How to Put the Human Back in Your Human Experience Programs
In 2008, I took a new role that changed my entire career trajectory. We were creating a new platform to bring financial guidance to the mass affluent, leading with a behavioral science approach. We looked at questions like: What motivates you to think about your purchases? And: What triggers you to look up your bank account, or manage your budget?
As experience professionals, we all share similar challenges, trying to tie initiatives together to develop and manage a consistently superior experience for our different constituents. Managing the experience for customers, agents, brokers, employees, members and participants all boils down to understanding the same exact thing: How do we drive a complete human experience that includes impacts on customers, employees and the business overall?
The joy of the work comes from breaking the boundaries of traditional processes to introduce these concepts. I find nothing more rewarding than finding ways to break through the dreaded impasse of “this is how we have always done things.' Our job as customer experience practitioners is to ensure the work is connected across the dimensions of human engagement, because — unlike businesses — humans don’t think in silos.
This may be old news to some. But what is new is that in the excitement to find success, experience management has become fractured and siloed: customer experience. Employee experience. Member experience. Participant experience. Broker experience. Patient experience. Donor experience. Often these groups sit in different divisions across a single organization and often do not interact or intersect.
So what is actually happening? How do we put the human back into human experience? There are three key areas of focus.
Simply put, without senior leadership engagement, nothing transformational can happen. Ideally the CEO leads with an experience-savvy mindset that commits the organization to human-centered design practices. Experience metrics become part of regular executive reviews, ensuring the culture is locked around the overall human experience. Two opportunities can help drive that leadership support forward:
- Cross-informational experience data: We all know that showing the overall benefits of your program through data is the first step to driving executive buy in. However, the key is to demonstrate the impacts from a cross-sectional perspective. The intertwining benefits of the experience program can help reinforce how the effects coalesce to support each other. More often than not, leaders see initiatives in segments and approve one or the other. Presenting the cross impacts together reinforces the overall benefits, the growth opportunities and the true scale of opportunity.
- Risk of inaction: Identify the risks of not implementing a holistic program. When you present overall program effects, leaders can see what risks are introduced to the overall human experience transformation by rejecting or dropping a part of the program. It also minimizes the desire to focus on “low hanging fruit,” which tends to introduce programs in too-small, bite size projects that don't really drive impact.
Related Article: What is Employee Experience, and Why Does It Matter?
Overcome the Resistance
Each constituent group will have its own particular resistance to change. Executives, for example, may resist change if it affects their resources and budgets. Employees can easily get overwhelmed by “change fatigue” if there are too many initiatives coming at them. And customers may not understand or welcome changes. Agreement, clarity and reinforcement of the end state vision at every level is essential to keep work aligned, purpose driven and on track.
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- Agreement on the vision: Everything begins and ends with this. As part of our overall journey transformation, we develop a vision or north star statement that is clear, comprehensive and measurable. The buy-in and alignment on this vision is the starting point for the work and helps remove the resistance down the road
- Clarity on the work: It’s very easy for teams to get bogged down in details and increase scope while thinking through impact. Being specific and clear on the role and desired impact on each of the human experiences is essential to keeping the program viable.
- Reinforce the north star vision: When we’re presenting to leaders across the organization on the impacts on the overall human experience, we put our north star vision statement on as many of the presentation pages as we can. This helps us anchor the conversation and steer away from “here’s why this won’t work”. Generally, the vision allows us to remind teams of the role they each play in contributing to the larger work.
Find the Wins
Experience work requires all teams — a.k.a., humans — to see that they are gaining something and more importantly, not losing anything. Identify the key stakeholders and, most critically, understand their existing motivators. Find the winnable opportunities, the upside and how any perceived loss is actually an opportunity for their success.
Selling transformation means understanding what the impact will be across each constituency. Without clear and consistent answers, projects inevitably turn to tackling low hanging fruit because the scale and scope feels overwhelming. For instance:
- Line leaders: What are the operational efficiencies they might see? What processes can be shortened, or even eliminated? Training that can be optimized brings clear wins to their current operations.
- Executives: Business leaders want to know the business gain — is it added revenue? Value gains? New target segments in which to grow? What is the risk and upside to the business — not just the feel good experience benefits?
- Employees: Employees across the organization need to feel that the change adds to the value they bring and aligns to the culture in which they are working. Change fatigue might be a risk — how do you manage it?
- Customers: And of course customers need to know that the company stands behind their product, delivers excellence and meets their needs whether those needs are price, service or support.
Related Article: What's Next for Employee Experience?
Traditional CX has always looked at the overall relationship and drills down to each transaction, aiming to simplify and streamline those actions. To truly lead with an overall human experience, make sure the process starts earlier by creating a more cross-functional engagement process. The good news is, you probably already have all of this in place in your organization today. Your opportunity is to show how these teams can each contribute to the company’s human experience and move towards experience transformation.
Selling the transformation means understanding what the impact will be across each constituency. This is not an easy undertaking — I should know, I’ve tried. And I’ve failed as often as I have succeeded. But when we have brought these elements together, the success and trajectory has been worth the hard work.
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About the Author
Tamar Cohen is the VP of employee experience at Travelers. She has been in this role for 2 years, where she is responsible for creating transformational programs that drive business value. Connect with Tamar Cohen: