Creating a Consistently Great Customer Experience, with Wendy Pravda, Medallia

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The following was transcribed from a recent interview on The Agile Brand with Greg Kihlström podcast. 

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Today we’re going to talk about how to ensure your organization takes a structured approach to providing a consistently great customer experience through CX governance. To help me discuss this topic, I’d like to welcome Wendy Pravda, Principal Customer Experience Advisor at Medallia.

[Greg Kihlström] Let’s start by making sure that everybody knows what we mean by CX governance. So why don’t you start by defining that, and why is CX governance so important?

[Wendy Pravda, Medallia] Governance is the process that guides the company or the organization to identify the accountabilities across specific teams and individuals. And it also enables effective decision-making. It’s a critical component of change management and it ensures that something happens with all of the information you receive from your CX program. There are 3 main models for governance, generally, that we talk about:  centralized, decentralized, and hybrid models. And those are the three that in general companies use when talking about governance.

As timing and sequencing goes, when is the best time to define governance for an organization?

The best time is when you begin your CX program and you’re working on that change management component that I mentioned. It’s best to start thinking about it and defining it up front with your strategy. However, if you didn’t do this up front, it isn’t too late. You can always do it later, if you realize you have gaps and you need to establish governance.

For those organizations that might have some gaps, what are some of the signs that either they need some better governance or they might need some better governance?

If you’re seeing confusion with your team structure, with accountabilities, roles and responsibilities, those are things I hear often; also, if you’re not seeing inner and outer loop closure occurring as you should, we talk about inner and outer loop closure with clients a lot. With proper governance, it’s hard to close the loop effectively on the feedback coming in. If you don’t have that proper governance, you can’t do that well. So you need to ask yourself, “Is everyone clear on what they’re supposed to do? Do we have defined meetings with a purpose and cadence? Are we solving customers’ needs based on the feedback we’re getting?” And if you can’t say yes to all of those, then you need to look into governance. And I can’t stress enough how important governance is.

Can you elaborate a little bit – you mentioned inner/outer loop – for those that might not be as familiar with that?

Yes, so your inner loop is when you are closing the things that happen on a daily basis, let’s say in your field, right? You have things coming in and so you’re closing that loop with the feedback that you’re getting, regularly. The outer loop is going to be the bigger themes or bigger topics that you’re seeing coming in from multiple people, so on an aggregate basis, and those are things that you’ll end up needing executive buy-in on. You’re going to probably need cross-collaboration with teams to determine which of those issues you fix first. But you need to be looking at both of those, right? So there’s the closing of the inner loop and the closing of the outer loop. And that governance is going to help get you both.

You mentioned earlier about there being three different main models of CX governance: decentralized, centralized, and hybrid. Can you talk a little bit about each of those and point out if any of these models generally work better than others?

Yes, so centralized is when you have 1 CX organization with one central leader. So picture one leader at the top, and there’s strong corporate authority there. There’s support from champions and key functions. And I’ve really found that this model works best for smaller organizations. It could work for larger companies. But this is really a model where you have that central leadership. So that means it’s going to be more autocratic in nature. 

Decentralized is different in that model. The CX program owners are in each business unit. So think of multiple executives. So there are independent CX teams and each department has autonomy. So that would work well in an organization that has multiple executive leaders or different sorts of businesses. 

And then, lastly, hybrid – and this is the one, by far, that we recommend the most. It works well for a lot of companies. It’s a blend, really, of the two. So there’s a central advisory and governance with localized accountability. So you have a CX team and councils that meet regularly, so those councils are made up of different people in the organization that meet. But you also have that CX team. So the centralized corporate team focuses on methodology, systems, and best practices, and then the execution is done in the business units. So it’s a little bit of, you know, best of both worlds, and it can work for small or large organizations equally well.

In that hybrid model, then, what are the kinds of roles and maybe departments that are sitting in those groups?

So let me give you an example. In one of my previous companies, how it was set up, it was a hybrid model. We had a global organization, and that global organization looked at things like best practices. They managed the main contract with the vendors. And they looked at it globally, so they had APAC; they had EMEA; they had the U.S.; they had Canada; they had Mexico; they had everything. Then you had the localized people, so CX positions that were in each region. So let’s just say the U.S., for instance, had a CX team of their own, and there were councils that would meet between sales, between customer service, between marketing. So you had multiple teams that impact CX, and those councils would meet together. There were also councils that would meet for all of the regions up into global. So there’s a lot of cross-pollination and cross-learning, but the execution work is being done in those local areas.

That makes a ton of sense because I often say CX is everybody’s job. I completely agree with you that governance is definitely needed, but it allows for all of the different roles: sales, marketing, I.T., all of those different roles that you need.

