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Beautiful Customer Relationships Team Transformations

  • Annette Franz

I’m sure many readers remember Hans Christian Andersen’s classic fairy tale “The Ugly Duckling.” If not, here's a quick refresher: It’s the story of a baby swan that is mistakenly presumed to be a duckling. Because he is not as attractive as his companions, the little swan suffers abuse from the other animals in the barnyard — until the day when he matures into a swan and is deemed the most beautiful bird of all.

This may seem like an odd way to begin the “Customer Experience” department of APICS magazine, but there is a key lesson here: Too many customers view businesses today in a rather ugly light. These people are unsatisfied; fed up. But just imagine the surprise and delight they would feel if, tomorrow, these companies transformed just like the baby swan did. What if these organizations suddenly began treating their customers well, empowering their employees to do the same and delivering a truly exceptional experience? That would be a beautiful thing, indeed.

Of course, transforming the customer experience first demands transforming the organization. You must fix what’s inside before you can tackle what’s going on outside. This is more than a little challenging, and it never happens overnight. It’s a journey that requires building a case, educating stakeholders, ongoing persistence and more. It takes a special kind of team to make it happen.

Getting there

The McKinsey & Company report “How to beat the transformation odds” lists five key stages of transformation. Authors David Jacquemont, Dana Maor and Angelika Reich suggest that companies that take action on all five points have a 72 percent higher success rate than those that don’t. The actions include

1. setting goals

2. assessing organizational capabilities

3. designing the transformation initiatives

4. executing

5. sustaining the changes.

To support these five stages and achieve a successful transformation, the research suggests embracing the following principles:

• Senior managers communicate openly across the organization about the transformation’s progress and success, as well as its implications for employees.

• Senior managers receive change-leadership training during the transformation and role-model the behaviors they ask employees to adopt.

• Throughout the organization, key transformation roles are held by employees who actively supported the effort.

• Initiatives are led by line managers as part of their day-to-day responsibilities.

• Roles and responsibilities are clearly defined, and everyone can see how their work relates to the initiative.

• Sufficient personnel are allocated to support the transformation.

• Teams start each day with a formal discussion about the previous day’s results and current day’s work.

• Everyone adapts their day-to-day capacity to changes in customer demand.

• Everyone is actively engaged in identifying errors before they reach customers.

• Best practices are systematically identified, shared and improved upon.

• The organization develops its people so that they can surpass performance expectations.

• Managers effectively lead and develop their teams.

• Expectations for new behaviors are incorporated into performance reviews, and these evaluations hold leaders accountable for their contributions to the transformation.

• A diagnostic tool helps quantify goals for the transformation’s long-term sustainability.

This is a fairly comprehensive list, and it supports a great deal of the requirements of a successful customer experience transformation. How many of these actions is your company taking currently? Don’t let your customers continue to pick on you for being an ugly duckling — it’s time for the swan to emerge.

Annette Franz is founder and CEO of CX Journey. She may be contacted at


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