Billennium has been pursuing Customer Experience (CX) activities for as many as 6 years now. In retrospect, I can say that consistent implementation of CX initiatives is not easy, but worthy of considerable sacrifice. Our organisation has been faced with a number of challenges on the way. Instilling this idea into all employees (that we have more than 1,300) is a long-term process. A change in their way of thinking will not happen overnight and we constantly need to be focused on activities that promote CX in our organisation. Nevertheless, I positive that the path we have taken, though bumpy, is the only right one and our dynamic development over recent years nothing but confirms this.
Before I discuss the advantages of implementing Customer Experience initiatives in practice, let me begin by saying why our management board decided to implement CX in Billennium. The idea of activities based on Customer Experience emerged in our company 6 years ago. Back then, as we were involved in creating business solutions, our minds were focused on the aspect of User Experience. It was, amongst others, thanks to one of our clients who began implementing Customer Experience in his company that we understood that our application’s user experience alone is merely one of the components of a larger process. We started to explore the subject, deciding to place stronger emphasis on analysing our customers’ needs, and use such analyses as the basis for developing our organisation and fulfilling new business tasks.
We started by conducting a customer satisfaction survey with the assistance of our external partner specialising in Customer Experience. The survey results provided us with an infinite source of knowledge and inspiration about how we should design CX in Billennium and what we can do to make customers more satisfied with our mutual cooperation. However, before modifying our customer service processes, we decided to begin with the most profound changes within our organisation to have even taken place in our history.
With the participation of all our management members, we created the company’s new mission, vision and values. Today, after a minor modification, they are represented in the acronym of TIGER, which stands for Trust, Innovation, Growth, Energy and Responsibility. TIGER became the cornerstone for building the whole organisational culture. We have also formed a dedicated CX team that, for the first months, concentrated on our employees and changing their way of thinking about the role they perform in the company. I must admit it was a real challenge. After all, we are an IT company, all our employees have extensive knowledge on technology and programming, and the role of soft skills remained undervalued within the organisation. Part of our management personnel were even of the opinion that CX was just a fad that would sooner or later disappear. And, indeed, there were moments when we were not consistent. However, as time went by, even the most sceptical managers started to notice that our organisational culture, developed through CX activities, became our competitive advantage, which I am going to elaborate on in a while.
How to implement CX into an organisation?
CX must blend in with the current activities of the company and get adequate empowerment. Therefore, a very important role is played by the involvement of the management, with the organisation’s CEO as the leader. This gives the CX initiative appropriate prestige and the management board sends a clear signal that we all need to think in terms of customer experience. Moreover, CX should actually be reflected in the employees’ salary. In our organisation, each employee is obligated to take care of Customer Experience. We are currently working for the bonus system to be linked with the fulfilment of CX activities. It is significant, for instance, in the context of new employees who, coming from other organisations, know right away that they are responsible for customer experience regardless of their position.
It is also extremely important to carry out regular surveys and then demonstrate the results to all stakeholders, even if the results are not favourable for us. Obviously, it is necessary to draw conclusions from the results in every single instance as they translate into concrete initiatives, actions and tools, without which such surveys would not make sense.
As a person responsible for the CX area in Billennium, I give priority to the following three things in my everyday work.
- It is necessary to patiently listen to your customer, and constructive criticism is a great gift that we must appreciate.
- Everybody in the organisation is responsible for the CX activities.
- You must be consistent in your actions and once you have decided to implement CX, you mustn’t forget about it or give up. At the same time, it should be borne in mind that implementing an organisational structure focused on designing customer experience on the basis of surveys does not take one or two years, but is a long-term process.
Nobody will advise you better on what your client needs than the client himself.
CX surveys do not only boil down to listening to customers’ complaints, though indeed criticism must be openly accepted. For us, they primarily mean being attentive to the specific suggestions by our clients as to how we can provide them with even better services, solve their everyday problems, but also help them accomplish their long-term plans. Our customers are like the best consulting company for us. It is their assessment and guidelines that show us where we are and where they would like to see us.
