21 Mar 2020 CHIEF CUSTOMER OFFICER’S HANDBOOK: The Power of the ‘RESET’
Resetting the CUSTOMER Experience OFFICER Function
We asked Chief Customer/Client Executives and CX leaders what their greatest challenges were in establishing or optimizing their companies’ CX programs. Their answers illuminated the intricate relationships that exist between the boardroom and the executives; the executives and the management; the management and the employees; the employees and the clients; and the clients and their experiences with the brand.
Our research uncovered the core elements of stress, friction, and success in setting up, managing, and optimizing CX programs. We discovered three surprising patterns that distinguish outperforming from underperforming enterprises. Outperforming enterprises reveal the following:
- Shorter distance between the boardroom and the customer when it comes to critical CX funding and program initiatives.
- The organization shares collective ambition around the customer imperative within an intentional customer-centric culture. It is wired into their purpose, vision and strategy.
- The organization can hit pause, reset the CX function, regroup, and set a course that empowers CX leaders and employees.
This report focuses on the third point; hitting reset and creating more powerful coalitions that can execute based on the priorities that move them and their organizations from stagnant to stellar in the shortest amount of time.
How do CX leaders view the world?
We asked Chief Client Executives and CX leaders how they view the world with respect to Client Experience programs. We were curious how they established and optimized their companies’ programs. We learned that there is consensus among CX leaders on several key points.
- They no longer see technology and platforms as the panacea. Now it is more important to reduce friction in key decisions and execute with a shared sense of accountability for the client experience.
- To win at the game of CX, leaders and employees need the authority to operate without so many rules. Establishing trust is really important.
- CX operations strategy is mission-critical; structure of team and process is beginning to outweigh data. Being organized to understand and act quickly on collected data is the new frontier.
CX leaders want detailed and accurate representations of their clients’ experiences and goals. From there, they want to assemble the right machinery to analyze and act on what they have collected. This helps them apply their resources where they can have the greatest impact. It doesn’t stop a having accurate client journey maps. Accountable teams need to take action on key insights quickly from experience data without waiting for extraneous decisions.
Taking a traditional approach to CX or imitating another brand’s best practices doesn’t work. In order to create more effective and strategic pathways, CX leaders know they need to reset their CX programs.
What Are the GAPS?
CX leaders reveal that gaps are emerging in the management of their CX programs such as:
- Employees are frustrated because they are not aware of processes, rules, and policies that are necessary for managing cross-channel client service.
- Employees lack authority to respond to clients’ needs in a timely manner because too many decisions are required.
- Lack of shared vision between the employee and the management due to disparity of information flowing down to those closest to the client.
- Executives treating CX as a ‘managed risk’ thus over-scrutinizing all costs, crippling the CX centers education, program management and hiring efforts.
- Management more focused on drawing boundaries around CX instead of helping to create patterns of collaboration in support of CX.
- CFOs showing a lack of willingness to increase their investments in CX; focusing instead on cost containment.
- Lack of a shared vocabulary around CX across the entire organization.
What CX Means for CEOs
One CEO said:
“We’re in a constant state of change. Now Client Experience is a pressure exerting itself harder on us than the sum of all of our existing concerns. We used to treat the client as the squeaky wheel. Now we realize they are not only the wheel, but the whole car. The question is, can we reconfigure the way our company, at all levels, manufactures empathy for the client at scale? And the answer is, ‘We have to.’”
CE0s have to rethink their support for CX programs within their companies and re-establish what that means for leadership and the employees. If they’re asking them to persistently and reliably focus on enhancing the experiences their clients have with their brands, they have a lot of work in front of them.
The CEOs we talked to had one of two attitudes about Client Experience. Either:
- They understand the importance of CX. They have faith in the management of their CX programs and the leaders driving them. They know they need to increase the support and funding of their CX programs. They’re active in making CX a strategic asset.
- They feel they’re doing okay. Their organizations are prepared to weather whatever changes are necessary without increased investment in CX. They feel CX is as important as all other organizational concerns.
Our bets are with the CEOs who are increasing their priorities around CX.
What CEOs Can Do to Address the Unarticulated Concerns of Their CX Leaders:
- Develop an increased rate of empathy for the what the CX leader is trying to accomplish.
- Move CX into the boardroom. Increase funding and executive support for your CX program.
- Ask your CX leader what you can do to help them meet their CX objectives.
- Ask the CFO to increase her involvement with the CX program. Remind her to offer a little more support and faith and a little less scrutinization.
- Bring HR in to help increase skills and capabilities by training or adding people.
