CX Leadership: Do You Have What It Takes?

The traits, discipline, and knowledge that it takes to lead a successful customer experience program.

Articles

Jeannie Walters

May 18, 2020

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Leading customer experience programs requires certain traits, business knowledge, and discipline. 

Customer experience leaders are asked to lead in situations that aren’t necessarily articulated in the organizational chart or even the title. Customer experience could be considered a “nice to have” idea instead of a need-to-have business discipline. Leaders are asked to go against the status quo and create change throughout the culture of the organization. This is no small ask. 

There are unique opportunities in these positions to create cross-functional change and eliminate internal obstacles on behalf of customers and employees. There are also unique challenges. 

What does leadership look like for successful customer experience programs? It takes power and promise. There is power in each of these promises. The best leadership incorporates the why behind customer experience and clearly connects to the how for cross-functional teams.

Set yourself up for success

The power of vision

Customer experience leaders should define their customer experience vision. What is always what we want for our customers? What will we never tolerate on their behalf?

This vision should lead everyone in the organization, not just customer experience leaders. However, it’s up to leaders to create and communicate that vision.

Customer experience leadership means rewarding, recognizing and regrouping based on business outcomes directly related to customer experience.

The power of definitions

Plenty of customer experience leaders are asked to create a customer-centric culture or produce outstanding customer experiences. But those terms are vague and hard to measure.

Customer experience leadership must be defined. What does success look like? How will that be measured? 

Defining the success of a customer experience program can’t just be around a typical CX metric. It’s impossible for a leader to increase a brand’s Net Promoter Score (NPS), for example, without the authority to lead the changes required to get there.

Customer experience leaders shouldn’t be afraid of asking, “How can we truly make this happen and measure success?”

The power of (many) customer experience leaders

The role of customer experience leader isn’t necessarily the role of one leader. The best organizations not only empower their leaders to deliver on customer experience strategies but hold them accountable to do so.

Customer experience leadership means rewarding, recognizing and regrouping based on business outcomes directly related to customer experience.

To do this successfully, leaders throughout your organization would have accountability around actions leading to these outcomes.

For example, your Digital Marketing Team may have a goal of increased usage of your brand app. What will that increased usage do in terms of customer experience measurements? If customers have requested a better app, the goal might be to improve overall satisfaction and loyalty. 

What will that outcome do for your overall brand? More loyalty means higher retention rates, leading to more revenue.

Rewarding leaders with bonuses and/or recognition who delivered on those outcomes means recognizing we did something on behalf of our customers. Customer experience leadership demands that recognition and reward.

The power of ONE

It can be tempting to say customer experience is everyone’s job! But the minute we say that and don’t back it up with defined goals, objectives and outcomes, we make it NOBODY’s job. 

Assigning a leader to oversee and direct customer experience initiatives on behalf of the company leads to more success.

Part of this leadership is getting all those other leaders to act in accordance with the strategy, traits and processes in line with the customer experience vision.

The power of journeys

Good customer experience leadership shows each person in the organization the power of the customer. Great customer experience leadership shows each person in the organization the power of the customer’s journey.

The only way to truly turn empathy into action for customers is to understand their real-world experiences with your brand. Customer journeys should be front-and-center for any and all leaders. 

Leading with journeys can help align goals and promote understanding to lead to innovation across the organization.

With power, comes great responsibility

Customer experience leadership requires discipline around not just the ideas of customer experience, but the real business discipline required to execute on the everyday actions that lead to successful outcomes.

Customer experience measurement

Great leadership requires centralizing, understanding and acting on measurements. 

Setting up the right mix of CX metrics requires leadership. What are you trying to measure? What metrics will tell you the right information? 

Customers don’t want to be bombarded by survey after survey, especially if those touchpoints are not considered as part of the larger customer journey. CX leadership requires a centralized strategy for who, how, and when to send surveys to customers. 

Gathering customer feedback is not separate to the customer’s journey. Each time a customer is invited to provide feedback is an interaction with your brand, just like any other touchpoint. 

Leaders should create and uphold a strategy that is centralized throughout the organization.

