The general and financial benefits of delivering a great customer experience have been written and talked about for many years now. However, some organizations still struggle to embrace a full commitment to it. Many organizations will venture down the path, but then either slow down “going through the motions” or stop completely after taking little to no action at all on voice-of-the-customer feedback. When business slows down for any of a multitude of reasons (e.g. a bad sales quarter, a new product release issue, etc.) and times become challenging, budgets often get cut and it seems that CX is the first head to hit the chopping block. CX is a long-term strategy and a long-term commitment and sometimes it seems the commitment just isn’t there.
A successful long-term marriage, for example, requires a strong commitment. The success of many marriages comes down having matching core-values and prioritizing a commitment to each other and the relationship above all else. This often requires a commitment to working through issues and putting personal needs and feelings aside. Commitment to making a marriage work is always the top priority. Success is defined not only as longevity and not ending in divorce, but also marriages that are fulfilling and satisfying to each partner.
Contrast that with the current nature of some businesses that are mainly focused on short-term gains and immediate gratification over potentially harming long-term, sustained success. Perhaps it’s due to a lack of loyalty within the business structure where current leaders just don’t believe they’ll have the time to see the long-term CX commitments through, and therefore they focus on the short-term goals that will more likely keep them employed. Perhaps it’s a bottom-line focus driven by the short-term demands of stockholders. Whatever the reason, it seems many organizations tend toward “talking the talk” instead of “walking the walk” especially when it comes to CX.
In the end, actions speak louder than words and those organizations with CEO’s and leadership teams truly committed to the customer experience will stand out. In thinking about this, this reminded me of a great article I read called 10 Commitments CEOs Must Make to Experience CX Success by James O’Gara of OnMessage.
In this article, he states “For customer experience to translate into improved financial performance and serve as a competitive advantage, it must be embraced enterprise-wide. It must be implemented in a cross-functional manner — and, it has to be a priority for you and your entire C-suite.” He then goes on to share his 10 commitments CEO’s must make if they want customer experience to materialize into positive business results.
1. Commitment to a Customer-Driven Culture and Strategy
First and foremost, you must make customer centricity a cornerstone of the company’s business strategy. You must be committed to driving customer knowledge deep into the fabric of the company’s culture. A superior customer experience can’t take shape without your commitment to securing and sharing rich, actionable insights about your customer. This commitment should take the form of increased funding in support of customer research and knowledge-sharing systems.
2. Commitment to Customer Experience Ownership
If you are committed to creating a customer-centric culture and institutionalizing customer experience as a cornerstone of the company’s business strategy, ownership must be clearly established and defined. You should appoint a sole leader of customer experience management who can be fully responsible for defining, managing and optimizing the customer experience. This individual must be equipped with the authority to manage across organizational and political boundaries and be empowered to influence or enact change.
3. Commitment to Direct C-Suite Reporting Relationship
With an executive-level owner in place, you must formalize a direct reporting relationship with the C-suite. Ideally, this individual would report to you. However, this is not a requirement. What is required is a direct reporting relationship to a C-level executive and direct access to the executive team. Why is this critical? Because it’s imperative that the customer experience leader ensure executive business decisions are aligned with customer requirements and vice versa.
4. Commitment to C-Suite Involvement and Funding
Each member of the C-suite must play an active role in shaping the customer experience strategy. Finance, operations, marketing, and other functional leaders must be held accountable for actively managing customer experience initiatives that pertain to their area of the business. Performance metrics and budget dollars that pertain to C-suite areas of responsibility should also be assigned. This is the only way you can enforce accountability and the customer experience leader can secure executive-level time and attention.
5. Commitment to Cross-Functional Leadership Accountability
Active C-suite involvement must go beyond the boardroom. You and your C-suite executives must hold lieutenants accountable for leading initiatives that are designed to improve the customer experience. Leaders must understand the strategic nature of customer experience initiatives within their area of the business. They must realize these initiatives and the associated business results will be visible at the highest level of the organization. Not momentarily, but over a sustained period.
6. Commitment to Organizational Change (People, Process, Technology)
You must ensure everyone in the organization embraces changes that are required to deliver superior customer experiences. You need to make it clear that there are no sacred cows, that political motivations are outlawed and that functional barriers are being torn down. You should constantly remind everyone that it’s all about the customer and about delivering a consistent experience. In addition, your customer experience leader must have complete autonomy and authority to inject change into customer-facing areas of the business.
7. Commitment to Crystal-Clear Performance Metrics
A critical part of customer experience management is securing agreement on the CX metrics that matter. What business performance improvements are we in search of? What specific dimensions of the customer experience do we need to improve? What metrics will we use to measure the results? Once customer experience metrics have been defined, your job is to get every member of the C-suite to lock arms and communicate that these are the KPIs we are focused on. This is the data set that you will be using to monitor and determine what is working … and what is not.
8. Commitment to Measurement and Reporting Systems
Securing commitment on performance metrics is only half the battle. You must get the C-suite and leadership team to implement data collection, measurement systems and reporting processes so you can capture and act on those insights. Your team should implement systems that will provide you with visibility and access to the metrics that matter at every level of your organization. The key to success is prioritizing and starting small. Don’t overcomplicate things. Start gathering metrics that require the least amount of lead time and disruption. This will enable you to start surfacing meaningful data early in the process.
9. Commitment to Realistic Timeline for Business Impact
The most critical factor in achieving success is ensuring executives are fully aligned with respect to timing. More specifically, when do you expect customer experience management to materialize into business results? Do you expect business results to come next quarter? Next year? Two to three years down the road? Setting “time-to-impact” expectations across the executive team is critical. When expectations are out of alignment, uncertainty and doubt creep in and commitment quickly becomes compromised.
10. Commitment to Sustained CX Cadence
The final commitment you need to make pertains to the cadence of communication and management of your overall customer experience initiative. You need to ensure the strategic importance and business value of customer experience remains omnipresent. This is important because the only way to change the corporate culture — and ultimately the customer experience — is to ensure customer-centricity is woven into the fabric of the company. You, your C-suite, business unit leaders, directors, and managers must follow a consistent cadence by which changes, progress and results are captured and shared.
He then finishes with this last thought…
All 10 are non-negotiable – if you want CX to be a difference maker.
If you want customer experience to deliver material results, these are non-negotiable. You and your entire C-suite must be willing to stand behind these commitments if you want to compete and win in the experience economy.
In this article, we saw many words around commitment here such as “ownership” and “accountability”. These are things you can’t simply be “interested in” to be successful. You have to be truly “committed” to it and it all must start at the top.
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