite different from typical approaches. It acknowledges existing strengths and builds from there. It rallies the alignment of hearts and minds far and wide toward the greater good. It engages employees from the start. It recognizes that customer experience excellence is about synchronizing toward minimizing the gap between customers’ expectations and realities. It emphasizes what you are doing for customers rather than what customers are doing for you. It puts the horse before the cart in how you run the business and how people do their work in every group enterprise-wide. This is B2B customer experience management maturity that generates stronger growth today and tomorrow.

Originally published as a CustomerThink Advisor column: Four Steps to Accelerate B2B CXM Maturity and Propel Stronger Growth.