A Crawl, Walk, Run Approach to Customer Experience

May 19, 2020

Joe Colletti, SVP


I wrote an article back in 2001 about how to use the crawl, walk and run analogy for CRM which at the time was the new technology focus.  As I went back and revisited that article, I found most of the points still pertain today to the new Customer Experience technologies that are in the market today.

We've heard a lot about Customer Experience failures, which is typical of an industry in its early stages, when there is usually experimentation and a lack of structure or systematic practice. This also holds true for the Customer Experience industry, where there seems to be a misconception of the enormity of Customer Experience integration, an impatience with the slow pace of progress and a lack of process. This environment has created situations where companies try to accomplish everything upfront, which usually becomes overwhelming and results in failure.

One of the many metaphors for Customer Experience integration is building a car. A system and process are in place, and they require the involvement of many people working toward the same goal. Customer Experience   integration needs this kind of systematic process. It needs a process of identifying key business challenges, addressing them and slowly and systematically moving toward clearly defined goals.

My approach to Customer Experience integration takes place in three main stages, each broken out into multiple phases. Each phase builds upon the previous one until the completion of the stage, which then lends itself to the next stage. Everything accomplished and learned is leveraged along the way. This kind of clearly defined, step-by-step process makes Customer Experience integration more manageable and less overwhelming. When companies move too quickly, they sometimes pass over essential steps, which could be disastrous down the line. The key thing to remember is that before you run, you have to learn how to walk; and before you can walk, you have to learn how to crawl.

This article will outline the crawl stage.

Stage 1: Crawl. The crawl stage should be looked at as a testing or pilot stage. One of the goals is to prove the concept. Get everyone within the company to believe in the project and do this in a cost-effective manner. Not having everyone on board for a Customer Experience project -- from the CEO to the telephone operators -- will lead to complications and, most likely, failure. All aspects of the organization must be committed to a project that requires teamwork and commitment to a shared vision and set goals.

The first step is to understand where you are and plot that against where you want to go. This will create a gap analysis that shows what needs to be accomplished to meet business goals. In this phase of the crawl stage, clearly defined business needs and goals will be documented. This documentation will become a stake in the ground around which initiatives will be based, yet it will be fluid to allow for changes along the way. Companies that avoid this phase tend to buy a canned product or seek a technological panacea that is not tailored to meet their specific needs.

A simplistic customer intelligence hub will be built during the crawl stage. This can be as basic as identifying customers across product lines. At this point, anything that provides a central location to identify customers will do.

During the crawl stage, minimize cost expenditures and maximize the implication of return as work progresses toward meeting goals. As previously stated, this is a testing or pilot stage. If you have to get from point A to point B, you don't necessarily need to launch a major initiative. Work in small, manageable pieces. Make a test run. The crawl stage is about finding what is going to work, then scaling it. This will allow you to test economically the hypothesis that Customer Experience will help your organization and could help prove its merit to skeptics.

Don't let scope creep occur during the crawl stage. Elements that are out of scope should not be addressed. They should be identified and prioritized along the way. Find where they fit within the timeline, but do not address them yet. One key to this stage is the balancing act of meeting two goals: immediate need while understanding the long-term goal.

Let's return to the metaphor of building a car. If we know that our eventual goal is to use the car to tow a boat, we should understand the ramifications of that upfront. We want to make sure that the blueprint of our car takes into account this long-term need.


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