- Create a CX charter that help the CX leader break down some barriers and silos. If the rest of the company knows the CEO has total support of this, everyone else will tend to fall in line with less friction.
Most CEOs realize they cannot treat their CX program as separate or auxiliary. It has to be connected into the culture of the organization for it to succeed. Their challenge is in that connection.
They realize that CX is so much more than revenue and happier customers. It’s about employees who do not dread their jobs but rather come to work to contribute to a mission that matters more than just their paycheck. It’s about solving a puzzle with a lot of parts and human beings on the other side who say, “thank you” and actually mean it.
To modern, progressive CEOs, CX means doing the right things right. Treating employees as valuable teammates capable of making smart decisions autonomously that can both make the company money and the clients happy—at the same time.
It’s about harnessing the company’s innovation energies to integrate CX far deeper into the organization.
“Customer Experience is now a key driver of business. We have to treat it that way. If we’re going to innovate at all…we’re going to innovate around the Customer Experience, first.”
CX is innovation.
If you have established and funded innovation efforts but you don’t have established and funded CX efforts, you’re innovating wrong and may be stuck back in the 90’s.
Most of the Customer Experience leaders we speak to say the same things to us.
“We already have the plan; we know where we’re weakest; we know CX is critical; BUT given our organization, we are having the hardest time prioritizing the right work, agreeing to it and getting it done in a supportive environment.”
In CX, most leaders know what to do and why. Their primary challenge is knowing how to get it done with the resources at hand.
Reason: The CXO (Chief Experience Officer) or CCEO (Chief Client Experience Officer) is still a relatively new field. The CX leader’s job is to isolate & solve business problems not playing with subjective arts and crafts projects.
CX leaders are in your company to do so much more than babysit your Voice of Customer program or keep your squeaky wheel customers from saying bad things on Twitter.
The scariest misconception that slows CX down is that we believe our clients are more patient and forgiving than they really are. Many companies believe their clients are waiting for them to hand them their company’s brilliant products and services when the company is ready. Many executives still believe that Client Experience employees are just another cost center to pamper customers.
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Here’s the real scenario:
Your clients are now walking around with super computers in their pockets able to pull out precision comparison tools in a heartbeat to see and learn about new options that can solve their problems in new , faster, and more engaging ways.
Everyone’s competition is now hockey-sticking!
Clients are building trust and favor with those companies that demonstrate they understand them; can deliver maximum value; and then get out of their way—until the next time they need something which your company may have offered them in the past.
CX leaders are in your company to do so much more than babysit your Voice of Customer program OR keeping your squeaky wheel clients from saying bad things on Twitter..
Companies are beginning to organize in patterns that empower CX leaders and reduce the distance between their clients and the people that serve them.
Your company’s new holy trinity is no longer product/services, sales, and marketing.
To stack the odds in favor of competing more successfully today, a company’s new holy trinity is a fully supported client experience leader capable of executing the client-centricity axis shift; CX-informed product innovation; and insanely creative and useful content marketing, all braided very tightly together.
Following is a look at how successful organizations like Zappo’s, GE, 3M, Dun & Bradstreet reveal other patterns as well:
- They couple client support, client success, client experience and employee experience.
- They lead their marketing efforts with an abundance of value given away for free prior to the sale; also known as content marketing.
- They’re working feverishly to incorporate a publishing function into their organizations in support of informing and serving their prospects and customers. They treat people who aren’t yet customers, as customers by folding them into their CX ecosystems.
What’s the CFO’s Job, Now?
The CXO’s NUMBER ONE JOB is figuring out how to engineer greater satisfaction into, and friction out of, your client’s experience; grow aggregate CLV (client lifetime value); and scale this effort. This is tough everyone.
While many other smaller jobs roll up to that, figuring out how to prioritize and organize resources to to make more people happy and effective is the key. By people, we mean ALL the people. clients, cohorts, segments, employees, teams, business units, and executives.
Effective CX leaders aren’t isolating focus on clients anymore. They’re balancing the responsibilities and opportunities of your organization’s value delivery ecosystem.
They need to focus on this for an increasingly empowered and selective audience while the platforms they have to work with are in a constant state of hyper-dynamic evolution.
One of their most difficult ‘smaller’ jobs is to reach into the consciousness of their executives who need to see and understand new realms of building, packaging, merchandising and delivering value.
However, before they can get to the work in building an adequate CX platform, they’re typically consumed by demonstrating ROI, finding budget and convincing their colleagues of the criticality of this function.
For the modern CXO, this is a necessity, yet to many, it probably feels like backsliding.
