How Employee Annual Performance Reviews Can Make Or Break Customer Experience

Companies have figured out their employees’ experience can make or break them in the age of the customer. Not that how satisfied and engaged the employee was never important; the difference today is that the causality between customer satisfaction, revenue and the employee has never been clearer. Human resources departments, a term which increasingly sounds like an oxymoron in today's climate, and their company leaders are slowly accepting that platitudes on posters about how much they care about employees are over.   Free food, ping pong and open seating are becoming passé as a result of companies proactively involving their employees to shape cultures and workspaces that enable them to be their best. The impact on customer experience as measured by the customer’s perceived value-add of key interaction points is justification for companies to continue on this path.  It’s a win-win-win.

One of the biggest challenges in customer alignment is change management — the rooting out of age old practices and sacred cows.  Many of which used to be the very foundations of what was believed to make an organization successful.  One such practice is the annual employee performance review. Employees today, regardless of generation, want continuous timely and relevant feedback. Not just to improve their performance but also in response to FOMO. Companies operate at a pace that demand employees be informed of changes before, during and after they’ve happened. Only through continuous meaningful feedback can employees continually adjust their priorities, work methods and skills to stay ‘vectored’ to company strategies and objectives .
To understand more about why and how the annual performance process actually hurts companies, I interviewed two experts that come to this discussion from very different perspectives.  Vip Sandhir is CEO and Founder of HighGround, and Michael Brenner, keynote speaker, author and CEO of Marketing Insider Group. Christine Crandell: Why are organizations are moving away from conducting annual performance reviews? Vip Sandhir:  While annual performance reviews are intended to give employees a holistic view of their progress, they are anxiety-inducing, can damage the employee-manager relationship, and worst of all, are backwards-looking. Today’s employees — especially Millennials — want to find meaning in their work, frequent feedback and recognition for their contributions. Organizations have recognized that annual performance reviews no longer fulfill employees’ needs, hastening the move to more continuous feedback models. Michael Brenner: I mostly agree. Employees loathe them almost as much as managers and most executives know they do not incentivize higher performance. Effective annual performance reviews with regular feedback may simply be effective only because of the regular feedback. When I had to give performance reviews, I had weekly feedback sessions with employees and those sessions alone drove higher performance. The annual performance review did not serve me as an employee, as a manager, or as an executive. Crandell: How can frequent performance conversations improve an organization's ability to deliver quality customer experience? Brenner: Gallup’s quarterly surveys on employee engagement show that the biggest factor in engaged employees is in having “a manager who seems to care about me as a person.” Frequent feedback allows the manager to check-in with employee’s performance but it also allows the employee’s goals to be reinforced, they allow for an explanation of how the employee’s performance is impacting the overall goals of the team or company. They also allow a discussion on ways to improve in near real time. And finally, they allow the manager and employee to discuss what it going well. Sandhir: Frequent performance conversations can empower employees to do their best work, which ultimately drives their ability to deliver great customer service. Just as sales teams now look to optimize the customer experience rather than solely focusing on hitting their targets, HR departments also need to adopt strategies that strengthen the entire employee experience. Rather than waiting until an annual review to address concerns and opportunities for growth, employees can initiate monthly or quarterly feedback conversations with their managers. In doing so, employees hit their goals more often and more effectively, which ultimately results in better serviced customers.

Successful CX starts with creating two-way dialogue between managers and employees – a tactic that can reinvigorate the passion and motivation workers need to make good on their promises to customers. Integrating peer-to-peer (P2P) feedback can also foster improved CX as our report found that this tactic reduces employee anxiety around performance check-ins. By leveraging P2P feedback, employees use insight from their colleagues to build upon their skills and meet customers’ needs in the process.

