"How can I gain executive buy-in for our CX programme?" - This is one of the most common questions I receive from CX leaders.
Having leadership buy-in implies that all executives in your company genuinely appreciate the need for a customer-centric culture.
While many firms have successfully gotten a “buy-in” from leaders in the form of increased focus on customer experiences or have financed analytics programs to monitor performance and identify pain areas, actual senior commitment is still lacking.
This is a challenge for experience management initiatives since effective transformation efforts include top executives setting the agenda, leading communication efforts, modeling desired behaviors, and holding the rest of the business responsible.
Every decision a brand makes starts at the top leadership, aka C-suite. Those decisions will be passed to the lower hierarchy level to execute.
If the C-suite make decisions only around how the brands should be molded for more ROI instead of thinking about how the customers would feel if they initiate a specific action, the brand's customer experience will collapse sooner or later.
What Happens If C-suite Leaders Do Not Understand the Customer Pain Points?
The most significant difference between firms that outperform their rivals in terms of customer experience (CX Leaders) and those that underperform (CX Laggards) is how well they collaborate with top executives and the CX staff.
Compared to 64 percent of CX Leaders, just 28 percent of CX Laggards would rate their top executives' connection with their CX staff as "strong" or "very strong."
Unfortunately, some companies still believe customer experience is just a part of the marketing or customer service team. Companies need to understand that customer experience should be a team effort that needs contribution from every employee, irrespective of their department. Whether they do a job that faces customers or not, they can contribute to the customer experience in one way or another.
Dave Seaton, the Founder & Principal Consultant at Seaton CX, said in an interview with Clootrack - "I see companies struggle with the challenge of executive alignment. Because the customer experience cuts across company silos, even departments that aren't customer-facing can impact how customers feel about a brand. Many executives with competing priorities push customer experience improvements to the sidelines because they don't understand the connection between customer experience and core business KPIs."
Unfortunately, many customer experience (CX) experts have difficulty persuading their executive leadership to believe in and act on building a truly customer-centric firm.
Lack of alignment and CX development is frequently caused by competing company agendas and skewed perceptions of what customer centricity should look like. If their respective C-suite leader asks to take up customer experience activities without any vision and directions, they may put it on the sidelines because they won't know what to do and how to do it.
Are your C-suite Leaders Old Schools?
Annette Franz once said -
There is a set of companies where their C-suite people live in an old management system that only focuses on improving revenue and shareholder value and forgets about customers, why they are in this business, and how to satisfy customers.
In such companies, the board members may sit together to discuss the company goals and establish cross-department collaborations. But not for customer experience!
Because, in such a culture, they won't give any thought to how their brand will be seen from the customers' perception. For them, it's all about how their brand should do for itself.
All they might be doing for customer experience is placing an NPS or CSAT survey at the end of customer interaction. The leaders will focus only on improving the survey score without concerning about the reason behind a specific score and a significant trend in scores.
Greg Kihlstrom, Principal Consultant at GK5A said - "When organizations are only looking at lagging indicators like Net Promoter Score (NPS), they often don't see some of the leading indicators that might create a disjointed experience at the beginning, middle, or even end of the experience."
Importance of a Unified CX Vision
Many companies in the industries lack a uniform CX vision only because the leadership team doesn’t put an initiative into it.
The CEO needs to initiate a vision for customer experience in the board to tune all activities around the business to satisfy customers. Without happy customers, there is no future for a brand.
For example, Apple, one of the top brands globally, takes every step aligned with its value proposition. Having a clear vision is the reason for the customer success of this brand. Another brand is Ryanair, which always sticks to its clear vision of offering customers low-cost flight fares.
Why Does Customer Experience Need to Enter the Boardroom?
Usually, C-suite executives would speak about dollars, growth rate, and revenue. But the customer experience executives will talk about customer success and what leads to specific survey scores rather than how to increase the score.
The people who care more about dollars and ROI can’t alone build a better customer experience. They need a hand of executives who can find customer satisfaction levels and plan, lead and execute customer experience activities.