Gaps in a CXO’s To-Do List
The Gap between what CX leaders are asked to do and what they want to do.
|ASKED TO DO||WANT/NEED TO DO|
|Harvest revenue from clients||Use journey maps to better understand clients|
|Decrease costs associated with research||Increase body of research|
|Use existing employees to scale CX||Adopt new capabilities and skill sets|
|Build CX as a side project keep it manageable||Develop broader, company-wide holistic personal view|
|Focus on Voice of Customer and Social Media||Focus on clients more holistically|
|Leave Sales alone for now||Deeply integrate CX with Sales|
|Focus on client surveys||Go way beyond client surveys|
|Predicate successes on NPS scores||Use NPS only as a single measure|
|Park CX under the CMO, the CFO or other C-level||Develop a C-level appointment for CX|
|Focus on decisions that increase revenue while reducing costs||Focus on decisions that increase Client Lifetime Value|
|Operate human resources with clear roles||Develop/increase deep employee engagement|
|Focus limited amount of research on client buying habits||Use journey maps to understand depth in people’s needs, priorities and efforts|
|Silo CX to keep it manageable||Bust silos to align the org around Experience|
|Think of CX as an experimental cost||Treat CX as a critical investment|
|Keep all CX-related IT in IT||Bring CX-related IT into CX|
|Grow client capacity||Grow commitment from existing clients|
|Use company-centric sales funnel||Use client-centric journey stages|
The Five Steps to Reset CX in Your Company
1 Rest your CX Agenda
As a CXO, here is what a reset looks like:
- Deconstruct the CEO’s goals for your position. If your CEO doesn’t have line of sight to your position, you need to start there. Once you do, break the CEO’s goals into individual linear paths for the first 100, 200, and 300 days of the reset. Pinpoint the most powerful milestones along each path.
- Set up ‘reset’ meetings with your peers and colleagues first. Include the CFO, and the leadership for Sales, Marketing and Service Development/Innovation. Determine their paths and objectives and how you can help inject client-centricity deeper into what they’re trying to accomplish.
- Establish a deeper respect for the culture of your organization; especially in areas that most influence service and experience delivery. Pull in the head of HR and explain what how you see their role playing into CX. Find areas of common interest; help them see the value in their participation in client-centricity. The momentum and inertia are two sides of the same cultural coin. An important part of the CXO’s job is to be the agent of change. IMPORTANT NOTE: Don’t ever call yourself a change agent. That moniker will work against you.
- It’s important that CX leaders inspire people. That means providing a goal worth changing for. Once you’ve done a goal reset, bring an abundance of “inspiration” into the fold.
- Ask many questions. Set out to understand the unwritten rules and decisions guiding your organization. In your first meetings with the teams, learn the answers to these foundational CX Reset questions:
Foundational CX Reset Questions:
- In what state of maturity is our current Client Experience program? Are we in agreement about our level of CX maturity? If not, what will it take to get there? If so, are we in agreement about what level of investment it will take to ‘graduate’ to a higher level?
- What specifically is working with CX in our organization? What’s not?
- How sober are we as an organization to embark on a meaningful CX journey? Are we able to think and act with one organizational mind to make necessary changes?
- How are key organizational initiatives prioritized, managed, funded, and supported?
- How united are we in how we make decisions that impact our employees and clients?
- To what extent is our organization purpose-led? Is our purpose stated? Do people know it? Is client experience a part of our articulated purpose? If not, what will it take?
- Is our organization clear on one, single definition of a positive client experience?
- What are the top three things that will unlock executive support? How will we know when the support we seek is happening or not?
- Where are we most likely to hit internal resistance or friction with CX? What is our plan to manage it?
- Is our organization pinhole focused on NPS, data/analytics, VOC; and if so, what will it take to adopt a broader and more holistic organizational view of CX?
- Is it clear what your leadership in CX will yield? Are expectations understood by everyone?
- Is the platform technology supporting CX locked in an IT silo? If so, what will it take to liberate it and move it into a centralized CX function?
- Is there adequate support from the CFO in investing in growth from CX?
- Is there adequate support from the CMO in investing in growth from CX?
Reset Your CX Agenda
How do you crack the ‘cultural code’ of CX?
The number one thing a CX leader can do is to focus on the company’s culture to make CX stick. The bottom line is that people need to see, feel, touch, and hear CX to believe it.
We are all barraged by so much content about Client Experience, false promises, half-truths, lazy approaches, snake oil, CYA, ego trips and business fads. It’s no wonder we all tend to fall into jaded states of skepticism. Let’s be honest! Most corporate cultures are the pretty similar.