Crandell: What’s the best way for companies to ditch the annual review process?  Sandhir: Before rolling out revamped performance management processes, HR needs to get buy in from executive leadership and create a communication plan from the top down. Leadership teams want to ensure the HR platform encompasses the entire employee experience, so organizations should seek technology that’s nimble and can be customized to meet each employee’s needs and preferences. While it’s critical to get the C-suite on board, it’s just as important to ensure managers and employees understand why you’re making the switch, given they’re the ones most affected by it. From there, HR should arm managers with the tools they need to carry out frequent and productive conversations with their employees –  whether that’s a full performance management and employee engagement platform or a standardized document for check-ins. This training will allow managers to engage in conversations that excite employees, not intimidate them. Brenner: I completely agree that this cannot be just an HR-led initiative. And often the successful regular performance programs originate from leadership visions to improve employee engagement, to connect with employees on the overall vision, and to provide employees with a place where they are proud to work . My regular reviews include three simple questions: • How are you doing? • How am I doing? • How can I help? Crandell: How do preferences for performance conversations differ across generations? Sandhir: We found that Millennials are spearheading the push for more frequent conversations: 58% of millennial managers hold at least weekly performance conversations with their employees compared to only 39% of their Baby Boomer counterparts. When it comes to format (in-person vs. virtual) for performance conversations, we found that preferences are fairly consistent across generations. For instance, we found that Millennial managers are almost just as likely as Baby Boomers to hold in-person development conversations (59% vs. 62%). This is clearly one area where Millennials defy the stereotype for preferring technology to communicate. Crandell: How can performance feedback keep employees aligned to evolving corporate objectives and strategic plans? BrennerThe biggest gap occurs on vision and mission. Many companies state their vision as something like being the largest supplier of widgets. Their mission is sell more widgets. And who is inspired by that?

The vision should be a future goal that every employee would want to help achieve . The mission should define what impact the business has on customers. When these two elements are in place, every executive, manager and employee can start to ask, for every task, ‘does this support the mission and future vision?’

Corporate culture is defined by values. And values are reinforced by who gets hired, fired and promoted. Executives and managers need to consider more than just performance when making these decisions. We have all worked with smart and high-performing jerks. But a values-based culture would ask that employee to consider their behavior and the effect it has on the culture and other employees. Sandhir: Our report shows that there is a gap in communicating corporate objectives in the first place.  If executives are more transparent about what the target goals are each year, employees can think of their own goals in terms of how they contribute to the bigger picture. Development conversations between managers and employees tend to focus on employee-centric issues rather than the company’s goals – only 46 percent discuss company performance goals during check-ins. Though discussing an individual’s performance and potential areas for growth is essential, the most effective feedback conversations also address the company’s overall strategy and well-being as well as how an employee plays a part. To better align personal goals with overarching company objectives, managers should first reinforce the organization’s strategy, values and mission. From there, they can work with employees to craft attainable goals that contribute to the company goals. If, for example, a company goal is to inject more creativity into customer service, employees can add value by setting a personal objective to brainstorm new tactics for customer experience. By providing consistent feedback on progress, employees are reminded to keep their eyes set on the bigger picture rather than get caught up in the daily grind. First published in Forbes

