Have you ever had to convince your CEO or department leader of the importance of customer experience?
How about having to justify the investment in designing, developing, and deploying your company’s customer experience?
If you have said “yes” to either of these questions, I have some good news! But I also have a bit of bad news.
The good news is that your skillset, as a customer experience management pro, is in short supply. The business world doesn’t need more marketers or PR people. We desperately need more people, like you, who know how to audit and improve an organization’s customer experience to increase customer loyalty and retention (among other things).
My clients, and the professionals I speak to, are all beginning to recruit for Customer Experience Managers, all the way up to the Chief Customer Officer (CCO). These individuals will be given the resources they need, just like Marketing and PR receive, to contribute to the success of the business. This isn’t me looking through rose-tinted glasses. The forward-thinking organizations, who are making the connection between customer experience and growth before it’s too late, are the ones recruiting for these positions.
Just last week, I was in Philadelphia keynoting an executive conference (watch full keynote here), when someone in the audience asked me during Q&A,
“My company is hiring for a Customer Experience Manager right now. Where do we find this person?”
I first asked him how it’s been going so far. He responded with,
You see, if you need to hire a salesperson, there is an abundance of those and we know where to find them.
Customer Experience professionals are unicorns. We’ve heard of them, but where do we find them? Do they even exist? This post wasn’t reserved to teach you where to find a Customer Experience Manager or CCO. But, if you want to know, email me directly and I will tell you.
If you’ve built a career in customer experience management, or aspire to, then you will be highly coveted by companies of all sizes and industries very soon.
And now for the bad news. Your CEO probably isn’t customer-centric. If so, your motivation and efforts will likely go unnoticed or without regard.
You might be thinking,
“But, Michel, I will convince her…”
My response to you, every time, will be,
“It’s going to be very difficult.”
I’m not a pessimist.
I have been there before and it’s nearly impossible. You see, you’re not trying to convince; you are asking them to fundamentally change the way they view business. Your CEO or department head may have been operating a certain way for 10, 20, or even 30 years. Do you really think your 30 minute “pitch” is going to erase their memory of what makes sense to themselves? It’s similar to how you can’t teach a jerk to genuinely be nice and compassionate.
As an employee, I had to convince, beg, and plead. Remember, I’ve been in your shoes before – fighting for what’s right for the customer. While I did gain some traction and momentum, the investment in helping the organization become more customer-centric paled in comparison to what marketing, PR, and business development received. But, have faith that this is going to change. I’m not suggesting that all marketing budgets are going to go to customer experience-related initiatives; that would be silly to think that. What will happen is that marketers are going to go from a “spray and pray” mentality to a “give and nurture” mentality, which will ultimately improve the customer experience. They are going to need you, the customer experience leader, to make this happen because marketers are just beginning to understand customer experience. Someone who I believe understands the intersection between marketing and customer experience is Augie Ray.
As a consultant, I meet with companies all the time that want to become more customer-focused – both small and large companies, across many different industries. I’m happy to report that the majority of the people I meet “get it” and I don’t need to do any convincing. For me, it’s all about helping them understand how to design, develop, and deploy strategies to improve their customer experience. You will get there too.
The CEO Conundrum
Why is it that some CEOs won’t become customer-centric? Or, even worse, why will they say they are when truly, deep down, they aren’t? Well, let me add on to what I have already mentioned.
I believe most CEOs prefer to be ego-centric rather than customer-centric. Let’s admit it: we all have an ego that either fills a void in ourselves or drives us to inflate our personal brand. I do it. You do it. We ALL do it in one form or another.
Let’s take two real-life examples and examine them together.
Example #1 – The Ego-Centric CEO
Your company is pitched by a media company that promises to secure them coverage in all the top newspapers in your country. Each profile will include a headshot of the CEO, a story about recent news, and it will be distributed to millions of people.
Your high school sweetheart is going to see it. Your best friend is going to see it. Your former boss, who fired you, is going to see it. Everyone is going to see how successful you’ve become. The enthusiasm and excitement of this gets us swept off our feet and we quickly secure the $100,000 investment with the media company. Plus, it’s something tangible – something we can touch and see, which makes us feel nice. It’s something that we can mount on our wall after it’s been published, so that all of our office visitors can see it. Once again, we want to show off how successful we are.
