Let’s face it, leadership in CX has never been a walk in the park. At the beginning of the year we saw some mixed predictions from Forrester that one in four CX professionals would lose their jobs whilst, in the same breath, stating that the number of CX execs would swell by 25%. What’s driving this paradoxical shift? Accountability.
If you find yourself as a survivor of the cull or a newly empowered exec then here’s the brave new world in which we now reside:
The Good News: The uphill battle to get the voice of the customer a seat at the table appears to have been settled...for now.
The Bad News: Whilst nobody is questioning the need to listen and respond to customers, they are now questioning the financial benefits of doing so. And rightly so, change needs to demonstrate a tangible benefit or its just vanity, right? Or is it not as simple as that?
The Ugly News: The truth of the matter is your CEO wants a simple answer to a complex question, but the fact remains that the industry doesn’t know (or can’t agree at least) on how to answer the ROI question.
CX leaders are in a unique position that, to my mind, happens once a generation. You have the ear of the business so it’s time to make actionable change in how you steer the ship and substantiate claims of realized benefits. Such improvement is always going to be a tricky thing to prove, depending on the scale of your business. As with anything, there’s going to be temptation along the way so if I can offer any advice at all then I’d share the following:
Balance your scales: Short term gain can lead to long term pain.
Whenever focus shifts to financial metrics, CX professionals at every level can fall into heightened levels of expectation. It is down to you as a CX Leader to learn how to balance that expectation. Be transparent about your change initiatives. Some bets take longer to come in, and that’s ok, but do your homework around your audience by looking at historical adoption curves and how they respond to change to remove some of the ambiguity about timeframes. Make sure you have a balance of short and long-term initiatives to ensure you continually demonstrate value to allow you the freedom, flexibility and most importantly budgets for the bigger plays. Simple things like a well- oiled optimisation programme can deliver serious business returns and act as a supporting function of larger change initiatives, so ensure you don’t neglect either side of the coin.
Playing the system: Becoming tempted by the dark side of CX.
When it comes to enhancing experience we’re playing with behavior, and not just customer behavior. When we start to chase metrics, there can be a temptation to influence those metrics by any means possible. I’m not going to focus on the ways people game overall performance metrics as that would be a separate piece in itself. Instead I’ll focus on the much-maligned world of black-hat or dark CX. There are a set of known patterns, methods and tactics that can deliver serious returns against conversion rates by, for want of a better word, tricking customers into a desired action. Putting the morality of this situation aside there’s two significant downsides to adopting these practices. Firstly, customers are savvy and will head to your competition and vocally call you out on your behaviour. Secondly, major entities are ramping up to crack down on dark patterns, from Apple and Google right through to Government bodies, so play nice...
Keeping your head when all around you are losing theirs.
The battle for getting the customer’s voice heard may be over, but the war to recognize the value is only just beginning. This is because we are still in the infancy of customer understanding, we have a wealth of data but sometimes it becomes difficult to see the wood for the trees. CX is about fighting the good fight, using logic and reason to make the case for improving both tangible and intangible things. As such, expect resistance, negativity, skepticism, fatigue and a whole host of other blockers. The way to overcome these blockers continues to be by using logic and reason. Connect the dots by building a suite of trackable metrics that provide you with a holistic understanding of customer experience. Make sure you cover both relational and experience driven metrics to allow you to capture your performance against utilitarian and hedonistic factors (the head and the heart). Failing to arm yourself appropriately leads to a single and frankly dangerous destination: CX becomes binary. Because of a desire for simple and buzz-worthy mast to pin our colors to we have "productized" our industry with a capitalized acronym. The problem this presents is one of perception where “Our CX is failing, it’s time to turn it off” becomes an all too common occurrence. Customer experience is not a toggle, it’s a practice grounded in the desire to increase business results by addressing customer needs.
Leadership means being an advocate for your specialism. That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be overly defensive or precious, it’s about education. Present the facts, with an honest interpretation about what they mean for your business and encourage that message to move through your entire organisation. Nobody truly owns CX, you’re more like a custodian, ensuring the right messages are winning out and that your business gets the competitive advantage it deserves by listening and responding in kind.
Stuart Whyte is a Founding Director at ImpactSense. Their suite of products and services allow you to truly understand your customer experience through detailed performance analysis and competitor benchmarking, all underpinned by tangible recommendations from real CX experts and the latest in AI and machine learning capabilities.