4 Challenges About Leading Customer Experience Initiatives

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Omni Parker House Hotel LobbyIt was a meeting of a new organization at the oldest operating hotel in the United States, the Omni Parker House Hotel in Boston. (That’s the Omni Pahkah House to Boston locals.)

At the inaugural Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA) event for customer experience practitioners, a few messages rose to the top. There were several days of very interactive and powerful sessions of case studies, examples and “family talk” of what our struggles really are. Customer experience, as a field or discipline, is new in the grand scheme of things. While every company understands the need for a CFO, most of them do not understand the need for a CCO (Chief Customer Officer). This group of professionals is working on changing that, and here are the challenges I heard:

1. The C-Level Doesn’t Get It.



Some executive teams understand the idea of why superior customer experience is necessary for success, but many don’t understand how to implement or “walk the walk.” In fact, an overarching (and repeating) lament was “How do I get them to GET IT?” The answers ranged from tie customer experience success with business metrics to tell compelling stories to help them humanize the business. No matter how you say it, it seems to be an ongoing, uphill battle right now. Keep the faith! There are those executives who are becoming passionate about it and supporting CX within their organizations.

2. Employee Engagement is Critical.

Some of the best case studies showcased how key employees were brought into the customer experience journey. A well-received example was how Fidelity Investments took 40 peer- and manager-nominated Customer Advocates to the Disney Institute to really get everyone on the same page on their goals around customer experience. I also appreciated how Diane Simmons, Vice President of Customer Experience at Fidelity, referred to this group as “the first class” of advocates. Educating, graduating and deputizing customer advocates is a key part of really inserting customer experience into the very culture of any organization.

3. Customer Experience as a Department is Both Too Big and Too Small.

Few organizations have one customer experience executive, let alone a whole team. Those with bigger teams run the risk of getting assigned, well, everything. Everything touches the customer, right? So the leader of the CX team must be prepared to define roles and responsibilities in ways that mean saying yes and no. It’s easy to earn the reputation of the “department of no” if you are defending your small team’s resources from requests like “rewrite this customer letter” and “follow up” with each and every customer request. At the same time, limited resources are a common occurrence. Proactive, thoughtful communication about what exactly the Customer Experience group does (or should do) is critical.

4. Listen, Respond, Repeat.

There is no greater skill to any customer experience professional than the ability to listen. Listening means gathering consistent feedback from customers, employees, the marketplace, prospects, etc. Listening also means really responding to feedback in actionable ways, then communicating about how that feedback is used. Nothing kills a feedback program more than bad feedback with no actions to resolve the issues. It’s up to the customer experience change agents to really listen and then SHOUT about how to address the issues. It’s up to us to keep talking about it, too, until it becomes part of the fabric of the organization. If you think you have said it enough, then say it 100 more times.

There were many great ideas shared by customer experience pros from all over the globe. It was exciting to be a part of, and we’re just getting started! You can join the conversation by joining the CXPA.



I, like CXPA Co-Founders Bruce Temkin and Jeanne Bliss, am excited about where the industry is going. The dedication and enthusiasm were palpable in this group. Few people get to say “I was there” at the start of something like this. I’m proud to say I was among them.

Photo Credit: InspiredDesMoines via Creative Commons license

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