Please understand this: I believe in all sorts of marketing – both traditional and digital. What I don’t agree with is spending countless amounts of resources trying to inflate our brands and acquire customers when our customer experience has been neglected, and we don’t have the resources required to retain those same customers we may have acquired through marketing strategies.
I’m going to be optimistic and assume that your marketing strategy went off without a hitch. Now comes the time to calculate the ROI. After your campaign, you saw an increase in revenue. Fantastic! But how can we definitively know that it’s because of our media efforts that our revenue spiked? Our frontline employees and salespeople aren’t even asking your customers,
“How did you hear about us?”
It amazes me how many companies aren’t asking this question to understand where they are acquiring their customers from – both offline and online. Can we be so sure that this spike in revenue can’t be attributed to other initiatives that we created last quarter?
This CEO understands marketing, he has been doing it for decades with results, but he doesn’t understand customer experience. I mean, he knows what it means, and he might even understand the value, but like many others he doesn’t understand how to design, develop, and deploy strategies. He might not even know where to start. After all, business school didn’t teach him.
Example #2 – The Customer-Centric CEO
This CEO keeps her ear to the street, and I don’t mean that she’s aware of that Lil’ Wayne track that just leaked. I mean that she regularly speaks to her customers and employees and understands their motivations and challenges. The CEO of Tangerine Bank, Peter Aceto, is a master black belt at doing this, which is why he’s admired.
Through conversation with her employees, this CEO recognizes that her customers aren’t happy. She “y-jacks” (listens to live calls) and hears, verbatim, what her customers are saying about their aversions to doing business with her company. She says to herself,
“Holy crap! We aren’t as good as we think we are.”
With this motivation, she speaks with her executive team to understand why this is happening. They conclude,
“Team, we have a customer retention problem. For all these years we have been focused on customer acquisition, and don’t have the resources to actually serve our customers after they have purchased.”
One solution to this problem is to build a formal Complaint Resolution System that will resolve all customer complaints within one business day. The outcome of such a system will be an increase in customer retention.
Now this is where most CEOs will stop their investment or decide to “put it off for a while.” You see, I can’t promise you when your financial ROI will come to surface. It might come in the same quarter. It might take 6 months. It might even take a year.
Don’t you plan on being in business for the next twelve months? Why not make the investment now? Personally, as a consumer, aren’t you loyal to companies who resolve all complaints within one business day? Don’t you become increasingly frustrated with companies that neglect their customers.
Let’s say the same amount of $100,000 is invested to build or buy software to increase customer retention and have all complaints resolved within one business day. Your frontline employees are also given world-class training to ensure they know how to effectively speak to customers. As I’ve said before,
“Your frontline employees must be the smartest people in the room. We must put others before ourselves if we truly want to become successful.”
For the ego-centric CEO, this isn’t a glamorous investment. It’s not tangible. It’s not sexy.
But, believe me, this will grow your business for the next 100 years far better than any media campaign ever will.[bctt tweet=”A 5% increase in customer retention can equate to a 75% increase in profits – Bain & Co. @michelfalcon”]
Last year, I wrote a post about 4 Non-Negotiable Traits of Customer-Focused CEOs that was shared a few hundred times.
The traits include:
- They support their management team with a respectable operating budget
- They think long-term
- They genuinely want to engage with customers
- They believe that good enough is no longer good enough
How many of these traits does your current CEO or department leader possess? Here’s a hint: they need to have all of them. One can’t live without the other.
If your CEO doesn’t naturally possess customer-centric qualities, does that mean all hope is lost? Not necessarily. I know I said earlier that it’s nearly impossible to fundamentally change the way an executive thinks, but I have seen it happen with clients, speaking at executive forums, and in the media. The thing to remember is that they must come to these realizations on their own first and not be “pitched” on the idea. As soon as they fundamentally understand the value of designing, developing, and deploying customer experience initiatives, that is the optimal time to approach her with new systems and processes.
I want to hear from you.
What is your single biggest challenge in getting your company to focus more on your customers? Email me at email@example.com and let me know.