4 Questions Every Small Business Must Ask About Artificial Intelligence

From Siri to Alexa, customers are becoming accustomed to AI-powered solutions and soon they will expect the same for their local businesses. Sure, an AI rollout can be daunting, but by adopting a strategic approach and adding smart software, small businesses will not only be able to differentiate themselves from competitors, but compete with the industry giants as well.   While many overcomplicate the technology, AI’s behaviors are predictable – it’s merely an advanced system that is trained, not told. AI mimics the human brain in the way that it learns. It starts with no information, and after being given thousands of pieces of information, is able to understand and make predictions about data it has never seen before.   AI will become a threat to small businesses if owners believe it won’t impact them, or isn’t already impacting them. The fact is, AI has the potential to drastically help companies of all sizes work smarter and more efficiently than ever before.   Before acting on an AI rollout, here are the top four questions small businesses should ask themselves:   What is it you are looking to achieve with AI?   AI can provide great value for sales, marketing, finance, HR, customer service, and more. Hone in on what exactly you are hoping to achieve with the use of AI – where do you need to increase productivity?   By setting highly focused goals, you will be able to develop a plan that prioritizes specific applications for AI technology. This way, small businesses can slowly adapt and familiarize themselves with the software, that will, overtime, drastically enhance the bottom line.   The most immediate benefit of AI is that it will provide immense efficiency. There will be less time entering data and more time getting valuable insight to augment decision making. There’s a mass amount of data waiting to be analyzed and AI will guide businesses on how to act.   What data has already been put into a system of record?   You’ll never hear the words “too much data” and “AI” used in the same sentence. AI systems become more accurate and effective as the volume of data increases. The big industry players have been accumulating business intel, reporting, and have already moved on to predictive analytics.   The first step in your AI project is to systematize your business. With the widespread adoption of cloud based solutions (SAAS) and the rapid reduction in the cost of storage and processing, the first step is to start instrumenting all elements of your business. Your website, your marketing activities, your sales – including the business that you “win” and “lose.”   Unlike huge, multi-national companies that are able to capture and process peta-bytes of data, small businesses have had access to significantly less data. This is changing with the adoption of cloud-based products and services and the availability of open data sets from governments and other providers. The goal for small business owners is to have the appropriate systems and infrastructure needed to go and analyze data and extract even more business value.   What is your ability to explore your business data and understand what’s going on objectively?   If you’re looking at the raw data it’s easy to “torture the data” to get the answer you want to be there – don’t fall victim to this habit.   Your goal is to generate several hypotheses from the data. Examine outliers and the associations between data elements. Be careful not to draw conclusions too early though, as outliers could be caused by “bad data” that needs to be cleaned up, and the relationships may not be strong enough to make any definitive conclusions. We often allow our personal biases and expectations get in the way of looking at data. The numbers don’t lie, but if we look at them expecting certain results, we may end up manipulating the information to meet our expectations. In order to take full advantage of AI, we need to be able to trust the numbers.   You don’t need to use expensive tools; use the reports and dashboards that are built into the tools you already have and approach the problem with an inquisitive mind. Look for the unexpected and when you detect something that’s interesting, create one or more hypothesis to explain what you’re seeing, and then set about to prove or disprove it.   Is your technology provider on the path to add these capabilities into their product to further automate and provide more meaningful insights?   AI will not provide any benefit if small businesses lack the IT infrastructure to support it. Start by upgrading your approach to IT – move toward a cloud-based resource that can support AI once implemented. Data is a prerequisite to introducing AI into a system, and a paper system is useless when it comes to incorporating AI.   Make sure your goals are aligned with the direction your software is going. If it doesn’t seem as though your software provider is working toward the same future as you, it might be time to consider another option. It’s important to ensure your provider is taking steps to remain relevant in the future of technology.   If you’re just getting started on the business analytics journey, begin by using the reports and dashboards that your systems have today. Become familiar with the digital assistants that are already on your smartphone; explore what they are already able to do and stay current with how these systems are evolving.   By making an effort to understand and embrace AI, small businesses are optimizing operations, improving customer-service, and growing their bottom line. Imagine where your company would be if you didn’t embrace the uncertainty of the internet or didn’t go mobile in the age of the smartphone. Artificial intelligence is the newest technology adding efficiency and intellect to small business – don’t be late to adapt; be better, faster, smarter operators with the use of AI. First published in Forbes

