What Make a Great Customer Experience Leader

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Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to interview dozens of CX leaders, and still more as we wrote our book. Combining that knowledge with some of the industry research, such as CustomerThink’s report on winning CX programs, we’ve identified three traits that separate the best customer experience leaders from the rest.

For too many, CX has fallen into a rhythm:



  1. Conduct an NPS survey
  2. Analyze the results
  3. Share the results with anybody who will listen
  4. Implement some quick wins
  5. Repeat the NPS survey
  6. Wonder why things haven’t changed

That’s a bit cynical, but I’ve been to too many networking events where CX is trying to get a seat at the table, and their process is often similar to this.

The best CX leaders following three specific principles that seem to be lacking from the rest:

1. Attack big problems.

We know that emotions are the center of customer experience. Customers with a strong emotional experience are far more likely to be promoters and to forgive you for problems. But it’s certainly easier to focus on effectiveness and ease.

Attacking emotion feels hard, and too many customer experience leaders are afraid of over-promising. “If I go after that and fail, that will be disastrous for my program.” So they muddle along, focusing on their NPS or Customer Effort Scores. What they don’t realize is: your business partners don’t really care about your NPS score. They care about their bonus. Sure, if their bonus is tied to the NPS score they care. But most feel like they don’t know how to impact that, so it’s not something they focus on.



The best CX leaders attack a problem the business cares about. Their philosophy is, “If my CEO doesn’t care, then I shouldn’t either.” In our book we interviewed Lisa. the VP of Marketing (also managing CX) for a global financial services organization. In our interview and she advised, “Look to where there are problems to solve, or to where the hood is open, and there’s money and opportunity to make substantial changes…. [U]nderstand your company’s priorities, understand where opportunities exist, and understand how to best leverage those opportunities to drive meaningful customer experience outcomes.”

We’ve run three projects for Lisa; each started with a big problem, including one where the CEO himself kicked us off. That’s the type of spirit we see from the best CX leaders – they aren’t afraid to go after the big problems that need to be faced.

Similarly, Erin Wallace (the only person to get her CCXP before me!) of John Deere shared how they reduce churn and increase spend – and have the data to prove it.

2. Bring the voice of the customer to life.

Poor customer experience leaders use their PowerPoints and reports. The best find ways to make the voice of the customer approachable. They go beyond the norm to make the customer approachable. Some of our clients put their journey maps on their walls – the best take it down and bring it out to employees. Our book features Tria Deibert from Meridian Health (now Hackensack Meridian Health). I think it’s telling that when we met with her she was the Director of Patient Experience Marketing – now she’s the VP of Culture. That reflects her focus on how everybody needs to understand the customer (patient) experience and how they impact it viscerally. It just comes naturally to her, as it does with the best CX folks, such as Marlanges Simar or Natalie Schneider.

3. Democratize the insights

The best customer experience leaders make sure everybody understands the voice of the customer, and how their roles affect that customer experience. They don’t bring out their graphs and charts – they find ways to immerse employees and leaders in the customer experience. Jason Kapel created a customer room to share the experience (I think it’s also very telling of him when he told me, “Jim, you seem to think about my customer room more than I do.”). Laurie Englert built a CX team that included representatives from throughout the company, allowing her not only to get their help in implementing CX, but also to share the insights. And when Mark Smith was the VP of CX at GE Capital Fleet Solutions (later Element Fleet Management), he brought customers in to talk with employees at their meetings.




Customer experience is a hard job. You have all the responsibility to change how customers navigate working with your company, with none of the authority to enforce change. Nevertheless, the best CX leaders find ways to make that change through attacking big problems, bringing the voice of the customer to life, and democratizing the insights.

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