A profession in Customer Experience is a selfless one. The focus of Customer Experience is the customer. To focus on anything else is to lose sight of the purpose of the profession. I understand companies are complicated, competitive, and political, but if they are customer focused it shouldn’t be as much of a struggle (but I understand it is).
One of the most difficult issues CX professionals encounter today is the reprioritization or inability for others to find value in a CX function. Numerous CX studies have stated anywhere from 75% to upwards of 90% of CX initiatives fail (CustomerThink article). One of the reasons for this? The lack of focus on the customer from those outside the CX function. This makes a CX functions job significantly more difficult.
If this sounds familiar, the first thing you will need to establish is buy in from other functions on the work you are doing. There are three ways to establish buy-in from other organizations and leadership which I have found work well:
1. Tell them what they want to hear – CX programs can be disruptive. As a new function coming in and telling others what actions they need to take to improve the customer experience can be met with reluctancy and even hostility. One easy way to get buy-in is to tell teams what they want to hear. Give them positive feedback from their latest launch or project. This gets them to believe the data you are pitching. This won’t drive any CX improvements right away, but it will build a relationship. Start with the good news and save the bad news for when they have bought in on your work.
2. Money talks – There are so many KPI’s that constantly float around CX programs. I have yet to find two companies that measure CX the same way. NPS, CSAT, CES, FCR, retention, loyalty, sentiment, etc. The list is never ending. There is one measurement that trumps them all: ROI. Attaching dollars to all the insights and actions you take speaks louder than any metric.
3. Actions speak louder than words – One of the most crucial elements of a CX function is ensuring teams take action to improve the customer experience. Once teams start to take action, be sure to give them full credit for the win. Although CX may have found the insight, recommended the action, and quarterbacked the entire improvement, give credit to the team that did it. When word gets out that the CX team is making others look like Rockstar’s, others will want to work with you. However, you should understand that if you give other teams credit you will need sponsorship – even though you are driving action from behind the scenes, some leaders may look at your function and think you are not providing results. Be sure to have at least one executive sponsor who knows what you are really doing.
These are only a few ways of the ways to combat the problem of CX buy-in and you may find others that work well within your company. Understand that every company is unique with how it is organized, it’s culture, and who impacts the customer experience. Part of the job as a CX professional is learning what gets people truly focused on the customer.
Another major problem CX functions encounter is when a company says it is customer-focused, but in actuality, it is profit-driven. When this occurs, the customer is merely an afterthought. The Journal of Accounting and Economics* found an unnerving insight: ‘A majority of executives freely admit to sacrificing the future of their companies in order to meet the whims of the expected market.’ This makes sense, as shareholders usually hold executives accountable to short term gains quarter by quarter. However, as CX professionals, we know that a focus on the customer is not usually a short-term initiative. This helps to explain why CX programs struggle to be successful in companies that are solely focused on profits.
Now, I’m not saying a company should ignore profits altogether. That would be ignorant. What I am saying is that if a company has a sound business, and the right personnel and products, a focus on customer experience will easily generate the profits a company needs. Profits are a result of a customer-centric company that betters the experience people have with their brand.
Just recently, a handful of major businesses affirmed their commitment to customers over shareholders. This is a sign that some companies have leaders who are realizing there is a greater purpose to a company and that providing an excellent customer experience can and should be a major focus. I hope to see more companies prioritize the customer, but in the meantime, continue to be selfless and motivate anyone and everyone to put the customer first.
*Martin, Roger (2011) Fixing the Game, Boston: Harvard Business School Publishing