Culture Defines LinkedIn’s Customer Experience

We’ve all had good and bad customer experiences. Unfortunately, it’s the bad ones that we remember most. We mull them over in our minds, fixating on how the vendor could have delivered a great experience if they had only done this or that.  To us the solution is so clear; why doesn’t the vendor see it as well? Scott Shute, VP of Customer Operations at LinkedIn, had one of those telling experiences traveling with his young family over the Thanksgiving holiday. Scott arrived at the Las Vegas airport with just 22 minutes to make his connecting flight, and he literally raced a mile to arrive at the departure gate just as the last few passengers were boarding the plane.  Out of breath, Scott approached the gate agent to let her know that his wife and toddler will be arriving momentarily.  He asked if she could just wait 90 seconds for them to arrive. “Ha,” exclaimed the gate agent as she turned to the boarding door. Scott’s frustration with that airline’s gate agent left an indelible imprint on how he defines customer experience at LinkedIn. A company’s culture defines the customer experience In a recent interview with show host and Fanatics Media managing director, Mark Fidelman, on CX Factor, a customer experience show sponsored by Oracle, Shute explains the connection between LinkedIn’s culture, the company’s ‘members first’ philosophy, and its phenomenal success. Their rapid growth, from 30 million members in 2008 to 467 million members in October 2017 all starts with a culture of empowerment.  And that starts with C-Suite ownership of the culture. LinkedIn’s culture is based on the core values of permission and trust.  Each employee has permission to do what is right for the customer. Shute says owning the solution to the customer’s problem is possible because employees know they have full support of the C-Suite to do what’s right.  That sense of ownership spans the entire company from customer support through product development.  Each employee knows they are part of the solution. Don’t take lightly the value of permission. It implies trust, the most valuable kind; that leaders trust their employees to make the right decisions for their customers, first, and the company, second. To establish that level of trust in your organization, you need all of the following:

  1. Clearly defined values and a management team that demonstrates these values day in and day out through their actions, behaviors and decisions.
  2. A recruitment process that tests for these values, and hiring decisions are made accordingly, without compromise. The best candidates live by these values as well as possess the required skills.
  3. The customer experience team has a deep, detailed understanding of customers’ journeys, as defined by both paid members and platform users, for the entire relationship lifecycle. This means going beyond interaction points and content to include emotion and intent mapping for each role at every level within the organization.
  4. Defined processes and information based on lifecycle journeys that in turn enables them. The focus is on providing employees with the right information at the right time.
  5. Opening all parts of the company to the customer to encourage dialog and personal relationships across all communication channels.
Customer experience is not a platitude.  Yet for many companies it remains a slogan, a marketing initiative or something that pertains only to front line staff.  Therein lays the seed bed of poor customer experiences.  What these brands don’t realize is the linkage effect. According to Peter Drucker, culture drives strategy, which in turn defines organization and processes. Employees, who themselves don’t feel valued, recognized, or appreciated, have a hard time consistently demonstrating a different set of values to their  customers. Shute’s airline experience demonstrates that, as does a recent experience I had at JW Marriott at the Mall of Americas that included the “erroneous” removal and theft of a personal item from my room.  In both cases, the message was clear – the customer was not valued – which calls into question whether the staff themselves are valued Listening is a critical requirement to empowering employees with the right insights and advice upon which to act .  LinkedIn relies on more than its state-of-the-art social customer listening system to hear its customers.  The company monitors customer emotions around key issues that executive leadership prioritizes weekly to address. The combination of a culture focused on customer satisfaction; employee empowerment to directly solve issues; a rich, deep data set, and modern technology infrastructure enables LinkedIn to continually innovate and respond timely to customer needs. Shute’s advice can be put into action with these best practices:
  • Ensure the C-Suite owns the customer and models the behavior of ‘customer first’
  • Proactively define a culture that values employees and empowers them to act in the customers’ best interest
  • Create human connections at the individual level
The last point is the most important. Technology enables asynchronous conversations to employee productivity but they’re only effective if customer experiences are supported by real, meaningful relationships. First published in Forbes at

Why Your Marketing Automation ROI Is In The ‘Lost And Found’

Marketing automation software was born out of a marketer’s need to more effectively generate and nurture leads through the funnel. Today, it is seen as a cornerstone of modern data-driven marketing practices. If marketing automation is a ‘needle mover’, then why the continued furor over its ROI? Act-On Software commissioned its inaugural study on the State of B2B Marketing Automation to determine the link between marketing automation investment and business performance. The findings tell a very different story from what we commonly believe though the study found that companies that were active MA users are more likely to outperform their peers.