As a CX leader, you must have a positive impact on the culture of CX.
In Jeanne Bliss’ Chief Customer Officer 2.0, “How to Build Your Customer-Driven Growth Engine,” she states, “…Customer culture is talked about by many leaders but misunderstood by most organizations…” This is true.
Question: So what can you do?
Answer: Economics and Actions.
Behavior realization in culture code cracking
A lot of funny things tend to happen when CX leaders try to hit reset and drive cultural shifts toward client centricity. Keeping mindful of your organization’s cultural code is important. Think about this:
- Who attends your meetings?
- Who speaks up in your meetings?
- What is really driving their dialog?
- Who has the influence in the meetings? What influence do they really have?
- How are they using their influence?
- Can it be re-directed to help fuel CX?
- What are the influencers primary, and often un-articulated needs; how can you serve them in alignment with your CX reset?
- What opportunities exist to collectivize the employees’ ambition under your leadership?
Interesting Notes: Never misread politeness or in-meeting affirmations as agreement in your meetings. When your plans pose threats to other’s comfort with the status quo they’re far more likely to politely nod or even verbally affirm your plans as stated. But think about these two points:
- Those whose support your needs will show their support through actions, not words.
- Some of the best ideas bubble up from people’s frustrations and resistance to change.
Learn to read the distinction in how people smile and say one thing and turn around and obstruct the next day. The CXO’s job is to find and act on these opportunities for delicate behavioral shifts.
Redirecting dissension into collective ambition is an important task for successful CX leaders.
2 Reset Your 100 Day Plan
Knowing what to accomplish, in the right order is important. When you hit reset, it’s imperative to have a solid plan that both informs you of the state of things and sends the message that you are on a mission to pull it all together. This mission succeeds when you call it a reset and not a “Change.”
The first 100 days should be about alignment. To gain alignment, you need to make sure you’re sending the message that this is a team sport; letting everyone know you’re going to work across silos equitably to forge closer and more meaningful relationships between the company’s employees and its customers.
The CX Alignment Script
- “I’m hitting reset on our CX program. We need to gain more benefits from CX and we have to make some subtle tweaks to how we get there and you’re a big part of this. I need your help.”
- “We need to assess and understand our current CX baseline. I need your help with that.”
- “We have to adjust our approach to understanding our clients. Can you help me rethink the way we’re collecting client research and data?”
- “We have to find better ways to engage our employees to improve the management of CX.”
- “We have to start measuring more of what actually matters in CX. This starts with more precise metrics that a) help us know how well we understand our clients; b) how well we’re serving their needs with that new understanding; and c) what our company is gaining as a result. This will be thoroughly mapped and your institutional knowledge is paramount to this.”
- “Internally, we have to set a resounding ‘drumbeat’ of transparent communications that clearly illustrate what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, how we’re doing it and what everyone’s role in this needs to be.”
- “Externally, we have to make sure that changes are in alignment with how our marketing, sales, and support functions are interacting with our clients.”
Month 1 Plan
Lay out your alignment plan. At this point, it is listening and fact gathering. Meet and align with:
- The CEO.
- The head of Marketing.
- The head of Sales.
- The head of Operations.
Month 2 Plan
Meet and align with:
- The CHRO.
- The CFO.
- The head of IT.
- The company’s innovation teams
Month 3 Plan
- Ask to attend sales meetings with clients. Learn the major pain points for the sales force and articulate what a more cohesive CX capability can do to help them.
- Help illustrate how CX can be positioned to design a better product/service integration story.
- Rethink the way your organization is segmenting its clients through a CX lens.
- Think harder and differently about the the organization’s product/service interface. It’s where you are about to have the greatest impact.
- Figure out the organizational landscape and what people need to drive the change in achieving the right CX gains for your organization.
- Create a CX Center of Excellence (start with one dedicated person and one room).
- Make Client Lifetime Value (microeconomic) and Aggregate Company Revenue from CX (macroeconomic) your keystone measure in the beginning.
3 Focus on the Nucleus of CX
As the head of Client Experience, you will need to establish your organization’s vocabulary around client experience in your industry. Make a strong case for owning or leading the collaboration around three tightly-wound elements of CX.
- Own the cultural ‘axis shift’ toward client experience
- Own the client experience
- Own the product/service interface
It’s not easy to do this. In fact, most believe that this is close to impossible. However, it’s the right way and worth the struggle. In order for organizations to truly compete on the grounds of client experience, they have to make significant changes. These are the changes that help powerful CX leaders, lead.
None of this means anything, however, if it doesn’t lead to action. In the first month after the reset, forge specific organizational changes and new initiatives around the axis shift, the client experience, and the interface.
