Can CX community become a self-organizing open ecosystem?
Where to start?
Few weeks ago I've got a task to look how to build Customer Experience (CX) community in a way that it will address customers, employees and partners needs and wants. As experienced Service Designer I started to look at the problems that creating such community, where are the burning points and what are the challenges related to building CX community. I did a field research and some interviews to find out what are the key aspects. It became clear to me that there is a significant difference between internal (addressing employee's needs) and external (addressing customer's and partners needs) CX community. It is mainly about differentiation when it comes to business processes and the driving forces.
Driving forces of CX communities
There can be several reasons why CX communities are actually developed. The people I discussed with pointed out that it is mostly because work getting more distributed and there is a need for a place where CX specialists can connect and communicate things (exchange expertise, showcase, discuss the issues). New IT technologies allowing people to collaborate in completely new way and the general acceptance of SaaS cloud solutions enables to get over issues in CX collaboration faster. People highlighted also fact that there is frustration with traditional communication based on emails and standard meetings that decreases productivity, and their are seeking new ways how to work with CX strategies, align business processes around CX & engage audience in CX subjects.
Trends in building communities
There is no doubt that at the moment humanization is the main trend in building any communities. People trust other people, not the company or organization, and this is the first step to advocacy and recommendations. Peoples' recognition is a second trend that it's important in building communities. Communities are becoming as well more consistent so that will help in being more concrete and well understood. It's visible as well that communities will have impact on organization's culture, norms and beliefs, and the role of community management will increase significantly due to its ability to generate more value for the organization and its employees or even customers. Reasons for action is the next big thing in community interaction and that will help in creating transparency and loyalty of its members. In addition, it will have an impact on stimulation of new ideas, same as creative environments in use and inspirational architecture. The future communities are going to be measured based on their vibrancy, interconnectedness and easy structure that will allow meet and discuss with people in more coherent and easy going way.
Employee engagement vs. customer relationship
When it comes to internal CX community I found out that there needs to be clear definition on digital/physical channels strategy of the organization how such community should be organized. It was pointed out that knowledge sharing is one of the most important aspects in CX community and there needs to be a proper strategy for it. Not mentioned here about clear understanding of the purpose of setting CX community as well as its target. Such community should empower people to do things related to CX rather than do things for them. Of course, it is tight up with recognition of people's engagement there as they are the holders of tacit knowledge related to CX, they have the information and the experience. What was indicated many times is the fact of activating community members to share the knowledge and proactively engage in CX community initiatives.
From the external community point of view it was highlighted that creating CX community should give foundation to position the organization in the market as expert in the subject matter. There is a strong need to capture organization's industry knowledge about CX and attract customers & partners, and engage them in CX initiatives. It's important to separate CX community based on domains and customers' deliveries.
How to engage employees?
It's a fact that organizations' internal communities are build every day in this or that way. The issues is when such community become boring and irrelevant, thus are ignored by employees. No one nowadays creating communities just for communicating same old message. The internal CX community should be the voice of the employees and be relevant for them allowing them to interact in best possible way, human way. It should have the business purpose and should allow employees to benefit from each other's expertise. It's super important to identify employees who are experts in the field, and are able to embrace & deliver the knowledge. Recognition of the experts is the powerful motivator to keep CX community rolling. They must become the ambassadors that can support others in getting answers they are looking for, promoting same time open culture of sharing the knowledge across units and departments. Clear calls for the actions raised by the users and well defined process should minimize the barriers for employees participation.
What about activation of customers or partners?
Today's marketplace with huge options of products / services forces the organizations to create very strong connections with customers & partners, and work on relationships to create loyalty, retention and positive customer satisfaction. As we all know it's very expensive to acquire customers especially if they don't understand the company and its mission, therefore to keep customers happy, the loyalty and other aspects should be a long term plan for the organization. It might be discouraging for some people who are seeking fast results but nothings comes easy. However, when organizations becomes more loyalty-minded they are on the right tract to have a better business. It's know fact that increased retention increases profit, or that recommendations and word of mounts increasing purchases. Customers' engagement in community can increase the revenue quite significantly but it will only happen if that will be something that people cares about. It has to have an incredibly significant value to customer or partner to be able to engage in such community.
