CEOs Work on the Front Line To Improve Their Brand's Customer Experience
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CEOs Work on the Front Line To Improve Their Brand's Customer Experience

CEOs Work on the Front Line To Improve Their Brand's Customer Experience

With overall customer satisfaction in all industries dropping to 20-year lows—most likely caused by the Great Resignation—more and more CEOs have decided to spend time on the front lines to better educate themselves on what life is really like for customers and customer-facing employees.

What about you? Are you spending enough time experiencing your own customer experience?

Leaders go on customer journeys

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi and Lyft CEO David Risher are spending time shuttling passengers. New Starbucks CEO Laxman Narasimhan is working as a barista each month. In 2022, DoorDash started requiring every employee, from engineers to CEO, to make food deliveries once a month. Khosrowshahi told the Wall Street Journal that his experience moonlighting as an Uber driver led him to “reevaluate every single assumption that we’ve made.” These leaders discovered that for the greatest understanding of customer expectations and their own customer support teams there is nothing like their own direct customer interaction.

Time in the trenches

According to a Pew Research Center survey, low pay, few opportunities for advancement, and disrespect on the job were the top reasons workers cited for quitting. For these reasons alone it is critical that senior leaders, as well as those corporate types who are removed from the day-to-day operations of the company, spend adequate time working alongside customer-facing employees.

Going this extra mile is the only way to gain the most thorough understanding of both sides of the user experience. It is an incredible learning tool to better understand what a day in the life of both your customers and employees looks like. You also see firsthand the frustration, pain points, and bottlenecks customers and employees are dealing with. It organically leads to quicker response times in resolving customer issues and, ultimately, to higher customer satisfaction scores.

A positive customer experience always begins with a positive experience for your customer service agents. But unless you have executive sponsorship (aka buy-in), nothing will change. Having executives working on the front lines often leads to changes that improve both the customer and employee experience. And employees who feel fully supported are inspired to keep customers happy.

Workers: leaders are out of touch

According to a survey from e-learning and HR publishing platform eLearning Industry, the majority of employees feel their bosses are out of touch with what they need and want. That’s not a shock when you learn that CEOs spend only 6% of their time with frontline employees on average. Who knows better what customers want? A person who spends 6% of their time with the customer, or an employee who spends 100% of their time with the customer?

Spending time in customer-facing roles as a senior leader is no longer a luxury. It is vital to improving your customer experience and reducing employee turnover. When a CEO is present and willing to be in the trenches with their customer-facing employees—sleeves rolled up, elbow to elbow—it goes a long way toward improving employee engagement and retention.

Airbnb CEO as a host and guest

“To make a change, you have to touch the product, the policies, the service across all these different touch points,” says Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb. Chesky spent 6 months as a host and guest of his own business. “Last year, I started living in Airbnbs, and I stayed in like a dozen and a half over the course of 6 months,” Chesky told Fortune. He continued staying exclusively in Airbnbs for a year as the “ultimate guest” and started noticing how much the quality of the homes and experiences varied.

“You always want to work on something new, but when you have a service like ours, and so many people use it, it’s easy to forget what they actually want. You have to have their permission to do new things,” says Chesky. “A good lesson is: Fall back in love with your core business.” His embracing of the nitty-gritty meant making improvements while doing the less glamorous work; in his words, “being a glorified customer support agent.”

Final thoughts

Keep this in mind: Your primary customer is whomever you communicate with and who depends on the work you do.

Most businesses’ customer-facing employees have never been their customer, don’t know what it is like to be in their shoes across the entire customer journey, and have little empathy and compassion for how their own actions affect their customer. Yet all of these things are essential to customer relationship management, including the gaining and keeping of loyal customers.

As a result, today many of our consulting clients not only make a “Day in the Life” video for their external customers, they also make one for their internal customers to drive home this exact point. This dramatically increases employee engagement and builds a culture of empathy that, when built into your customer experience training, becomes the foundation of every world-class customer experience.

John DiJulius III, author of The Customer Service Revolution, is president of The DiJulius Group, a customer service consulting firm that works with companies such as Starbucks, Chick-fil-A, Ritz-Carlton, Nestle, PwC, Lexus, and many more. Contact him at 216-839-1430 or info@thedijuliusgroup.com.

Published: July 18th, 2023

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