Co-creation sessions, customer journey workshops and customer-focused innovation summits can sound so sexy and intriguing.
We envision a group working cohesively, rolling up their collective sleeves to create an improved customer-centric culture and earn long-term loyalty from customers. Customer experience is the most fun when we find those important a-ha moments. We all see the same outcome and sometimes those light bulbs above our heads are burning brightly!
I love when a plan comes together.
In the ideal situation, we smile a lot but have the tough conversations. We ask a lot of questions: is this really right for our customers? Does this really serve our brand? What can we do TODAY to fix it? What other great ideas do you have, social media manager, contact center representative or new customer?
The outcomes are exciting because we know they matter. We know the leadership has committed to the changes because they were in the room! We know people “get it” now because they helped us identify what wasn’t working as well as it could be. We designed the ideal customer experience together. We put post-it notes with big ideas on the walls alongside our boss and our boss’s boss. It’s exhilarating!
But don’t fall into a trap…
There are secret sinkholes waiting to undermine this love fest. If you’re not careful, these secret saboteurs will destabilize the happy little utopia you thought you were building in the room.
Watch out for these. They’re lurking in the shadows!
1. The boss is still the boss.
If the leader in the room takes up all the oxygen, it’s not a co-creation session or a workshop. It’s a lecture. Prep your enlightened leaders with best practices before they get there. Tell them to let others speak first and often. Ask them to praise early and encourage others to share ideas big and small. They set the tone.
2. The loudmouth has a stage!
Some very well-intentioned people just love to be on stage. They love how everyone is glued to them as they describe (in-detail and loudly) their ideas. They return to the ones that received either the most positive or negative attention and REPEAT them throughout the time together. They were born a star!
It’s time to set expectations early. Talk about time limits, fun signals for repetitive ideas, and why the facilitator has the right to interrupt before the session starts. These loudmouths are often well-liked but exhausting to others. As the day wears on, if they aren’t asked to exit stage left every so often, the relationship with others could suffer.
3. The thoughtful one isn’t sharing.
There are always one or two people who sit quietly, observing, listening and forming ideas. The problem is they don’t share them. They are waiting patiently for their turn, but between the boss and the loudmouth, it’s hard to get in there without interrupting, which the thoughtful one simply won’t do.
Setting expectations early on is key. What do you think? This question, directed at the thoughtful one, can lead to true inspiration and powerful outcomes. Don’t let the thoughtful ones fool you into thinking they’re quiet because they don’t have anything to say.
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4. Politics are playing out.
As one co-worker is speaking, another is subtly rolling her eyes. As the boss is describing her vision with nothing but buzzwords, two co-workers are shooting knowing glances across the table. These are all shots fired into the important work you are doing.
Every workplace has politics. In this room, at this time, when you are doing your best to put the customer first and create something special for them, politics have to be set aside. If not, the eye roller has already checked out and the glancing co-workers are dismissing ideas before hearing them.
5. The Knowing Limit the Possible
As a customer is outlining a process that is most likely impossible, the head of operations is shifting uncomfortably in his chair. He has decided that won’t work. As the customer journey map comes together, the head of billing is turning red because even though it says so on the white board, customer invoicing is NOT a problem!!
Being in the trenches of the real work to get things done means believing certain processes are “as good as they can be right now.” That belief, along with knowing just how challenging it will be to change the technology/design for mobile/reduce the steps for the customer means limiting what IS possible. Embrace the impossible! Otherwise, it’s hard to make truly meaningful changes.
I love facilitating these types of co-creation or customer journey workshops. But I’ve learned it takes a whole lot of expectation setting and finesse to get the job done right. Don’t let the naysayers, quiet geniuses or grumbling veterans ruin the outcomes you set out to achieve. Put the customer first. Period.