3 Ways to Talk About CX So Others Will Want to Listen


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Picture this.

When you send out meeting invitations, everyone accepts in seconds, and so many people want to join you have to hold multiple sessions just to accommodate everyone. And when you come to the end of a meeting, no one wants to leave. The conversation goes on long past the end-time.

What would that be like?

What would it be like if when you wanted to talk about customer experience people couldn’t wait? They eagerly soaked up every minute and always wanted more?

If this isn’t the case for you today it can be. Or, at the very least it can be more like that.

We all know those people. The people who when they speak people listen, the topic is almost irrelevant. Are they just born like that? Incredibly charismatic communicators? Maybe, but there are some simple things we can all do to be more like that.

It definitely took time, and some experimenting for us, and we continue to learn, but around 2010 we started to change how we talked about customer experience at TELUS. And slowly but surely it grew from a conversation that was only of interest to a few, to something that lit up the entire organization.

Here are 3 ways we’ve learned to talk about CX so people will want to listen.

1. Tell them a story.

Ever had this happen? You’ve been trying to get an idea across, or something in place for eons. You’ve crunched the numbers, built an air-tight business case. You have the data, the charts, and the “proof.” But it doesn’t happen. Then, after one conversation with a customer one of your executives comes back completely sold, maybe even asking why this thing isn’t in place yet. Or, gah, suggesting it’s a completely new idea.

What happened?

In all likelihood the customer was clever without even knowing it. They spoke the language of the brain – they shared a story, probably with lots of twists, turns and emotion.

You’ve probably heard or read that human beings are hard-wired for connection. Our brains are energized by connecting and talking with others, by conversation and stories. So when you’re meeting about customer experience, dial down the mountains of CX data, metrics and dashboards you share. Share some stories.

Have some incredible data points? Pair them with a story to illustrate it and light up people’s brains!

In our Small Business market, something that really super-charged our performance a few years ago, was the addition of Personas and their stories.

Each persona was brought to life with a detailed narrative of who they were and how they built their business. Each had rich details about their workdays, their greatest accomplishments and challenges, their needs and goals, and their feelings about technology and TELUS.

It changed the conversation from data points to people. To stories. The information was compelling, easy to take in and maybe even more importantly, easy to share (you could easily get the point across without slides!).

People wanted to talk about it, to learn more about it. People were asking to talk about customer experience. They were inviting us to their meetings, they were making time.

The customer insights made their way more deeply into the organization than our stats-laden PowerPoint slides, and made significant impacts to product development, marketing campaigns, technician training and call centre training (think double-digit KPI improvements).

Today, our most popular stories are probably the ones shared each week by our CEO. Leaders receive an email from our CEO sharing a customer story — an example of “above and beyond” service, or an example where we did not excel and what we’re doing to get better. It doesn’t have any stats, or charts, just a great story that reminds us why we do what we do, and why it matters. These generate a lot of conversation – more than regular posts about our CX stats ever did.

2. Be curious

Unless you’re someone like Richard Branson, Warren Buffet or Oprah, not many people will line up to hear you tell them what you think they should do, or how they should do it.

For us mere mortals, “telling” is a one-way form of communication that tends to feel imposing, delivering at best compliance but more often resistance. It’s a turn off.

What’s more engaging? A conversation.

And at the heart of a good conversation is curiosity. Curiosity is how we show interest in each other and sparks the kinds of discussions that make us feel important and connected.

A couple of easy ways to weave more curiosity into your meetings?

  • Think “student” not “advocate” – students look to learn, advocates look to “lobby” and “win”. Challenge yourself to go into any conversation with a student mindset – look to learn from the other people, not win an argument. You’ll get more out of the conversation and everyone else will too.
  • Ask more. Tell less. Aim to ask more than you tell – ask more questions. It’s easier and more appealing for people to listen to you if they feel heard, and part of the conversation. Not to mention it says “I value and care what you think.” Some great questions to ask?
    • What’s on your mind?
    • What could we do?
    • What do you think?
    • What else…is possible, interesting, on your mind, a consideration, etc.?
    • How….could we? Might we? Do you see it? etc.

Don’t strive to be the one with all the ideas and answers. Look to be the person who builds the kinds of conversations that bring people together and open up more possibilities. The conversations that no one wants to leave.

Through our partnership with Box of Crayons, we’ve been learning a lot about the power of telling less and asking more. Of slowing down the rush to action and advice-giving. It’s not easy! But we’re already finding that it improves understanding and relationships, fosters more creative thinking and innovation, and helps us work less hard but have more impact.

3. Be useful

When you consider how many people and things are competing for time and attention these days, you need to be useful, to provide clear value, if you want people to make time for you. It has to feel worth it.

You don’t have to change the world, it can be something small, it can be something more significant, but whenever you’re talking about customer experience whether it’s over a coffee or at a large meeting, share how you can do one or both of these things for the people you’re meeting with:

  1. Remove or significantly reduce their challenge(s) or stress
  2. Help them achieve their goals faster and/or better

Be specific – what will you do exactly and how it will benefit them. And make sure you’re not just sharing how it benefits customers, but how it will benefit the people you’re speaking with – directly e.g.: feeling more confident and capable, reducing the risk and heartburn of tough decisions, less guesswork or trial and error, more success with less effort, frustration, sleepless nights etc.

To make it clear from the start that you’re looking to be useful, consider kicking things off with these 6 words – “What I want for you is…”

This was hands down what started to shift things in the early days. When we started to build our CX presentations around stakeholder needs and how we could be useful partners– e.g.: reduce churn and sell more bundles (marketing), have more time to breathe and less paperwork (sales), find new revenue streams (finance), reduce disputes, printing and translation costs (legal) etc. – people started reaching out to us, asking us to join their planning meetings. They wanted to talk CX and we were happy to oblige!

What would it be like if whenever you wanted to talk about customer experience people couldn’t wait? They eagerly soaked up every minute and always wanted more? It would be pretty amazing.

If this isn’t the case for you today it can be. Or, at the very least it can be more like that.

Tell more stories. Ask more questions. Be useful.

And then get ready to spend less time trying to get on people’s calendars and more time doing what really matters – working with the great people in your organization to do something great for your customers.

If you have 3 more minutes, consider a great podcast by Curt Steinhorst: Get their attention – I care, you care. “The quality of your communication will shape the effectiveness of your strategy, your priorities, your ideas being executed”. It’s short and it’s great!

Krista Sheridan
Krista Sheridan is a Customer Experience veteran with a passion for helping people better understand how they are connected to the customer, the value of the work they do each day, and how to drive actions that engage customers and deliver strong business results. Krista's current focus at TELUS is Leadership Development for a Customer First Culture.


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