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From Vision to Execution: Building Your Customer Experience Dream Team

Jared Tincher Jared Tincher 04/29/2024

Building Your Customer Experience Dream Team

Starting Out

As the leader of a customer experience team, you want your team to be the best it can be. But what makes some teams rise above the rest? What can you do to truly unlock your business’s potential? And most importantly: how can you prove your success?

Previous research fr   om Heart of the Customer and the CXPA has found that 77% of customer experience programs cannot show their experience management is creating business value, a finding supported by CustomerThink[i] and the Qualtrics XM Institute.[ii] This points to an opportunity for improvement. A customer experience team that is created with an eye towards business value and an awareness of what is important to their company can see massive success and recognition.

But if it were easy, everyone would have done it by now, wouldn’t they? So, we wanted to answer the question: What is different about great customer experience teams? What can their leaders do to best assure that increased customer satisfaction equals better business outcomes?

To answer this, we interviewed 33 North American customer experience leaders from companies with 500 to 50,000 employees. Overwhelmingly, what we found is that successful customer experience leaders prioritize their business connections. In this blog post, we will walk you through how to be a leader to your team and make the connections that will allow you to grow.

Building Bridges

The paradox of leadership: to become a leader, you have to get really good at doing customer experience management, and as soon as you get that leadership position, you no longer have time to work with customer feedback. The biggest difference between being a customer experience specialist and a customer experience leader is that a leader has to think of the business as their customer.

This may sound counterintuitive, but consider this: as the leader of a customer experience department, you are ensuring that your business receives a deeper understanding of the benefits of customer experience. This is not very different from customer relationship management, but many leaders stumble in recognizing that their top priority needs to shift from customer satisfaction to business satisfaction. It is your responsibility to hire, train, and support a team that will prioritize effective customer experience management while you prioritize your team and your stakeholders.

In their annual survey of CEOs, IBM asks, “Who from your C-suite team will play the most crucial role for your organization” over the next year?[iii] Even with the option of multiple answers, only 19% chose the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) as one of their contenders, and none chose the Chief Customer Officer. Instead, 57% chose the Chief Financial Officer (CFO), and 56% chose the Chief Operating Officer (COO).

Their responses showed a friction that customer experience leaders need to address: your CEO may not understand the importance of positive customer relationships. Instead, they prioritize more direct sources of income. If you’re not constantly—and by this we mean at least monthly—meeting with your Finance and Operations teams—and ideally their leaders—you have very little opportunity to create a customer centric culture in your workplace. If the CEO primarily focuses on these two departments, you need to start there.

Stakeholder Mapping

To make these connections, we recommend creating a stakeholder map, which shows the level of support and influence of your important stakeholders. Start with your interviews with all of your stakeholders, especially those from the key areas of the business highlighted above. Keep notes on stakeholders who seem engaged with customer data in their own departments, any hesitations you run into, and any important roadblocks preventing your stakeholders from seeing the value in creating customer loyalty.

If it helps, think of it as voice of the customer work: to increase customer satisfaction, you start by gathering customer data, to get a sense of what the existing customer needs and customer feedback look like. In the same way, you need to conduct research on your company from your new perspective as a customer experience leader before you can deliver personalized experiences of successful customer experience management. (For more on creating stakeholder maps and engaging your stakeholders, reference the HoC white paper, Stakeholder Resistance – Breaking Barriers to customer experience Buy-In.)

While you are creating your stakeholder maps, note down potential sources of friction on the customer journey that are also causing business problems, such as poor delivery, channel switching, or customers not migrating to new products. Also add notes on people who already seem invested in their customer relationships. An early, impactful project with these stakeholders can show the benefits of partnering with your department and encourage investment for other, more ambitious projects down the line.

Find the Power

Finally, note what drives the organization. Use your interviews to discover what is valued within your business. Document words and phrases that come up frequently in your interviews, especially when your stakeholders are talking about desires or negative outcomes. Framing your customer experience projects as ways to prevent anxieties like waste and high-cost issues will keep your goals visible.

