I know that CEOs and their executive teams are busy people. They have a lot of priorities and considerations that go into being in charge of a company. Getting their time and attention can be a challenge for anyone in the organization. But difficult or not, getting the time and attention of these powerful thought leaders is essential if you want to affect real cultural change in your organization.
Everyone is happy until you ask him or her to do something. When you are in charge of customer experience you must have the engagement of the senior leadership in order to be successful. The good news is that 20% of executive teams are engaged and fully immersed in the customer experience agenda.
The bad news is that the remaining 80% are not. They may nod their head and say that they are but the reality is by their actions we know they are not. That remaining percentage generally falls into two groups:
- 40% = The non-believers. This group has not bought in at all. They may say they are because politically it’s right to do so, but they resist any change and do not give the customer experience agenda a chance.
- 40% = The undecided. This group will say they support a new customer experience initiative but in truth haven’t fully accepted that it is necessary or will benefit the organization. Your success will depend on whether you can convince this second group that the change is work it.
This non-believer group is far more frustrating to deal with on a daily basis because sometimes you don’t know that they don’t believe. You think you are working for one of the 20% who really is on board with changing the company culture, but you don’t find out until much later that really, they are part of the 40% who only says they are on board. Identifying the second group of executives, the undecided, is easier, however, if you know what to look for in their behavior.
Here 7 signs that your executive team is not on board with your agenda:
- Their schedule is always too busy to discuss Customer Experience Implications. You have been trying to have a meeting with the Executive team for weeks about the customer experience implications, but their schedules are filled. This indicates other things are “more important” than customer experience.
- You notice that they always want to limit the time spent on strategy for the Customer Experience Agenda. When you notice that your agenda items and allotted times for the meetings are significantly smaller than, say the sales department’s, it is a pretty big indicator of what the focus is of your organization.
- They take an inactive role. You finally have a meeting but instead of the executive in charge, you get their right-hand man or woman. Sending a representative would indicate that they didn’t think it was necessary for them to be directly involved as long as their department is represented there.
- Generally, there seems to be a lack of understanding about the implications of a poor Customer Experience. When you send them the Customer data you collect about your Customer measurement like Net Promoter Scores® dropping over the past three consecutive quarters, you hear nothing about it. Ever.
- They say things that are focused on the company, not the customer. If your executive team is talking about margins, fixed-costs, and overhead allowances, then they are focused inwardly on the organization, not on the customer’s experience.
- When they talk about the company, they rarely include a customer story. In all your correspondence, meetings, and awards banquets, you never hear the executives relate stories about the customer. It could be because they don’t have any.
- They haven’t had face time with a customer in a long period of time, if they have any at all. It’s hard to be telling stories about customers if you don’t ever see them or interact with them anymore. When they lose touch with customer, executives tend to lose touch with the importance of giving them a great experience.
I sincerely hope that after reading this list, you are working for one of the 20% who really do support a change to the customer experience. However, if you have recognized these 7 behaviors in your executive team, then perhaps you should take a deep breath and get a drink—of water or whiskey, whichever suits your preference—and prepare for a new approach.
Get Them On-Board by Speaking Their Language
Change for the customer experience must come from the top. That’s because, these types of changes can be difficult, expensive, time and resource consuming, and challenge the way that people are used to handling things. To overcome the challenges and stick to the program, it takes commitment of everyone in the organization from the C-Suite to the call center and mailroom. And if you don’t have support from the people that call the shots and set the priorities, then you are not going to get support from the people who answer to them.
But there are ways to get them to come around. You have to make what you are doing attractive to them.
“But how?” you might be asking yourself.
The answer, I learned in my years of experience is by figuring out what is most important to them and framing your strategy for change as the catalyst to getting them to that most important thing. Or in other words, speak to them in their language. To demonstrate what I mean by this, I have an example from my career that demonstrates this brilliantly.
When I was a senior management for British Telecom, I needed to make some changes to our customer experience. But no matter how much my leaders said they supported me, my programs lost out to cost savings every time. This happened numerous times before I figured out that cost savings was what my team valued.
So the next time I presented my program, I included how many cost savings we could achieve using our improved customer experience programs, mostly by eliminating the costs associated with bad service. Once I showed them that, my program finally passed and we made great progress toward improving our customer experience.
Having the Executive team on your side is an important part of any customer experience champion’s strategy. Sometimes you think you do only to find out that they are only saying they are on your side without really meaning it. The key to getting them to mean it is to learn to speak their language. When you talk in terms they can understand, your message—and its related Customer Experience agenda—will get through loud and clear.
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Colin Shaw is founder & CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s first organizations devoted to customer experience. Colin has been recognized by LinkedIn as one of the top 150 Business Influencers in the world. He is an international author of four best-selling books on Customer Experience. Colin’s company, Beyond Philosophy provide consulting, specialized research & training from our Global Headquarters in Tampa, Florida, USA.
Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter: @ColinShaw_CX