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How to Use Agile Methods to Improve the Customer Experience

This month, we're featuring the contributions of the 2022 ICMI Thought Leaders and Featured Contributors. These leaders in the contact center industry regularly take time out to share knowledge to help their peers succeed. Thought Leader Greg Kihlström is a popular speaker and writer on digital transformation and customer experience. Here he talks about why CX should be your top priority.

AAR meeting

The benefits of a customer-centric approach with an organization are well-documented and often well understood. Improved customer experience and the processes and platforms involved in delivering CX benefit from this customer-centric approach, and result in more long-term customer satisfaction, greater word-of-mouth reach, and, in many cases, happier employees who are driven by a common purpose.

While most organizations can agree that this is important, they often differ on how to deliver on a promise of customer-centricity, both in the immediate and long term. To achieve sustainable growth and improvement in customer experience, agile principles and their associated methods can play a key role.

In this article, I’m going to discuss how to use methods based on agile principles to improve the customer experience.

Prioritizing Elements of the Customer Experience

If you were asked for all of the ways you could improve the customer experience that your organization delivers, how long would the list be? You will need a way to prioritize your efforts or you will be deadlocked by an overflowing list of items labeled as high priority.

Agile principles recommend that features be prioritized by the business value they create. In this case, business value can take the form of two things: efficiency and satisfaction from the employees performing the work of maintaining and improving the products, and customer satisfaction in using the products themselves.

While there is healthy debate over how exactly to determine business value within a specific organization, you can make a determination of how to do this based on your organization’s strategic, customer, and financial goals. The definition of business value may even evolve over time, and that is fine as long as it is communicated to the teams involved throughout the process.

The important thing to note is that a reliable and realistic prioritization method can be hugely helpful here. There are many ways to do this, and they can take the form of a simple spreadsheet with calculations, or get more complex by tying in KPIs and calculations. How you approach it will depend partially on how many initiatives you need to weigh, as well as the available data you have to use in your calculations. Don’t be afraid to start small with a simple scoring method, however, if access to data is a bottleneck.

Continuous Improvement and Its Role in the Customer Experience

How are you testing and refining customer experiences once they are rolled out? It’s simply not enough to create a good plan and then assume it will not need adjustment as both internal and external factors continue to evolve. To tie all of this together, we need to create a system that allows us to test hypotheses about the customer experience, collect data, analyze it, and quickly make meaningful adjustments.

Agile principles recommend a system of continuous feedback, analysis, and improvement that lead to better outcomes for all involved. You might be familiar with the concept of “sprints” that contain focused sets of business outcomes and related requirements that are done over short periods of time (2 weeks on average). This sprint-based approach means that you have enough time to collect data, analyze it, suggest, and make meaningful improvements. Limiting it to only a few weeks, however, also limits the ability of a project to take on unnecessary scope and scale, which can delay important learnings and decrease the agility of the organization to anticipate and respond to customers’ needs.

When you have a good feedback loop in place that allows you to determine where improvements can and should be made, you can then apply your methods of determining business value to help you prioritize what to do and when to do it. You will likely have a large “backlog” of items you would like to get to as time permits, but using the business value definition will help make sure your process of continuous improvement works most effectively.

Don’t Forget the Teams Doing the Work

As we are all living through what many are calling The Great Resignation, we are seeing that many team members are leaving jobs and roles that they no longer feel are fulfilling. This is causing disruptions internally within the organization and externally with customers, who often feel the downstream effects of short-staffed teams which are low on morale.

Agile principles recommend that people (both employees and customers) be valued over systems and tools, so it is incredibly important that your processes take the people that need to utilize them into account. Agile principles also put a strong focus on the democracy of ideas within a team, and while there is a product owner who is generally responsible for ensuring business value is delivered, how the work gets done is an open and collaborative process.

With so many employees struggling to find purpose in their work, approaches like this are one way to demonstrate how they provide individual value with their work, while simultaneously bringing them together more closely with their team members.

All of that together has the potential to increase both individual and team morale, while aligning everyone in the organization around providing the best and most optimal customer experience.

As you can see, using agile principles and methods to guide your customer experience initiatives can have winning results with both customers and the employees who serve them. Your organization’s interpretation of agile may vary from others, but the most important thing you can do is to adhere consistently to a set of principles that can guide your work from today into the future.

Topics: Best Practices, Employee Experience, Customer Experience