Creating communities for successful customer relationship transformation

Hanta Andrianaivo

Context and Challenges

With digital transformation, Marketing’s work changes significantly and requires different skills related to core activities, tools and behaviors. These are important to create close collaboration with Sales staff who will need to accept Marketing’s new role and their legitimacy in bringing in business.
In this context, it’s important to foster people and their skills because turnover in these roles can sometimes be high, especially when it comes to campaigns. While your first wins will engage the community, the people who made them possible often change positions.

“Change is always on! In this context, the real topic isn’t tools like user guides, e-learning, etc. It’s constant engagement.” Michaël Bentolila, InsideBoard

Rather than changing a role, it’s about changing a mindset to go from operational performance to customer performance.

Identifying needs and defining project outcomes
A transformation project’s end goal constantly changes as management teams and project phases change, and even sometimes as a new year begins. In reality, it’s customer expectations and priorities that change as their companies go through a crisis or experience a period of strong growth. For example, a company that has to close one of their locations due to the pandemic might identify customer acquisition as their priority, while a growing company’s priority might become their NPS.
“Before we talk about engagement, it can be useful to think about the expected results. This approach makes it possible to adapt to a project’s context and its various phases. Our approach to change should never set in stone.” Michaël Bentolila, InsideBoard

Change must always be connected to the company’s challenges.

Engaging first-line management
According to Gartner, 70% of companies are working on agile programs, but their structure prevents them from effectively addressing cross-functional issues.
“A customer relationship transformation project is often designed to be a speedboat whereas our organizations are container ships.”

One key for success is to engage upper management AND middle management.

Management also has to translate their understanding of the needs into operational levers for a rapid transformation to avoid creating detrimental offsets with customer schedules.

Standardizing and sharing managerial practices are also essential ways to get people on board. Rather than requiring uniformity, they enable you to account for the diversity in middle management goals and the number of projects.

Creating meaning
It’s essential to create meaning by mobilizing teams to tackle challenges, refocusing on what’s logical, and clarifying roles and responsibilities in order to overcome resistance to change.
For some teams, creating and maintaining customer relationships is stressful. Creating a support program will ease negative emotions and improve employees’ relational and interpersonal skills. Education, communication and transparency about the approach are also important factors for success. You can reinforce this in many ways, such as highlighting the service provided in a tangible way.

In general, “rain needs to reach the ground!” It’s critical to communicate and cascade information everywhere and not just to certain levels. This is where digitization is a real asset – within reason, of course. You don’t want to drown employees with information! Employees often appreciate periodic informal meetings where executive committee members present top-down information about strategy and then interact with participants.

It’s important for bottom-up discussions or satisfaction surveys to go beyond talk and lead to action, especially since feedback from people on the ground is packed with valuable information.

InsideBoard has developed an approach focused on three key elements: communities, KPIs and artificial intelligence. In fact, the community makes it possible to address most of the challenges customer relationship transformation brings, including cross-functionality, proximity, feelings of belonging, and engagement.
The pandemic has reminded us that human beings are social creatures who can’t be alone all the time. We need to belong to a community. That’s why InsideBoard created an approach that sets us apart: our platform creates a community with all the “success” teams by linking them to a specific mission and assigning adoption or performance indicators to them.

You can create all kinds of communities to connect vendors, customer satisfaction teams, cross-functional groups with several departments or entities, managers in similar roles and more. In addition to traditional community management tools, InsideBoard is true to our agile roots and take things even further by establishing success communities where a viral buzz is created by shared goals and KPIs.

“Communities are a natural way for companies to find the agility they seek but don’t always find due to their hierarchical structure.” Michaël Bentolila, InsideBoard

Creating success communities
Some projects only need a short period of motivation or acculturation. That’s why projects should be added to communities, rather than creating communities for each project. Otherwise, you risk losing site of priorities or even recreating your hierarchy.
At some companies, the communities that work best are cross-functional and have several projects, for example, Data Science or Sustainability. In these communities, the wide variety of viewpoints from different business units, countries, etc. is valuable in itself and benefits everyone.

In addition, it’s essential to define what success looks like and to translate that into tangible, measurable objectives and KPIs.

And since change starts with people, you have to create a link between these KPIs and the people within the organizational structure who participate in these communities.

“The community needs to know where it’s headed. In addition, InsideBoard’s notion of success and specific metrics enable us to do more than other internal or external tools on the market like Teams or Slack.” Michaël Bentolila, InsideBoard

Measuring success
Smart Tag technology connects personalized content to a key success indicator. If a community or person hasn’t met the expected KPI level—four opportunities per month for a salesperson—an AI engine sends a notification with best practices for increasing opportunities or with a schedule to follow, for example.
This feature also helps address information overload by delivering the right information to the right person at the right time.

“When content is created, it’s a good idea to connect it to a KPI. Otherwise, it’ll get lost in the wild. This connection also helps the community know where it’s headed.” Michaël Bentolila, InsideBoard

Defining what success looks like comes down to creating meaning, which is why it needs to be translated into clear, understandable KPIs. These KPIs need to include metrics on methods as well as results: to reach the expected sales goal, you need 10 opportunities per month, for example.
Defining success also helps focus the team’s attention on what’s expected of them.

Top management has an important role to play to set the kind of KPIs we like, i.e., meaningful and structured so they’re engaging.

It’s also useful to consider customer perception and measure subjective things like emotions using quotes or published messages, for example, in order to refine transformation management.