Some organizations’ customer experience strategies are stuck in the analysis or understanding stage. They might even have a CXO on the board. But even though CXOs present the customer data to other C-suite people, it is hard for others to digest and understand with complete seriousness.
CXOs can tell stories from customer reviews and show videos or pictures of a poor customer experience. This will help C-suite people understand the necessity of taking immediate action and assigning the tasks to other low-level employees.
CXOs have to take two roles. They must speak on behalf of customers, their issues, and satisfaction level perceived from multiple channels while they should lead and take control of the entire CX like any C-suite leader.
Some companies even assign a CMO as CXO. Having the additional marketing background is strength in managing customer experience for these leaders.
Mika Yamamoto, CMO & CXO at F5 Networks, said managing both is a different experience. Being a CMO, they have to view everything from the customer experience perception as a CXO, which is outside of the marketing jargon.
But there are some perks of dealing both by a single person. For example, in customer experience, the leader needs to understand what makes customers happy and satisfied. They can apply the findings to marketing activities to captivate target customers. Also, they can understand the pain point and frictions, present them on the board, get resolved, and market the resolved versions.
To make everything more personalized, they can resonate the marketing campaigns with what they found in customer chat, conversations, and reviews.
The Irreplaceable Role of CEO in Customer Experience
97% of CEOs believe customer satisfaction is the pathway to business success, while 63% of CEOs want to tune their organization around their customers.
A CEO can make massive changes in an organization's customer experience. They can be instructed to align the organizational operations to work around customer experience and support the customer experience team. That can shift the entire company to become customer-centric.
Additionally, it is found that CEOs of successful companies see customer experience as a differentiation strategy, and it contributes to their organization's growth, profitability, and brand value for an extended period.
39% of CEOs, irrespective of their company size, believe that focusing on customer experience can create a competitive advantage for their brand.
(Source: Walker: THE CEO VIEW OF CX)
If a CEO believes 'I own customer experience,' that will reflect in the entire organization. The CEO will see it as a program or strategy and share the ownership with other employees to execute it.
In an interview, Didem Cataloglu, the President & CEO at DIREXYON Technologies, said, as a leader, she believes that empowering employees to do the challenging work and supporting them to work towards the company goal is necessary.
And, being in the leadership position, she regularly connects with the executives of their customers. This is to understand how they are doing and delivering good quality of service to customers.
Brands need to collect feedback signals from multiple channels such as their voice, messages, and videos. When brands can manage those signals, use them in the right place, and understand them through analysis, they can reveal a lot about their customers and know what the customers will do next.
Going through the opinions of CEOs in different organizations, it is clear that they are the ones who can bring the change in the first place. A CEO who values the customer experience in their business and encourages a customer-centric culture is a great asset to the company.
How Different C-suite Members Can Contribute to Better CX
Omnichannel experience and effortless continuity in customer communications are must-haves now. To offer a seamless omnichannel customer experience, all departments and teams in an organization need to work together.
Customer experience is not only the task of a CXO, CMO, or CEO. It should be a team effort. Since we have gone through the involvement of CXO and the CEO in customer experience, let’s check how other C-suite leaders need to contribute to customer experience.
When the CEO provides the CX vision to work, the COO needs to execute it. COOs should ensure that CX initiatives are implemented on time and correctly, which positively impacts the customers’ experience with the brand.
If the board has come up with a CX strategy, the COOs should ensure that all actions are on track, share the metrics, and ensure inter-departmental collaboration to achieve the goals.
CTOs play a key role in customer experience. Because nowadays, customer experience relies on technology, and people often communicate with chatbots, AI assistants, voice-based assistants, etc., more than humans. It’s the responsibility of a CTO to place the right tools and technology to make the customer experience smoother. Customers should get quick responses and connect the brand through different channels effortlessly.
In addition, they need to pick the right CX tools and platforms for the organization to help the team figure out what is happening in their customer experience.
We may wonder what a financial officer has to do with customer experience. But, some decisions taken by CFOs can contribute to uplifting the way customers receive a brand.
CFO can decide how much budget a company should allocate for CX activities, and they can take part in determining whether they should work on CX in-house or outsource.
