Congratulations! You’re leading customer experience for your company!


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Let’s say your CEO just tapped you on the shoulder and asked you to take on a new responsibility:

“We need you to drive customer experience strategy and actions for our organization. Define the strategy. Strengthen our customer experience. Differentiate us in the marketplace. Will you do that?”

This is becoming a more common story. More and more companies are tapping a leader or team to be accountable for customer experience strategy and execution. Some are line executives in marketing, service or operations and customer experience is folded into their work. Some lead customer experience as a discipline – much like Six Sigma – where they train a sanctioned expertise across the organization. Others, like CIGNA’s Ingrid Lindberg, are senior level internal consultants, illuminating the way, setting expectations and advising line leaders on how to achieve customer experience objectives in their areas or business units. Larger companies are now creating Chief Customer Officers.

If you’re like the leader who shared this experience with me, the question isn’t so much will you but rather HOW will you? His thought was “Sounds like fun. How do I do that?”

Regardless of the particular title or box on the organization chart a customer experience leader takes, everyone I’ve met has had their own “How do I do that?” moment. How can you set yourself and your organization for success? I’ve found three imperatives that – if followed – can be the road map to success for any customer experience leader:

1. Link customer experience to financial performance

Every customer experience starts with a person who has a problem, need or desire they’d pay money to solve. If and how well the problem is solved is the key to any organization’s growth and sustainability. When it comes right down to it, customer experience matters because it drives financial performance. The first imperative of customer experience is to acknowledge this link.

If you were to ask most leaders why customer experience matters, they’d probably talk about building customer loyalty, or satisfaction, or the likelihood customers will advocate for a brand. I’d agree, but this is only a tiny fraction of why customer experience matters. It is, however, a large part of why a lot of leaders believe there has to be a tradeoff between customer experience and financial performance. If I could eradicate one thought from the mind of every business leader, it would be that one. Research has proven, that organizations with a well-understood definition of customer experience are TWICE as likely to beat their profit targets than those who do not.

2. Create an ‘end in mind’

Stephen Covey espouses it in the venerable classic, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: begin with an end in mind. He was right. Imagine what should happen, and how customers should feel as they realize a need, learn about options to solve it…through each of the six steps common to any customer experience. This is your end.

The second imperative of customer experience is to define the ideal, or target experience for your customers. In order for your organization to make a breakthrough or substantial change in performance, everyone needs to have this end in mind. Your target experience ‘end in mind’ is driven by solving a need for the customers who drive growth and profit for your organization. It is more than a list of best practices — the things all companies should do. It’s different than “more is always better.” Your customer experience is unique to your organization and the problem it solves for its customers. Do you want to do what everyone else is doing or do what solves your customer’s need best?

3. Use your target customer experience in decision making

Choosing between dumb things and smart things is easy; everyone is trying to choose smart things. You should be trying to choose between the two or three smart things that will have the biggest payoff for your customer’s experience and in turn your organization (see imperative #1). I’m advocating that you use your customer experience as an operating strategy.

The third imperative of customer experience is to use your ideal or target experience as a litmus test for daily decisions and actions across your organization. As we’ve discussed here before, there is a difference between deciding and doing. It’s worked for Tony Hsieh and Zappos, and it’s a step CIGNA is taking. Starbucks is famous for creating, falling down, and getting back up on using experience to drive daily decisions. How can it work for you?

Now what?

I’ve shared these imperatives each time I’m asked the “How do I do that?” question. What do you think? Where would you start if you were charged with leading an organization’s customer experience efforts?

Related, and just for fun: You’ve probably heard me – more than once – use the analogy of a line of falling dominos to make these three imperatives visual. Imagine your target experience as the front domino, the actions and decisions across your organization as the dominos lined up in the middle, and revenue and profit as the last two dominos to fall. I named my book Domino with this picture in mind. If you haven’t ever experienced National Domino Day in the Netherlands, you’re in for a treat. Catch the preparation, the live tension, and pure joy as this massive line of dominos fall over for a big payoff.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Linda Ireland
Linda Ireland is co-owner and partner of Aveus LLC, a global strategy and operational change firm that helps leaders find money in the business performance chain while improving customer experiences. As author of Domino: How to Use Customer Experience to Tip Everything in Your Business toward Better Financial Performance, Linda built on work done at Aveus and aims to deliver real-life, actionable, how-to help for leaders of any organization.


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