Like popular wine entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk neatly puts it across in a blog post, “everything stems from the top”. In the business world, this can’t be more right. The manner in which the top management, or the CxOs, conduct themselves defines the culture, the work ethic, and the direction in which the company is headed. The policies and strategies they implement not only influence employees but also the end consumer. Therefore, CxOs have the clout to make businesses either highly successful or sink the ship!
The role of a CxO, however, has dramatically changed over the past couple of years owing to the shift in power towards the consumer. Competition is a lot more fierce and companies are striving to win over the customer’s attention and trust. In fact, Consultancy.uk predicts that more than 80% of the Fortune 1000 companies will be replaced in the next 10 years.
In such a no-nonsense battleground, what are the pre-requisite traits a CXO must possess to tackles the dangerous waves, steady the ship, and sail towards sustainable long-term growth?
1. Undeterred focus on Employees
Employees are the backbone of any company. A great CxO realizes this and does whatever is necessary to motivate and keep them happy.
Not everyone is after money. Meaning, you cannot satisfy your employees through mere salary hikes. And we’re not the only ones saying that. While 89% of employers think that their people leave for more money, only 12% actually do – according to this infographic by officevibe.com.
A variety of factors contribute to an employee’s motivation – ambience at work, the culture, the team, the actual work they do, etc. So, for CxOs, a good place to start would be to diligently listen to their employees, understand their expectations, how they are looking to grow themselves, and most importantly, take feedback on what needs to be improved.
2. Drive Customer Centricity
The importance of creating a customer-centric culture within your organization cannot be understated. As companies, of late, have become more cognizant of the fact that a great customer experience is a vital competitive differentiator, CxOs need to bring up customer centricity as an important organizational value and make sure everyone is working towards helping the customer the best way possible
In fact, according to PWC, 63% of CEOs are rallying their organization around the customer as one of the top three investment priorities this year. 9 out of 10 U.S. CEOs say they are strengthening their customer and client engagement programs this year.
If you’re a CxO, you want to get your employees to put themselves in the shoes of the customer before they make decisions. You’d want to create internal programs and processes that foster this sense of customer-first approach. And unless you set the framework, your frontline staff won’t feel empowered enough to interact with customers, build relationships and muster loyalty. A lack of empowerment also means that they won’t feel inspired to respond to queries and go beyond the call of duty to create a great experience.
3. Handle setbacks by bouncing back
If there’s one thing all top CxOs have in common, it’s this; their ability to accept setbacks with a steady head and turn it around into business opportunities. The view from the top might be really stupendous, but CxOs continuously bear the brunt of most organizational troubles and disasters. With such responsibility vested in them, playing the blame game or passing the buck won’t do any good..
According to Harvard Business Review, two of the five new CEOs fail in their first 18 months on the job.
A top CxO is someone who doesn’t wash his hands of a certain crisis but steers the organization to safety by handling the situation with utmost pragmatism and intelligence.
In fact, in 2009, Amazon.com, the largest online retailer in the world deleted George Orwell’s ‘1984’ out of the Kindle bookshelves of thousands of its users. Here’s what Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos had to say about this incident,
“The act was stupid, thoughtless, and painfully out of line with Amazon’s principles. We deserve the criticism we’ve received. We will use the scar tissue from this painful mistake to help make better decisions going forward, ones that match our mission.”
This incident has since then been well and truly forgotten. How? Well, Jeff Bezos was bold enough to admit the mistake and put out a face to the public, while taking up full ownership of the mishap. There’s a lesson for every leader!
4. Break down silos and vouch for transparency
We’ve spoken already about the need for CxOs to create a customer-centric culture. To bring about this though, organizations cannot function in silos.
In fact, according to clearcompany.com, 86% of employees and executives cite lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures.
Encouraging collaboration, breaking conventional barriers to communication, and abolishing any existing red tape, is something a CxO should prioritize. CxOs should create a system where various teams – marketing, finance, sales, product – are able to share insights on customers and use data from other teams to their improve their respective functions.
Don’t forget that the customer perceives your brand as a single entity. They don’t care if they’re talking to someone from sales or marketing – all they want is a great experience. And a good CxO ensures that the internal chaos is minimal and that customer data does not become segregated and segmented. This ultimately results in a holistic as well as consistent brand experience for the customer that aligns with his overall expectations of your brand.
5. Focus on Technology and Innovation
If you want your business to win the race its running, you need to be able to anticipate customer needs – even before customers start talking about it. This is where technology and innovation come into the picture.
The only way to constantly evolve as an organization and stay ahead of your customers is to invest in futuristic technology. This is where a CxOs role becomes extremely crucial. Do you push your employees to work on new technology such as Machine Learning, AI, predictive analytics and so on, or do you keep doing what you are doing? While the latter can be a more comfortable choice, it doesn’t necessarily give your business the edge.
Based on the 19th Global Annual CEO Survey, over half of CEOs ranked R&D and innovation technologies as generating the greatest return in terms of successful stakeholder (customer) engagement.
If CxOs can breed a culture of innovation, it becomes much more seamless to build unique and personalized products or services. As important as investing in technology, so is the ability to track the outcomes of such initiatives.
While many CxOs are enthusiastic about trying new things, they do not quite follow through on it. The 19th Global Annual CEO Survey points out that 55% of CEOs think businesses could do more to measure the impact and value of innovation.
CxOs are more than managers. They set processes, inspire employees, and take the company in the direction that they think is most appropriate. So, if you’re one of them, this post would give me some clarity on the things you need to prioritize. Enjoy the hustle, and do great work!