As an operations leader, you’re overseeing A TON of moving parts. In a way, you end up being the glue person between a ton of departments at your company.
You play a vital role in making sure that your brand provides a top-notch customer experience. But how do you ensure that the entire company is aligned? How do you ensure that changes in one spot don't break the customer's experience somewhere else?
The last time Omari and I spoke, he was explaining to Tim and me on The Exchange how customer experience is like a roller coaster. You are building a ride for your customers to enjoy.
Building that dedicated experience is not just done by operations, and it involves a great deal of cross-department communication and collaboration.
The old approach to operations planning
So how do you make sure all the teams in your organization are communicating with each other in a way that’s both efficient for you and an exceptional experience for the customer? This is the million-dollar question we asked Omari.
In the past, the company was running a standard Sales and Operations Planning (S&OP) meeting. “It was essentially the sales team coming in and saying ‘this is the demand’ and the operations team saying ‘we’ll be able to supply at this level.’ Most companies do this type of review on an annual or quarterly basis,” explains Whyte.
We started with a standard S&OP but this was just covering if we had enough supply to meet the demand. We needed something more!
But he recognized that this meeting wasn't enough to make sure that the brand was providing the best customer experience operationally. So, over a period of time, Whyte and the team at Nisolo iterated the way they approach meetings to maximize efficiency and impact.
👇 This standard S&OP has been supplemented by the following touchpoints. 👇
1. The Daily CX Stand-up
One of the most important relationships within the organization is between the fulfillment and CX team. While both of these departments are now under the operations branch, this wasn’t always the case.
“In the past, they were very separated. Fulfillment used to report in through merchandising and CX was part of marketing. This was good in terms of creating a really good customer experience. But when we had issues, there wasn’t that cross-functional and proactive communication,” says Whyte.
To address this issue, Nisolo now has a 15-minute meeting with the warehouse manager and CX lead every day. The purpose of this daily stand-up is to check-in and discuss any operational issues that might be impacting their customers. For example, during the holidays, these check-ins allow the teams to keep each other in the loop about any carrier delays to ensure they’re getting ahead of any problems and communicating the right information to their customers.
This stand-up allows both teams to be proactive to solve customer experience issues rather than just being reactive.
2. Weekly Tactical
Nisolo also runs an hour-long meeting every Thursday. This is the meat and potatoes of their cross-team communication efforts.
During this check-in, senior leaders from the sales, marketing, web development, merchandising, fulfillment, and CX teams meet with two goals in mind:
To review how the business is being managed. In other words, this is an opportunity to evaluate the overall health of the business and its customers.
To review the initiatives they’re trying to improve upon. This is a chance to check in on specific projects, such as the process of improving site speed.
The biggest piece of keeping this one-hour meeting efficient is that leaders are required to submit the numbers and talking points days in advance. This way the teams have time to view what's happening and come prepared to talk.
“We usually have one person leading the meeting,” explains Whyte. “Prior to the meeting, people are asked to share any information and discussion topics in Asana.”
The meeting agenda is structured into three parts:
1. Share updates. This can be about anything from upcoming sales promotions to new functionalities that were introduced on the website.
2. Review KPIs. The team then reviews KPIs and metrics to understand where the business is doing well and where it can use some work. “If we’re on track there’s nothing to talk about. But if we’re more than 10% behind or 10% ahead, we need to talk about it,” says Whyte.
3. Discussion points. This is the time for different teams to discuss what they are seeing, or to discuss another team's plan. Teams discuss how they see projects impacting the customer experience in other areas of the business.
According to Whyte, the order of this agenda is very intentional. Reviewing the KPIs first helps the teams prioritize what to discuss. For instance, the metrics may reveal an urgent problem that wasn’t identified ahead of the meeting but needs to be addressed.
Weekly tactical is designed to surface the issues that would go unnoticed by only one team. The meeting is designed to talk about the execution of projects and how each will impact the customer and the experience Nisolo strives to protect.
3. Monthly Strategic
Finally, Whyte and his teams also have a strategic monthly meeting to help everyone align at a higher level. While the same people from the weekly meeting attend, the purpose is slightly different.
“The weekly tactical meeting should be planning about one to two weeks out,” says Whyte. “But the monthly strategic meeting should be planning for four to six weeks out - possibly even quarterly.”
Whyte also reminds operations leaders that the size and structure of these meetings may look different depending on the type of company you work for. “At larger organizations, you may end up having fewer people and a higher level of leadership at the monthly meeting.” However, it's important to keep the leaders that are close to the customers at Weekly Tactical.
Bringing it all together with a real example
So have these meetings had an impact on Nisolo’s business outcomes? Absolutely.
There’s one example that stands out in Whyte’s mind. “We noticed that our AOV had been trending down. So we were like ‘what are the things we can do to increase this?’ That’s when we started talking about add-on items.”
The team noticed that one of Nisolo’s shoe care kits, which was valued at $120, wasn’t seeing a lot of movement. So they decided to see if it could be offered as an add-on item at a lower price point.
With an aligned plan, everyone split up to get the job done: the web development team focused on developing the functionality; the operations team worked with product development to figure out how to strip down the kit; the merchandising team made sure there was enough of the product in stock; the marketing team updated the website and marketing materials with the right messaging.
“The teams ran off, did the work, and we came together after two weeks of coordination. As a result, we’ve seen a 20% increase in AOV over the last 90 days...All of this came from us taking a look at the KPIs, seeing that the AOV was trending down, and someone suggesting that we tack on lower-priced items to customers’ carts.”
Weekly Tactical was the catalyst for this project. Not only did it drive results for the KPI Nisolo was targeting, but it was also incredibly well received by their customers. Running the meeting isn't enough, you need to make sure that the customer's experience is at the forefront of the discussion. Buiding an amazing customer experience is hard, and it requires dedication from all departments... yes, even operations :)
Use Nisolo’s insights for inspiration and find an approach that works for your business and team. Omari and I both encourage you to take this approach. If you want to hear more about Omari's approach to the customer experience through operations, give his full podcast episode a listen.