I’ve never seen a CEO who wouldn’t sign up for customer loyalty, customer focus and just plain improving things for their customers. It’s getting them to drive the company to do something about it that’s the challenge.
Specific leadership actions occur in companies that have taken the commitment past lip service.
- Understanding customer issues and what drives customer loyalty become the stuff of everyday conversations.
- Building customer experiences and relationships is considered the true work of the organization – not something layered on the “real” work of achieving quarterly sales goals.
CEO’s that drive customer experience work understand that it’s the inspiration, leadership and organizational change that are the sticking points in making progress.
How Committed is Your CEO?
A CEO on a customer mission takes responsibility for driving value for customers and improving the customer experience. Although she/he will need a lieutenant to help drive the work (because she/he has an entire company to run after all), the CEO is an engaged and active participant.
- Does your CEO clearly articulate what he/she wants the company to become for customers and constantly reinforce and drive the company in that direction?
- Is there a commitment for organizational transformation, not some one-off tactics and silver bullets?
The point about making the customer champion an officer is not an insignificant one. When the customer effort is considered a strategic priority, the work simply needs to reside at that elevated level.
- Has the CEO layered this work onto someone’s already over-full plate, or is there recognition that this is a critical job for the organization that requires an immense time commitment?
- Has the CEO ensured that the customer champion is an officer of the company with the full support and engagement of the CEO, leaders and the organization?
This is a huge sticking point for the customer experience work. The metrics and performance requirements are clear.
- Does your CEO actively hold people accountable for customer performance?
- Is there clarity in what’s expected and does the organization practice discipline around identifying what should be measured and managed?
- Are forums for accountability regularly scheduled and enforced as a key strategic meeting for the success of the company?
The CEO steps in when necessary to course-correct and drives the action when it stalls. Naturally competing silo priorities aren’t swept under the rug. They are acknowledged and the gnarly work is done to determine where the agreements must be made, where the compromises must be set, and where the new lines of accountability must be established.
- Does your CEO commit time and resources to be a solid partnership with the customer leader?
- Does your CEO play an active role in understanding and participating in the rigor of aligning the company when necessary?
This work is not for the mild-hearted or the quarterly inclined. Everyone needs to understand that becoming a ‘customer’ company is a multi-year endeavor. They can’t bail in the first year because the results don’t come as simply and cleanly as seeing response rates on a marketing campaign, tracking sales goals or the number of hits on your website.
- Is your CEO committed to the timeline required (in the neighborhood of five years) and are they willing to suspend the usual short-term expectations of immediate results to have patience for the customer work to take hold and yield results?
- Will they sustain the patience inside the corporation and with the board to stay the course so that results can be achieved?
The corporate ‘Nay-Sayers’ will be quick to voice that this work has been tried before and failed. But committed CEOs have grasped all that and factored it in. And since it’s all been considered, there is a clear and achievable plan that is laid out before the organization. A reality-based roadmap is established, funded, and followed up.
- Are the stages, expectations and processes to drive the work identified realistically and planned so people understand the roadmap, where it is leading and why it is set forth?
- Have the resources been applied so that the roadmap is grounded in the reality of what the company can achieve and fund?