CX Leadership: Are You Willing to Be Authentic, Have Difficult Conversations, and Break Silos?

“As I began to really dig deeper on the customer experience side, what I discovered was that we weren’t always able to understand the root cause of customer behavior,” says Jenn Oyler, the (former) vice president and head of customer experience at Principal Financial Group, in a recent LinkedIn Live conversation.

In my chat with Jenn, who also led customer experience work at State Farm Insurance, we discuss CX strategies that impact both the employees and customers in a B2B2C organization. We explore finer details of the work when we chat about the various CX KPIs that Jenn measures against, how they determine ROI, and her leadership style.

Do You Understand What Your Customers Need?

With a PhD in Organizational Behavior/Statistics and an MBA in Marketing Research, Jenn explains that she was a firm believer in survey methodology. She shares that—though there was data from survey feedback—she realized that she was missing the information that told the customer story. However, once Jenn delved further into the gathered responses, she saw the true nature of the surveys they were creating. The surveys were designed in a way that was oriented towards understanding “how did we do?” rather than the customers’ needs or motivations.

“Fundamentally, those questions were missing. Seeing ‘the why’ behind the behavior,” says Jenn, regarding the surveys. From this finding, she shares that she has been working with the executive leadership, product teams, and employees to focus on getting to the root cause of their customer behavior. Jenn goes on to say that deeper listening on behalf of leadership teams is also critical to their CX strategy. 

Jenn speaks to the value of ongoing “ride-alongs” where a leadership team member listens in to calls with a frontline employee. Ride alongs happen on a consistent basis to continue layering on the feedback. Jenn also shares that they facilitate group sessions in which she and her team can gather feedback directly from customers. “So now what we’re doing is saying, what are your needs, your wants, your emotions? What are you looking for?” says Jenn. This direct exposure to customer feedback deepens the understanding of the customer’s needs and behaviors. 

Deeper listening to customers on behalf of leadership teams should be a key part of your CX strategy. —Jenn Oyler, @principal #CX #customerexperience Share on X

Be Authentic, Have Difficult Conversations, and Break Silos

When asked by one of our LinkedIn Live audience members about her leadership style, Jenn answers that her leadership style revolves around being authentic, and being willing to have tough conversations and break silos.

“I believe that no matter what the situation is, I’m going to be very authentic […] and I want to develop the one to-one conversations with my leaders, those mid layer directors and our employees,” says Jenn. She mentions that when she is truly present, listening to and engaging with her colleagues, she is strengthening her relationships. Fostering these connections can also help you develop allies for your CX undertakings.

As many of us know, it can be hard to get others onboard with a strategy for a company-wide undertaking, but don’t be afraid to have the difficult conversations. Jenn tells us that she knows that “not everyone’s going to be happy with this level of change,” but values connecting with those who may have some trepidations so she can understand their concerns as well. She says, you need to understand the varying perspectives while working together to break down silos that stifle growth.

What Do You Know Now That You Wish You Knew Then?

Jenn says:

“Take more time to listen to some of your detractors, because they have so much to share with you. And in the end, those detractors and I’m speaking of within the company, they actually have incredible information. They have incredibly valuable information to help you be successful, and enable that success. […] So if I could tell my younger self, take that into account, don’t be afraid of them. They have a lot of organizational memory around why things were done a certain way and they’re ready to share it with you.”

About Jenn Oyler

JennOyler Jenn Oyler is an experienced executive with 20 years of consulting and leadership experience that spans Customer Experience, Employee Experience, and User Experience.

Jenn describes herself as a passionate, forward-thinking, leader who strives to identify/analyze organizational needs through creativity, superb communication skills, and consensus building. Prior to joining Principal, Jenn worked at Decooda as chief experience executive and strategist and held customer experience roles with FLEETCOR Technologies and State Farm.


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