Also, suppose the company has installed complex billing systems and tools and frustrates customers, they can come forward to ask for more seamless billing systems to make the customer experience smoother.
The first and foremost step a Chief People Officer can take is to hire candidates who show a mindset and passion for providing a delightful customer experience. They can also conduct onboarding sessions and deliver training programs to motivate and encourage employees to provide a better customer experience.
Moreover, happy employees will convert into satisfied customers. So CPOs need to motivate and encourage employees by enabling work-life balance culture inside the organization. Also, they need to take the initiative in various professional development programs.
The employees should be satisfied, appreciated, and engaged in serving customers pleasantly. A CPO can do a lot more in this.
4 Ways C-suite Contribute to an Effective CX Culture
A company that succeeded in delivering exceptional customer experience will definitely have a strong background of a board of C-suite leaders who value customer experience as the topmost priority.
Let us check how C-suite people can contribute to building a compelling customer experience.
1. Focus on Employee Engagement
A survey conducted by Temkin Group with 1000+ employees found that 75% of highly motivated employees are from companies that provide excellent customer experience.
The first step should be to improve the employee experience. There is no point in solely focusing on lots of customer experience initiatives unless there are motivated and passionate employees to work for that.
C-suite should not aggressively assign the tasks to employees. First, they should let the employees know what they are doing, why they are doing it, and how they can contribute to that. Only motivating, guiding, and encouraging them can help achieve the ultimate goal.
For example, we see many reviews on various eCommerce websites that the customer service executive was not responsive, didn’t provide the correct information, didn’t pick up calls, etc. This is a grave error that happened in the customer experience management of that brand.
For customers, they do not see the executive as one of the irresponsible employees in the brand. For them, that person itself is the whole representative of the brand.
For the executive to be pleasant in the first place, the organization should start it from the top level. They should treat, encourage, appreciate and pay well to the employee. Only a pleasant person can transfer that pleasantness to the next person.
Also, if employees are treated as humans with emotions, they will treat the customers as humans. Empathy and building human relationships should be trained in the front-liners through great experience inside the organization.
2. Ensure Consistency and Coordination Across All Departments
A disjointed customer experience can be really frustrating to customers. Keeping consistency in all touchpoints and communication is necessary. Only collaboration with all team members can let the brand deliver a unified customer experience.
For example, if the marketing team boasts about the perks of buying your products but your product development team cannot build them, it will create a negative customer impression.
If the sales team presents a poor PowerPoint presentation without any professionalism and doesn’t align with your brand value, what should a customer perceive about your brand, and how can they trust you to do a business with you. So, coordination between all departments is necessary.
The leaders should discuss and execute as a team to keep consistency in every customer experience activity.
3. Listen to Customers and Take Right Actions
All board members should be aware of the issues customers raise in the reviews and feedback. By coordinating with the customer support team, they can gather more information.
Also, customers will send messages in live chats, customer support tickets, and social media channels. From there, they should understand major customer issues and provide proper solutions. They can even use storytelling methods to present a problem customers are facing on the C-suite board. Then the board can discuss and make informed decisions together.
4. C-suite Team Should Break the Silos as a First Step
This clearly reveals that if the C-suite encourages teams to work together, they can prevent many CX challenges.
For instance, rather than increasing the number of tickets a customer support team can solve through calls and chats in a day, they should sit with other groups. They should find a solution with the product team to build the products as per customer needs and ask the marketing team to market only what the brand offers to reduce the number of complaint calls in the first place.
Customer experience must be embraced across the board if it is to convert into increased financial performance and act as a competitive advantage. It must be executed in a cross-functional way, and you and the whole C-suite must make it a priority.
To build and maintain a customer-centric organization, senior executives must provide a clear, shared vision of where the company is going, actively model desired customer-centric behaviors, and ensure that others in the organization are changing as well – all while juggling a slew of other responsibilities.
These are non-negotiable if you want your customer experience to achieve tangible outcomes. If you want to compete and succeed in the experience economy, you and your whole C-suite must be willing to stand behind these pledges.