Oct 25 Leaders, Are We Still Creating a CX Movement?

Each week, I have the opportunity to meet with professionals who are passionate about their customers. In many cases, their dedication has led them to a position of influence or leadership within their organization. Whether they are from a product, UX or marketing background, these brave individuals have taken up the mantle leading organizations into the competitive battleground to win the heart of their current and future customers.

Once in a CX leadership position, however, these individuals are challenged with building a function that is not always fully understood by their peers, cuts across the entire organization, and is under scrutiny to produce measurable results. They may lead teams which are often overtasked, yet underfunded; or they may command a CX function that is spread across the organization with loose coordination or goals. Either way, many CX leaders lack the resources and people to power a truly proactive CX capability and find themselves stuck in a more reactive mode.

If leaders are continually putting out fires, they risk burning out their own spark, making it difficult to do what they set out to do: inspiring people and building a movement.

You are Not Alone

A few years ago, it became apparent to us that we needed to come alongside many of our customers to help them build the case for why investing in CX was a smart business move. Over time, there has been compelling data compiled by Forrester, CEB, and Tempkin that shows the positive correlation between those investing in customer experience and KPIs, such as satisfaction, retention, and referral. However, when we read Forresters’ August 2017 report, “The US Customer Experience Index, 2017” we were surprised to see their findings. No industries in their study improved in the CX Index. All industries were stagnant or lost ground in the ratings. In their analysis, Forrester details that the stakes have risen and that improving a customer’s experience is not only about removing pain points, but also about creating and delivering moments of positive emotion.

It is tempting to look inward in light of these results to analyze what isn’t working. However, in the face of rising customer expectations, it is essential that CX teams balance what occupies their daily agendas—for example, the mastery of methodology and measurements—with their deeper purpose: building enterprise customer empathy. That is why I would encourage you to keep listening to your customers for answers and inspiration. CX teams have the power to bring the organization in contact with their customers’ needs every day with stories that can break down silos and can power a customer-focused movement.

Name the Challenge and Bolster the Cause

The leaders with whom we get to work with are working hard to mature their CX practice and champion the cause for customer experience inside of their organization. Many thought they were scaling a function but quickly found out that much of their job is to change mindsets internally. In one of my favorite books, Scaling Up Excellence, Bob Sutton and Huggy Roa offer a compelling list of scaling principles. One of the first chapters is called “Hot Causes, Cool Solutions.” In their research of successful scaling efforts, they have found that those leading the charge need to find ways “to bolster belief in a hot cause (the underlying mindset), and persuade others to live that mindset (whether they believe it or not).”

They offer some tactics. One of my personal favorites is “naming the problem.” I had the opportunity to be a part of a couple of significant enterprise transformation efforts before starting Rêve. I joined GE two years after Jack Welch determined Six Sigma was how he was going to transform GE to deliver world-class quality to its customers. GE’s problem was making and delivering defective products or services to customers. Ridding our organizations of defects (in our customer’s eyes) became our “hot cause.” It started with our mindset that delivering substandard products and experiences were unacceptable, but it quickly moved to action – to a new way of working, rewarding, and communicating how we were performing.

If your customer-centric message is not resonating with the rest of the organization, perhaps you have not expressed it in a way that is hot enough to spark change. Try bringing together a cross-functional group of team members and talk to them about what is working and what could be better. Design with and for them.

On the other end of the spectrum, some organizations may find that positive reinforcement can galvanize the organization. Earlier this year I had a chance to hear Heather Figallo, Senior Director of Innovation and Labs at Southwest Airlines, share how Southwest is driving innovation to create an even more emotional connection between customers, their brand, and their employees. She shared that even in a company that has a big heart for their customers, positive storytelling is still a powerful motivator. A couple of weeks ago, Southwest launched a new campaign called “Behind Every Seat is a Story.” Ryan Green, Southwest’s Chief Marketing Officer, says in a statement. “This campaign is an opportunity for us to remind the world that there is a personal reason someone chose to fly Southwest Airlines with our low fares, no hidden fees, and exceptional hospitality. We’re honored and pleased to tell stories inspired by the more than 115 million people who fly Southwest Airlines every year.”

No matter what industry you work in, and no matter how long your value chain, at the end of it, you will find real people. And where there are people, there are stories: which ones are yours to tell?

Find Your First Follower

One shadow side to “cause bolstering” is potentially ostracizing people in the organization due to the passion that many CX leaders display in the pursuit of delivering on the CX mandate. Here is a strategy that I have found particularly helpful: instead of trying to win over everybody, focus on finding the first few CX supporters. Change is hard and doing things in a new way is scary, not only for the leader but for those first few people that start to join the cause. I go back to a TED talk from Derek Sivers, “How to Start a Movement,” annually to remember this:

“A leader needs the guts to stand out and be ridiculed. What he’s doing is so easy to follow. Here’s his first follower with a crucial role; he’s going to show everyone else how to follow. Now, notice that the leader embraces him as an equal. Now it’s not about the leader anymore; it’s about them, plural. Now, there he is calling to his friends. Now, if you notice that the first follower is an underestimated form of leadership in itself. It takes guts to stand out like that. The first follower is what transforms a lone nut into a leader.”

Also, like a good benediction, he ends the talk with encouraging words: “If you really care about starting a movement, have the courage to follow and show others how to follow. And when you find a lone nut doing something great, have the guts to be the first one to stand up and join in.”