Developing Cross-Functional CX Buy-In: 3 Challenges & Methods

by Jeannie Walters

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Customer experience leaders report that teamwork and cross-functional cooperation are some of the top drivers to achieving customer experience success.

CX teams that collaborate cross-functionally are 27% more likely to have a high or very high Return on Investment (ROI) of their CX program, according to the 2022 State of CX Report from GetFeedback.

The leaders I speak to express this same feeling. The more we treat CX as a team sport, the more likely it is for us to achieve meaningful outcomes for both our customers and our organizations.

Common Challenges to Cross-Functional Cooperation in Customer Experience

If this collaboration and buy-in is so important, why is it so elusive? Put simply: it’s not easy!

Here are three common challenges I have observed in many organizations.

Challenge #1. Customer experience is not seen as a universal business strategy.

It’s hard to gain support throughout the organization when teams are defining customer experience differently from one department to the next.

I recently spoke to a group who expressed frustration that so many employees saw customer experience as “only for the customer-facing teams” like customer service and sales. There was no engagement from teams like IT or supply chain management, even though their work has a very direct impact on the customer journey.

A lack of a universal view of CX means that any buy-in gained requires a lot of definition and communication with each leader. When those viewpoints are so vastly different, gaining a universal set of standards and agreement is nearly impossible.

Challenge #2. Customer experience is seen as a “nice to have” or simply “soft skills.”

The beliefs here lead to a lot of poor outcomes. This attitude leads to a lot of well-intentioned efforts that are doomed to fail.

Customer experience can’t be driven by simple platitudes, yet leaders invest in banners that say “We’re Customer-Centric” or employee swag that reminds them of “Extraordinary Customer Experience!” with very little else.

Employees are told to focus on it, believe in it, and execute on it. But “it” is never defined. They receive little to no resources, tools, training, or defined outcomes to even know what success looks like.

And when the belief is really “if we talk about it, it will happen,” it’s setting employees up to be wrong.

  • They might believe a great customer experience is fast.
  • Their colleague might believe a great customer experience means taking time to get things right.
  • And their team leader might believe that great customer experiences are really the responsibility of the customer service team.

Customer experience is not magic. It’s management. Collaboration can only happen if there is a universal standard on what a successful customer experience means.

Challenge #3. Customer experience is a set of tactics disconnected from strategy.

When customer experience is seen as a set of tactics like customer journey mapping, responding to customer complaints, or sending customer surveys, it’s going to be an ad hoc mess of outcomes.

These tactics will drive some quick wins, but with nothing tied to a greater, defined strategy the results will be meager at best.

  • Some organizations start with a customer team and then isolate that team so they can’t drive any action.
  • Other leaders focus intently on gathering customer feedback without any plan, accountability, or goals around what to do with the insights learned from that feedback.
  • And some leaders are given roles that are so focused on one piece of the puzzle – like managing the tools or technology of customer feedback – they truly can’t see the big picture.

In any of these examples, tactics are taking precedence without a clearly defined strategy and cross-functional team to carry it out.

There are even more ways organizations isolate, reduce, or minimize customer experience efforts. And when CX is reduced to a tactic, a “nice to have” idea, or something just for some of the teams, it quickly loses value in the minds of leaders and teams alike.

Ways to Increase Cross-Functional Collaboration:

Collaboration and cross-functional teamwork drive customer experience success and higher ROI. So what are the best ways to drive that level of collaboration? Here are three ideas.

Method #1. Have a universal CX language.

What does customer experience mean at your organization? Be honest.

  • Is it currently a phrase that’s tossed around without meaning?
  • Is it used interchangeably with customer service?
  • Is it something that’s in some employee titles but lacks any real accountability?

First things first: Get a clear idea of what is important to your organization and your customers.

  • Create a CX Mission Statement and share this universally throughout the organization.
  • Communicate and train to it.
  • Ensure employees know that their role matters to delivering on this mission, whether they interact directly with customers or not.

This one tool can provide a singular focus and create the “North Star” for your customer experience. You can start building your own with the help of our CX Mission Statement Guidebook , available to download free.

Once you’ve got your CX Mission, continue by defining success in real terms.

  • Define customer experience goals in real business outcomes.
  • Tie CX initiatives to organizational success.
  • Empower leaders to create goals that are meaningful.

We’ve got a tool to help with too — get our free CX Success Statement Workbook and get started.

 

Method #2. Celebrate CX wins throughout the organization.

We’ve all heard the stories of the remarkable customer service agent who went above and beyond. We have seen how customer-facing employees like restaurant servers and cashiers can make someone’s day.

But what about the dedicated technologist who corrected the bug in the mobile app and reduced customer service calls?

In healthcare, the maintenance workers who clean a hospital room and change the bedding are often overlooked, but their actions have an impact on not just the experience a patient has but even health outcomes.

Help every employee see how the daily efforts of every individual in an organization drive customer experience outcomes by celebrating those who are in the background making things happen. Keep celebrating those customer-facing employees, of course, but make efforts to look for the hidden heroes on other teams.

Method #3. Create a cross-functional CX team.

Customer experience priorities are a challenge in most organizations.

  • Should you invest in finding the right feedback?
  • What if you have a list of the top three complaints and they all require investment?
  • What should you tackle first?

A customer experience team made up of employees from various parts of the organization can help keep the momentum around CX efforts. These teams are designed to focus on the customer and the defined CX goals, not just their department’s priorities. An executive sponsor from the C-Suite can help break ties and offer guidance, but the team itself can rely on a CX Charter and collaborate to get to the best possible outcomes.

How Have You Overcome Companywide CX Challenges?

There are lots of other ways to keep the customer experience top-of-mind throughout your organization. Combine that with tangible goals, outcomes, and efforts, and that’s a winning strategy.

Looking for guidance? Here are some more of our free guides and workbooks that can help:

  • Get our CX Charter Guidebook , designed to help you build better, more aligned cross-functional CX Teams.
  • Download our CX Meeting Agenda & Guidebook , which can support consistency in meetings involving stakeholders from different departments.
  • And check out our CX Prioritization Guidebook , helping your team align around tactics that everyone believes in and giving members of your organization a voice when it comes to what matters.

Remember: The more we treat CX as a team sport, the more likely it is for us to achieve meaningful outcomes for both our customers and our organizations.

You can do this!

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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience. Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, LinkedIn Learning instructor, TEDx speaker, and President-Elect of the National Speakers Association Illinois chapter. Learn more here.

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