In next-generation companies, senior execs put the voice of the customer in everything they do.
How do you tell if your organization is customer-centric? You might have a great mission statement that puts the customer front and center, but are you doing enough to make it a reality? In my experience, one quality always rises to the top among companies that are setting standards for customer experience (CX) excellence.
We’ve written in previous columns about the importance of incorporating the voice of the customer throughout the organizational fabric of a company—from middle management to frontline employees who model customer-centric behavior at the day-to-day grassroots level. Their effectiveness depends on how well the senior executive team embraces the CX effort. If I had to choose one single characteristic of a truly customer-centric company, this would be it.
Companies with successful CX programs have senior executives who not only advocate for customers on special occasions, but also weave the voice of the customer, as well as the voice of the employee, into their day-to-day activities, making it an essential part of the decision-making process. They continually set examples for employees to follow when it comes to customer-centric behavior.
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Watch this video of Bob Thompson of CustomerThink discussing his research, which found managers leading by example is a top indicator of CX success.
At our company, our senior executives across the board—from marketing to sales to professional services to product management and support—do an excellent job with this. In last month’s column, we focused on the special things our senior leadership team does to support our CX program and direct its progress.
Walking the Talk
The following provides a tour of what Verint’s executive CX sponsor does on a typical day to keep everyone’s focus on the customer:
Good CX programs need a spark to ignite, and the senior executives at our company provide it daily. For example, Ryan Hollenbeck, senior vice president, global marketing and executive sponsor for Verint’s CX program, often begins his staff meetings by saying, “I just had the greatest visit with a customer and here’s what I learned.” His enthusiasm is contagious, and it isn’t confined within the four walls of that conference room.
As he shares details of his customer visits or conversations with other team members in hallways or break rooms, his words make an impact. Says one millennial team member who hears his comments regularly: “It adds to the culture and vibe of our office and serves as a reminder of our company’s dedication to customer centricity. It might just be a brief conversation, an inspiring customer remark in passing, or a chat around how your day is going based on a discussion with a customer, but it makes all the difference.”
On a typical day, it’s rare for Hollenbeck’s interactions with other colleagues not to include some mention of the CX program. For example, in a meeting with the VP of professional services, he hears about a new hire’s progress in the CX training we routinely offer newcomers to our team. Later, outside the meeting, he chats in the hallway with a frontline manager in customer support who is working on a project to improve issue resolution time—a focus area identified by the cross-functional global executive steering committee that guides our CX program.
“How’s it going?” Hollenbeck asks.
The manager tells him she has developed communication training for support personnel to provide timely updates to customers while issues are being resolved. “Based on customer feedback,” she says, “we know this communication improves customer satisfaction with the issue resolution process.” For Hollenbeck, it’s a sign of ongoing progress, an indicator that the frontline is keeping its eyes on the ball, finding approaches that make our company easier to do business with and instituting those approaches as standard components of our CX protocol.
Actively involved with Verint’s customer advisory board, Hollenbeck keeps a copy of our customer journey map handy in his office to show and refer to often, along with photos of customers he has interviewed or made presentations with. A pop-up banner for Customers4Life, our CX program which he helped develop, is posted outside his office. These significant “personal touches” make a big impression on newcomers and long-time employees alike, and serve as steady reminders of our company’s focus.
CX Cheerleading Must Have Relevance
It’s important to note that Hollenbeck and other members of our senior executive team are more than cheerleaders for our CX program. Their enthusiasm has substance and relevance. For example, in working with our VP of sales, Hollenbeck called me recently to gather any trends from customer feedback data that would apply to a specific challenge a prospect had described to the VP. In another instance, when it was too early for us to have a case study about a new product, Hollenbeck asked me to package positive customer feedback about it. I did so, and he passed the glowing comments along to the VP to help with the sales effort.
In short, Hollenbeck is one of those executives who uses the voice of the customer to help meet every challenge, regardless of the department or area of operations. Most recently, he has helped us create a dashboard that shows the executive team how we are progressing in certain key CX metrics, including how well we understand the business requirements of the organizations and customers we work with, scores in customer satisfaction with our support operations, and how efficiently we hand off cases from support to services. All of this work, Hollenbeck believes, ultimately delivers growth and value to the business.
The Litmus Test for Your CX Program’s SuccessSenior leadership involvement is a good litmus test for any CX professionals wanting to gauge the staying power of their CX efforts. Like Hollenbeck, our other senior executives do unique things day-to-day to show their support. One of them makes it a practice to know every customer’s first name. Another has a core set of values for his workforce that he shares with customers, while one other measures team members’ success by how well they listen to customers and understand what they are trying to achieve. I’ll be sharing more of their practices in future columns.
Across the board, these are next-generation senior executives who look beyond the traditional focus of improving operational efficiencies in their respective areas. They look for ways to make the customer’s life easier. They try to break down organizational siloes that impede that goal. And they rely on customer insights to help them develop new strategies.
Says one of the members of our senior leadership team: “We tell our employees that they can do no harm by doing the right thing for their customer.” It’s an attitude that certainly makes my job easier as a CX professional.