Over the last couple of years, I’ve come across lots of articles in the customer experience space that focus on topics such as the ideal organisational set-up to succeed at CX; what titles CX leaders should aspire to; what the ideal reporting line is for CX leaders, and so on.
Whilst the different perspectives on this are interesting, I feel these points of view fall short of providing the kind of practical advice which can help customer experience leaders succeed in their roles, as the guidance centres on areas that fall outside of their individual control.
The reality is that most CX leaders face the challenge of galvanising different parts of their organisation to work together on improving customer outcomes, effecting change in a highly cross-functional and collaborative way. If they are fortunate, they may have a CEO who takes a lead in driving a customer-centric culture and facilitating cooperation across the different functions involved. More often, however, it falls to CX leaders to generate the right culture, governance, and collaboration to deliver great customer engagement and outcomes.
From my experience of leading a major CX initiative in a large, complex, multi-channel organisation, as well as working alongside CX leaders as an advisor and coach, I have developed a list of the 5 essential leadership traits that I believe can help CX leaders transcend the limitations of organisation structure, reporting lines, and job titles.
1. Relentless focus on results
It’s likely that you are asking your organisation for investment of some kind: time, resources, and possibly capital; so you need to find a way to get some early wins to maintain interest and focus. Be pragmatic – choose an area where you are more certain of being able to demonstrate tangible business results that will resonate with the rest of the organisation.
2. Overcoming resistance
CX leaders need to be expert at influencing other areas. Develop a system of sensors to identify and understand the sources of resistance around the organisation. Once you have a deeper understanding of the causes of resistance, you will be better able to develop an approach to overcome it.
3. Prioritise internal engagement
Not only do you want those involved in customer interactions to care about your initiative, but you also need them to have the motivation and skills to know what to do differently when they interact with customers. Develop a narrative which captures hearts and minds around the changes you are introducing. Embed key messages into training and coaching. Regularly drip feed stories of success. Enlist internal champions to help you spread your message throughout the organisation.
Above all, make internal engagement your number priority.
4. Implement the right governance
Whatever organisation structure is in place and whatever responsibilities lie within your remit, it’s likely that you will also need to foster great collaboration cross-functionally to achieve successful outcomes. Getting the right governance in place is essential to underpinning this collaboration. Having clear and transparent frameworks around how customer priorities are decided, and who is involved, is essential for securing buy-in to the outcomes.
So ask yourself this question: “who do I need on my customer experience board?”
5. Develop your personal resilience
Being a CX leader can be a tough gig. You may be working across organisational silos to create new processes and propositions; and you are potentially trying to shift ways of working that have existed for decades. You will need to draw on deep reserves of resilience at times, so develop an approach and mindset that helps you monitor, preserve, and improve your resilience.
Paying attention to these 5 things can help you elevate your CX leadership and ensure that your colleagues are aligned with your CX plans; honing these skills will most likely lead you to successful outcomes more quickly than a change of job title or reporting line can ever deliver!
Founder & Director of Sentio-B
Jo is an advisor, mentor, and coach to customer experience leaders. She helps leaders work out how to build the capabilities within their organisation to become more customer centric, including how to use customer data, insights and technology to drive customer experience improvements; and supporting them in leading the cultural change needed to transform the customer experience and unlock business value.