10 (Common) Challenges of a CX Cross-Functional Team

The most prominent challenges of running a cross-functional CX team and how to overcome them.


Jeannie Walters

May 25, 2020

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Cross-functional leadership is so important for successful customer experience (CX) programs. 

Organizations strive to achieve a culture of customer-centric empathy and experience. This demands cross-functional leadership and teams who work together, breaking down the internal silos that so often challenge the successful outcomes of customer experience work.

Cross-functional by its very definition requires leaders from various departments, a diverse mix of executives, managers and front-line employees, and a collaboration focused on one thing: the customer.

With competing priorities and various accountabilities for each individual team member, gaining traction as one unit is not easy. There are common challenges for many cross-functional teams. If you can prepare and help avoid these in your organization, you’ll achieve more success for your customer experience program, and ultimately, your customers!

Challenge no. 1: Misunderstood purpose

Many cross-functional teams are thrown together as a “best practice” but given no clear definition of what they’re expected to do. 

Teams only work when each team member understands the overall goals and purpose of the team. A customer experience cross-functional team should have a clearly defined charter. This should articulate the goals, objectives, roles, responsibilities and more. 

Not having a clear, well-communicated purpose makes everything harder. The team members can’t agree on priorities, don’t understand their roles, and generally feel like they are pushing a very non-descript boulder up a very bumpy hill.

Challenge no. 2: No accountability structure

The ideal cross-functional customer experience relies on a continuous cycle of gathering insights from robust Voice of the Customer (VoC) programs and turning those insights into operational improvements and actions to impact the customer journey, then measuring feedback against those journeys to turn into insights, and on and on it goes. 

A cross-functional CX team needs to define how they will turn those insights into actions. Will there be liaisons with various department heads to show the reason for the requests? Will there be accountability within the cross-functional team itself, or will stakeholders and sponsors need to help with accountability? 

Answer those questions first to avoid the challenge of no accountability at all.

Challenge no. 3: No personal accountability

It’s easy to get very excited about the idea of a cross-functional customer experience team. The idea of changing things for the better can be intoxicating.

But when it’s time to create real changes for your customer’s journey, that can require some serious heavy lifting. It’s not all fun and games.

If serving on the cross-functional team is a strictly voluntary, no-risk position, it’s easy to let those responsibilities slide. The best cross-functional teams have real roles and real accountabilities.

As insights are turned into projects, assign a specific team member to manage that specific project. It’s the only way things get done!

Challenge no. 4: Misalignment around organizational goals

Your overall organization’s strategy, vision and goals are just as important to your customer experience programs as your specific customer experience goals. Teams that lose sight of this end up disappointing leaders with their focus.

Make sure you are connecting your desired outcomes with the most important Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for the organization itself.

These can also change, based on annual, quarterly or even monthly goals. Part of leading the cross-functional team should include connecting these important pieces together.

Challenge no. 5: Too few check-ins

Cross-functional teams require members from various departments and roles. This means their role on this cross-functional team is secondary to their “day job.” Each team member has daily duties and responsibilities not connected to the CX team. 

It’s a nice idea to ask each team member to work on their specific project and report back with progress as progress is made, but let’s be real. Their days are filled with their regular workload and this cross-functional team work can become a distant memory quickly.

Frequent check-ins help team members stay connected to the goals and feel more accountable to create momentum. There’s nothing worse than a “not much happened” status update month after month!

Weekly check-ins don’t require meetings. With tools like Slack or other collaboration platforms, team members can post updates and continue conversations between formal meetings or leadership check-ins.

Challenge no. 6: Lack of diversity

Creating a culture of inclusivity is so important for a cross-functional customer experience team. 

Build your team to reflect diversity of all types. It’s important to have team members who have leadership roles, as well as those front-line employees who serve customers directly. Including contact center managers and communication specialists is also a good way to leverage that “collective mind” to help achieve your goals.

Beyond just diversity in titles, diversity of all types better reflects your customer experience. If your team doesn’t include people themselves who are different, you’re missing an opportunity to better serve your customers. Look for people with different backgrounds, ages, and attitudes.

Challenge no. 7: Limiting visibility

The progress your cross-functional team is having is cause for celebration and sharing! Everyone in your organization should be familiar with the work this team is doing. 

Teams that hoard their information miss the opportunity to gain buy-in and support along the way. Providing visibility into the insights, actions and outcomes should be one of the goals of a cross-functional team. 

Visibility across the organization also provides an opportunity to recognize and reward those team members who are working hard to make things happen.

Challenge no. 9: Not including customers

It’s easy to live in a bubble. Cross-functional teams can get very good at thinking they don’t need to include customers directly. 

Including customers doesn’t necessarily mean inviting them to meetings. But it can be helpful to do so, in theory. “Invite” customers by reviewing their specific words from the open-ended feedback from surveys, or play a recording from a real call from a customer. 

Staying close to the true voice of the customer and their specific stories helps your team internalize what’s most important to customers and practice empathy while deciding on those next actions.

Challenge no. 10: Not evolving best practices

Customer experience changes constantly. Your customer expectations, the marketplace and even your competitor’s experience dictates the customer journey just as much as your dedication to it. 

Cross-functional teams that don’t look around at the marketplace, their customer’s ecosystem, and more will get stuck in “the way it’s always been done.” Teams should be flexible enough to adapt to shifts in goals and best practices.

Part of this evolution should also include using the tools available. There are many options for what customer experience tools are best for cross-functional teams. If a team isn’t relying on these tools, that’s a challenge unto itself.

Consider how many tools one organization might have for a cross-functional customer experience team. These could include: 

  1. Customer journey maps.

  2. Customer metrics and dashboards.

  3. Survey comments and verbatims.

  4. Contact Center Call Recordings and Chat Logs.

  5. Customer service requests.

  6. Etc. 

And the list can go on and on. Remember to refer to these tools when building the strategy or adapting next steps with your team.

The cross-functional customer experience team is hopefully here to stay. The diverse skill set and brain power of a team like this can help expedite the best kinds of improvements for your customers.

Don’t let these challenges discourage you. Instead, plan for them and watch your team succeed!

How to run a successful CX cross-functional program
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About the guest author 

Jeannie Walters, CCXP, CEO, Experience Investigators™ by 360Connext 

Jeannie Walters is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP) and is CEO of Experience Investigators. She is a customer experience speaker, writer, and consultant with more than 20 years of experience in assisting all types of companies, including Fortune 500. Specialties include in-depth customer experience evaluations, customer journey mapping, user experience analysis, and leading workshops and training programs. Her mission is: To Create Fewer Ruined Days for Customers.™ Connect with her: experienceinvestigators.com | @jeanniecw

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