You can’t create an improved customer experience without active executive support. The top barrier to customer experience (CX) initiatives is “Other priorities.” Unless you actively engage executives on an ongoing basis, your program will become another flavor of the month.
How to Drive Change
I introduced how to use John Kotter’s framework in my article “CX Needs Change Management,” and built around it further in “To Spur Action, Create a Sense of Urgency.” Now we address the second step in his process, “Build an Executive-Level CX Change Coalition.” Most CX programs struggle to create this leadership buy-in.
When we interview great CX programs, they universally have an approach to engage executives that others lack. One reason most programs don’t connect with executives is language. CX speaks in surveys; executives speak in dollars. As one client shared with us, “Leaders have their own goals, which have nothing to do with survey scores. So I tell them, ‘An improved customer experience will make it easier to accomplish your goals.’”
But she doesn’t stop there. She also does the math, showing how growth, improved profit margin, lower cost to serve, and other goals are accomplished through improved customer outcomes.
Your executives will say they care about an improved customer experience. But they care far more about the company’s success. If focusing on customer experience means they don’t accomplish their goals, receive their bonus, or look good in front of their boss, then you have no chance. But if you can create and communicate the linkage between CX and their goals, executives will move from passive to active support.
Change in Action
Let’s use an example from a client. While digital transformation was important in January, it’s now non-negotiable, and our client was planning a series of projects to become digital first.
Our client knew that jumping right to digital without fully understanding the current experience and customer needs was risky. She showed her executives how digitizing a broken experience just leads to a broken digital experience. A huge investment for little gain.
She demonstrated how the current experience involved a series of disconnected interactions. Digitizing all that would be complex and expensive. Understanding customers’ most critical needs would enable them to simplify the experience, lowering costs to serve and making the digital transformation much simpler and less expensive.
Her executives cared about the digital transformation and costs. She showed how, by starting with an improved customer experience, executives, the business, and customers will all be better served. This enabled her to create a powerful change coalition to not only lead the journey mapping, but also to carry through with the digital transformation, ensuring it focused on the most important needs.
But one-time engagement isn’t enough. The best programs engage executives on an ongoing basis. One sure way to elicit a groan in CX circles is to bring up the word “governance.” Governance is the process of regularly engaging senior executives to learn the current state of the customer experience, and to actively make decisions on how to improve it. While governance adds significant effort to a CX program, it allows you to pivot more quickly as needs come up without always having to re-engage executives. That’s why the most successful customer experience programs are centered around executive engagement and governance.
It’s hard. But you’ll never be able to have that sustained improvement until you create a powerful, executive-level change coalition to ensure continued progress.