What should be the elements of strategy in building CX community?
It's very important to identify CX community objectives which clearly deliver business value and provide the members reasons to be involved. Secondly, it's necessary to have a road-map and prioritize the features based on business requirements and members needs. Furthermore it's critical to look for operational capabilities, the ownership and who will take care of the community. One of the important aspects is the platform for collaboration and the tools that will help in interaction. We should not forget about how we are going to measure success of the community against business and members needs. Last but not least, there should be an activation and adoption plan where continues members engagement is the successful factor.
How to build the CX community to become a real ecosystem?
When you think about CX community I believe it's all about understanding employees, customers or partners and building high - value ecosystem of relationships with all levels of the organization and with outside world. It means streamlining interface, activities, processes and culture within organization where value co-creation, engagement (with universities, other communities, agencies, freelancers) & open collaboration (events, forums or social media) as well as holistic thinking and self-organization are in the core.
Figure 1: ASCI Model
When ecosystem can be self-organized?
I made some literature studies around the subject to understand what should be the elements of self-organized system and I've come across the concept of SOHO (self-organizing holarchic open system), where system receives energy from the environment to start develop processes that helps in effective possessing energy from the environment (positive feedback loop) and by that it increases its capability to receive such energy (Kay et al.1999).
Based on those principles I looked further to connect this theory with all ecosystem aspects and open up context of such relations. It's been found that based on science, knowledge, systems, theory together with culture, values, vision and strategy there is a possibility to create scenarios defining processes and approaches that helps in designing context for ecosystem and same time lead to self-organizing this system.
Figure 2: SOHO model
Creating scenarios for ecosystem usually starts from setting vision and targets, creating plans for implementation and development as well as from feedback capturing and its analysis. Process alignment is about creating prerequisites for collaboration and active promotion of it, combining and applying capabilities to streamline activities and actors utilizing in the best possible way their expertise. It helps in steering partnerships in ecosystem, increase visibility of activities and its approaches, as well as focus on collaboration around specific topics to solve business challenges. Approach definition is achieved by creating systemic strategy to increase ecosystem initiatives, strength ecosystem basis and focus those on business activities. Additionally, it's about building a critical mass that is a driving force for ecosystem and motivates to self-development that might result in setting up living labs for knowledge creation, prototyping and rapid implementations. Designing context should focus on different actors and its cooperation around the ecosystem, define structures (networks, groups) withing ecosystem, premises selection (physical, digital), connecting different organization's areas, co-creation of knowledge between the ecosystem actors as well as framing ecosystem policies (finance, support, operations, marketing, measurement).
As a results such self organizing ecosystem is a set of recognized globally members' competences, it's creating sustainable business opportunities, boosting knowledge and technology creation in various activities, attracting new talents, funneling innovation and its versatile enough to secure successful ideas implementation in very challenging environments.
How to get there?
In my opinion in building self-organizing CX ecosystem we should concentrate on 5 pillars:
Connection: connecting CX ecosystem members and encourage them to active collaboration around CX subjects.
Knowledge: constantly injecting the ecosystem with domain knowledge and create the atmosphere of understanding about different CX aspects.
Learning: developing CX competences and making learning open and accessible through the ecosystem to all members.
Anticipate the futures: teach how to maintain proactively CX ecosystem relations helping in overcoming challenges and managing changes.
Generate the futures: prepare futures scenarios for the CX ecosystem and learn how to take advantage of different possibilities and opportunities that might emerge.
I am continuing working on the subject after vacation. At the moment together with my work colleague we are focusing on knowledge and learning aspects. The next step to sort out will be the connection and futures elements. Again, I am looking forward to cooperate with others on the subject and hear from you more on your experiences from it? Share it with me, challenge me or even constructively criticize. I am seeking to find your opinion!