2016 lessons from my customer experience podcast

I launched a podcast, The Chief Customer Officer Human Duct Tape Show, in 2016. We’ll be back with new episodes in early 2017. So far, we’ve published 32 episodes. At the end of all 32, I asked the guest — typically a Chief Customer Officer or someone who owns customer experience at their organization — what I call my “pay it forward” question. The question goes like this: “What do you know NOW about customer experience work that you wish you knew THEN?” My hope for this question is that if you’re newer to CX, or more junior on your team, you can take these lessons and think about your own career (and customers in your industry) strategically.

Some of the answers overlap, of course — there is a lot about getting buy-in from other leaders, using the right data, etc. You can click the link above and find all 32 episodes. Pick a few to listen to before you go back to work in 2017. I promise it’s value-add! In this post I’ll pull out 10-15 pieces of advice from these interviews, with a link to the episode itself. Enjoy, and have a great New Year’s.

Be sensitive to what change looks/feels like: This is from Episode 5 with Mark Ramsey of Audi. He told a good story about a journalist embedded with his team. The end result wasn’t what anyone expected. There were moments of frustration and a need for change. But, change impacts each member of your team in a slightly different (or hugely different) way. You need to be sensitive to that as a leader.

Network constantly: This is from Episode 7 with Curtis Kopf. Sometimes, CCOs get to that level — usually an executive salary — and think they can network less. That’s a mistake. Network constantly. The field of how to work with customers, and the increasing of touch points, changes hourly. You need the networking to stay fresh and current — and talk about your challenges. I do this with my guests sometimes before we start recording!

Don’t beat yourself up: Great advice in Episode 8 from Aisling Hassell of Airbnb.

Internal communication is crucial: This was in Episode 10 from Nick Frunzi, who is one of my only interviewees who works for a privately-held company. Internal communication means peer level — sell the work to other leaders — but also direct reports and their direct reports. Make sure everyone knows what’s going on and how it’s being measured. When there are changes to strategy, communicate it even more drastically then.

Patience, patience, patience: “I wish I knew how to be more patient,” Dave Mingle of General Motors said immediately. “I’m a passionate person, but the organization moves at the pace it wants to move. You need to fish where the fish are, or take advantage of opportunities when they come up.”

“It’s easy to get caught up in metrics:” This is how we all get graded in companies, so it’s natural. But as Dave Nelson explained in Episode 17: “But you’ve gotta get behind that number to real comments from real customers to understand what’s going on.”

Regardless of scale, you can be successful: “You don’t need a great, big organization to be successful,” says Jeb Dasteel of Oracle. “If I had no team at all, my priorities would probably be exactly the same as they are here.” Jeb loves working at Oracle, but this is a good point — especially in the Age of Disruption. You don’t need to be enterprise-level with tons of resources to be successful. You just need the right pieces, ideas, and methodology in place. You earn the right to do the work that way.

Be “passionately dispassionate:” This basically means being pragmatic but passionate, and not letting your emotions get in the way of selecting the right path forward. Mark Weinstein (Hilton Worldwide) and I discussed this concept.

Surround yourself with good people — don’t be threatened if they are smarter than you — and find ways to empower them to get the work done: I talked about this with entrepreneurial CCO Kevin Bury in Episode 24.

Know your numbers: The work must be connected to growth, as Donna Peeples explained in Episode 29.

Focus on actions with real impact: Digital transformation is a good example right now. Many companies are still behind on that — and newer concepts, like VR and AI, will be at relative “scale” soon. If you still don’t know how to use social media to work with customers, as a small example, you’re already behind. When chatbots replace social media managers, you’ll be further behind. Driving priorities around digital transformation and customer connection points is crucial. Penni Conner (from the energy industry) and I discussed this topic at length.

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