Your first actions should be more structural; with the goal to integrate client data, brand, messaging/positioning, demand generation, client experience, company culture, support functions, and the marketing/sales interface.
You have to create a new Client Experience Supergroup. Invite all the leaders responsible for these efforts and collaboratively lay out your vision for how to reset CX inside your company. The people you met with in the first 100 days are your Supergroup.
The activities that join the three elements of your CX nucleus will unlock positive attitudes around CX in your organization. They are:
- Employee Engagement
- CX Innovation
- Content Marketing
Employee Engagement (EE)
You cannot succeed without fully-engaged employees. They dominate the front line; drive all activities in support of the experiences clients have with your brand; and they need to feel they’re the most important part of meaningful and connected experiences. Focus here.
There are no more important things to innovate than your client experience. Products and Services are born out of the experiences your clients have with your brand. Putting emphasis behind your CX innovation will have more positive effects on your company’s product and service innovations. Done the other way around makes you vulnerable to emerging competition as others continue to focus exclusively on their products.
The intent of Content Marketing falls directly in line with the spirit of CX. Offer more value before the sale. Content Marketing is what will fuel your CX reset. Think of it as the communications platform through which you illustrate the value that your clients bring to your brand.
4 Reset the CX Ecosystem
How you organize and categorize functions makes a big difference. Part of the battle is resetting the way your company has always done things. To benefit from the purpose of the reset, you have to develop the right ecosystem and perform a CX axis shift. Group functions in your CX ecosystem in more human-centered than organization-centric ways.
Reorganize the CX Ecosystem into four new areas:
Feel has responsibility for the internal and external brand experience, the design interface, and digital and offline client experience delivery functions. Also responsible for employee engagement relative to supporting CX.
Voice manages all social/listening, VOC, contact center, editorial planning and distribution channels affecting the client’s experience.
Activation manages all content, search, loyalty/retention as well as interactions with real people.
Measurement manages the strategy and metrics of all internal and external performance. It manages all CRM data and analytics environments; measures everything you do; and it keeps your ideas, plans and actions accountable.
How to set appropriate focus areas within CX
5 Reset the CX Performance Measures
They say you can only manage what you can measure. There is some truth to that. There are an endless number of granular KPIs and KRIs that CX leaders track obsessively. Starting smaller and graduating to increased granularity and volume of measurement is the safest and best way to go.
As your CX axis shift gains momentum and you’re engaging coalitions of the willing, make sure you are giving people enough to see that your vision, plans and execution are yielding real results.
The best way to illustrate results is to share them. Choose carefully. What you use to illustrate progress needs to resonate with your Supergroup first, management next, executives after that and your employees from there on out.
Create two sets of measures. One comprehensive set that is used by your CX Supergroup to determine real progress and a second high-level set that you share with the entire company to illustrate progress toward your goal.
Talk candidly with the CEO about precisely how she will judge your performance, and that of your team, in six and 12 months?
Recommend these metrics in the first year with an agreement to adjust, if necessary, after year one.
Comprehensive Supergroup Metrics
- Increase (%) in geographical market share
- Increase (%) in (Sales/Marketing) qualified leads
- Increase (%) in social media traction
- Increase (%) in social media sentiment
- Increase (%) in employee engagement momentum from a re-energized sales and marketing team, (via an employee survey).
- Increase (%) in perceived global cohesion, measured by your global peers.
- Increase (%) in Client Lifetime Value (CLV)
- Increase (%) in Aggregate Company Revenue from CX (ACR)
- Increase (%) in positive client experiences/satisfaction
- Increase (%) in mind share/ brand strength
- Decrease (%) in client effort through transactions
- Increased ease of use through all sales interfaces (measured by survey to client segments and salespeople)
So, What Now?
We imagine that this may be pie in the sky thinking to some—perhaps many. For others the time is now to re-evaluate the role of CX inside their organizations.
We feel there has never been a better time to stake bold claims in the spirit of client experience.
Up to this point, CX has always been “other.” There has always been marketing, sales and operations; and through those channels, organizations have struggled to push their offering into client’s hands.
Times have changed. It is now time for us to reconfigure ourselves, our focus, our teams, our processes and prepare for the eventuality that we need to change to satisfy more complex clients under more complex conditions.
If a CX reset feels undoable, you’re in good company.
However, you’ll never know until you try. We know your job is hard as it is. But we also know if leading a company’s CX effort is going to be this hard, you might as well stake the right claim.
It’s a triple win shared by company, employee, and client; and it’s an opportunity of a lifetime.