6 CX Spirit Animals for Today’s CX Imperative of Trust


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A CX spirit animal is a meme, or semi-humorous symbol or characterization of what it feels like to be in a CX role. For example, the ongoing pressure to increase response rates in a Voice of the Customer role feels like an owl: “Whooo can take my survey?” A Customer Service role may feel like an ant: carrying a big load of responsibility in preventing customer churn, despite being a small part of your company. I enjoyed creating these CX spirit animals with Ingrid Lindberg:

CX Spirit Animals 2010s

Do these CX spirit animals still represent CX roles? Are there better CX spirit animals for today’s CX circumstances and strategies? I think so!

Times are changing. “Back to normal CX” is a mistake, like everything else that’s no longer how it was pre-pandemic. All of us, as customers, have been through tremendously extraordinary challenges. And they aren’t behind us yet.

Increased trust is the best gift we can give our customers. Firms need to continually earn customers’ trust, as the surest pathway to CX-led growth.

Trust-building is a team sport. Trust is earned through consistent performance. This means CX is a team sport: everyone’s handoffs must be synchronized in theme, tone, timeliness, and quality. Trust is lost through inconsistent performance: mismatch in synchronization or mismatch to expectations. Keys to CX trust-building are:

  1. Lifetime Value Mindset: relationship strength focus to maximize cumulative profitability.
  2. Customer-Centered Action: CX data and metrics inspire resolution of CX issue root causes.
  3. Enterprise Use of Insights: growth activities and re-engineering based on CX insights.
  4. Aligned Motivations: dedication to shared agendas, shared vision, and shared values.
  5. Respecting Interdependencies: awareness and inclusion of groups who rely on one another.
  6. Consistency to Intentions: say what you mean, do what you say, give heads-up on changes.

These 6 CX spirit animals represent what’s needed now:

CX Spirit Animals
Bonus: Shifting gears in your CX strategy according to these spirit animals will solve your biggest CXM challenges: ROI pressure, response rates, competing agendas, weak cross-organizational collaboration and follow-through, and turnover of team members.

1. OYSTER, ENRICHING WITH PEARLS OF WISDOM — Raises Response Rates (CX Role Bonus)
Increase trust through a lifetime value mindset: relationship strength focus to maximize cumulative profitability.
Oyster Spirit Animal
Facilitate company-wide behaviors:

  • Make it easy for customers to give you feedback anytime, anywhere, any way. Use stratified random sampling.
  • Limit requests for feedback to (a) when you’ve made strides in a pain point and (b) when circumstances shift in your customers’ world.
  • Mine what customers have already told you, and drive team resolution of root causes, for proof to customers you’re solving what they care about.
  • Monitor CX/CS progress via internal behaviors that lead to external behaviors (like focusing on a diet, not the scale).
  • Increase your joy as the oyster of pearls of wisdom.

2. SHEEPDOG, HERDING FOLLOW-THROUGH — Drives Deployment & Maintains Momentum
Increase trust through consistency to intentions: say what you mean and do what you say, and give heads-up on changes.
Sheepdog Spirit Animal
Facilitate company-wide behaviors:

  • Consider who else depends on you.
  • Be transparent. Share your rationale for decisions.
  • Emphasize internal CX as a precursor to external CX.
  • Circle back at the start of meetings on promises made last meeting.
  • Stop accepting lame excuses, CYA lipstick on a pig, and workarounds.
  • Emphasize what your personality has in common with the other party’s personality.
  • Show projects and commitments as Gantt charts, swim lane diagrams, inter-relationship diagraphs, and charts with high visibility and frequent discussion.
  • Plan in advance of workshops/meetings what will be the needed post-event check-ins, deliverables, accolades, contingencies, and governance.
  • Mutually set expectations, clarify assumptions, and communicate adjustments proactively.
  • Increase your joy as the sheepdog herding follow-through.

Increase trust through aligned motivations: dedication to shared agendas, shared vision, and shared values.
Spider Spirit Animal
Facilitate company-wide behaviors:

  • Get CX stories and actioning on agendas of your Board, C-Suite, and other meetings.
  • Stop rewarding survey scores, in favor of rewarding their behaviors that lead to scores.
  • Share stories about departments in other firms who caused PR/CX damage to their brand.
  • Rally unity by identifying customers’ top 2-3 intended outcomes, and showing each group how they contribute/crush those outcomes, as guides for their daily decisions.
  • Tailor insights to each group as issue originators, reported when and how they can best absorb, adopt, apply, and be accountable. Use their lingo, cares, and cadences.
  • Point out what managers can do to make a difference, whenever you share customer stories or insights.
  • Hand-hold managers’ exploration and actioning of insights.
  • Increase your joy as the spider that weaves unity.

4. BUTTERFLY, CROSS-POLLINATING GROWTH — Cultivates Cross-org Collaboration & Creativity
Increase trust through respecting interdependencies: awareness and inclusion of groups who rely on one another.
Butterfly Spirit Animal
Facilitate company-wide behaviors:

  • Share lessons learned from one group with other groups.
  • Highlight corporate values and objectives as the foundation for needed efforts.
  • Shift recognition criteria to teamwork that’s preventing issue occurrence or recurrence.
  • Rally unity around Intentional CX rather than a score, as H2H and relationship-strengthening vibes.
  • Share stories and insights that illustrate the domino-effect of one group’s actions on another’s or collective success.
  • Improve your skills in stakeholder/change management, trusted advisor, facilitating, and partnering.
  • Show each group how they can improve internal CX as a precursor to external CX.
  • Increase your joy as the butterfly cross-pollinating growth.

5. DOLPHIN, INSPIRING ORGANIZATIONAL AGILITY — Tempers Turnover & Nurtures Nimbleness
Increase trust through enterprise use of insights: growth activities and re-engineering based on CX insights.
Dolphin CX Spirit Animal
Facilitate company-wide behaviors:

  • Re-charter your steering committee to reduce silos.
  • Foster a customer lifetime value mindset throughout your firm.
  • Position your CX/CS team as facilitators of everyone’s ownership of customer experience performance.
  • Maximize actioning on customer insights. (We had 100+ teams working on CX improvements every year, through workshops aimed at the 2 top key drivers of loyalty for every business unit, and their bonus based on their action plan’s progress.)
  • Embed customer insights as the basis for every growth plan, process re-engineering, policy adjustment, cost-containment, approval, development, review, and accolade. This will ensure your clout, strategic impact, camaraderie, and indispensable value.
  • Increase your joy as the dolphin of organizational agility.

Increase trust through customer-centered action: CX data and metrics inspire resolution of CX issue root causes.
Goose Spirit Animal
Facilitate company-wide behaviors:

  • Engage managers in preventing issue occurrence.
  • Redirect managers’ attention to customer-inspired cost savings.
  • Show them how much churn you’re preventing, quantified by customer acquisition costs and continued lifetime value.
  • Increase your joy as the goose that lays the golden eggs.

Enjoy ongoing CX/CS career growth by adopting the practices recommended above. These approaches will increase your effectiveness, reduce pushback, and generate stronger gains. You’ll make CX a team sport by engaging every group across your enterprise in simultaneously preventing issues and generating higher value. Most importantly, you’ll be aligning your CX approach to today’s urgent need: increasing trust. What’s your favorite CX spirit animal?


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