I listen to a wide variety of podcasts…I’ve even appeared on quite a few of them myself. (“Appeared”? That doesn’t sound right for a podcast. Anyway.) In the jumble of all the great content, recently I was listening to one on which the guest made a reference to a movie that I hadn’t thought about in years. I wish I could remember where it was that I heard it (I’m not even necessarily sure it was a CX podcast) because I’d love to give credit. If it occurs to me, I’ll update this article, but in the meantime, here is the reference an what it made me think of:
“Josh doesn’t get it.”
When Tom Hanks was 32 years old in 1988, he starred as the grown-up version of Josh, a 12 year-old granted a wish by a mystical carnival game to be “Big.” Surely you remember the movie, if not all the details. Somehow, he ends up getting a job as an executive at a toy company (of course). There’s a great scene right off the bat where Josh attends a leadership meeting complete with charts and graphs and financial arguments. A new prototype of what its supporters believes to be the hit toy this year is also present. Rather than listen to the corporate speak of ‘market share yadda-yadda,’ ‘previous quarterly returns mumbo-jumbo,’ Josh simply picks up the toy and starts playing with it. You can watch the scene here for a trip back in time.
After finding the toy wanting as a source of amusement, Josh admits simply that he doesn’t get it. He doesn’t get it because he has no inclination toward (nor education in) the corporate money-making side of the business. He knows toys as any 12 year-old boy would. And so it’s natural he’d ask, “what’s fun about that?” Not what’s fun about all the charts and finance numbers. He means, what’s fun about a building that turns into a robot? He’s not taking the perspective of revenue, sales, market share, or financial concerns…he’s looking at it as a toy. And his perspective is that of a Customer.
This hits home like a ton of rocks for me. As you’re probably aware, one of my biggest drums to beat is that, to the extent you’re comfortable, you should look outside of not only your organization, but if possible outside of your industry for CX leaders. I’ve written about it before, and I’ve even gotten into arguments with some people I greatly respect in the CX field about this, but the more time I spend with business leaders beginning their journey in CX, the ever more adamant I am about it.
The people who’ve worked for your company especially, and to a great extent those in your industry, know the inner-workings of the behind-the-scenes operations and processes that make your organization tick. It’s incredibly wise, for example, to promote a COO from within or steal him or her from a competitor. Such insights are invaluable in positions like that. Conversely, however, someone who knows what makes things challenging for your company or your industry is much more likely to excuse them when they get in the way of your Customers’ satisfaction and experiences. Sadly, oftentimes it takes someone from outside to look at how you do things and say, “why on earth do you do that? That makes no sense.” Now, of course, many times there are reasons (legitimate reasons, I’m not just trying to be a jerk…I totally understand!) for doing what you’re doing. But if you’re swimming neck-deep in it along with everybody else in your organization, you’re less likely to stop and say, “wait a second…there’s got to be a better way.”
What’s more, if you’re looking at it as a seasoned professional in the business you’ve been in for decades, you’re even less likely to understand what your Customers are going through. Think about it: If you’re a C-Suite leader of your (randomly to pick an industry) car rental company, it’s wise from time to time to rent a car—go through the whole process from searching online to picking it up to refilling it before you drop it off, all that—without anybody knowing who you are. That’s walking in the Customers’ shoes, and it’s a wise way to gain insights. However, if your entire career has been in the rental car business (or worse yet, at the same company), it may never occur to you to ask questions like, “why don’t we have free satellite radio in the cars?” or “why does it take three weeks to reconcile when I drive through a toll on the turnpike?” You may not have those questions because you know the back-way, in-the-know method to make things work; you may not consider it because you may not want to re-litigate an issue that you and the rest of the leadership team has gone through already; or perhaps it’s a moot question for you because more literally, you know the answer to the question, “Why is it that way?”
But here’s the thing: None of those reasons (or any other) for not raising the question are of any consequence to your Customers. They still have the hassle! If it’s your job to represent the Customer as a constituent to the leadership of your organization, you’re going to be at a disadvantage (read: The Customers will be at a disadvantage) coming from the inside…having ‘been there/done that,’ you’re less inclined to even consider these issues from that perspective. But your Customers, who are outside your organization and industry, need that representation.
Just like Josh, they don’t get it.
And you as a leader—especially as a seasoned veteran of the industry who knows how things operate—are going to be less likely to appreciate that. Funny enough, that’s your job.