Five Principles of Customer Experience Leadership
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Five Principles of Customer Experience Leadership

Five Principles of Customer Experience Leadership

Customer experience (CX) is one of the hot business topics in all business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) companies today. Companies ultimately meet and fulfill the underlying needs of prospective and existing customers through the five "P's" of the marketing mix: Product, Price, Place, Promotion, and People. The five "P's" work for all businesses, products, and services - from industrial manufacturing equipment to a post-workout sports drink to a child daycare service.

Customer experience is the total of the customer's perceptions of how successful the company was in fully and successfully delivering everything from initial discovery through the entire research, evaluation, purchase, set-up, use, repair, and re-purchase (or abandonment) process. It is vitally important that the CX evaluation is driven by the customer's perception - versus a cold, metric-driven calculation of what the service was to the customer. In the CX world, customer perception and customer belief are king.

Customer experience has come to the forefront in nearly every industry as companies seek to differentiate how they deliver their offerings to customers in a way that is unique to their needs, fulfilling, immediate, low effort, personalized, and as something they would recommend and purchase again. Customer experience has emerged as a key strategy for companies to differentiate their products and services from close competitors by creating a customer-centric world designed for each customer in their stage of the purchase process. Increasingly, companies have come to discover that a great customer experience and superior products or services are the way to achieve differentiation over their competitors.

Key to leading customer experience efforts is instilling CX leadership principles inside the entire company to guide it toward successful customer experience interactions and transformations. Here, in no specific order, are the five "P's" of customer experience leadership.

Passion. Customer experience passion is more than a "love" of your customers. CX passion is a never-ending quest to discover new insights on what customers want, to create better experiences around what customers truly value, and to enable new offerings that move customers from "sporadic" customers to "loyal" customers. CX passion is an entire company attitude that is never satisfied with what the brand is doing for customers today, and of constantly exploring, testing, and evaluating what more the company can to create even greater customer loyalty tomorrow. The key measurement for a passionate company approach toward CX is a desire for customer loyalty. True customer loyalty is measured in the words of the customer ("Your company is my choice."), as opposed to a customer satisfaction attitude of "Your company is one of my choices." A passionate CX leadership style wants to build, grow, and maintain the first type of customer loyalty.

Persuasion. Too often, CX initiatives spark fear, concern, and worry in employees because they are told about CX initiatives - instead of being led and persuaded about the true power of CX initiatives to help the customers they interact with every day. I firmly believe that everywhere employees act today, 99 percent are acting with what they believe to be in the best interests of both the company and the customer. The persuasion element of CX leadership believes that employee empowerment toward a greater focus on a consistent, meaningful, and powerful customer experience is best done with employees who are persuaded, not ordered, to do the new initiatives. Persuasion is a leadership principle that is humble, respectful, and enables employees to use their experience and passion to apply their own customer experience ideas toward a lasting CX program.

Pilot. Another leadership hurdle with corporate CX initiatives is a belief that new CX initiatives will either fail, work perfectly, or be ineffective to meet customer needs. If an organization 1) believes in making the customer journey better; 2) believes in helping employees be a part of the solution; 3) believes in using data and experience to fairly evaluate all new ideas; and 4) believes in improving the offering to the customer before the competition does, then pilots and experiments are a must for developing and testing CX ideas before full-scale implementation. Pilots are tests of critical customer problems that try new ideas to solve old or protracted problems. A pilot uses standard data collection, pre-defined success criteria, a standard implementation, and multiple iterations to fully try out a new idea on a small scale. If successful, a larger pilot transforms into a larger pilot until full implementation occurs.

Performance. Customer experience initiatives often are victims of too much analysis, discussion, surveys, and idea sessions than a central focus on performing better in key customer areas. The previous principles (Passion, Persuasion, and Pilot) need a guiding focus on consistently performing well in clear, well understood, and repeatable processes for customers in their most important areas of concern. A Performance focus is critical to gain customer, employee, and senior leadership engagement and support. Customer experience analysis and strategy are requirements, but they need to focus on performed actions that make the customer experience and customer journey easier, faster, less error-prone, and more consistent. Performing a new process to solve a protracted customer problem will make all customers, employees, and senior leaders take notice.

Paradigm. Paradigm shifts are changes to long-established ways of how a company meets customer needs. Paradigm changes of business operations are the most difficult for employees and customers to start. However, paradigm shifts contain the most customer benefits and are where the true results of improved CX operations lie for the company and its products or services. Passion, Persuasion, Pilots, and Performance lay the foundation by building trust, tests, improvements, and proof that the CX changes will be successful for both the company and its customers. Paradigm shifts taken without employee support and customer testing may be amazing, but if no one will trust the proposed paradigm shifts, they stand a high chance of failure.

Conclusion

These five "P's" are the central leadership attributes to lead a CX transformation. A CX transformation that is driven with Passion for true customer success, that Persuades customers and employees to lead with their ideas, while using Pilots to ensure the tested ideas are implemented, while aggressively enacting a direct-to-customer Performance solution of protracted problems, will result in a Paradigm shift to a new operating model that is successful for customers, employees, and the business. CX success is a way to build sustainable competitive advantage in a business that, in turn builds extreme levels of customer loyalty.

 Chad Storlie is an adjunct professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management and a mid-level marketing executive. He is a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Berets), an Iraq combat veteran, and a widely published author. Contact him at chad.storlie@combattocorporate.com or 402-960-1350.

Published: July 9th, 2019

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