The best leaders predict what customers will be looking for in the future, and design the experience around those predictions.

What metrics?

Not all CX metrics are the same, and that’s a good thing! Successful customer experience programs include a custom mix of metrics to measure loyalty, happiness and customer effort. Consider how to create a winning strategy with the metrics available to you. In many organizations, that is a mix of three popular metrics.

Net Promoter Score (NPS) is used to measure loyalty, based on the question “How likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague?” Some customers receive a survey every year, on the same date as every other customer.

I recommend leveraging NPS at key milestones in the customer’s journey. Certain key moments on the journey like an onboarding process are great times to gather this feedback. This customer journey-focused NPS provides more information and actionable takeaways.

Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) is used to measure how happy your customers are. CSAT is great to use as a touchpoint metric. Asking for feedback after specific touchpoints provides immediate information on how that touchpoint is delivering for customers. 

Customer Effort Score (CES) asks the customer to score the amount of effort involved with a specific interaction. Determining how much effort the customer perceives is linked to their frustration levels and overall feeling about how well the brand has met their expectations. Determining CES around customer service experiences like calling in for service or looking up information on the knowledge base can help pinpoint specific service areas to improve.

Customer experience leadership requires developing strategies around how to deliver these feedback touchpoints in a meaningful way for the customer.

Guide to Boosting Customer Loyalty

Then, action

Measuring for measuring’s sake is not good for anyone! Leaders take what they learn from this feedback and turn it into actions. 

Depending on your organization, leaders might have a fully-invested, cross-functional CX Committee to help them create change or they might be somewhat on their own. Here are a few ideas to move from feedback to action: 

  • Communicate throughout the organization about not just what data we have, but why it’s important we have it. Explain how NPS reflects loyalty and what that means, specifically, to your organizational success.

  • Showcase the tools available and create visibility throughout the organization around customer feedback. 

  • Empower other leaders to practice best practices around your customer experience vision. Recognize those who step up and lead their teams to deliver on those outcomes.

  • Create immersive experiences to showcase what the customer journey is really like. Some leaders create “customer rooms” or virtual walk-throughs that show the customer experience as it is, not as we’d like it to be.

  • Ask for peer recognition. Who is going above and beyond for customers? Ask your employees to look for and formally recognize those who do.

Involve customers often

Customer experience leadership also means including customers beyond gathering their structured feedback.

Ultimately, we want customers to feel so invested in their relationship with our brand they feel ownership over it. This happens when we give them opportunities to be included.

Customer experience leadership means hosting customers where they are, asking for feedback in creative, open-ended ways, and closing the loop. Visibility is vital, but leadership means ensuring those responsible for closing the loop with customers are doing it. 

Customers want to feel heard and recognized. What better way to help them feel heard than to show them the leaders of an organization are paying attention? Creative leaders call customers, respond personally to service tickets, and proactively tell them when an issue is resolved.

Proactive and personal planning

Some brands start with wonderful customer experience intentions. They put the processes and systems in place to gather feedback, report results and prioritize improvements. 

But if experience planning is always reactive—based on what has already happened—it’s a missing opportunity to provide leadership through innovation. The best leaders predict what customers will be looking for in the future, and design the experience around those predictions.

There are always short-term needs and fixes, but the most customer-centric organizations aren’t afraid to experiment and try to meet the needs customers didn’t even know they had.

Customer experience leadership is really a mix of superpowers:  

  1. Creating and communicating a strong customer experience vision.

  2. Defining and designing the appropriate leadership roles.

  3. Empowering leaders throughout the organization to work towards customer experience outcomes.

  4. Aligning the entire organization around ONE customer experience strategy.

  5. Understanding the entire customer journey.

  6. Developing the right customer experience measurement program.

  7. Gathering customer feedback in a centralized and meaningful way for both the brand and the customer.

  8. Turning feedback into actions that improve the customer journey.

  9. Involving customers beyond surveys.

  10. Proactively designing experiences around innovation.

It’s a long list, but that’s because customer experience leadership is about leading by design. You can do it!

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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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