There are a number of things that comprise the characteristics of great Customer Centric leaders – courage; vision; passion; authenticity; humility; belief; are just some of them. I am sure you can think of more as well. There is no doubt that I could write about each one in turn! However, one further characteristic always springs to mind almost immediately when I am asked – I happen to think that it is perhaps the most important characteristic of all – the characteristic of PERSISTENCE.
When you choose to go down the path of Customer Experience – either as a profession in its own right, or with the intention of building a greater focus on the customer into a business strategy – you are unwittingly making a decision to do something that is really not easy to do. Most business professionals work in ‘legacy’ businesses – ones that have existed for a significant amount of time and are used to a certain ‘way of working’. Trying to change the way a business works; the way a business thinks; is one of the most challenging things any business professional can do.
I sometimes think that I have a slightly mad, psychopathic streak in me – as do other Customer Experience Professionals I have the pleasure of networking with. Why would you choose to do something that potentially will do one or more of the following:
a) Make you very unpopular
b) Ostracise you from colleagues and business leaders
c) Make you feel as though you are banging your head against a brick wall
d) Regularly go two steps forward and five steps back
e) Be seen as ‘soft and fluffy’
I could go on!! The reason why Customer Experience Professionals do what they do is NOT to intentionally experience these things. That could not be further from the truth. The reason why the majority of Customer Experience Professionals do what they do is because they are passionately committed to doing what is ultimately right – for the customer, the employee and the shareholder.
The most effective Customer Experience Leader puts the company before their own personal gain – they are not in it for the money – they know that their reward will come later. The Customer Experience Leader can only achieve this is through an abundance of PERSISTENCE.
I regularly have the honour of judging the UK Customer Experience Professional of the year – two years ago, I was bowled over by an amazing lady called Fiona Templeton. Fiona has been responsible for Customer Experience at Scottish Water for many years. Fiona is the absolute epitome of what I am describing in this post. For TWELVE years, Fiona and her team transformed a business that is a MONOPOLY, into the most customer centric utility business in the UK. It was an achievement that led to her becoming the UK Customer Experience Professional of the year. Fiona’s reward was achieved through unlimited amounts of persistence – the achievements of her and her team are remarkable.
What Fiona understood is that transforming an organisation to become demonstrably more customer centric takes time – how long depends on the organisation – it takes as long as it takes. To achieve real change and the rewards that come with it, you need to be in it for the long term.
I personally spent seven years helping a previous employer on a very similar journey – it as the longest I had ever worked for one company – I knew I was doing the right thing for the right reason. That business is now a very successful thriving, customer focused online retailer. This is not just down to the efforts of me and my team – but I will always be proud of the effect I had, through a lot of hard work and persistence.
Today, I work with and guide a number of Customer Experience Leaders who are in the very early stages of their transformation journey. They have potentially many years ahead of them in nurturing their respective businesses on the quest to become more customer centric. They are excited and nervous about what lies ahead in equal measure. Yet they are under no illusion as t how long it may take. This does not put them off – which is why they demonstrate to me the true characteristics of successful Customer Experience Leaders – and above all, they have what it takes to be committed and persistent. I look forward to seeing them glow in the wake of their success in the years to come!