53 percent of companies surveyed had implemented marketing automation. 37 percent were planning to and ten percent had no such plans.  Of those planning to implement, 87 percent said their timeframe was within the next six to twelve months. The lack of adoption is puzzling since 82 percent of study respondents agreed that marketing automation can make them more efficient, delivers a ROI and can increase marketing’s contribution to pipeline. The catalyst of adoption is a need for higher quality lead generation.  While every marketer worries about leads, marketing’s worth is measured on the revenue it generates. While generating leads that convert is at the top of the list, it isn’t the only reason to adopt MA:
  • Align sales and marketing (44%)
  • Automate customer onboarding and retention (36%)
  • Measure marketing’s impact on the company’s bottom line (31%)
  • Understand the digital behavior of buyers and customers (30%)
Despite this compelling list of reasons, a surprising finding was the low usage of MA features.  Of the fifteen most commonly found features, the top four most used features are: Email, web forms, landing pages and CRM integration.  The majority of features, nine of them, are used by 33 percent or fewer companies:
  • A/B testing
  • Dynamic content
  • Social integration
  • APIs
  • Dynamic segmentation
  • Progressive profiling
  • Lead recycling
  • Account based marketing
  • Business intelligence integration
Even more surprising is that over 20 percent of companies have no plans to use the last seven features.   Not only does lack of adoption directly imped these marketers in achieving their business goals, it prevents them from capturing the data needed for a true 360 degree view of the customer. What is holding these companies back?  The study found for many companies it’s aligning “marketing automation activities across the business, and to demonstrate the impact these activities have”.  Having to prove in hard numbers the ROI and efficiency gains is a challenge that slows adoption.

Are you a Leader or Laggard?

Leaders are defined as “those whose marketing functions exceeded their top 2016 business goal” and comprised 34 percent of study respondents.  Mainstream are companies that did not exceed but met their business goals. Laggards, by my definition, are those that missed their business goals. One area that differentiates Leaders is what keeps them up at night.  Lead generation keeps everyone up but for mainsteam and laggard companies it was also building brand awareness. Leaders are 55 percent more likely to be worried about lead handoff from marketing to sales and retention of customer/install base than top-of-funnel lead generation.  Equally, leaders are more likely to have achieved sales and marketing alignment. Leaders leverage MA technology to better understand the digital behavior patterns of customers and buyers. By capturing where, when and to what customers respond to, marketers are better able to serve up the right content and offers, at the right time, to the right persona through the right channel and in the most effective format. It all comes down to data. While MA will not provide a 360 degree view of the customer, the data it captures combined with the data from other solutions in the MarTech stack can provide the near real-time insights needed to continuously fine-tune how marketing and sales deliver value-add to customers and buyers. Interestingly, leaders use more of their MA solution’s features.  48 percent of leaders, compared to 29 percent of mainstream, use social functionality.  Another is lead nurturing and lead scoring where there is a 23 percent gap in adoption between leaders and the rest of the study respondents. The gap between leaders and mainstream/laggards becomes wider when the study evaluated what metrics they use to measure marketing’s performance.  While a majority of respondents measure new contacts and traffic to landing pages/forms the similarity ends there.  Leaders, on average, measure these additional metrics:
  • Marketing qualified leads (69% vs. 49%)
  • Sales qualified leads (64% vs. 43%)
  • Sales accepted leads (61% vs. 39%)
  • Sales generated leads (56% vs. 43%)
  • Marketing-generated opportunities (55% vs. 40%)
  • Marketing contribution to pipeline (unweighted) (51% vs. 24%)
  • Marketing contribution to revenue (49% vs. 26%)
  • Marketing contribution to pipeline (weighted) (38% vs. 20%)

