The Personality of a Customer Experience Leader


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The success of any customer experience initiative rests with executive sponsorship. Without executive sponsorship, customer experience initiatives and strategies are doomed to failure. While customer experience and strategy officers recognize the need for such sponsorship, they often fail to recognize what this commitment entails (e.g. corporate emails, speeches, meeting participation). What is required from a sponsoring executive (and for that mater any other executive)?

At its very core, executive sponsorship encompasses budget approval and participation in launch meetings. However, customer experience leaders go beyond budgets and meetings because they recognize that customer experience initiatives are a far cry from other initiatives such as six sigma projects. While six sigma initiatives promise immediate process improvements and cost savings, customer experience initiatives require an emotional commitment and an inherent belief that the organization’s culture will change to the benefit of the customer and the company’s bottom line. Successful executive sponsors see themselves as role models and leaders rather than as individuals whose only responsibility is to bless someone else’s actions.

Succeeding in business should be a relatively straightforward matter – focus on the customer and provide them with great experiences. However, many companies fail to succeed in business because they never possess a clear and underlying conviction that their customers come first, and that their role is not to build products or deliver services – but rather to serve customers. The obsession with everything other than the customer (e.g. R&D, products and services) leads companies to deliver generic experiences that can be obtained everywhere. The premise of successful customer experience strategies is that every decision and action is based on one question – “what do customers want?”

Listen to Learn – Many executives think they know it all. Either through past experience or by virtue of the fact that they (and not others) are the executives, they think that they have nothing left to learn. During meetings and presentations, they nod their head and may even ask a question or two, but are rarely sincere. Alternatively, successful customer experience leaders are sincere where they listen and ask questions. They do not delegate but demonstrate their commitment to others by taking it upon themselves to undertake this or that task. They seek insight from employees and customers alike. They listen to customer calls, participate in focus groups and conduct town hall meetings. Customer experience leaders recognize that true listening starts only after an individual grasps that there is more to learn and that those that can educate are employees and customers.

Be Authentic – A significant component of any customer relationship is authentic customer engagement. In this respect, customer relationships are no different that relationships in our personal lives. If you are not genuinely engaged and connected, your partner will notice. Actions will speak louder than words. It will not be enough to tell your partner how you feel or what he or she means to you (though expressing these feelings is important). You must demonstrate this commitment with actions. These actions will demonstrate whether you are authentic and want the relationship to work or if you are just going through the motions and do not truly care whether the relationship ends. Let customers feel your presence and commitment by demonstrating that you are more than a faceless organization that just produces phony slogans and commercials. Let them see that you care and are truly committed to the relationship.

Be Humble – The most important characteristic that an executive or any employee can posses is humility. Successful customer experience leaders are humble and appreciative of their relationships with customers. They recognize that customers can conduct their business with a growing number of competitors, and perceive the decision to do business with their company as a precious gift and opportunity that should be treated with the outmost respect and care.

Customer experience leaders will tell you that working with customers is a privilege, not an entitlement. They recognize that their competitors also offer great products and services; and that to retain and attract customers; they will need to delight them every day at every organizational touch point.

Throughout my consulting engagements, I have come across two distinct types of customer experience executives. The first seeks to maximize revenue and profit by using customers as a means to achieve this end. The second recognizes that customers are the end and that by focusing on customers and only customers, revenue and profit growth will follow. The first type of executive often employs an arrogant and self-absorbed approach towards customers. This executive is often impatient, unappreciative and constantly seeks short-cuts to customer strategies.

Our second executive is a true customer experience leader that is humble and gracious, and who welcomes every customer with open arms. This attitude derives from the recognition that customers could have chosen to give their business to the competition, but did not. Customer experience leaders seek to build true relationships with their customers built on mutual trust and cooperation. They look at these relationships through a prism of partnership. Humility is the key to their efforts.

Lior Arussy
One of the world’s authorities on customer experience, customer centricity, and transformation, Lior Arussy delivers results. His strategic framework converts organizations from product- to customer-centricity. It is drawn from his work with some of the world’s leading brands: Mercedes-Benz, Royal Caribbean, Delta Air Lines, MasterCard, Novo Nordisk, Walmart and more.Arussy is also the author of seven books, including Next Is Now (May 2018)


  1. Lior,

    I agree with your distinction between true customer experience leaders and others. In my experience, however, the true ones are few and far between. Then there are the faux customer experience leaders, executives who feel they must make an effort and support a more customer experience initiative.

    What do you do with this third type? I have found that they may genuinely want to walk the talk and will participate in lengthy indoctrination. The might even follow the advice of a consultant or coach. Very often they want to delegate the responsibility. Unfortunately, when things get tough, they revert to form.

    I am particularly concerned about what is going to happen now that we are experiencing a sharp economic downturn.

    Your thoughts would be appreciated.


    John I. Todor, Ph.D.
    Author of Get With It! The Hands-on Guide to Using Web 2.0 in Your Business


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