Owning the Customer Agenda

The tried-and-true formula we’ve all seen when there’s a problem area in a company is this: hire someone, staff up, and let them run.

But throwing head count won’t cut it for customer experience work. This isn’t the same as telling someone to rev up the sales force or build a great new product to sell on their own. CX work cannot be held inside a single department in the organization. Customer experience cuts its way across the organization, getting in people’s stuff and stirring up the pot.

This work will challenge conventional thinking about how to approach the business and about what’s important to manage and measure.

It’s big—really big.

The executive sponsor has to know what he or she is signing up for and agree to be in for the duration. And that’s the rub: in the quest to check the customer problem off the list, there’s usually not enough thought given to what’s being signed up for.

Leaders who own the customer agenda elevate high-priority customer issues to the critical level. They get their boards close to the customer and to understanding the investments required to keep customers close.

Being a true partner at the highest level means this:

You make the leap to change the way people think about the business.

For example, the leader reinforces that a trucking company does more than move things from point A to point B: it is a service provider. CEO questions on the state of business performance are as much about service and service delivery as financial performance. A spa company impassions the front line’s sense of purpose by expanding the scope and title of their job, changing it from “spa technician” to “customer escape artist.” Driving the business from the perspective of delivering a pleasurable escape for a customer inspires the organization to move beyond specific tasks to the delivery of a memorable experience that will make customers want to return.

You keep customers top of mind.

You take ownership for making customers a priority of the business.

If proposals are lacking in customer perspective or customer considerations, you send everyone back to the drawing board. Leaders who are committed let it be known that this is a personal priority for them.

You hold people accountable for their performance with customers.

Will you force the tides of change to make customer metrics your company metrics?

This means that what’s important transcends the traditional metrics of operational performance. You’ll need to push the company to figure out a way to know which customers are being affected and how and the outcome on customer profitability. People will have to come to expect these questions. They’ll need to prepare for them and will begin to develop their own sensitivity to what this effort is all about. This may be rocky at first, but with clear questions come clearer metrics.

It takes a steadfast leader to help everyone survive through the chaos in the shift to arrive at “the new normal.” This means not rushing. This means having the fortitude with the board to set expectations that the process takes time. And it takes discipline not to back down when the pressure to move faster sets in—and it will.

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