Close the Gap

Marketing automation is not a ‘load and forget’ piece of software but a catalyst to change; part of the pathway to becoming a more effective, data-driven marketing organization. To be successful a strategy and plan is needed.  Prioritize the MA features to be implemented based on where the initial low hanging fruit is. In other words, go slow. Start with small changes that show success and progressively tackle more sophisticated workflows.  But you need to have a plan first and to partner with someone that specializes in change management. Second, based on your plan define the current marketing workflows as well as the new ones. Define the roles, hand-offs, data and sources, and new activities. Starting with the initial set of low hanging fruit workflows/activities will give you a very in-depth understanding of the degree of change –people, process, data and technology – needed for measurable success. Third, socialize, socialize, and socialize.  Implementing new technology/processes that touches many parts of an organization is always more successful when the people affected have a voice in the process, are adequately trained, and regularly kept abreast of progress. I’ve seen implementations fail because technology was implemented in isolation and the lack of grass-roots support sabotaged a well-meaning effort. Fourth, get clear on the type of MA solution that is right for you. I see a tendency in companies to either want to buy a Cadillac when what they need is a Prius or buy a stripped down Corolla when they need a F150 pick up. No offense Toyota.  Every business is different just as are customer’ journeys and lifetime experience expectations.  Before jumping into demos, invest the time to develop a solid set of requirements – business, technical and functional.   Go back to your plan and your redefined workflows and use them to define the requirements. Lastly, have a heart-to-heart with your senior leadership and finance. Ensure that funding is available for future years to provide the necessary resources to grow into your MA solution. It took companies in the study three month to a year or more to get to measurable ROI. +Too often, the focus is on the initial cost of the solution and the renewal terms – overlooking the need for additional training, resources, etc.   First published in Forbes at  

If General Motors Can Achieve Customer-Alignment, Why Can’t You?

Building an organization that continually aligns to customer expectations is on every CEO’s agenda. Leaders know that not achieving this transformation in the near term spells the future demise of their organization.  Yet, according to Forrester Research, only 23 percent of companies are able to successfully execute. The hardest part is not getting started but sticking with it. I could write a book of the excuses I’ve heard about why a company or team can’t, or is unwilling, to drive to completion customer-alignment transformation.  “It’s not a good time”, “we’re really profitable already”, “our partners won’t go along with this”, “our systems aren’t integrated”, “I’m going to retire in a few years, let’s not upset things” and my all-time favorite “I don’t like our customers” are just a handful of the excuses I routinely hear. For each excuse, the can is kicked not just down the road but over the edge of a steep ravine. Excuses are often followed by claims that there are few role model companies from which to learn how to successfully transform and align each and every function to the customer.  Ironically, there are numerous role models; they just don’t spend their time talking about what how they did it. Why?  Because being customer-aligned is an evergreen process.  They spend their energy getting even better at what they do.  One role model is General Motors. Before you discount this as not relevant because of GM’s size, keep in mind that transforming a large, long-established dinosaur into a gazelle is the ‘hardest of the hard’.  The lessons they’ve learned are applicable to everyone. Catalyst The courage to embark on a life-changing transformation, whether personal or business frequently requires a catalyst.  For most of my clients, it’s repeatedly missed profitability targets, persistent customer churn, failed new products or acquisitions, lawsuits, and/or repeatedly outmaneuvered by competitors. In GM’s case, it started with the 2009 Chapter 11 Bankruptcy.  The old adage of ‘more of the same will not produce different results’ could not have been truer; GM had to become a different company at the DNA level if it wanted to survive.  The then CEO set customer experience as a corporate priority. When Mary Barra became CEO, she built upon what was started and used the 2014 ignition switch recall as the catalyst to show employees what customer-aligned experience should be. Lead-By-Behavior CEO

Successful cross-functional customer-alignment depends on the values and personality of the CEO. If their heart isn’t into it and they don’t believe that every part of their organization should wrap around the customer and deliver measurable value – it’s not going to work.

