Darryl Speach is a serial customer experience practitioner and change agent. He’s had leadership roles at New York Life, the Disney Institute, and Greystone and Company. I sometimes classify Darryl’s wisdom as “hard-earned and joyous,” and I think you’ll see that come through in this episode.
Mr. Speach serves as Chief Customer Officer, leading strategy for the Greystone customer experience effort across all business lines.
Prior to joining Greystone, Darryl was The Walt Disney Company’s lead consultant assigned to the Disney Institute/McKinsey & Company co-branded joint venture, specializing in customer experience and cultural transformations. He led numerous client engagement teams around the globe including financial services, insurance, healthcare, pharmaceutical, and automotive companies in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and the United States.
Darryl also spent five years as the Corporate Vice President of Customer Experience and Innovation at New York Life Insurance and also served as a Vice President at BI Worldwide Consulting, where he led a team who specialized in enhancing sales & channel effectiveness, employee engagement, and customer loyalty programs for several Fortune 100 companies. While in this role, the organization was awarded the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.
Darryl holds an MBA from Chapman University’s Argyros School of Business and Economics and has several industry certifications from the Center for Creative Leadership. He is also an accredited deBono Six Thinking Hats parallel thinking facilitator.
Salmon and the “Destination Postcard”
I often refer to customer experience work as being a salmon, i.e. swimming upstream. Darryl agreed with this, noting that it’s essentially flipping conventional business wisdom over to redirect with a customer focus.
Discovery work at the beginning of a CCO engagement is key. You must spend time getting to know the employees, customers and leadership team in order to really understand what is important to them and what they think is working and not working. Remember: some seasoned executives will say “A, B, and C” are important because it sounds good to stakeholders, but what keeps them up at night is “D, E, and F.” If you solve for D, E, and F, you will capture their trust quicker — and that will drive the work forward more effectively.
Engage the CEO to work with you as the CCO to write a “destination postcard” – where he/she wants to take the company – what is the legacy they want to lead. That will give the CCO clarity on the work ahead, and also gauge how attuned the CCO is to the work and the customer-driven end state.
The “Black Box” of customer experience actions
In Darryl’s career, these elements have helped shape customer experience and culture change in different roles he’s held:
Culture crystallization: The term “culture” is very fluffy to executives and leaders who are used to hard numbers and looking at financials. You need to do a culture crystallization exercise with employees. Ask them what they love, what they hate, and what they think needs to be added. Then — and this step is crucial — go a little beyond and empower them by asking them “What will it take us to get there?” The answers to the last question become an action plan, and help you engage employees.
Recognition and compensation: This is crucial, although many companies miss it. I will be honest: I understand the purpose of many companies is to make money, and there are usually two buckets about recognition and compensation that interfere with that. The first bucket is “We shouldn’t reward people for doing their jobs” and the second is “Recognition programs are too costly.” I understand both. Both are valid. But think about your own career. How long did you stay at a place that never recognized or rewarded you? Probably not very long, all told. If you want new behaviors like “culture crystallization” to stick, there needs to be an incentive structure. That’s human nature.
Continuous enhancement teams: Place these throughout the org to identify different opportunities for enhancing both the (a) customer and (b) employee experience.
“What I Know Now That I Wish I Knew Then”
This is my pay-it forward question to all CX leaders, and because Darryl has held this role so many times at so many different places, I was really interested to see what he said.
Nice to have vs. need to have: Even if you’re amazing at your job, your role is inherently “nice to have.” You need to always prove the value by making it tangible and valuable to the highest level of decision-makers.
Metrics: Everyone in business is loving data, analytics, and metrics these days — but it’s really important in newer leadership slots like CCO work. You need to consistently show metrics, return on investment (even return on equity), and … let’s be honest. You need “What’s in this for me?” actions to make people want your role to stay around the decision-making table.
100 percent alignment might be a myth: It’s almost impossible to get the entire rest of the leadership team in alignment with your work. Know this, understand this, and appreciate this. It will help you craft a more reasonable path to engagement.
Care for employees: Some companies are set up to deify processes and products, and view people as interchangeable. That’s a mistake. If you believe we live in an Age of Entrepreneurship, there are so many different options for employees — including starting their own thing. If you don’t take care of them and act as an island for them, you’ll lose them. The more you lose people, the harder it is to hit your goals. Now you’re looking not-so-great to your boss. It’s a cycle that can be prevented with taking care of your people.
Be a beacon of positive energy: Help people see that this work can be achieved.
“Be Switzerland:” You can’t be aligned with any one silo, because CX work touches sales, operations, HR/change, finance, marketing, etc. Work with everyone. Elevate the work so that it’s about the company, not the departments.
This week we’ll be back with two more posts — one guest post tomorrow, I believe, and then a new post this Thursday as well. As always, thanks for reading and listening!
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