Value-add leadership development for customer experience


CCO work is really challenging. I call my podcast The Human Duct Tape Show because that’s actually how I view CCO work — we’re the duct tape of organizations. Every senior leadership team and every executive wants a good customer acquisition strategy, a good customer retention strategy, a strong lifetime value per customer, and a good overall customer experience. But the first step in that process isn’t diving into tasks and surveys and other deliverables. The first step is actually around leadership development.

Why is leadership development important for customer experience?

The way most companies tend to operate is around silos. This makes sense on one level, because silos are areas of functional expertise. You want people working within areas they have a functional expertise around, because that means you’re funneling the best personnel resources to the right areas.

If you’ve ever had any type of job, though, you’ve probably seen the drawbacks that silos can have. Silos get territorial, feud with each other, and believe they are the key aspect driving the revenue of the business. Oftentimes, unfortunately, this is because of the CEO — he/she might tell all his/her lieutenants that, in an effort to make each of them feel valuable.

Silos and territorial markings do absolutely nothing for customer experience. If marketing looks at customers one way and operations looks at customers another way, that means the experience that the customer gets is shoddy and misaligned. Operations came it from left field, and marketing came at it from right field. When you see a bunch of players run towards a baseball pop-up this summer at the ballpark, notice what happens. Usually they smash into each other and the ball falls on the field as a hit for the other team. The ball is your customer in this case. The other team is your competitor.

You avoid this silo-by-silo mentality by focusing on leadership development — and specifically by focusing on a one-company leadership approach.

What is a one-company approach to leadership development?

It’s actually one of my core customer experience competencies, developed over three-plus decades doing this work. One-company leadership is just as it sounds. You want the entire senior leadership team — i.e. the decision-makers — on the same page and using the same vocabulary and being held accountable to the same metrics and targets. Ideally, all that vocabulary and all those targets will focus on the end customer of your product or service.

Now, it takes a long time to get to this place. If you go listen to some of the nine podcast episodes we’ve posted so far, most CCO leaders are saying 9-12 months at base for a senior leadership team to begin to come together around the same concepts. Silo mentalities are pervasive, and they can take a long time to break.

One key thing I’d suggest here in terms of leadership development is the importance of vocabulary. Finance people tend to speak one way in a business, operations people another way, sales people another way, and so on and so forth. Figure out the terms that everyone uses, and then determine how to relate those terms back to customers. It could be customer acquisition, customer experience, customer satisfaction, customer journey, customer life cycle, or whatever the case may be. But if you can align the terminology, that begins to increase the accountability to the vocabulary and to the ideas.

For example, in our most recent podcast, Parrish Arturi of Fidelity talks about this aspect of leadership development. Fidelity’s CEO meets with all his direct reports each quarter. Parrish got the term ‘client experience’ embedded in the vocabulary of the senior leaders. As such, the CEO began mandating that quarterly meetings had a section that tied to client experience. Now every member of the senior leadership team had to be thinking about client experience, because it was crucial to their quarterly meetings with their boss. Embedding the vocabulary is a simple step that goes a long way towards leadership development for customer experience.

Gotta run for now — busy travel and work week, as ever — but you can learn more about these ideas in my books, on the podcast (link above), by poking around this blog, or by contacting me. I love to hear from people at all stages of their career in doing this work.

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