How Intrapreneurs Grow a Grassroots CX Program

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I have deep empathy and respect for intrapreneurs. I used to be one! I was a serial intrapreneur for a B2B SaaS company before founding Seaton CX.

A play on the word entrepreneur, intrapreneur means “an individual who innovates from within a company.” Intrapreneurs are curious, passionate, and creative people who lead positive change inside the companies where they work. Through their “grassroots” initiatives, they build support in the lower levels of an organization and create change from the bottom up.

Along with energy and passion, many intrapreneurs experience anxiety and doubt about their CX initiatives.

  • They’re afraid of rejection if they speak up.
  • They’re not sure what to do next.
  • They feel alone and ignored.
  • They worry about what will happen if they fail.
  • They get “lip service” from others, but no real commitment.

I’ve been there, through successes and failures alike. I’ve celebrated the wins and learned from the defeats.

I haven’t discovered a magic formula for growing a successful grassroots CX program.

But I’ve learned that these practices significantly improve your chances.

Tackle a Problem

Don’t start out trying to build a mature CX program from the ground up.

Instead, look for a problem the organization struggles with. Then solve that problem.

“Every problem is an opportunity in disguise.”

– John Adams

The best problems have a clear impact on revenue because it’s easy to demonstrate the Return on Investment (ROI) of your project.

By solving a problem, you’ll shine a spotlight on the customer experience toolbox as a business accelerator.

Nothing generates executive buy-in like solving problems that impact revenue.

When I was a practitioner, I tackled the problem of customer complaints in the contact center. While the internal metrics were better than ever, customers were still churning at an alarming rate because they were frustrated with the customer support experience. I suspected that by understanding how customers perceived service value, we could design and deliver a better experience.

Solving this problem demonstrated a clear return on investment (ROI) – a 66% reduction in terminations due to customer service issues. That got some attention!

And it won the leadership support to continue investing in CX.

If you’re not sure where to begin, find out what problem keeps your Chief Financial Officer (CFO) up at night. It could be customer churn, product returns, government regulators, or new sales.

Recruit an Executive Sponsor

Don’t wait until you need one. Recruit an executive sponsor right away.

What is an executive sponsor? A member of the C-suite or other high-ranking executive who believes in CX and is willing to actively support your grassroots CX program.

An executive sponsor is important because they provide experience, access, and influence beyond your own.

Leverage your executive sponsor to:

  • Coach you as you encounter obstacles
  • Influence cross-functional decision makers to support the initiative
  • Resolve conflict and resource constraints
  • Remove roadblocks and set priorities
  • Champion the CX initiative with the executive leadership team
  • Create opportunities for you to showcase your work to the executive team

Finding an executive sponsor who will actively engage and support you is a game changer. Ask this person to meet with you once or twice per month and hold you accountable for progress. Let them know their support is vital to your success.

Nurture Early Followers

“The first follower is what transforms a lone nut into a leader.”

– Derek Sivers (watch the TED Talk)

When you start a grassroots CX program, you will encounter three types of people.

  1. Early followers who are excited to support the initiative and eager to learn more about CX. They listen, ask questions, and volunteer to help.
  2. Naysayers who actively oppose you. They will criticize your ideas, dispute your data, and attack you personally.
  3. Everyone else. The silent majority will sit back and watch to see what happens.

In the beginning, ignore the naysayers and the silent majority. Actively nurture your early followers. Embrace them, engage them, and treat them as equals.

When you embrace your early followers, you change the nature of the work from “your” project to “our” project. The sense of ownership, collaboration, and belonging will earn the support and dedication of your new team.

How do you do this? Send them CX blog articles and research reports. Ask their opinion. Ask them to research something and share their findings with the group. Delegate tasks and responsibilities. Build it together.

The enthusiasm of these early followers will attract more followers, and your initiative will grow. The silent majority will begin to get involved, and the idea of customer-centricity will spread.

Deliver Quick Wins

While you should have a longterm vision for the program, you must focus on delivering a few quick wins.

Quick wins are incremental improvements that have a meaningful business impact. Examples include saving a customer relationship, benchmarking an experience metric, or improving a process that reduces the cost to serve customers.

Quick wins are imperative because they build confidence and momentum in the CX program by demonstrating to executives that you are delivering value. They also buy you time to keep working towards the larger goals.

In my customer support project, I used a one-time survey to benchmark the service experience for two large product lines. Measuring this for the first time revealed a “blind spot” in the organization and became part of the business case for purchasing an enterprise CX platform that cost 15 times more than the one-time survey.

Quick wins build momentum for bigger wins.

Communicate loudly about the quick wins, and use that platform to repeat your message about customer experience. If appropriate, work with your executive sponsor to showcase the results among the executive leadership team.

Engage a Partner

As you solve important problems, build momentum, and deliver financial results, your grassroots CX program will grow.

Eventually you will reach a tipping point. Like a tech startup that outgrows the garage and must rent office space, your grassroots CX program will expand beyond your capacity to manage it.

You will need outside help.

Whether it’s evaluating a technology purchase, advice for the next phase of growth, or just some “arms and legs” to get the work done, find a partner you can trust to grow the CX program and deliver greater business value.

When I was an intrapreneur, my partners were my lifeline. Whether I needed research reports or encouragement, they were there to support me.

This article was originally published on Seaton CX.

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