Executives are still saying, “Show me the money!” when it comes to justifying listening to the voice of the customer, improving the customer experience, and putting the customer at the center of all they do.
So glad you asked.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
As unbelievable as it is, there are still plenty of company executives out there today who don’t get it; they still need to be convinced that they should be listening to the voice of the customer and making decisions based on customers’ needs, not their own.
Without their commitment, resources – whether financial, human, capital, or time – will not be forthcoming. You don’t just need resource commitment; you also need their commitment to stick with it, see it through, to success.
The following tips apply whether you’re trying to get executives to commit to this entire notion or if they’ve (sorta) bought in but are only focused on the metrics, not the actual improvements.
Before you begin on this journey, it’s important to know your audience and understand the language in which they speak. By that I mean, what’s important to your executives and what are the hot buttons that they can relate to? I think most of them speak the language of sales or revenue. Tell your story in a way that helps them understand how being customer-centric ultimately translates to business outcomes and shareholder value.
In the end, it’s going to be important to appeal to the left (analytical/numbers) side of their brains, as well as the right (emotional) side. Yes, you’re going to have to appeal to the head and the heart.
1. BUILD RELATIONSHIPS
Stakeholder Interviews. Giving stakeholders an overview of your strategy, along with the objectives, highlights of their involvement, and well-documented reasons for putting customers at the center of the universe will set things off on the right foot. At the same time, understanding stakeholder needs, concerns, and roadblocks as well as identifying what insights they’d like the initiative to provide will help you identify ways to better engage them. Whether you’re just kicking off your customer experience strategy or have a more-mature program, stakeholder interviews can help to bring executives (back) into alignment with the effort.
Identify Legacy/Passion Projects. What is something that CEO or executive is passionate about, e.g., strong and healthy culture, leaving a legacy, besting a competitor, innovation, etc.? Once you know what this is, you’ve got to show how focusing on the customer experience will help them achieve that. This is about building relationships with key executives, i.e., understanding their pain points, their business goals, their passion projects, their intended legacies, etc. and identifying how a great customer experience can help them fulfill them.
Enlist an Executive. OK, that sounds counter-intuitive, but there is quite possibly one executive who gets it. Enlist his or her help to build the case, be the champion, and help you socialize the message with the rest of the executives.
2. SHOW THEM THE MONEY
Build Your Business Case. Identify your objectives and then align the outcomes and benefits tied to each. Clearly, the stronger the business case, the better. Your outcomes may be customer retention, account growth, new business through referrals, culture change, etc. Benefits might include cost savings and other efficiencies. Communicate objectives, outcomes, and benefits to gain their commitment.
To support the business case, show some Quick Wins or Proofs of Concept. Quick Wins can be achieved through service or account recovery examples or by listening to customers at a specific touchpoint, making improvements, and showing ROI. To help build your case, focus on what’s important to the customer as well as to the business; use a critical touchpoint or moment of truth as your stepping stone. Baby steps. Small, yet impactful, examples – tangible value – for the big win.
Talk About Outcomes. Executives are focused on and driven by business outcomes. Always link the work that you’re doing or want to do to outcomes – for the business, but also for employees and customers. And talk about outcomes of doing this work and of not doing this work.
Share Existing Data. There are a lot of charts and data from reputable research companies who clearly make the connection between a great customer experience and business outcomes. Sometimes executives just need to know that others have done it or are doing it – and see what they’ve achieved – to feel comfortable taking it on themselves.
3. OPEN THEIR EYES (AND HEARTS)
Customer Immersion. Walking in customers’ shoes has become a cliché in our world, but that’s what customer immersion programs are all about. Have executives live a day in the lives of their customers and experience what customers experience when they (try to) do business with your brand. This can be eye-opening, for sure!
Customer Stories. Tell their stories, whether it’s what needs they are trying to fulfill or problems they are trying to solve, how they interact with the company, what their experiences are, or what the brand means to them. Use their comments from surveys or social media or record some customer interviews to bring their stories to life. Create a customer advisory board that meets regularly to tell stories and to provide feedback. As strange as it may sound, humanize the customer. Humanize their experiences.
Journey Maps. Another way to walk in your customers’ shoes is to map their journeys to complete some tasks with your organization. It’s an eye opening experience for everyone (assuming there’s cross-functional collaboration to create the maps and the maps are shared to educate employees and executives alike). I’ve seen many CEOs who’ve sat in on these workshops provide the needed commitment to move forward with eliminating the pain the brand causes with the customer experience!
Create an Undercover Executive Program. You’ve all seen the show Undercover Boss. Create your own program. There’s no better ways for executives to gain a new perspective of what it’s like to serve your customers than doing it themselves, allowing them to see how employees interact with customers (and vice versa). Similarly, have them mystery shop your retail locations, your sales department, your receptionist, your contact center, and more.
These tips will help you appeal to both the emotional and the rational sides for your executives, a one-two punch that ought to get them focusing on the right thing: your customers.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE CUSTOMER
Here’s an uncomfortable – yet indisputable – truth: you are in business to create and to nurture customers. Without customers – and especially without employees to create your products and to serve your customers – you have no business. Regardless of company size, region, industry, etc., you are in business for the customer, because of the customer.
You’ve got to disprove their preconceived notions that “our customer experience is good enough.” They might see high satisfaction scores, but that may be because the system is being gamed. Or they may see high acquisition numbers, but that doesn’t equate to a great customer experience. (You might actually have a leaky bucket!)
All of those projects and initiatives and innovations happening in your organization? If you don’t bring the customer voice into them, if you don’t consider the impact on the customer, what’s it all for?
What’s measured improves. – Peter F. Drucker
Annette Franz is an internationally recognized customer experience thought leader, coach, speaker, and author. In 2019, she published her first book, Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the “Customer” in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business); it’s available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. In 2022, she published her second book, Built to Win: Designing a Customer-Centric Culture That Drives Value for Your Business (Advantage|ForbesBooks), which is available to purchase on Amazon, Books A Million!, Target, Barnes & Noble, and thousands of other outlets around the world! Sign up for our newsletter for updates, insights, and other great content that you can use to up your EX and CX game.
Image courtesy of Pixabay.