Creating a stakeholder map will ensure you base your strategy on the organization’s needs, helping to build buy-in. This practice has increasing returns. The more you know going into your projects, the more you can provide personalized experiences tailored to your business’s needs and anxieties. In turn, your projects will have increased buy-in and success when they directly address the immediate concerns of stakeholders, and your department can garner a reputation for problem-solving. It’s not that different from what you do with customers – just with a different focus.

Knowing that you are focused on their success will lead stakeholders to seek you out for projects and advice, which will help you keep your stakeholder map up to date as they provide you with more information about their pain points. In time, the customer experience department can develop enough momentum to keep running at the forefront of other departments’ minds in times of trouble and in daily operations.

Case Study

Sandra Fornasier is the Director of Customer Insights and Success at Autodesk. Her team has been built with strong ties to Autodesk’s financial and legal departments, which has enabled her success in growing from her original team of 3 people to a team of over 20. Here’s what she had to say about her success:

“[The finance department] help us correlate back to all sorts of financial data we may not have at our own fingertips. Because they’re involved, we’re not in a situation where we walk into a room and say, ‘this is going to cost us this much money.’ And everyone’s like, ‘give me a break, Sandra.’ No, because the finance leadership is like, ‘we worked with her. We know that this is true.’ So those things really help. You can’t do it on your own…I think probably one of the most important lessons to learn is that you have to have a very strong stakeholder management approach. Who are your stakeholders? How do you convince them? What’s your communication plan? If you answer the question, how you convince them, you will quickly understand that you need to have that finance back. You have to have a good relationship with the legal.”

Sandra’s Strategy

Sandra’s team is divided into three main pillars: insights, focusing on Voice of the Customer; connections, focusing on partnering within the organization; and action management, focusing on bringing together leadership from throughout the organization for better end-to-end customer journeys.


The insights pillar is involved in ensuring that the listening strategies involved in Voice of the Customer are in line with Autodesk’s brand image. They work with other departments to ensure that across the entire customer journey, customer interactions are consistent and inspire loyalty to the brand. Their customer relationship management uses listening strategies to make sure that customer feedback is not only sought after, but that customer touchpoints are up to a certain standard that encourages customer loyalty.


The connections pillar is about bringing customer experience management to everyone in the business. Every team is familiar with their own strategy, and Sandra emphasizes that customer engagement happens within the existing strategies, not on top of or around them. Managing customer experience is the responsibility of every team, so Sandra’s team makes sure to involve other departments in a respectful and productive way.

Action Management

Sometimes, customer experience management is more complex than providing an insight to the relevant department. Some customer personas may have difficulties that span their entire customer journey. Some customer experience management strategies require cooperation between several key stakeholders across multiple channels. For cases like these, Sandra’s team has their action management pillar: people who analyze customer data and create solutions that affect the entire customer lifecycle, and then work with leadership throughout the business to make it happen.

Sandra’s team structure is built around partnerships across the business. By reaching out to other departments and forming strong bases of teamwork, Sandra has seen great success in changing customer behavior and creating brand loyalty.

Moving Forward

Your relationship with your stakeholders doesn’t just allow you to partner with other departments, it gives your entire team credibility. You can be let in on metrics of success that are vital to the company. By following the example of leaders like Sandra, you can set your team up to become indispensable.

Begin by mapping out your stakeholders. Set up interviews to gather data on what matters to your stakeholders, what their experience with customer experience is, and what friction points exist. Then, learn to frame your team’s work in terms that are relevant to your C-suite. Show your impact through your partnerships. And finally: be like Sandra. Grow your team through your connections to create a customer experience department like no other.




[i] CustomerThink Corp., Customer Experience at a Crossroads: What Drives customer experience Success?, January 2019,

[ii] Qualtrics XM Institute 2022 Q1 customer experience Practitioner Survey

[iii] IBM Institute for Business Value, C-suite Series: The 2021 CEO Study


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