Beware Mediocre CX

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Every business leader can fall into a dangerous trap of mediocrity. Even when we work hard to meet requirements, stick to a plan, and check all the boxes, we might take a step back one day and realize what we have created is pretty mundane. Let’s face it, we can get so busy with all the elements of our work that we overlook the broader purpose. We get distracted and, as the familiar saying goes, can’t see the forest for the trees.

However, the best leaders seem to have the ability to rise above the distractions and consistently make an impact. They maintain a broader perspective and can see how all the individual ingredients work together to achieve an important purpose.

I believe this skill is particularly important to customer experience (CX) leaders. After all, the concept of customer experience is still relatively new to many people, which can make it difficult to get attention, resources, and buy-in for CX programs. Also, some view CX programs are too soft—nice to have, but not critical to business performance. All this means that it is critical for CX leaders to avoid common distractions and rise above mediocrity.

Customer experience leaders have an important role and a solid purpose. They are catalysts for creating exceptional customer experiences that results in tangible benefits for their company—increased retention, faster growth, cost-saving processes, customer referrals, and more. Achieving these benefits means not getting consumed with these distractions:  

  • Distracted by the details. If you are a customer experience leader, you likely have some aptitude for managing lots of details. However, too many CX teams get mired in all the details of gathering customer insights while failing to effectively implement improvement initiatives.
  • Distracted by the numbers. It’s important to have goals as long as they are relevant and useful. And yet, too many companies become so focused on achieving the desired customer satisfaction or NPS rating that it becomes misused, particularly if performance evaluations and bonuses are tied to it.
  • Distracted by the research. While solid methodology is essential, CX leaders can get caught up in the purity of their research. It can become so complex that others in the company become confused about how to put it to use.
  • Distracted by benchmarks. It’s useful to know how you stack up against the competition. However, companies can become obsessed with how they compare to others instead of placing more focus on monitoring critical improvements within their own company.
  • Distracted by regulations. If you work in healthcare, utilities, or some other regulated industry, you understand how important it is to maintain requirements for customer satisfaction. The pressure to report ratings can be all-consuming and can easily distract from efforts to develop a more responsive and comprehensive program.

All of these distractions are actually important elements in a CX program. They should not be ignored. But like so many things, a good quality can become a distraction if it steals attention from the larger purpose. So how do you maintain a balanced perspective, where everything comes together in a productive way? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Develop a vision statement. Collaborate with your team to develop a short statement to capture the true vision for your CX initiatives. Get specific about what you are truly trying to achieve, make sure it tightly aligns with your company’s objectives, and regularly reinforce it to guide the work of your team.
  • Assess your maturity. At least once a year take a step back and conduct an assessment. This helps you understand if you have the right priorities and the right activities in place. I use the assessment developed by the XM Institute (find it by searching for “customer experience maturity assessment” on XMInstitute.com).
  • Recruit allies from different departments. Having team members from outside of the CX team gives you valuable perspective on what matters to customers. It’s important that customer-facing departments are represented and recruit at least one executive that can speak on your behalf in interactions with upper management.
  • Get the word out. Make sure employees are aware of your CX initiatives. To get everyone engaged they need to be aware of your programs and believe that your work is valuable to the company. A strong communication program is essential to making that happen.

It’s easy to get distracted. But with a little discipline CX leaders can avoid distractions, maintain a broad perspective, and lead a program that is far from mediocre.   

Patrick Gibbons is a principal at Walker, a leading experience management services firm. He leads marketing and experience management programs and can be reached at pgibbons@walkerinfo.com.

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