Executive Leadership in the Age of the Customer

The fifth of my customer experience competencies is one-company accountability, leadership, and culture. Ultimately, this refers to executive leadership. How are they approaching customer issues? Are they on the same page? Each week on my podcast, a different CCO-level leader talks about this one-company leadership culture. One of the biggest challenges of the first few months of this work (at a high level) is making sure the executive leadership is united towards customer-driven growth. Without that — which usually means a silo-by-silo prioritization method — your customer experience efforts will not, unfortunately, get very far.

So what does this one-company approach look like, especially if you believe — as I do — that we’re completely in The Age of the Customer by now? How does executive leadership get unified and united towards customer-driven growth?

One-company executive leadership: The key questions

Everything begins with this key question, IMHO:

Are we united in how we make decisions that impact customers?

One of the first activities we often undertake to unite executive leadership is to use the journey framework — more on that here — to build an operational code of conduct. Executive leadership needs to think this through tactically. Here’s the goal: at each stage, there are two essential questions. Those are:

  • What must we always do to honor customers?
  • What must we never do to dishonor customers?

The executive leadership team maps this out by stage of the customer experience process. The ultimate goal is clarity around decision-making processes for the senior leadership team. We talk a lot about disruption in the modern era, which is a very real concept. One of the major reasons that enterprise-level companies, with more resources, are able to be disrupted? It’s because their decision-making can be slow, plodding, and disjointed by functional area. So if a well-heeled startup comes along and knows how to make customer-facing decisions quickly and rooted in data, well, the enterprise company has problems now. So if you are working at a midsize to large company, your executive leadership needs clarity around decision-making. That comes from a one-company approach.

One-company executive leadership: Are we united in focusing on customer asset growth?

This is the second key question. My first competency of customer experience work, “customers as assets,” helps set the vision. But the vision isn’t enough — the executive leadership team needs to be fearlessly discussing customer asset growth (and customer defection) when they meet as a group. This moves Competency 1 and Competency 5 together and makes the outcomes more powerful.

So, these are the two core questions (with two sub-set questions) that executive leadership teams need to be answering in The Age of the Customer.

What else would you add, or have you seen, regarding your executive leadership team?

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