The Value Of A Center Of Experience

Post written by

Greg Kihlstrom

Greg is President and Chief Experience Officer at Cravety, host of the Agile World podcast, and author of The Agile Consumer.

Both customer experience (CX) and employee experience (EX) are growing in their importance within organizations today, and to keep up with addressing these wide-reaching practice areas, many teams and disciplines may need to be aligned. CX is so important, in fact, that according to a 2017 Gartner survey, "more than two-thirds of marketers responsible for CX say their companies compete mostly on the basis of CX."

I've noticed that many companies set up a center of excellence that's built around a specific capability or area of practice. While this can be a physical place, I believe it's best to think of it as a virtual collection of people, processes and technology that are aligned around a specific area of practice. A center of excellence that focuses on experience (both customers' and employees') can be a benefit to any organization that adopts it. My agency refers to this as a "center of experience," but your organization may choose a different name.

A center of experience ideally should contain processes to optimize the following elements in order to provide a holistic view of experience:

• Internal and external teams involved in both EX and CX

• Data science components, including artificial intelligence and machine learning

• Branding for internal and external communications

• Governance processes and practices to ensure consistency and compliance

• Organizational culture diagnostics and processes to enable culture change where needed

• Environments, including both physical ones such as office space for employees or retail spaces for customers, as well as virtual ones for each

Measurements, including a maturity model that shows how advanced the organization is in its experience practices, as well as analytics that measure CX and EX

• Platforms that support experience initiatives for customers and employees

These eight elements can make up an organization's entire experience ecosystem for both internal (employees) and external (customers) audiences. My agency has been successful in creating several centers of experience in organizations that serve a variety of industries, and I can share three primary benefits of doing so:

1. It Centralizes Experience Across An Organization

A common CX pitfall is making customers feel as if an organization is disconnected or disorganized. Customers may feel frustrated when they have to repeat themselves to different people, have to log into separate systems to manage different parts of their account or receive inconsistent products and services during their relationship with a brand. Employees often have different challenges, but many stem from a lack of cohesion within an organization.

A center of experience can create a common operating system within the company that aligns everyone around providing consistent, excellent experiences for all audiences. By breaking down traditional silos between departments such as marketing, human resources, operations and technology, employees and customers alike can feel the difference when everyone is using the same playbook.

2. It More Closely Ties EX And CX

A center of experience more closely ties EX and CX because it forces companies to look at both at the same time and more broadly as "experience" in general. I've noticed that many successful companies start with a great employee experience, which translates to a great customer experience, and understanding how close the relationship is between them from the start certainly helps.

For instance, a client of ours in the B2B space recently set up a customer experience certification program. This program, which we created with them to ultimately target and improve their CX efforts, demonstrates how a happier employee enabled to do great work is able to deliver better customer service, thereby improving CX and positively impacting the bottom line through longer relationships and often larger sales.

3. Measurement Of Experience Is Centralized And Accountable

Finally, the critical area of measuring and showing results is streamlined by creating a center of experience. It can be incredibly challenging to align metrics that are pulled from across an enterprise. If, however, the center of experience is created with measurement and optimization in mind from the start, the right numbers can be built into the processes and integrated into the reporting without the need to cobble together reports from disparate sources.

We've found that our clients benefit from designing and creating common dashboard interfaces that pull in data and information from across the enterprise. The center of experience then becomes the central hub of these important metrics that are increasingly becoming critical to business success.

Creating Your Center Of Experience

To get started on creating your own center of experience, first get alignment across different teams in your organization such as marketing, CX, HR and technology. While there will likely be others involved down the road, these are good starting points. Then, you can convene a regular working group made up of representatives from each.

With the right team assembled, you can create plans for the center of experience and what it will include. For instance, are there any existing processes your organization currently has that can serve as a starting point? Have you mapped both customer and employee journeys in order to see all of the touch points they have across the organization? That also can help you understand the people, processes and technology you need to include in the center of experience.

In today's business environment, it may not be enough to simply say that you're customer-focused or employee-focused or both. While communication is critical to any effort involving your key audiences, establishing a true center of experience means that you're backing up your messaging with the infrastructure and support that a truly experience-led organization possesses.

