I’m still on a high from our first-annual Do B2B Better conference, where we celebrated those few customer experience (CX) leaders at B2B and B2B2C organizations whom we can definitively call “Change Makers.”
At my opening keynote, I asked participants a question: Why do you do CX? Not “Why does your company have a CX department?” but why do you work in this field? Sixty-three participants shared their reasons. Answers fell into three categories: Strategy, Affinity, and Passion, and they appear to be on a continuum from CX being a business discipline to it being a way of life.
For about a third of our attendees, CX is the means to an end, which is a healthier business and added value. These participants appeared to be newer to customer experience and treated it more as a business discipline than a calling. For example, one participant shared, “I think CX and brand intersect, so as a brand strategist, it’s essential to understand how a business and its employees can deliver an exceptional experience.” Another said, “Without knowing what the customer needs, I’ll never be able to meet their expectations.” And the most direct stated, “Because I got tired of my company looking stupid and having to apologize over and over again.”
For these participants, customer experience is a department focused on improving the company’s outcomes.
For others, an opportunity arose that met their background, and they wanted to try this field. This was the smallest group. Respondents had less functional responses than those in the Strategy bucket, but not as intense as those who gave a Passion-based response.
This group’s answers focused more on solving customers’ problems than on focusing on the customer themselves. One shared, “I started doing it by chance and really liked it, so I’ve kept doing it,” and another said, “I enjoy the advocacy aspect. Bringing the ah-ha to the executive meetings.” My favorite was “I’m intensely nosy about the human experience.”
Finally, nearly half saw customer experience as a calling, and it’s unlikely they would be happy in another job. Their answers were far more dramatic than those in the other groups, such as, “The most important thing about life are your experiences . . . I thrive on helping people maximize their life through their experiences.” Another agreed, sharing, “Relationships are life. CX is life.” And a third added, “Experience is the essence of life.”
Others were less dramatic but spoke to CX as a calling, saying they wanted to “Change my sliver of the world” or “I couldn’t do anything else.” Another shared, “It’s my super power.”
It’s this third group that I want to address. This passion for CX came through in our interviews that went into my book, Do B2B Better: Drive Growth through Game-Changing Customer Experience, in our work mapping the first-year customer experience leader, and in our experience working with clients.
This passion is a strength, giving us the energy to keep working across the business to drive change even after we experience setbacks. But this passion can also be a weakness we need to address: Your internal stakeholders don’t share this passion for customers. They focus on their success, which typically falls into areas internal to the business, such as reducing the cost of operations or increasing customer lifetime value.
When passion for customers is your fuel, it’s common to focus exclusively on customers’ needs without connecting those needs to business outcomes. And this is something we kept seeing in our interviews. Passion-fueled CX leaders focus their analysis exclusively on survey data. There was sometimes a look backward to show how top scorers churn less often than those with low survey scores, but nothing to specifically target behaviors and how they matter. Most programs fail to incorporate the Customer Ecosystem Data – behavioral, descriptive, financial, and operational data – into their analysis.
This isolated analysis creates a disconnect, as every other part of the business speaks in hard data and financial outcomes, while we often restrict our data to those coming from surveys.
But Change Makers – those few programs that do drive organizational change – don’t have this issue because they have worked across the organization to understand the financial drivers and then connect the customer experience to show how it impacts those finances. They spend time with the Finance group to understand what they report, then work with analytics to discover the linkages. Contrast this with the Hopefuls – those who may be doing good work but can’t show business impact – don’t regularly meet with Finance and don’t incorporate the Customer Ecosystem Data into their analysis.
Hopefuls report on sentiment. Change Makers study – and change – behaviors.
Passion is a strength. It carries us through to keep working to improve the business. But unless you take the time to understand your internal customers as well as your external ones and communicate in their language, you run the risk of being a lonely voice.
Let’s change the dialogue. Start by meeting with Finance to understand how the company measure success, then link the customer experience data to that. That’s the path to creating sustainable customer-focused change.