October 24, 2019

The vital need for accountability to deliver Customer Insight

By Ian Golding

As we continue our focus on execution and delivering insight, let’s turn our attention to the need for accountability.

I was reminded of the vital need for this in teams when reading a post for CX leaders from Ian Golding. Ian is an international CX specialist, speaker & blogger. He previously shared his research on the state of Customer Centricity.

So, I’m delighted to welcome Ian back to share on the need for Customer Insight leaders to ensure accountability. He is sharing his post focussed on Customer Experience (CX) leaders – but the principle is just as true for Customer Insight, Analytics & Data Science leaders. So, I hope you find it relevant.

Over to Ian to share why accountability is essential to getting insight delivered & acted upon.

Whose job is it anyway – the importance of accountability

I absolutely love it when people share things with me that I have never come across before. It is why I am so adamant about calling myself a ‘specialist’ – not an expert – as I spend my life continually learning. Every day; every week; every month; every year. I enjoy continually evolving my specialism – through practical application and through acquiring knowledge.

Yesterday someone shared a story with me that I found highly amusing. Having conducted an online search, I am unable to confirm where this story came from, or who was its creator. The story this lovely chap shared was not only amusing – it highlighted a very significant issue that is afflicting most organisations around the world. Before I explain why, let me share the story with you – I hope you find it amusing and enjoyable too:

“This is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was asked to do it. Everybody was sure Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.”

The problems teams experience on a regular basis

The story could be summarised in any number of ways. It certainly brings to life scenarios and phenomena that many people experience on a regular basis:

All of these scenarios will not only have a significantly negative effect on an organisations ability to operate effectively, but they will also have a severely detrimental effect on Customer Experience.

This is why anyone who aspires to be an effective Customer Experience Professional must have a demonstrable working knowledge of how to influence organisations to adopt an approach to Customer Experience and to take accountability for the actions required to create, evolve, sustain and embed it.

Defining accountability and responsibility

The definition of accountability that makes the most sense in a business context is the one derived by the ‘RACI Model’ (a responsibility assignment matrix tool):

“A person who is accountable is the one ultimately answerable for the correct and thorough completion of the deliverable or task, and the one who delegates the work to those responsible. In other words, an ‘accountable’ must sign off (approve) work that ‘responsible provides’.”

The definition of people who are responsible is as follows:

“Those who do the work to achieve the task.”

These definitions as not complicated. Yet in practice, the outcome painted by the story shared at the beginning of this post, seems to be far more common than not. Over many years – perhaps since the beginning of time – organisational behaviour appears to have descended into chaos – with finger-pointing and the apportioning of blame being far more prevalent than a clear understanding and execution of accountability and responsibility.

Why accountability needs to improve in businesses

If a business has an aspiration to be sustainably customer-centric, it can only be achieved with good governance – a plain and simple understanding of who does what – and when. When I talk about governance, I do not mean bureaucracy.

I mean absolute clarity of the role everyone plays in delivering the Customer Experience. Businesses will only have the ability to deliver the experience they want their customers to have with good cross-functional governance. It is impossible to achieve the desired Customer Experience until or unless an organisation can break down the walls and silos that exist within functions.

Until everyone across the organisation recognises that the responsibility for delivering the Customer Experience is a collective one.

So the next time you are in a situation where Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody come up in the conversation, share this little story with them. If it can have the effect of making people stop and think about their behaviour – it will be well worth it. Customer Experience is Everybody’s job – we need to make sure they know that!