Exactly, so you want to get those people involved in those council meetings. And hybrid model will help allow for that, not that the other ones don’t, but we just find that that hybrid model really allows for those councils to get together and that cross-collaboration.

So let’s talk a little bit about measurement. I think there’s two ways of looking at measurement. One is the CX metrics, so, you know, are customers satisfied; are they buying more; all of that. But talk a little more, internally, how do you measure that your CX governance is working with more of an internal and an operational measure?

So that is an interesting question. I would say if your governance is working if you have a clear team structure, you know, cadence; you understand the roles and responsibilities and that’s all established and working, and also, like I said before, if your inner and outer loop are being closed successfully. So there isn’t a specific metric just for governance. But you’re going to know if there are gaps, and you can, at least, metrics-wise, look at your loop closure metrics.

That makes sense because it’s also, because it’s hybrid and somewhat decentralized, the reporting structure isn’t centralized, so I would imagine it can become challenging based on some of the normal metrics that, you know, you and your boss have a certain set of metrics that are used to to measure your success. But when you’re working cross-enterprise, it’s a little bit different.

Yeah, and, you know, the thing is that governance means so much, right? It’s all these different practices that come into play. And a lot of it does have to do with the structure, right, making sure that everyone understands their roles, that everything is being accomplished as it should. And thus then your inner and outer loop are going to get closed. So that’s why I say it’s a little hard to find a specific metric for governance, but you will know. You will know if things are going well, and if everyone understands what they’re doing and if things are being closed and done successfully for the customer.

Well, and so one part of it is ensuring that you’re being successful. We’re here on the Agile Brand podcast, so this is a bit of a leading question, but what about the systems of continuous improvement, and are those working groups or that hybrid model responsible for continuous improvement as well, like how would you handle that?

Yes, so if you are looking at what you’re doing well or what you’re not doing well, especially in those council meetings or in your CX function, you know, you should always be looking for that continuous improvement. It’s a loop that you go through even with governance, right? You’re going to continually assess, “How are we doing, and how do we do things better?”

About the Guest

Wendy Pravda is Principal Customer Experience Advisor at Medallia.

From Wendy:

I am a results-oriented marketing professional with over 20 years’ experience in digital strategy, customer experience (CX) and user experience (UX).

I started my journey during the .com boom, where I worked on the agency-side, for clients such as Motorola and Ditch Witch, performing usability tests and guiding UX design for websites. From there, I led an agency team on omni-channel marketing campaigns, managing projects and strategy for website design, SEO, email, videos and PPC for companies such as Dell, HP, AMD and Seagate.

With a strong background in digital marketing and UX, I wanted to continue to gear my focus toward customer-centric marketing around the digital space, using data as a backbone. At this time, I shifted over to the client-side, and worked for companies that needed my expertise to build full marketing programs from the ground up.

I worked at Microsoft, where I managed global digital strategy for several products that had recently been acquired by Microsoft. Next, in my position with Verio, I started an analytics platform and was able to guide decisions based on data, which led to increased Marketing performance. At Rocky Mountain Health Plans, a health insurance company, I ran digital initiatives and customer experience, working on changes and challenges during Obamacare implementation. This was when I started look at CX in a different light and wanted to do even more in this space. I then came to ExxonMobil, where I ran digital marketing and CX training for the corporation, executed omni-channel marketing campaigns and managed overall CX vision and strategy.

Having worked for multiple types of verticals, in both B2B and B2C, I bring a breadth of knowledge into my profession. I have a passion for this field and am so thankful that I fell into this area of work during the .com boom.

About the Host, Greg Kihlström

Greg Kihlstrom is a best selling author, speaker, and entrepreneur and host of The Agile Brand podcast. He has worked with some of the world’s leading organizations on customer experience, employee experience, and digital transformation initiatives, both before and after selling his award-winning digital experience agency, Carousel30, in 2017.  Currently, he is Principal and Chief Strategist at GK5A. He has worked with some of the world’s top brands, including AOL, Choice Hotels, Coca-Cola, Dell, FedEx, GEICO, Marriott, MTV, Starbucks, Toyota and VMware. He currently serves on the University of Richmond’s Customer Experience Advisory Board, was the founding Chair of the American Advertising Federation’s National Innovation Committee, and served on the Virginia Tech Pamplin College of Business Marketing Mentorship Advisory Board.  Greg is Lean Six Sigma Black Belt certified, and holds a certification in Business Agility from ICP-BAF. 


Posted by Greg Kihlström

Best-selling author, speaker, consultant and advisor. Principal at GK5A.

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