To be customer focused, a CEO must pay great attention to past, present and future customer behaviours, motivations and aversions.
Take a moment to think. Do you work with a customer focused CEO? I mean, not one who says he is but one who backs up their word with action.
Does he invest to improve the company’s customer experience on a consistent basis?
Does she spend time every month connecting with customers?
Does she reach out to frontline employees to understand the customer’s challenges?
This post was inspired by an email I received from one of my email subscribers who asked,
“How do I get my CEO to focus more on the customer?’
Well, it’s not easy. CEO’s either have customer centricity in their DNA or they don’t. It’s difficult to train experienced executives to pivot and genuinely want to invest to improve their customer experience. These leaders may be accustomed to operating a certain way and asking them to change is difficult.
My newsletter subscriber continued by asking,
“How can I tell if my CEO is customer-centric?”
Being focused on the customer requires certain traits to be organic and genuine. They are traits you must possess naturally.
They support their management team with a respectable operating budget
I recently hosted a keynote speaking engagement for customer experience management professionals. When I asked the audience,
“How many people believe they have a sufficient budget to improve their company’s customer experience?”
Only three out of nearly one hundred attendees raised their hand. This tells me that companies have acknowledged that they need someone to lead their customer experience programs but they haven’t effectively given them an adequate budget.
Think of how much your organization invests in marketing, sales and pr initiatives. Is the investment in customer experience equal to or greater than these other strategies? Customer focused CEO’s will ensure that their operational management teams are equipped with a budget that will help drive growth.
Tony Hsieh (Founder, CEO – Zappos) advocates spending more on improving the customer experience over traditional marketing. After all, the best way to grow a business is organically through referrals and repeat business. Zappos is a case study on how to do this.
They think long term
The ROI of some customer experience initiatives can take 6, 12 or 24 months to come to surface. This is why Jeff Bezos says he is “willing to be misunderstood for long periods of time.” I find that CEO’s of publicly traded companies are less likely to invest to become more customer-centric because they have to answer to Wall Street which demands a ROI immediately. For companies who are privately owned, they have the advantage of being able to grow slow.
An investment in customer experience isn’t tangible like investing in radio, television or direct-mail. We must be patient and grow long lasting businesses slowly. Remember, Groupon? They grew very fast, lost their customer focus and are now a shell of what they use to be.
They genuinely want to engage with customers
I once met a CEO who said,
“Michel, I don’t have the time to sit in my call centre and listen to live calls.”
I’m very confident in my expertise but not even I can help professionals who believe their schedules are too busy to listen to customers and speak with employees. As I mentioned earlier, CEO’s either ‘get it’ or they don’t. There are many affordable ways to engage with customers: host Customer Advisory Board meetings, listen to live calls with your contact centre team or monitor your social media feeds.
My recommendation for any professional who wants to become customer focused is to set a recurring meeting on your calendar for 30 minutes each week. During this time, chose a practice that will help you become closer to your customers motivations, challenges and aversions.
Good Enough is No Longer Good Enough
Whether your NPS score is 85 or you are consistently voted as a top customer service company in your industry, customer focused CEO’s aren’t ever satisfied with the level of service their company delivers to their customers.
If a customer-centric CEO sees that the companies level of service has flat lined they motivate their team to build new strategies to revitalize their service.
Many companies run to the opportunity to invest in operational strategies that will increase their profile. As I mentioned in last week’s post, investing in a Super Bowl ad is glamourous. Investing to improve your contact centres training program isn’t so attractive but will pay a higher ROI.
What other traits do you believe customer focused CEO’s possess?
UPDATE: Five minutes after I published this post, Richard Branson announced a massive investment in Virgin Trains to improve the customer experience.
Read the article here. It’s not a coincidence I chose a picture of Richard Branson for the image of this post.
To learn how to earn higher customer and employee loyalty, download my ebook The 28 Traits of Organizations Who Are Customer Experience Titans below.