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Three steps to create customer-focused change

Jim Tincher Jim Tincher 06/29/2017

Customer experience (CX) is about change.

I wrote about this last week. But there’s a lot of confusion about the best way to create this change.

Immature CX practitioners often see themselves there to drive the business. They see their role as being on the outside, there to show the business what the customers really want. And this role feels good. “I represent the customer, and am here to show you what they want” is an easy go-to place.

It’s also a terrible way to create sustainable change. 

Common Pitfalls and How to Adapt

If you see yourself as a driver, you’re likely to see your role as pushing the business. And this naturally leads to lecturing. Continually telling the business what they’re doing wrong gets you uninvited to a lot of meetings.

If you position yourself as an outsider, pushing the business, then they’ll only come to you when their leaders push them. You can create some short-term change. But it’s not sustainable.

A better mental model is to be a facilitator. To partner with the business to show how they can better accomplish their goals through understanding customer needs.

These themes come across clearly in my interviews with successful CX leaders – it’s better to listen than to tell, and to bring the voice of the customer (VOC) to the business. Mark Smith of Element (formerly GE Capital) has probably the best example of this framework. He talked about the need to listen – not just to customers, but also to his business partners. Mark’s one of the best listeners I know, and this skill serves him well.

Jason Kapel’s customer room is another excellent example. He didn’t push his agenda on the business. Instead, he listened to their needs, and created a room to help Prudential understand where customers run into problems. Like Mark, Jason uses the power of story to share the voice of the customer. Stories create more change than driving ever did.

If you’re not creating the customer-focused change you’re expecting to, you may need to change your mental model. Stop shouting from the mountaintops, and start listening. Use the same skills you apply to your customers to your business partners – something we frequently forget.

Here are three steps to creating customer-focused change:

  1. Stop shouting

Shouting from the mountaintop feels good. But despite your mental image, it’s a terrible way to motivate people. To truly create change, stop shouting and start making sure you’re listening. This can be the easiest, or the hardest step.

What I’ve seen is that the more frustrated a CX leader gets in his or her failure to drive change, the more likely he or she is to try even harder to drive the customer agenda. And this rarely has the intended impact.

  1. Listen

Ask to attend your business teams’ regular business review meetings. Learn their metrics. Take notes. Resist the urge to talk. If you’re asked a question, go ahead and quickly answer it. But establish that your role here is to listen to them.

Afterward, ask for a meeting to share what you heard, and make sure you have it right. Don’t give any answers, as you’re still in listening mode. Use the same skills you apply towards your customers, but turn them internally.

Spend at least two weeks – preferably a month. At the end of your listening tour, establish the themes you heard. Then match these with your customer themes, and see how the voice of the customer you’ve collected can help them with solve their problems.

You may find that the VOC you’ve collected doesn’t actually answer the business questions. In this case, it’s time to analyze your program. If you can’t answer the business’s questions, this is probably your first clue as to why you’re frustrated. You may be focusing your VOC program in the wrong places. It’s time to stop what you’re doing and refocus on the business’s needs for VOC.

  1. Match the voice of the customer with the voice of the business

Assuming you’ve collected the right information, now’s the time to share your VOC.

Meet with your business partners again. Share the business goals that you heard in your listening tour, re-establishing that you heard them correctly. Then show how the voice of the customer can help them accomplish their goals more effectively.


When I see a frustrated CX leader, it’s usually because they began with the VOC, and never brought in the voice of the business.

The problem might not really be that the business isn’t listening to you. The problem might be that you’re not listening to them.


Photo credit: Gavin Whitner,

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