The implementation of CX-based management in our organisation was followed by rapid development of Billennium. Ever since we conducted the first CX survey in 2014, our revenues have grown by 550%, and the number of employees increased by 380%. Obviously, I am not saying that it has been achieved thanks to CX alone. However, changing the way of thinking about how we should work with customers and the widespread awareness that each employee can influence how we are perceived outside were certainly not insignificant. Today, any initiative that we undertake either result directly from the experiences of our customers or employees, or must have business grounds in them.
It is one of the reasons why we introduced changes into our organisation with respect to the functioning of IT teams. Previously, great significance was attached to which office somebody works in. At present, we pursue all our projects by the so-called Competence Centres (CC), i.e. international teams of experts specialising in such areas as software development, CRM, big data and artificial intelligence, or automation. As a result, our customers can get instant access to specialists in many fields and technologies.
Amongst the other changes oriented towards customer satisfaction that we implemented under the CX initiatives, I should also mention, for example, our new approach to the process of employee onboarding focused on customers’ projects, the sales process addressing customers’ needs, the innovative methods of service design and other roles in daily contacts with customers.
The road to CX also takes you through EX
The CX surveys mentioned above also help us better understand our employees, their needs, goals, and role in the organisation, as well as how it subsequently translates into customer satisfaction. Of course, expecting involvement, we are also changing ourselves as the employer. We are introducing a series of Employee Experience solutions aimed at enhancing the satisfaction of Billennials and improving their competences, which was, after all, compatible with the expectations of our customers. The main areas we are working on include clear career paths, promotion opportunities (both vertical and horizontal), in-house training and external courses, and many more.
Richard Branson once said that it is important to take care of your employees, as they will take care of the clients. I couldn’t agree more with this statement, because most of our customers’ expectations towards the company are, in fact, expectations towards our employees they work with on a daily basis. In IT, we all have access to the same knowledge and technologies. Therefore, it is the soft skills influencing customers’ perception that often prove to be crucial while making decisions on cooperation with us rather than others.
CX and EX have already been implemented. What next? Analysis, analysis, analysis…
How can we make sure whether our initiatives work? The answer is simple – through regular analysis and monitoring. We monitor the level of customer satisfaction every year, using the Net Promoter Score (NPS) – a benchmark for measuring customer loyalty, or a willingness to recommend. Between 2014 and 2017, this score was on the rise year-over-year. In 2018, we recorded a slight fall and a year later the NPS decreased to the level we had last achieved in 2015. It was a clear indication for us that not all of our customer service processes worked as we would expect them to.
Therefore, in order to find out why the NPS decreased, we conducted another wide-ranging CX survey, both qualitative and quantitative, in 2019. It helped us analyse each stage of the Customer Journey, check our strengths and weaknesses, as well as suggest concrete changes. After all, there is no better eye-opener than a concrete statement by a customer about cooperation. The survey revealed, amongst other things, that the lower level of the NPS was due to customers’ opinion that we had imperceptibly become a different, larger organisation, and they started to compare us with the biggest global IT companies. And it was through such insights that we developed our CX initiatives and found it easier to set new goals for further development.
Based on the survey, we developed 150 CX initiatives that we have been trying to consistently implement throughout the year 2020. The initiatives concern practically all business areas, because we have involved sales, delivery (IT operations), recruitment, training department, marketing and administration. What fills me with great delight is that the CX process has involved representatives of all departments across the various levels, ranging from top management to lower level employees.
It is a very huge investment, not only in terms of time and involvement, but also finances. However, I have no doubt that effective implementation of the planned initiatives will translate into measurable satisfaction of our clients and tangible success of the whole organisation. It is already today that they say our changes are becoming noticeable. It makes us very happy and gives us motivation for further work! 😊