David Mingle, Global Director of Customer Experience Strategy and Enterprise Experiences at General Motors, shared that Barra rewrote GM’s vision and values to better reflect its new purpose - “We earn customers for life.”  Mingle’s team created a video that Barra used to explain what the new vision would look like from the customers’ perspective. Storytelling is an effective way to help employees, partners, suppliers, and distributors understand the goal and to figure out exactly how they fit in. Barra leads by example by routinely listening in on calls to the call center, visiting dealers and showrooms to talk with prospective buyers, the manufacturing floor, and design centers to talk with employees.  Barra is as accessible to employees and customers as she is to Wall Street and industry regulators. Core to Corporate Strategy Too often customer-alignment initiatives wind up as platitudes in the annual plan, a goal without a solid implementation plan, unfunded and without clear accountability.  One step I see most companies skip is defining clearly “why, exactly, are we doing this?”  There must be an experience vision that is tied directly to a higher level corporate purpose. As Mingle points out “Getting the strategy approved is easy. Implementation is harder because business unit leaders may not align with short and/or long term investments required, especially if it impacts their own short term performance metrics.” GM’s vision of “customers for life” is tied to a corporate goal of “delivering the best customer experience across any industry.” The transformation plan must be a core element of any organization’s strategy. That includes defining measurable and time-bound objectives based on implementation milestones and KPIs including customer loyalty, CSAT, repeat purchases, customer referrals/evangelism, brand health, etc. By treating customer-alignment as you would plan for revenue, product development or HR ensures the entire company is onboard, accountable, and measured on implementation progress and success. Crawl, Trip, Walk, Stumble, Run

Customer alignment is not a big-bang or a one-and-done project.  The road to success is through a series of pilots and bite-size initiatives. “We took a pilot approach and used data from journey mapping to identify the most impactful opportunities to improve customer experience,” shares Mingle. “Seed funding for the pilots was secured and success was measured based on which pilot earned the highest, most visible ROI. That gave us the credibility and approval to drive that piece of transformation across the entire organization.”

Structuring the transformation as a series of prioritized pilots tied to key customer interaction and pain points enables organizations to more easily participate and own change while providing flexibility to incorporate lessons learned.  Some pilots will be successful; some will not, however, each will provide valuable insights into how to drive more success going forward. The key is to keep moving forward. It Takes a Village GM’s starting point was to undertake journey mapping.  Instead of exhaustively mapping every persona in every market, they targeted USA personas as defined by brand marketing.  “We discovered there are six journey stages – Learn, Shop, Buy, Onboard, Use and Own.  What surprised us is how much the Onboard stage directly impacted customer satisfaction and future customer actions,” said Mingle. “We then focused on how to turn Onboard into a positive experience by expanding the role of OnStar Services, launching a smartphone app teaching drivers ‘how to’ use their new car, and providing new training to our franchise  dealer network.“ His Customer Experience team is relatively small and rolls up into the Global Connected Customer Experience business unit that reports directly to the CEO.  “The team socializes pilots, best practices and results across the business units and looks for people that want to replicate the pilot in their area,” shared Mingle. “The CX team teaches them how to do it and measure success which, in turn, earns them and the business unit credibility.” The result is that ownership of the transformation and results reside within the business units. Sales and Marketing lead the first three journey stages – Learn, Shop and Buy.  The Global Connected Customer Experience team leads Onboarding along with digital owner services (GM’s owner portal, mobile app, and in-vehicle experiences), OnStar, and the contact centers. Customer Care and After Sales leads the last two journey stages – Use and Own.  Mingle’s team works across these three teams to bring the customer journeys to life with a focus on micro-moments and interaction points that matter most to customers and to align efforts and ensure integration across the multiple groups within the company responsible for delivering each segment of the customer journey. Mind the Data Gap Customer data is the lifeblood of customer-alignment success. Without complete, accurate and current data on customers, markets, and business operations, companies are hamstrung in their transformation.  The Forrester study found that “95 percent of organizations in this study struggle with collecting and making sense of customer data” and 85 percent struggle to achieve visibility and insight into real-time data and be able to act on it. General Motors currently uses the Pega Customer Decision Hub and the Pega Platform to power their standalone decisioning engine that drives capabilities into all channels their customers use to interact with the company. When a customer contacts General Motors, the Pega solution uses rules, predictive intelligence, and machine learning to drive the next best action regardless of channel for consistent, relevant interactions. Additionally, the Pega Platform provides a model-based environment that enables General Motors’ development teams to easily make changes as they need, so customers see continuous improvements in service.   It’s human nature to look at the whole elephant that represents change and be overwhelmed.  That leads to paralysis, denial or a narrow focus on a standalone area. GM shows us a path forward for that yields measurable results over time.  Where are you in your customer-alignment transformation?     First published in Forbes.