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11 Min Read

Do You Want a Great Experience Management Program? Avoid These 6 Anti-Patterns

September 1, 2022 / Weston Morris

Experience management is the shiny new trend gaining traction across organizations worldwide. Why? Because it can be an effective way to not only boost customer satisfaction, but also attract and retain top talent. How can you make sure your organization reaps the rewards and avoids costly missteps in implementing an experience management program? That’s what Weston Morris, Unisys director of global strategy for Digital Workplace Solutions, and Neil Keating, co-founder and Chief Experience Officer of Bright Horse, discussed during episode 25 of the Digital Workplace Deep Dive podcast. Together, they outlined the following six anti-patterns, or ineffective solutions, that reduce the success of your experience management program and tips on how to avoid them. Do you recognize any of these anti-patterns in your organization?

Anti-Pattern 1: Knee-Jerk Reaction

Knee-jerk reactions happen when companies chase a business trend without having a clear goal for doing so, which often results in poor results. Many believe that experience management programs are simple to deploy and can quickly solve any employee, customer or business experience issue.  They quickly roll out an XLA or sentiment survey without considering how they will use the results. Without connecting the XLA to business goals, experience programs will have no direction or purpose.

When implementing a new experience program, leaders must start by creating a plan based on these vital questions:

  • What is the business problem we want to solve?
  • What bad employee experiences are negatively affecting this business problem?
  • How can we measure that experience? (From whom are we going to sample data? Do we have the correct biases?)

After these questions have been answered and the resulting data has been collected, the team can look for trends, find issues and plan how to fix them using an experience-level agreement (XLA). When there is a clear direction, the experience management design is more likely to be successful.

Anti-Pattern 2: Squeaky Wheel Syndrome

Consider this. A senior-level member of an organization is having difficulty with a company program, but most other employees utilize a different part of the program and face an entirely separate set of issues. Which challenge would most companies prioritize? The reality is that a senior-level member of the organization is likely to be heard above others even when their issues are not as critical as those affecting a larger group of people. This is because the most vocal person or the one with the most power often gets the most attention. This phenomenon is the basis of the squeaky wheel syndrome.

To avoid this anti-pattern, everyone must walk into an experience management project with realistic expectations. Simply creating an XLA cannot immediately resolve every problem at once; therefore, organizations must prioritize the experience of the majority. Project leaders need to analyze patterns of experience problems from larger groups and address issues that only occur in smaller groups afterward.

Anti-Pattern 3: Reinventing the Square Wheel

Sometimes the best solutions are the simplest ones. When a team reinvents a standard solution to such a high degree that it’s no longer useful, it’s known as reinventing the square wheel. In experience management programs, this can happen when the project team bypasses out-of-the-box XLAs that could have been used to secure some quick wins and, instead, invests lots of time creating ultra-customized XLAs intended to address arcane experience problems at the company. It’s essential to ensure that any changes to a template align with the original project goal to prevent this reinvention. Just because a solution seems unique does not mean it is functional. A simple alteration to the original solution may generate the greatest progress.

Anti-Pattern 4: The Golden Hammer

Several philosophers, including Abraham Maslow and Abraham Kaplan, wrote various iterations of the following: “If the only tool you have is a hammer, [you are inclined to] treat everything as if it were a nail.” Likewise, some may mistakenly have unrealistic expectations that an experience management program will quickly solve multiple problems all at once. For example, XLAs have been used to improve customer experience through improved employee experience; to attract and retain talent; to improve productivity; or to improve experience parity in a hybrid work environment. Any of those are laudable goals that can be achieved— individually. But don’t make the mistake of assuming that experience management is going to fix all of those problems at the same time!

When people with limited or outdated knowledge drive experience management, the golden hammer can become an issue. The problem can also arise when too many team members are leading decision-making. To prevent either of these situations, everyone working on the project should thoroughly understand experience management and be working toward a clearly defined goal. Only a few qualified experts should make major decisions to ensure the key drivers are not lost in the design process. The core team can then gather feedback from senior-level leaders and guide other members in execution so everyone can remain involved without derailing the objectives.

Anti-Pattern 5: The Scope Creep

Experience management is still a relatively new process for many organizations, so there will be some learning curve associated with how to start or move forward, which can lead to scope creep. Scope creep emerges when the scope of an experience management project is not clear. A typical example of scope creep is when an XLA is initially defined to measure and improve employees’ experience with the IT service desk but, without changing any of the metrics, the XLA is also expected to improve the experience with employee PCs, smart conference rooms and hybrid work.

It is best to start small and broaden the scope over time. For example, the IT service desk may begin with a scope that they can immediately address. After proving success on a small scale, the experience management program can expand to other departments and solve issues outside their initial scope.

Anti-Pattern 6: Management by Committee

The idiom “too many cooks spoil the broth” captures the problem of management by committee. The premise is that when too many people try to control, influence, or work on something, the quality of the final product will suffer as a result. That’s essentially what can happen with management by committee. When too many people are involved in a project, and not all of them are fully invested or knowledgeable, the direction of an experience management program can be lost.

Similar to solving the squeaky wheel syndrome, organizations can prevent management by committee by assigning the responsibility of program design and implementation to a select few with the skills, bandwidth and desire to develop an XLA. This group is often referred to as the experience management office (XMO), in contrast to a traditional service management organization (SMO). Whereas an SMO’s members largely focus on service delivery process improvements, those in an XMO collaborate to identify the root cause of experience issues and potential solutions. The remaining project participants should be trained in experience management to offer feedback and support program implementation.

Putting theory into practice

An experience management program is a fantastic business tool to measure and improve employee and customer satisfaction – but is not a simple fix. Experience is fluid and ever-changing. Customers and employees will always want more, so there will always be ways to expand upon existing XLAs to improve their experiences. By avoiding these six anti-patterns, your enterprise can monitor experience and stay ahead of evolving needs and expectations.

*Neil Keating, co-founder and chief experience officer of Bright Horse, contributed to these insights. To learn more about this topic, listen to episode 25 of the Digital Workplace Deep Dive podcast series and subscribe to get the latest blog post and podcast updates delivered to your inbox.