Dayton Semerjian was a Chief Marketing Officer four times. Because his ultimate goal was moving towards a CEO role, he shifted a bit — and ran a $600 million P&L and then a $2.5 billion P&L for CA Technologies. Then took on his current roleL General Manager, Global Customer Success and Support at CA Technologies.
In our discussion we explored his very deliberate path toward taking on these new roles — and how his operational experience prepared him to be successful in his customer experience role.
As he designed his work and role, he essentially had to merge customer support and customer experience disciplines. We walk through a lot of how he approached and executed that.
Dayton is a results-driven executive with 20+ years of experience in designing, building, and growing businesses to deliver superior operating performance and financial returns. Areas of strength include:
• P&L Management, Growth Strategy Development & Execution,
• Operations Management and Performance Systems,
• Global Marketing Management, Product Management, Sales Management
• High Performance Team Development & Leadership,
• Public Speaking (Company, Industry, Financial)
That’s from his LinkedIn, which can be found here.
Assessing The Role And Work To Be Done
Dayton took about 9-12 months to clarify and understand his role. In general, most research indicates that this is a normal time frame (or maybe even fast) when you come into a high-responsibility role. He not only needed to understand the landscape of the company related to his new role, but also to educate himself on this field of customer experience. He focused on four major items:
- A quantitative assessment of what mattered and what didn’t matter to customers
- Qualitative interviews – to put the story of the experience in the customers’ voice
- Understanding employee views and needs with both qualitative and quantitative approaches
- Assessing maturity models and frameworks in the marketplace, and adapting one to suit CA Technologies
Uniting The C-Suite
Now Dayton had a scope of work, but he still needed to make sure the other executives understood what he was doing and how it would benefit their work. Silo-by-silo metrics are awful for companies, especially in an age where disruption is becoming normative. If you’re doing everything based on silos, the end experience for your customers (and this applies in B2B and B2C) will suffer. They’ll deflect. So you need some alignment at the top of a company. Here’s how Dayton approached that:
- Build the case for change
- Connect the work to profitability and revenue growth rate
- Established correlations between employee engagement and financial prospertity
- Adopted Net Promoter system to prove the correlation in both customer results and growth
All these are important, but No. 2 might be the most important — at least initially. If you’re doing work at an executive level and it isn’t tied to profitability and revenue growth, good luck getting buy-in.
The Plan For Action
Dayton now had the scope and the buy-in. Next up:
- Built the drivers of NPS by function, identifying root causes
- Collaboratively built the journey map across the organization to show the end to end experience, and took that map to customers to validate and prioritize
- Established clarity of priorities and actions, accountability and collaboration required by silo to deliver the priority interactions
Again, all three are important — but I’d argue (and have seen in hundreds of organizations) that establishing clarity of priority and action is crucial. If you have the best plan ever, but it has 12 components, the people on your team need to know which four to start with. Some managers establish contexts whereby “everything” is a priority, and then everything becomes rushed or falls through the cracks. That can’t be the norm. Priority and strategy need to be linked to execution and action, or else it’s just trees falling in the forest.
Driving Cultural And Operational Change
Dayton needed to make this a priority as well. He took this approach:
- With leaders, moved the focus of change from a “me” (or silo based) approach to “we” — we must make changes across the organization
- Cross-functionally workshopped the actions
- Prioritized efforts, assigning to functional leaders
- Established a two-tiered governance council to guide and prioritize and provide resources
- Aligned with the leadership team to connect customer experience improvements to the top five goals of the organization – making it the work, not work layered on top of the “real work” (we all have seen this before)
Again, all important. (5) is near and dear to my heart. I’ve so often seen organizations have real, legitimate work — growth goals, customer insights, etc. And then, they take essentially busy or logistical work and layer that on top, calling it “urgent real work” in the process. It’s not. You set priorities and goals, and then you execute on those. When you allow the middle tiers of an organization to redefine priorities in their silos, you create a whole host of issues.
The “Pay It Forward” Question
I ask all my guests this. In short: what do you know NOW that you wish you knew THEN? Ideally, the advice in these answers will help younger people in this work as they rise up. Dayton noted:
- Do not come out of the gates without a rock solid quantitative business case for growth. You are in competition with others for resources – so your business case needs to show results and be considered worthy of funding.
- Understanding that the work is not linear. While you may adopt a business model or framework, be prepared for it to go sideways and require revisions. Know that the work will always be changing. This is organic and iterative work – like laps around a track, each time you take a lap it will be different and you will learn from the lap before. Take a breath, in other words.
I hope you enjoy the conversation! We’ll be back on Thursday with a new post. Enjoy the holidays and remember, it’s OK to prioritize friends and family right now.
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