Article - CX

Understanding your CX North Star

According to research from IBM’s Institute for Business Value – which recently surveyed over 1000 executives with responsibility for brand and customer experience to get a feel for how well companies are aligned when it comes to brand vision – a majority confess that most employees only generally understand what their organization’s brand vision is. Only 33% feel their employees recognize that brand vision is core to the company’s DNA.

Which feels significant. If your organization is not pulling in the same direction when it comes to making your brand vision real, it is most likely not delivering on that goal. More pertinently for those in the CX space, it also highlights the importance of customer experience to that effort. Because if your brand vision is a promise to the customer, CX is critical in helping to keep that promise.

A guiding principle

Truly CX-oriented companies have a clear definition of their customers and the intended customer experience they want to deliver: their customer experience North Star. So how do you align your entire organization around your brand promise – and the CX strategies needed to deliver on that?

Jennifer Oleksiw is Chief Consumer Experience Officer at pharmaceuticals giant Eli Lilly, a brand whose purpose is “to create medicines that make life better for people around the world”. When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the world, Lilly teams jumped in to attack it with everything they could – because they intuitively understood that this was their purpose. And for Oleksiw, having that guiding principle in place was key to rallying the entire organization – many of whom were experiencing tough times themselves – around that effort.

“I think the most important thing was that our overall North star never changed,” she told an audience of customer experience leaders at the recent CX Innovation Summit, hosted by GDS Group. “Of course, we were always focused on improving patient outcomes. But we look at that in a very holistic manner, because it’s not just about the patient: it’s making life better for all people across the world. That could mean the care-giver, the family, the whole unit that’s taking care of that particular patient – in addition to our healthcare providers and our payers.”

A focus on trust

Having that North Star in place provided a common purpose for people to gather around, to focus their energies on what was most important. It also provided a tentpole around which to build the operational strategies needed for success. “We had to have a very strong operating principle, which is putting the customer at the center of everything we do,” she explained. “We needed to be grounded in the customer. And the most important piece of that equation was always going to be how we earn their trust.”

Key to that effort was aligning around data. “Whilst the North Star remained constant, what did change for us was the pillars that we needed to employ in order to deliver on it,” Oleksiw affirmed. “The first one was really embracing data and analytics. It was important that we were able to identify, access and use data in order to really change how we were building end-to-end, connected experiences. And building those seamless experiences was our second pillar. And, of course, the third pillar was to look at whether we had the right measurement systems in place. To what

extent were we able to analyze these different interactions, these new connected experiences and actually make a difference to those end users? Were they having better adherence to the drug, were they having a better quality of life? You have to be able to measure that.”

No ‘I’ in ‘Team’

Of course, as Oleksiw was keen to point out, none of those pillars happen if you don’t have the right team behind you. “Focusing on our people, taking care of them from a wellness perspective during these rough times, was critical,” she said.

And that people-centric approach extends to ways of working, too, with cross-functional collaboration a key part of the approach. “We use this terminology called ‘Team Lilly’,” she explained. “If you really are going to build trust with customers, and you’re going to use data in order to build these end-to-end, seamless experiences, it has to be a collaborative effort. We work together with our technology organization, but it also requires us to have our privacy and legal counsel side-by-side with us on the journey. We also work with our ethics and compliance partners to understand not only how we’re representing our customers, but to make sure we have the right internal checks and balances to do the right thing every step of the way.”

And with so many stakeholders involved in delivering on the CX vision, having a common reference point remains critical. “It takes multiple organizations working together as one – with a common vision and common operating principles – to really pull off a good customer experience,” Oleksiw concluded. “And that is where the North Star comes in. I have the wonderful opportunity to lead the charge, but you are only as good as the amazing team that is underneath you, and they are doing so much fantastic work in order to make this work

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