One of the most common questions I get from CX professionals is this: “How do I get my executives to support the work I’m trying to do?” In 2009, when the CX space was just starting to gain traction at the C-level, I wrote a report on that topic. I pulled that report up earlier this week to share with a colleague and realized that its key takeaways are as true today as they were five years ago.
Taking a page from the Facebook culture, I decided to make this Throwback Thursday and bring the report back into the CX conversation. You can read the full report here, but the key things that stand out to me after all this time are:
- You don’t need buy-in; you need action. I think of CX as the “eat healthy and exercise” of the business world. Everyone “buys in” to the idea of treating customers well, at least in public. What they don’t do is change their behavior or encourage change in the people who work for them. CX professionals need to stop asking for buy-in and start asking specific executives to do specific things.
- Barriers to action aren’t the same for every executive. Some executives shy away from CX because they don’t believe it will deliver ROI. But quite a few are 100% onboard with the CX transformation; they just aren’t sure what they personally need to do to make it happen. In an ideal world, they’d figure it out on their own, but that’s not going to happen. Executives don’t have the time and often don’t know what they don’t know when it comes to CX. CX pros need to explain the ins and outs of a disciplined CX program and identify the practices that each team needs to adopt to play their part in the CX ecosystem.*
- Persuasion happens one-on-one, not in big meetings. It’s natural to hope that one speech or meeting with a compelling-enough story will make the light bulbs go off and change executive behavior overnight. Sadly, that’s not what happens. Speeches and meetings can get the ball rolling, but CX pros need to do the hard work of getting to know each executive, finding out what matters to them and telling the CX story in a way that aligns with each point of view. They also have to repeat the message over and over again, letting people absorb it and internalize it a little bit at a time. This work isn’t always fun and sure isn’t as sexy as deploying a new mobile app or mining big data, but it’s what we have to do to create meaningful culture change.
Do you have a success story (or a lesson learned) about engaging executives in your CX program? I’ve heard many of them since 2009 but would love to learn about others. If you're willing to share your story, feel free to leave a comment here or, if you’d prefer, contact my colleague Carla O’Connor (firstname.lastname@example.org) to set up a 1:1 conversation.
*It was this finding that led to the report titled "Customer Experience Maturity Defined." My goal with that research was to help CX pros explain to executives exactly what great CX companies do at a tactical, operational level. If you’ve used our CX maturity framework for this purpose, I’d also love to hear how it’s worked for you.