I bear the scars. In my last role in corporate life, some ten years ago, I was asked by the CEO to ‘Improve the Customer Experience at least cost’. I thought of it as a great honour and a challenge I relished. Only one problem -I was given responsibility without authority. All too often I see this happening with Customer Experience professionals and it can be a recipe for disaster if you go about this in the wrong way. I was very aware that after my ‘honeymoon period’ I would be blamed for any poor performance despite the fact I did not have control over the levers to make the changes I knew were necessary. These levers laid in my colleagues operational teams and they were reluctant to make changes for a number of reasons. Sound familiar? I quickly learnt that everyone is happy with this type of job until you ask them to do something.

There is never any point in complaining, this was the role I accepted and I needed to make it work. I therefore devised some strategies to deal with it. Here are some strategies I adopted that worked in my quest to improve our Customer retention. These should not be deployed all at once, you need to assess the situation and make the right judgements of what to use when:

  1. Find out what motivates the people running the part of the organization you are trying to change – this is key. How can the changes you wish to make help them? It may be that improving the Customer Experience will make them become more efficient. It may be that it will help them reduce head count. It could be you could help them improve sales. Or it could be that you can make them a hero and this will help their careers or political situation.
  2. Become good at politics – It’s interesting that not much is written about politics but politics is all pervasive in organizations. Being good at politics is essential. I remember when people used to ask me what I did for a living, I often replied ‘I play chess’ as this is what it felt like, I had to plan every move.
  3. Shame them into submission – Measure the hell out of everything and start to publish the performance of different parts of the organization. People hate to be at the bottom of a league table. Be aware this can be a rocky road as people will question the results. I would encourage you to make sure you have your bosses backing before you do this as it will be difficult politically; however the power of a league table is amazing!
  4. Involve Finance – One of the key factors to improving the Customer Experience is financial -either cost or revenue. Therefore you need to fight fire with fire. Get ‘Finance’ involved and get them to be the ‘independent’ arbitrator of efficacy saving and revenues you can project.
  5. Make sure you think laterally and talk their language. All too often we see Customer Experience teams struggle to make an ROI case. One reason is that they don’t think wide enough. Let me give you an example. Back in the day I wanted to improve the delivery times of one of our products. I had assumed, wrongly, that by showing that this would improve Customer satisfaction substantially would be a good enough argument. It was not. I wasn’t talking their language. I quickly learnt that I wasn’t talking their language, cost saving and efficiency. The change was rejected outright. I decided to think laterally. I looked into how many escalations we received because our delivery timescales were very poor. I discovered 45% of all orders were being escalated. The cost to manage this process in people’s time was enormous. I then went back with a different business case, one based on cost reduction, oh and by the way it will improve Customer satisfaction as well. It was accepted without question!
  6. Instigate Customer Experience Councils – As we outlined in our blog. Implement Councils to bring everyone together. Use other departments to out vote the parts of the organization that are causing problems.
  7. One volunteer is worth a thousand pressed men – Don’t try and boil the ocean. Focus on the people that want to work with you, create a success with them and shout from the roof tops about how great they are. Make them heroes, then watch everyone come running to see how the improvements can be made in their part of the organization.

Finally, there is one particular skill that you will need when faced with the problem of being given responsibility without authority – you need to be tenacious! I remember two occasions distinctly that outline this, one I am proud of, the second I am not. I was very proud when one of my fellow ‘colleagues’, (I say colleague but he was my political enemy as he didn’t like the success I was enjoying), who had subversively tried to stop me making the improvements came up to me following a Board meeting and admit that he was wrong and ‘he admired my tenaciousness’ as I had adopted the approaches outlined above. Tenacity is a key skill for Customer Experience teams. The second example I was not proud of was during a particularly hard part of an implementation I was running when I was in corporate life. I was very frustrated with the verbal support I received at board meetings and the resistance we received when we tried to implement something. I finished my presentation with a picture of the Bork from Star trek. Their saying is ‘Resistance is futile’. In hindsight I regret doing that as it puts people’s backs up which I then needed to smooth over later. The learning is not to let the frustration of the job get to you, rise above it. We enjoyed great success from cutting costs by 17%, increasing Customer facing time by 200% and improving Customer satisfaction by 11% – all by adopting the above tactics. I hope they serve you well.

Seven secrets of how to manage your Customer Experience by colin shaw

Colin Shaw is founder & CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s first organizations devoted to customer experience. Colin is an international author of four best-selling books. Beyond Philosophy provide consulting, specialised research & training from offices in Atlanta, Georgia and London, England.

Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter: