Great Customer Experience Starts with the Home Team

Posted by: Shaun Collett
  • March 10, 2014
  • 4

cross-functional teams, customer experienceFor the better part of a decade, I’ve been working on designing, building and configuring enterprise-wide reporting tools and platforms. In my current role, I help companies win and retain customers by empowering employees with consumer feedback. In most cases, these initiatives stretch across organizations, and consequently, cross-functional teams are created to work together toward a common goal.

Regardless of the stature of the brand or the given industry, implementations of enterprise-wide reporting platforms tend to face similar challenges, especially as they pertain to the actual functioning of a cross-functional team.

Stakeholders are gathered. Subject-matter experts enlisted. Meetings are scheduled. Sitting at the table, they all must weigh in and work collaboratively to deliver results. Sometimes the team dynamics are fantastic, and other times the group never coalesces as a team, remaining instead as a collection of individuals from separate departments.

I find the following key characteristics distinguish highly performing multi-disciplinary endeavors from the less successful teams. Productive teams:

  1. Recognize they may not all speak the same language and invest time up-front to get everyone using a common vernacular to increase understanding and real collaboration. As an IT guy, I have certainly used technical jargon in meetings with non-technical business partners who not-so-surprisingly thought I was speaking a foreign language. Now, early in projects, I work to define key terms and try to avoid the famous 3 letter acronyms that are meaningful to developers and DBAs but not my research partners.
  2. Integrate “Problem Processing” into the process. People don’t know how to bring up uncomfortable issues and consequently may avoid them altogether. Small issues can quietly chip away at the team and negatively impact the final output. To avoid these types of failures, create a systematic approach for identifying stumbling blocks or concerns, and then another process for digging into them. Make sure the culture of the team lets people discuss the “un-discussables” to facilitate open communication that doesn’t feel personal.
  3. Agree up front how conflicts will be resolved.  Sometimes pressure exists for team members to compromise, yet meeting in the middle can result in a less than ideal solution. And, we all know that stubbornness can stifle creative problem solving. Developing a formal protocol for airing conflicting points of view can help people feel heard while producing solutions that are more likely to succeed.

Team work is hard business but challenges can be overcome with the right leadership, culture and process.  If developing dynamite Customer Experience is a goal for your company goal, start “at home.” The home-team dynamics will allow everyone to work efficiently, depend on each other, and keep their attention squarely where it belongs: on your customers.

  • Shaun
    March 19, 2014
    Mike/Matt - thanks so much for the feedback. Both comments make a lot of sense. In Mike's framework, I like that each person share's equal responsibility for conflict resolution. It really underscores the concept of being on a team, together. Hopefully the culture is such that people feel comfortable raising the uncomfortable "un-discussables". Also, Matt, I think having a True North will help guide difficult decisions. When in doubt, refocus on why we're here. Love it!!
  • matt
    March 19, 2014
    Shaun, Great post and awesome to see a similar perspective from one of the non-[research] project eyes. The other thing I'd add is the importance of understanding the 'Why?' and getting alignment on that at the beginning. Having that True North start will help ensure everyone is marching in the same [and right] direction. It also helps provide an effective lens when problem solving by asking "which action will help us get closer to the goal?". Seems to be a similar idea as to Mike's, above, where he defines Success.
  • Mike Holmes
    March 19, 2014
    Great article Shaun! Internally, at EMI we have agreed to handle conflict in the form of what we call the 4 S's. Hoping this is helpful. Success - What does Success looks like? Situation - What's the Situation? Source - What is the Source of the problem? Solution - What is the Solution? Each stakeholder has an equal part in following this framework. This helps us focus in a non threatening way getting to resolution quickly and back to the business of serving our clients.
  • Joan
    March 10, 2014
    Great advice from one of the best team leaders/team players with whom I have ever worked!

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