Influence is everything: 3 tips for managing up and out from our CX leader roundtable

A candid conversation with senior CX leaders reveals their struggles, triumphs, and secrets to successfully influencing executives and cross-functional peers.

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Christine Rimer

November 18, 2020

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The ability to influence is one of the most important skills a CX leader can have. CX teams are often extremely lean—1 in 3 CX leaders say they run a 1-person operation—which means to run a a holistic CX program, the CX leader must spend a big chunk of their time partnering across functions like customer success, product, marketing, support, and sales. Each of these functions is responsible for a piece of the experience along the customer journey, therefore CX leaders must influence their cross-functional partners to listen to the customer and prioritize initiatives that improve their experience. 

Influence is not just helpful for getting teams to take action on customer feedback; it’s also critical to securing resources, proving value, and getting buy-in from executives—a top challenge reported by 47% of CX pros

That’s why SurveyMonkey’s CX leader community and I are excited to share insights from our November roundtable and benchmarking survey, where we did a deep dive into how we manage up and across our organizations. The roundtable included an in-depth discussion with dozens of senior CX leaders across industries and companies large and small, as well as a readout of stats from a benchmarking survey the community completed in advance of our session. Read on for 3 takeaways from our discussion and survey, from the best way to orient your CX program to the most effective methods for influencing peers and leaders.

1. Orient your CX program to align with internal stakeholders

Influencing your cross-functional peers to take action on customer feedback may be the ultimate goal, but first you need to empower teams with the right information. So what’s the best way to orient your customer insights?

When it comes to collecting, analyzing and taking action on customer feedback, 50% of CX leaders say they orient around business unit or product—meaning they are analyzing, socializing and taking action based on all the customer feedback together for a product or BU. For 38%, they’re orienting around either touchpoint, customer segment, or results followed by team (for instance handing off detractor feedback to customer success to follow up). Less than a third orient by function, company objective, or survey program.  

Some CX leaders reported that due to lack of time and resources, they’re still looking at survey data in isolation, but they plan to join datasets together to get a more holistic view of the experience for each product or customer segment. 

Key takeaway: When it comes to influencing, our CX leader community agreed that it’s most important to align the way you share customer survey results with the way your internal stakeholder’s orient to take action. This often requires the CX leader to slice the same data in multiple ways to cater to different functions, products, and so on. 

2. Settle on a regular cadence and format for sharing updates with peers and leadership

To influence successfully, CX leaders need to keep leadership and internal stakeholders in the loop. But how often should you be sharing out insights? And what’s the best method? Our benchmarking survey revealed that most CX leaders are updating their leaders and peers at a regular cadence by email and meetings:

  • 40% send monthly emails summarizing insights and action plans while 30% send email updates quarterly

  • 27% meet with key stakeholders monthly to share updates while 25% meet weekly and 19% share quarterly in meetings

One CX leader shared that by highlighting customer feedback in weekly operational syncs and asking first line managers to provide concise and actionable insights, he was able to promote accountability and ownership to address the issues raised while reinforcing the mindset that the voice of the customer should be integrated into every leader’s decision making process.

For executive updates, it’s most common to share a brief summary in 4-9 slides (55%), rather than a shorter summary in 1-3 slides (22%) or a more in-depth summary in 10-14 slides (20%). When presenting to leadership, it’s important to find a balance between concise and informative. A good practice is to include your plan on a page, a quick breakdown of program insights, and a slide on what you’re doing about it.

When it comes to the updates that they feel are “a waste of time,” CX leaders noted that both updates that are too broad and lack actionable insights and updates that are too detailed, too frequent or too focused on methodology (“the how”) will fail to inspire your leaders and partners to take action.

Key takeaway: Keeping your key stakeholders and executives informed via regular emails or meetings is important to keep customer’s experience top of mind. And to be a master influencer, you have to know your audience: cater your updates to their priorities, their preferred method and frequency for getting information, and what they care about most.

2020 CX Research: Learn how to leverage agile, collaborative CX to boost your company's recovery post-COVID-19
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3. Lean into storytelling and impact

Regardless of how often they’re updating leaders and peers, some CX leaders report a challenge around impact. If people don’t understand the context behind the data and what the significance is, they won’t engage with it. That’s why the most effective leaders tell a story to bring the message home and encourage people to take action on it. 

In fact, CX leaders rank “providing a summary of top insights and action plan combined with storytelling” as the #1 method for influencing leaders and peers (90%). The 2nd most influential method is “demonstrating ROI / business impact of CX initiatives” (79%).

And while automated dashboards and reports are critical for assuring data is accessible for self-service, these reports are considered the least effective at influencing.

Key takeaways: Regardless of the frequency or format, make sure you add context to the data by sharing stories that bring the numbers to life. Combining quantitative data, for instance demonstrating impact to revenue, and qualitative information, like stories and examples, helps you win both minds and hearts. 

Conclusion

In summary, managing up and across will always bring some challenges, as it requires influencing people with different perspectives, priorities, and preferences. Keep in mind the way your internal stakeholders orient to action, and orient your CX program similarly. Make sure to share regular updates with your cross-functional peers and leaders and stick to a cadence and format that your partners prefer (you can always send a survey to find out their preferences). And lastly, humanize the data by sharing stories and real-life examples—by inspiring an emotional response, you can convince your peers why it’s critical that they take action on the customer experience.

Curious about the SurveyMonkey CX Leader Roundtable program?

I couldn’t be more grateful for the SurveyMonkey CX Leader Community for taking the time to invest in their peers. By providing such great benchmark data and joining regular roundtables to discuss the results, these leaders are helping us all get better together—showing up for our customers. If you or someone you know would be interested in joining the SurveyMonkey CX Leader Roundtable program, please take our sign up survey.

More Resources
2020 CX research: Why CX teams will play a critical role in COVID-19 recovery
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A candid conversation with senior CX leaders reveals the top challenges and best practices for navigating customer journey maps.

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