Forbes Agency Council is an invitation-only community for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies. Do I qualify?
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Both customer experience (CX) and employee experience (EX) are growing in their importance within organizations today, and to keep up with addressing these wide-reaching practice areas, many teams and disciplines may need to be aligned. CX is so important, in fact, that according to a 2017 Gartner survey, "more than two-thirds of marketers responsible for CX say their companies compete mostly on the basis of CX."

I've noticed that many companies set up a center of excellence that's built around a specific capability or area of practice. While this can be a physical place, I believe it's best to think of it as a virtual collection of people, processes and technology that are aligned around a specific area of practice. A center of excellence that focuses on experience (both customers' and employees') can be a benefit to any organization that adopts it. My agency refers to this as a "center of experience," but your organization may choose a different name.

A center of experience ideally should contain processes to optimize the following elements in order to provide a holistic view of experience:

• Internal and external teams involved in both EX and CX

• Data science components, including artificial intelligence and machine learning

• Branding for internal and external communications

• Governance processes and practices to ensure consistency and compliance

• Organizational culture diagnostics and processes to enable culture change where needed

• Environments, including both physical ones such as office space for employees or retail spaces for customers, as well as virtual ones for each

Measurements, including a maturity model that shows how advanced the organization is in its experience practices, as well as analytics that measure CX and EX

• Platforms that support experience initiatives for customers and employees

These eight elements can make up an organization's entire experience ecosystem for both internal (employees) and external (customers) audiences. My agency has been successful in creating several centers of experience in organizations that serve a variety of industries, and I can share three primary benefits of doing so:

1. It Centralizes Experience Across An Organization

A common CX pitfall is making customers feel as if an organization is disconnected or disorganized. Customers may feel frustrated when they have to repeat themselves to different people, have to log into separate systems to manage different parts of their account or receive inconsistent products and services during their relationship with a brand. Employees often have different challenges, but many stem from a lack of cohesion within an organization.

A center of experience can create a common operating system within the company that aligns everyone around providing consistent, excellent experiences for all audiences. By breaking down traditional silos between departments such as marketing, human resources, operations and technology, employees and customers alike can feel the difference when everyone is using the same playbook.

2. It More Closely Ties EX And CX

A center of experience more closely ties EX and CX because it forces companies to look at both at the same time and more broadly as "experience" in general. I've noticed that many successful companies start with a great employee experience, which translates to a great customer experience, and understanding how close the relationship is between them from the start certainly helps.

For instance, a client of ours in the B2B space recently set up a customer experience certification program. This program, which we created with them to ultimately target and improve their CX efforts, demonstrates how a happier employee enabled to do great work is able to deliver better customer service, thereby improving CX and positively impacting the bottom line through longer relationships and often larger sales.

3. Measurement Of Experience Is Centralized And Accountable

Finally, the critical area of measuring and showing results is streamlined by creating a center of experience. It can be incredibly challenging to align metrics that are pulled from across an enterprise. If, however, the center of experience is created with measurement and optimization in mind from the start, the right numbers can be built into the processes and integrated into the reporting without the need to cobble together reports from disparate sources.

We've found that our clients benefit from designing and creating common dashboard interfaces that pull in data and information from across the enterprise. The center of experience then becomes the central hub of these important metrics that are increasingly becoming critical to business success.

Creating Your Center Of Experience

To get started on creating your own center of experience, first get alignment across different teams in your organization such as marketing, CX, HR and technology. While there will likely be others involved down the road, these are good starting points. Then, you can convene a regular working group made up of representatives from each.

With the right team assembled, you can create plans for the center of experience and what it will include. For instance, are there any existing processes your organization currently has that can serve as a starting point? Have you mapped both customer and employee journeys in order to see all of the touch points they have across the organization? That also can help you understand the people, processes and technology you need to include in the center of experience.

In today's business environment, it may not be enough to simply say that you're customer-focused or employee-focused or both. While communication is critical to any effort involving your key audiences, establishing a true center of experience means that you're backing up your messaging with the infrastructure and support that a truly experience-led organization possesses.

Forbes Agency Council is an invitation-only community for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies. Do I qualify?

Greg is Chief Strategy Officer of Cravety, host of the Agile World podcast, and author of The Agile Brand.