Do you dream of being — or being saved by — a customer experience action hero? Maybe you dream of your customer-facing staff, or your executives, as customer experience action heroes? Not so fast. As exciting as swashbucklers, comic book characters, folklore figures, and sports stars are, that style of action is probably not right for customer experience excellence. An action hero is a “protagonist who primarily uses combat to achieve his goals in a story”, according to tvtropes.com, a site that describes character types for fiction works. Combat is incongruous with customer experience, even in rough and tumble environments.
Yet action is sorely needed! Granted, everyone is doing case management, following up with low survey raters. That’s all very nice for a small percentage of your customer base. Those of us who have been doing this for a while realize it’s necessary yet insufficient.
Cross-organizational action on customer experience insights is what’s needed to “move the needle” for better scores, and most importantly, better customer experiences that lead to better revenue and profit growth. This is because the customer experience journey is horizontal across work groups. Furthermore, the journey is not linear: it often loops back and forth between work groups’ outputs. So de-silo the action in your customer experience efforts!
An alternative to an action hero is a guile hero. This type “trades swords and guns (or science and technology) for charm, wit, political and/or financial acumen, and an in-depth knowledge of human nature.” Sounds better, right? This is a common type in companies focused on escalation or hard-sell renewals, upgrades, purchase expansion, or engagement. In the long-run, it is no better than the action hero. Manipulation is the name of the game with guile heroes, and in this age of transparency and H2H (human-to-human) necessity, it’s not a winning game.
The science hero may be best for customer experience excellence. These heroes are “highly technically proficient scientists (often in all fields) and with a sense of adventure and curiosity. Plus, gadgets!” What’s needed for customer experience management is a jack of all trades (in any person or among a cohesive team) in market research, analytics, organizational learning, change management, process improvement, lean/six sigma, team motivation, metrics, internal promotion, and organizational development. And a sense of adventure and curiosity is certainly key to maintaining a sharp edge in learning from customers and adapting to their needs.
Science heroes can be people with a customer experience job role. Yet they can also be rank-and-file employees and your entire executive team. Currently, they may be few and far between — both in today’s business world and in fiction works. “The Science Hero has become something of a Forgotten Trope with the onset of Post Modernism. Post-modernism rejected progress for progress’s sake, which is a favorite motivation for a Science Hero,” says the tvtropes site. What I see in the customer experience field is a waning of the trades above, at least as applied to customer experience management. This waning seems to be the product of automated surveys, desktop dashboards with emphasis on silo-ized one-on-one fixes, fixation on simplified scores, and reliance on technology providers to teach you what customer experience management is.
We need science heroes as business unit champions of customer experience improvement. We need science heroes as marketers and retention managers and voice-of-the-customer managers. And especially as executive sponsors of customer experience excellence. We need to get beyond silo-ized action to cross-organizational action. That’s the only way to become anticipatory. It’s the only way to solve the thorniest issues with the biggest payback in eradicating foolish spending and in growing natural affinity for your brand that keeps on growing.
Beware: heroics are not a winning formula for customer experience excellence. They’re expensive and fail to benefit the greater good, or the full customer base. Be sure your incentives, spotlights, and roles favor systematic teamwork over heroics.
Beware: science heroes do not mean nerdy heroes. The human-to-human aspects of business success are absolutes. Make sure your science heroes pick up plenty of soft skills. And get people together from different functions to pool their thought processes, know-how and access. Then your whole company will feel like an action hero!