I’ve always had a thing for textiles. Early in my career, I worked on several global textiles industry projects. But even before that, I always collected textiles everywhere I went. I love the way the colors and textures combine, whether woven or knitted, crocheted or braided – I enjoy them all! Turns out experience management has a lot to learn from textiles.
Conventional wisdom divides experience management up into discrete pieces with distinct departments responsible for each one. This diagram from Qualtrics is just one way of illustrating this division of responsibilities.
In this framework, the product team works hard to deliver the features they believe customers value. They keep an eye on the competition, do their own customer research, prototype and test, and determine what goes on the product roadmap.
The brand team builds awareness and invests in creating perceptions they believe will lead to trust, preference and sales.
The HR team incorporates key aspects of the organization’s value proposition into its recruiting efforts and aims to offer competitive benefits and career advancement to support their retention goals.
The sales teams work to maximize customer acquisition, while the service and support teams work on customer retention and satisfaction. In enlightened organizations, the service and support teams are an input into product development.
There may be a slogan that is used in marketing campaigns and to rally the troops. But it does not provide enough substance to coordinate the disparate teams’ efforts or enough depth for teams to live it or bring it to life for customers. Despite everyone’s best intentions, the outcome is a fragmented, unfulfilling experience for customers and employees.
There is a better way.
Success takes coordination among the leadership team and alignment on a common thread that can be shared across an organization as a guide for decision-making. The organization’s brand vision can be that thread – it defines the brand’s special strengths, personality, internal and shared values, its associations in the minds of customers and employees, and how it makes the world a better place. Defining, embracing and embodying the brand is the responsibility of the organization’s leaders who jointly own it – both its promise and the delivery of that promise. Each leader represents the brand in their functional area.
Southwest is a great example of how brand can serve as the golden thread to align all of the functions in delivering a coherent – and great – experience for customers as well as employees. Known for passenger friendly service, the Southwest brand serves as a touchstone for the rest of the organization, as shown in the graphic. Running a super-efficient airline business model requires highly motivated people to administer it. Southwest’s flat organization is seen as enabling individuals to make a difference. The company consistently ranks among Fortune’s Most Admired companies and its list of Best Places to Work. Employees exhibit higher loyalty despite their lower compensation than other airlines.
Getting there takes leadership from the top with each functional area cascading brand understanding through its part of the organization and jointly developing and committing to on-brand actions and behaviors and to measuring performance. This translation step is key and often overlooked. By allowing employees to co-create the brand’s meaning for their part of the business they can truly live the brand.
Co-creation programs start with work sessions at the department level are a great way to flesh out how the brand translates to the team’s daily activities and generates new ways that they can contribute to activation that go beyond what senior leadership or the agency could even consider. These hidden opportunities are just waiting to be uncovered – they can inform the way employees interact with one another and with customers, business partners and others. Supported by employee engagement tracking, platforms for sharing and celebrating achievements help embed these brand activations in the organization’s DNA.
Beyond super-activating the brand, another advantage of co-creation is the surfacing of unspoken norms or expectations. They can now be evaluated in terms of whether they are working for or against the brand, and they can be explicitly embraced or replaced by new, more on-brand ideas. The output facilitates alignment among the team and creates a more coherent and compelling talent brand. It also helps with onboarding new team members.
Typically, the action starts with customer-facing departments but that is not a requirement. The point is that all departments and teams are responsible for translating the brand into their part of the organization.
Are you seeing pillars where there should be fabric? You may have an opportunity to super-activate your brand!