To an outside observer, the customer experience (CX) strategy at Unilever couldn’t have been going better, but Holly Richardson sensed a critical problem emerging.
In her role at a DX and CX transformation lead at Food Services division of the consumer product giant’s Middle East operation, Richardson and her team had worked hard over a two-year period to ensure its digital transformation was informed by customers’ needs. The effort to influence key stakeholders was both top-down and button up — and it was working.
Speaking in a session at Central Europe’s ExperienceCon virtual summit held earlier this month, Richardson said Unilever had put many of the fundamental building blocks of CX in place. This included setting up a governance structure, conducting journey maps and aligning around key moments of truth. CX was not only informing digital transformation, but the company’s entire business transformation, she said.
In some respects, however, team members were seeing the opportunity to improve CX almost everywhere. Projects were piling on top of each other. As is common with most CX ideas, many of these projects had conflicting interests and constrained resources.
“We were making great progress, but we were not yet mature enough to have our own dedicated CX team,” Richardson explained. “All these people were double-hatting (what they had to do on CX projects) with their day jobs.”
As a result, Unilever had to regroup and reign things in really quickly. Otherwise, by not saying no, the company was spreading resources too thinly across too many initiatives and there was a real risk of putting the entire CX program in jeopardy, Richardson said.
The first step was to develop a prioritization framework to score each CX idea and project. Richardson showed a sample of these kinds of priorities, which could include “ease of implementation,” “risk avoidance” and “financial benefit.
Richardson said the weighing was adjusted backed on feedback from her executive leadership, though customer and business benefit stayed high on the ranking.
“If we only chose what the business cares about then we risk there being a gap between what the business delivers and what the customer wants,” she said. “However, we cannot solely base our prioritisation on customer without considering business needs as well.“
Once the approach to prioritizing CX projects and ideas had been standardized, the next step was ensuring consistency in how priorities were communicated across the organization.
This meant not only mapping out how customer sentiment aligns with the stages of their journey and the context in which they engage via various touchpoints, Richardson said. The team also focus on giving development teams an appreciation of customers and the industry, categorizing stories into themes and breaking down objectives.
Finally, Unilever uses the Agile methodology — which focuses on breaking projects into short sprints with small teams — to executive on its CX priorities.
“Most of our CX improvement areas were focused on digital touchpoint and experiences,” she said. “Agile lends itself well to that.”
While there is always going to be the potential for organizations to chase too many CX issues at once, Richardson said Unilever is in a better position to allocate its resources to the right areas.
“You always want to empower empower your CX champions with a rationale for saying yes,” she said, “or, just as important sometimes, a rationale for saying no.”
Shane Schick tells stories that help people innovate, and to manage the change innovation brings. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine and has also been Vice-President, Content & Community (Editor-in-Chief), at IT World Canada, a technology columnist with the Globe and Mail and Yahoo Canada and is the founding editor of ITBusiness.ca. Shane has been recognized for journalistic excellence by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.