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Turn Action Planning Into Business Results

I am a planner.  As a mom of four small children I have to be, in order for us to be (nearly) on time for all of our various commitments.  Last Saturday morning for example, I had everything all planned out.  I was going to take my second oldest to soccer while my husband took the other three to my eldest’s baseball game.  After soccer (which is shorter than baseball), I was going to run to the grocery store.  We’d all meet back up for lunch, get the two littlest down for nap, and then I’d take my oldest two off to cub scouts while my husband got stuff done around the quiet house.

It was a good plan.  But, as is the case with most plans, it didn’t work out because it was never implemented.  It rained.  A child fell sick.  And so, the plans fell by the wayside in the day-to-day chaos of our lives.

One of the Greatest Problems with Action Planning

The same can be true within your organization.  You can have everything in place for action planning.  Your cross-functional team has met, reviewed the data from your CX program, and identified the areas of opportunity.  The team has developed a full-fledged plan to address an area of opportunity.

But then everyone goes back to their day job.  Action plans are placed on the shelf, considered lower priority than getting the day-to-day work done.  Change never happens.

A lack of follow-through is one the most frequent problems with any type of planning.  An organization must have a structure in place to ensure that implementing the plan and following through with it is a priority.

Make Change a Priority

As part of an ongoing customer-centric strategy, your organization must be dedicated to improving the customer experience.  It cannot be “as time allows.”  It cannot be on an ad-hoc basis. Creating and implementing action plans must become routine.

This is not easy to do, although it is attainable with the right support and dedication. It requires Senior Level Support, Employee Accountability, and an Investment of Time and Resources.

Senior Level Leadership

Ongoing change efforts require more than just an acknowledgement by executives.  Senior level executives must take a key leadership role in driving a customer-centric culture and advocating for change throughout the organization.

Implementing change will require time and money – even for the smallest changes.  A senior level executive will need to prioritize providing those resources for implementing changes over other potential uses.  In cases of conflict, the senior level executive is responsible for choosing the solution that will be best for the customer.

Without senior level leadership, implementing change for the benefit of the customer may not get the prioritization needed.

Employee Accountability

Once you have senior leadership focusing on improving the customer experience, you need to also hold people accountable.  Owners should be assigned to all action plans, big and small.  This person will have ultimate accountability for the final product.

So how do you keep this person accountable and motivated?  The same ways you would for any other goal or key task:

  • Create a sense of ownership by involving them in creating the solution they are responsible for implementing
  • Create buy-in by sharing with them the insights on customer experience and the problem so they can better understand it and empathize with the customer
  • Hold them accountable through regular check-ins with leadership to follow-up on the action plans
  • Ensure action plans are part of performance plans and reviews
  • Recognize hard work through both peer to peer and management recognition

Time and Resources

Finally, for change to occur, the organization must provide the necessary time and resources for implementation.  At a minimum, the organization should provide slack time within employees’ workloads, so they can work on designing and implementing changes.  Change may require small or large budgets as well, but these budgets, as well as the business case for that investment, should be clearly documented as part of the action plan.  Action plans that don’t have a clear business case may not be funded – organizations do not fund change just for the sake of change.

Change Leads to ROI

Having these three components in place sets the stage for successful change through action planning.  Case in point: Reliant.  Reliant turned their customer feedback into actionable improvements and ultimately increased their NPS by 152%.  They laid a strong foundation of senior level support combined with employee recognition and accountability, and then provided the necessary time and resources to implement their action plans.  This paid off with highly satisfied customers and reduced churn.  You can read more about their program success here.

Conclusion

It is hard to implement change. Creating a plan and just letting it sit is very easy.  Organizations that are truly interested in improving the experience for their customers ensure they have senior leadership advocating for change, hold employees accountable for implementing action plans, and ensure employees have the time and resources to implement the plans.  With these elements in place, organizations will be able to successful follow through on action plans, leading to big payoff and a greatly improved customer experience. As a parent, I’ve learned that things may not always go according to plan. But the lesson still remains, whether it be getting kids to a game or re-aligning your organization’s CX program, it is important to set yourself up for success, so the day-to-day chaos doesn’t overwhelm your plans.