Multi-time CX leader Enrique and I have a frank conversation about when it’s time to evaluate if the CX role you’re in has the advocacy you need to be successful, and how to get traction when you’re in the right environment for success.
Enrique Gómez Alonso is since February 2015 Chief Customer Officer in Zurich Insurance Spain. In his current position he is responsible of defining and implementing Zurich Spain customer strategy, from customer experience to customer base management or customer data analytics.
Before joining Zurich he worked from 2004 to 2015 at Vodafone Spain in several roles such as Head of Customer experience, Head of Strategic Planning or Head of Competitive and Business Intelligence. In his role as Head of Customer Experience he lead the team that complete the NPS turnaround (From laggard to lead NPS among telcos) while reducing -46% the number of calls, -75% number of customer complaints and -65% refunds to customers.
From 1999 to 2004 he was at McKinsey & Company where he had the opportunity to help several clients on different sectors (Retail, Telcos, Finance, etc) and different continents.
Enrique is also a sought-after speaker and has spoken in some Customer Experience conferences and has appeared in major Spanish newspapers and magazines.
Understanding Quick ROI
In his early days of his Vodafone Spain tenure, the company was getting 72 million customer service calls per year. (That’s 197, 260 per day.) He had to achieve two things in that role (where he spent three years in a senior role) very quickly:
- Figure out why so many are calling
- Reduce it
He was able to do this. His team got it cut in half, to about 35 million calls a year. It’s still a lot, but more manageable for the team.
It’s important to understand that no CEO, even if they love the idea of customer experience, can keep sustaining a program that’s a cost drain. Removing the cost drains is a CX growth strategy.
The Importance Of Passion
We spend a lot of time at work, and as we get into C-Suite roles, we spend more and more time thinking about and consuming work. You need to have passion for what you do. You need to believe the role matters. No one wants to simply fill a seat.
This is a crucial situation with CX leadership right now. A lot of times, especially if the company doesn’t quite understand CX or hasn’t invested enough in tracking its results, they will try to bend the role to something they think it should be or they “need” at that moment. But if the role bends, it might lose value or meaning — or hurt your career arc, even though it’s a senior role.
These are things aspiring CX leaders need to consider.
His First 90 Days In His Current Role
The first question he asked everyone was: “Do you know how many customers we have?”
(Many did not.)
His first executive committee meeting, he brought the following info:
- Lifetime value of customers
- Average value from customers
- Customers in/out in a given year
Basic intel, but none of the executives had seen these numbers yet.
Next topic for the other execs: “Where are areas we could find money?”
This was largely about customer ineffiency.
Next up: “Do you understand what types of customers you have?”
Most would think of this as segmentation, but it was more than that — kind of like 4-5 big “blocks” of people to help executives understand the opportunities and threats.
This is all about earning the right to do the work immediately, and then consistently get a bigger seat at the table. You can’t just be mired in road maps for years. That is important, but if that’s your strategy, your CEO (or whomever you report to) will be demanding to see results sooner than the maps are done.
Make Sure People Aren’t Overwhelmed
CX might be a new concept to some stakeholders — or at least how you are framing it. Don’t try to give other stakeholders everything at once. Drip it out one item at a time. Sometimes that might be frustrating for you, but it’s the most effective way to keep earning the right to the work. It’s how I worked with the CEO at LL Bean earlier in my career too. One item at a time wins the race.
Developing Your Team
All the normal advice about listening and screening for the best goes here, but Enrique noted a few other interesting points:
- Look for those with context around customer-based management
- Look for those who have experience, even limited, with data analysis and management
- Your team should be a mix of inside/outside in terms of discussion and context around the work you are doing
- Culture and leadership should reside with the team lead, not HR/other execs (they don’t have time to care or don’t know the culture of your team)
The Pay It Forward Question
What do you know NOW that you wish you knew THEN?
- When he presented his first road map at Zurich, the CEO was about to retire. The CEO reminded him to manage his own expectations and frustrations. After a few years, he realized how good this advice was. “We live and breathe on customer experience, but others don’t have the same priorities or aren’t embedded on this,” he notes.
- “We want to be moving 100 MPH when sometimes we can only be moving 10 MPH,” he notes.
- Keep up the spirit of your team.