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Customer Experience Governance – Three Models

October 24, 2017 | By Lisa Nakano

  • There are three models that b-to-b organizations can adopt to maximize the reach and accountability of customer experience efforts
  • Each governance model has unique pros and cons you should take into account when choosing the right approach
  • All three models have a common set of imperatives to understand when adopting a governance approach

I recently celebrated my third anniversary at SiriusDecisions, where I talk to people all day, every day about b-to-b customer engagement. Customer experience is a key component of my world, and everyone agrees that there is no downside to customers having a positive experience. So why is it so hard to get people on the same page about how to deliver a positive customer experience – or to at least fix what’s broken about the current one?

Corporate business teamIt’s easy for customer experience leaders to get wrapped up in the tactical day-to-day work of gathering feedback, journey mapping, analyzing feedback and putting out fires. It can be difficult to step back and think about the best way to set up a governance model – not just to add structure, but also to proactively use the right type of governance to increase reach, alignment and impact. I’ve been diving into the governance model topic and SiriusDecisions’ Customer Engagement Strategies service will be publishing a research brief soon – but in the meantime, here’s a sneak peek of what I found.

One of the best ways to drive a consistent and positive customer experience is through governance, and there are three primary approaches to take. Each has its own pros and cons, and organizations should conduct an objective analysis of each in advance of setting up a governance structure. Here are the basics about each governance approach:

  • The centralized model. The centralized model consists of a customer experience leader with clear direct-line support from an executive or executives where insights gathering, data analysis, root cause analysis and improvement initiatives are all managed in one function – and the work to improve customer experience is assigned and followed up on by the central function, with high visibility from the C-suite. This model works better in small, flat organizational structures, where interactions between groups is a natural part of the culture. There are few, if any, silos in this model. Centralized customer experience can collect, analyze, provide insight and pass off work to functional teams to run with their own improvements. In this model, cross-functional initiatives are structured and project managed by a customer experience practitioner or team.
  • The decentralized model. The decentralized model takes advantage of customer-oriented thinking and approaches in multiple functions. In a decentralized governance model, the customer experience practitioner acts as a coach and advisor, sharing best practices and bringing initiative enhancing and validating data, insights, measures and best practices insight. The actual work is done in the regions, functions and product teams. Governance is generally oriented toward facilitating and sharing between groups that may not regularly interact with one another.
  • The committee model. The committee model is a version of the decentralized model, which utilizes a customer experience council or board that meets regularly to understand the latest research, share updates or launch new projects, report on projects that are already underway, and work together to clear roadblocks. The committee is made of individuals who are accountable for customer experience in their own areas. The committee model generally has two tiers, the first being executive sponsors. Underneath the executive sponsors are the working teams who represent their separate groups. The committee meets regularly and has strong process, rules of engagement and accountability to each other.

For any of these models, there should be three elements in place:

  • Executive sponsorship. This gets things going in the first place. Organizations tend to cascade the priorities and passion of the leadership – and attention to customer experience is no exception.
  • Role clarity. This helps any model function better. The details around who does what and when must be documented, validated and shared.
  • Regular communication. As with any work that crosses organizational borders, communication is key. Avoid being seen as the “flavor of the quarter” by balancing frequency and richness of content.

What governance model do you use? What challenges do you face? What successes have you had? I’d love to hear about it!

Lisa Nakano

Lisa is a customer experience and insights thought leader with more than 20 years of experience working in global organizations, with an emphasis on the high-tech software, hardware and telecommunications sectors. She has successfully led customer experience, customer insight and customer marketing initiatives designed to deepen knowledge of customers, increase loyalty and improve business results. Lisa has particularly focused on developing ground-up programs and organizations to execute strategies to drive the voice of the customer deeply and broadly into organizations.

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