Activating the Executive Commitment You Need for Your CX Program

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One of the most common questions I am asked by CX leaders is, “How do I get executive buy-in for our program?” What the question reveals is that while many companies have “bought in” enough to dedicate one or more employees to focus on the experiences of customers or have funded insights programs to measure performance and identify pain points, true executive commitment still lags. And this is a problem for experience management programs because successful transformation efforts require senior executives to set direction, lead communication efforts, model desired behaviors, and hold the rest of the organization accountable.

So how can you get executives more engaged in your CX program? Well, you can’t sit back and hope for an epiphany to magically happen across your executive team – as nice as that would be. Instead, you can use these six levers for raising executive commitment:

  • Create Vision Clarity. Senior executives may be enamored about improving the customer or employee experience, yet have an unclear picture of what it really means for their organization. So, you need to find ways to provide them with a clear understanding of where CX efforts are heading.
  • Share Compelling Opportunities. Senior executives will only stay committed to a CX effort if they remain convinced that it will help the organization succeed. That’s why it is important to make and reinforce the business case on the upside of action and the downside of inaction with senior executives.
  • Amplify Emotional Empathy. There’s a different level of support provided by an executive who is intellectually bought-in versus one who is emotionally committed. To gain this emotional commitment, bring customer experiences to life for executives to enhance their emotional empathy.
  • Feed Intrinsic Motivators. Executives are motived by a myriad of things, from “leaving a legacy” to reaching some self-defined objectives. Therefore, you should connect CX efforts to the personal goals of executives and make them feel good about what’s going on.
  • Enable First Steps. Even executives who are fully committed to your experience management agenda may not know exactly what they can do to help propel efforts. To get them started, make it easy for them to participate by recommending specific, do-able steps they can take.
  • Fuel Ongoing Confidence. You will need ongoing support from executives who, like all of us, can be prone to distraction and doubt. Be sure you communicate progress and celebrate the successes of your efforts and demonstrate that resources are being well used and any risks are being well-managed.

How do you choose which lever to use? The best lever will depend on where the executive’s commitment level is at and what you have available to deploy within the respective levers to move them towards the action you need them to take. This table provides you some recommendations to take the next step:

Using these levers, you can do something about ensuring your program has the executive commitment it needs.

3 COMMENTS

  1. More and more, senior executives are pushed to achieve strong enterprise results on a tactical basis – but with continuity. Cultural resetting around customers, employee ambassadorship, and driving value on both functional and emotional levels are desired strategic outcomes; and CX practitioners tend to think in terms of major, long-term programs for getting there. Exec thinking, though, is often too short-term and risk-averse for them to commit. Executives can’t, or won’t, see the customer experience (and employee experience) forest for the trees; and they need to be approached re. CX initiatives purely on the basis of more immediate financial return. If ‘quick win, low investment’ pilot CX projects can be designed and offered to senior executives, it will frequently be less challenging to gain their commitment. Then, because success breeds trust, larger CX projects can be proposed.

  2. You make some excellent points. And, I agree with all your wise levers of executive influence. My concern is the opening sentence: “How do I get executive buy-in for our program?” To me, it is more than semantics. So, let’s change the word “CX” to “Diversity” or “Safety” as in “How do I get executive buy-in for our diversity program or our safety program?” “Programs” imply a fix, an event or a remedy. CX, like diversity and safety, represent a way of life. I would want a culture that is diverse or safe, not one that has completed a program.

    So, at the risk of “whipping a dead horse,” let’s make more dramatic this point of nurturing a forever way of life rather than embracing a “seven-step program.” You are hired by Macho Inc. to be a consultant since Macho has been repeatedly sued by women over incidents of sexual harassment. The company is having a tough time hiring talented women because of the company’s reputation of having leaders who look the other way when incidents of blatant and subtle sexual harassment occur with their “boys will be boys” perspective. You meet with the leadership to start your work. Would you say, “I am here to convince you to buy-in to a “stop sexual harassment” program?”

  3. Although some might object to the term, persuading top management to embrace a project or initiative requires a sales pitch. And like any good sales pitch, the conversation must focus on the needs and desired outcomes for the organization, and not for the promoter. It must also appeal to the ego. These are common mistakes: Enamored with what we know, or want, or can do, we lose sight of our purpose for doing it. And we overlook the benefits we receive from appealing to the WIFM (What’s In it For Me) for the executive.

    The likelihood of garnering executive support hinges on connecting the pitch to a strategic goal or initiative, and demonstrating that the proposed project is not just useful, but crucial, for improving the chances of strategic success. This proof is never one-and-done. The strategic goals need to be revisited regularly. The pitch must be reinforced continually, and if necessary, reinvented to ensure that management’s interest in the program doesn’t wane.

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