Everyone Owns Customer Experience, But It Needs a Leader

customer experienceCan we please stop asking who owns the customer experience?

And, please, stop the knee-jerk response of “Everyone should own the customer experience.”

Everyone owning the customer experience is a wonderful thought. (And not to mention makes a nice, retweetable sound byte.) It conjures up images of helpful and empowered employees at every level. If a customer requires some additional help, the custodian will stop pushing the broom to step in and make the experience a special one.  Everyone will step in as needed, disregarding daily requirements and pay grades to interact directly with customers. The end of the rainbow includes legions of hyper-loyal customers who love a company because of the people involved.

Reality, however, paints a different picture.

Employees are expected to do much more with fewer resources. Executives rarely interact with actual customers. And many of these employees hate their jobs or feel entirely disengaged. Bonuses and raises are often tied to specific, acquisition-focused results. The rewards are all about gaining new customers or increasing profit. Increasing profit absolutely should be a goal, but at what cost for short-term gains?

Yes, everyone should own the customer experience.

Every employee should feel responsible for delivering their portion of a spectacular experience to each customer. But how can they if the leader is not leading?

Truly customer-centric cultures are not created by mandates or nice plaques on the walls, they are created by leaders. And it must start at the top. The CEO should be connecting the dots for everyone – customers, shareholders, employees, and executives. Someone should be advocating for the customer in every meeting, for every project and with every result.

The CEO should be hiring executives who can lead with this mission, too. Changing a culture that hasn’t been focused on customers is not an easy task. When people have been trained to worry about short-term results at the expense of long-term customers, it is often tied to fear. If someone is worried about losing a job, speaking up on behalf of customers is often a losing proposition. It’s up to leadership to change that.

People understand when they are cogs in the wheels of the corporate machinery.

They know they can serve a role without passion or engagement for a while until they find something else. If leaders talk a good game about “everyone owning the customer experience” but don’t support it with long-term visions and constant, repeated reinforcement through both words and actions, individuals within the company will focus on the short-term goals they know leadership cares about. And why should they do anything differently?

Leaders need to change the game by understanding the consequences of NOT focusing on the customers. If they can inspire each person within the company to do so, that’s step one. But words, actions and results are big steps, too.

Don’t fall for the words.

Yes, please, believe that everyone should own the customer experience. But look to the leaders to see if it’s all talk or more than that.

Sensei Debates: Everyone Owns Customer Experience, But It Needs a Leader.  Does a business need a “customer experience” executive to take charge? Or is this within the purview of an existing executive’s responsiblities? Share your thoughts in the comments below. 

Image Credit: fotologic via Creative Commons

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1 comments
piplzchoice
piplzchoice

"Management is a position that is granted; leadership is a status that is earned." ~K. Scott Derrick. One of the first reason people give, to explain the difficulty of customer change implementation, is lack of leadership support. This causes a debate in customer experience management communities about the need, some say the rise, of the Chief Customer Officer. Personally, I always thought that was the role of the Chief Marketing Officer of an organization, but apparently they, as a group, do not live up to that expectation – i.e. focus on priorities other than making their companies more customer centric.

In my experience, the addition of another title, without P&L accountability, has never magically created the leadership presence the CX communities are yearning for. In most instances the CxO’s political power directly relates to their proximity to revenue generation (in fast growing companies) or spending control (in the rest).

I am not an expert in leadership theories, but I would like to suggest that if you really want to see a change in the way your organization relates to its customers, you would have to take the risk of doing what needs to be done to enable such change. I address specific steps in my blog - http://blog.amplifiedanalytics.com/2013/08/customer-experience-easy-to-measure-hard-to-change-part-2/

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