How Do You Define and Operationalize Customer-Obsession? Two CX Leaders Share Their Experience and Tactics

How do you define and operationalize customer-obsession?

Do you lead your business by thinking about your customers’ wants and needs? Are you putting the customer first? In today’s episode, we revisit two conversations with CX leaders representing global organizations about defining customer-obsession. In this work, defining customer-obsession means putting the customer at the center of your business strategy. 

You’ll hear from Tamar Cohen, VP of Customer Experience at Zoetis and Amanda Sachs, the General Manager of Customer and Partner Experience at MicrosoftBoth women are leading customer experience in these organizations with a “customer-obsessed” mantra. You’ll hear how they learned to define customer obsession and how this philosophy allows them to unite their teams to create a better experience both internally and externally.

Define Your Customer-Driven Lingo

Tamar shares that when she joined Zoetis, the largest global B2B animal health company, they were already on the path towards a customer-obsessed culture; it was one of the core values that the organization was leading with. The language about customer-obsession was out there, but it wasn’t tied to a purpose. The “why” and the “how” of what it meant for business operations wasn’t clear. Since Tamar’s role was new, it was her job to determine how customer-obsession would be implemented and embraced across the organization. Tamar explained that it was also equally important to create clarity around what customer service, experience, and obsession is “not,” ensuring that it was not seen as “the complaint department” where you’re dealing with “whack-a-mole” problem-solving. Your organization should not think of customer service as simply handling one-off customer issues and complaints.

You’re a CX Expert, But Do You Know the Industry You’re Working In?

In order to understand how to best serve your customers, you need to understand both your industry’s and your customers’ needs. If you find yourself in a position like Tamar, where you’re a CX expert but lack specific industry knowledge, it’s critical that you immerse yourself in the industry, familiarize yourself with key players and understand other people’s roles and contributions to the system.

Tamar was working with a team full of independent veterinarians who work with their own network of farms and clients. In order to better serve Zoetis as a CX leader, she needed to speak the language and understand the wants and needs of the multiple players. She spent a considerable amount of time with her internal teams, visiting vets, going to the farms, and learning about their business. It was essential to her job that she understood the customers, their mentalities and any challenges they encounter, so she could properly apply her customer experience tactics to improve communications. 

Do an Internal Cleanup and Catch up

When setting a baseline for moving forward with new CX initiatives, you may have to spend some time clearing away old processes to build a new foundation. Tamar developed a cleanup and catch up system; the cleanup allowed her to immediately fix holes in the foundation of the customer experience so they weren’t building on quicksand. This meant, rethinking data and customer management and learning how to communicate with the various customers across different businesses. Essentially, uniting the organization as one company.

During the catch-up phase, Tamar and her team spent time creating listening tools to get to the bottom of issues being experienced across silos and business units. This helped them create a single mechanism in which they could track and trend where their fundamental issues are with customers, then programmatically address key issues. It was a matter of doing this rather than running to put out fires (whack-a-mole-ing).

In efforts to unite the organization, Tamar also created a mission, which outlined the work that they planned to do. It outlined what they were and what they weren’t, it was an initial step to creating a foundation for their work, and it helped set expectations at the leadership level. I always say that a mission statement should be used as a decision-making tool for folks, and it should focus on how your customers’ lives will benefit from doing business with you.

When setting a baseline for moving forward with new CX initiatives, you may have to spend some time clearing away old processes to build a new foundation. #CX #CustExp Click To Tweet

Click here to listen to Tamar’s full interview.

Customer-Obsession Also Means Creating Accountability

Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella instituted a customer-obsession mantra at the organization. As general manager, it was Amanda’s job to define what this actually meant. What does customer-obsession look like? How is it operationalized? Amanda explains that Microsoft has always been customer-centric, but as the company began to mature and face more competition, they had to determine how to be customer-driven beyond simply building innovative products.

For Amanda, leading customer-obsession meant formalizing a customer and partner experience rhythm of the business, and increasing the focus on accountability. A part of this process meant establishing key moments and meetings where team leaders would present insights and outline actions to take, but different groups across the company were held accountable for what they were hearing and seeing and what actions they felt they needed to take, while also identifying what help they may need from other groups.

Develop Customer-Obsessed Priorities

How Do You Define and Operationalize Customer-Obsession? Two CX Leaders Share Their Experience and TacticsWhile implementing processes to improve accountability, Amanda joined forces with the human resources department. When you infuse the work into people’s core priorities, it gets their attention. Everyone needs to understand how customer experience affects their bottom line. Once HR is involved, the CX work and customer obsession started to become more embedded in the organization. When this happens, it’s not just a tagline or campaign, and the work becomes more meaningful. Amanda has seen how this involvement has created expectations that drive actions and behaviors they hadn’t otherwise seen.

Engage Middle Management During The Process

While Amanda is on this journey to embed customer-obsession in the organization, Microsoft has refined manager coaching guides and reward and recognition programs to engage middle management. Although customer-obsession is supported at the top by the CEO, the real day-to-day actions are impacted by management. If middle management isn’t being coached for the right behaviors, if they’re not clear on what customer obsession looks like, it won’t be fully executed and embraced by everyone.

At Microsoft, focusing on this cultural shift to customer-obsession has allowed them to think about how to effectively motivate employees, and how to drive the right behaviors without becoming fixated on a score number. The new approach at Microsoft is to invest more in employees and teams. Too often, we assume that middle management is just going to get the information from the top, but often, it doesn’t work that way. Amanda emphasizes that this is an ongoing investment at Microsoft and a big one that should not be overlooked. 

If middle management isn't being coached for the right behaviors, if they're not clear on what customer obsession looks like, it won't be fully executed and embraced by everyone. #CX #CustExp Click To Tweet

Click here to listen to Amanda’s full interview.

Would you say you’re customer-obsessed at your organization? If so, how do you define and operationalize it? 


The presenting sponsor of The Chief Customer Officer Human Duct Tape Show is Customerville. Customerville transforms customer experience surveys into rich, interactive experiences using its unique Design-driven Feedback™ platform.

This partnership ensures that I can continue these shows that you’ve shared such positive feedback on.  Thanks so much to Customervillle! Enjoy the show!

Subscribe to the show & Leave a review!

If you've been getting value from this podcast, please help more people find it by leaving a brief review on iTunes, here's how.

The Chief Customer Officer Human Duct Tape Show On iTunes
The Chief Customer Officer Human Duct Tape Show on the web

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *