Tag Archives: Chief customer officer

Think Small to Win Big in Customer Experience

19 Aug

20 cultural nudges for any organisation to keep it real

Words like ‘transformation’ are scary, right? And yet CEOs are always being told that ‘Customer Experience’ is ‘transformational’. Well, maybe, but we also need to get real, and recognize that customer experience is also about delivering today – a journey of a thousand steps begins with the first step and all that, so here then is my list of the smaller, more palatable steps to start that journey within the organisation.


  1. Join the dots: ensure that everyone in the organization has a deep understanding of the bigger picture, why this is important and how their own role’s contribution to the customer experience.
  2. Make the vision real: have everyone know what it means to live the brand for your customers and deliver the company’s uniquely branded experience.
  3. Follow the money: connect the cogs to understand the ROI of customer experience and how it drives the bottom line for the business.Start small, even with anecdotes and stated intentions, then track actions.


  1. Don’t call it a project or an initiative: they suggest a here-today-gone-tomorrow mindset, an open invitation for cynics to keep their heads down and hope it all blows away like so many other initiatives.
  2. Look outside: admire and learn from the best in the world, whatever the sector, but especially not your own.
  3. Create and evangelize success stories: find, learn from, tell and celebrate stories of great customer experiences delivered.
  4. Get on the floor: get executives and leaders to spend time with and learn from the front-line via real, not stage-managed interactions, and role model new behaviours.
  5. Outlaw silo’d thinking: be alert to call out ‘back office’, ‘head office’ and functional thinking and look for ways to reinforce the mantra, It Only Works When It All Works.
  6. Get on first name terms with personas: create rich and insightful customer personas and put them in all your rooms to watch over – and challenge – decision making.
  7. Change meeting etiquette: start every meeting with a customer story, end every meeting by asking ‘what’s in it for our customers?’


  1. Set the tone on day one: embed customer learning into new hire inductions to build customer empathy. Learning about internal processes comes later.
  2. Create internal advocates: make it easy for everyone to be advocates of the brand and – wherever possible – active users of the product.
  3. Harness employee power: find ways to make their voice heard, use their knowledge, experience, insights and energy to improve the customer experience.
  4. Recognise and reward, quickly and easily – find simple and informal ways to call out and celebrate great delivery. Hand written notes can make a huge difference.


  1. Talk to customers: yes, I know. Obvious, right. Get leaders to ring lost customers, make visits and generally connect one to one with the customer. Invite them to internal conferences and generally find ways to bring them in and learn from them.
  2. Close the loop: on the other hand, don’t talk to them, unless you’re prepared to act on what you learn, and change things for the better. And never forget to them what you’ve done. Doing this can work wonders, and it creates a halo effect too.
  3. Give the benefit of the doubt: if in doubt, err on the side of the customer, and make sure your internal policies help not hinder customers.
  4. Have some respect: Change the language. Customers are people, not targets and stop asking ‘who owns the customer’? (The answer is, if anyone owns anyone these days, it’s your customers who own you.)
  5. Give to get: find small and spontaneous ways to surprise, thank and delight customers, and create positive memories and stories.
  6. Be social media savvy: recognize that great customer experiences are the best marketing there is today, so fix things super-fast.

Nine customer experience resolutions for 2013

1 Jan

According to Forrester, nearly 75% of customer experience leaders say their firms’ goal is to differentiate on the basis of customer experience. No surprises there then. Despite that heart-warming aspiration, we’re also told that only 3% of companies succeed in delivering a great experience. Talk is (very) cheap. Here then are my own pleas and provocations, including some lessons learned the hard way, for what needs to be on your New Year’s resolutions list. Start, stop, and cancel buttons on an office laser printer


If your CEO has the emotional intelligence of a kidney bean, then good luck talking about loving and respecting the customer and pointing out that it’s the customer who ultimately pays everyone’s salaries.

Unless you are blessed with a CEO who naturally thinks customer, you will struggle to make ‘customer stuff’ more than a project or an initiative, in other words, something with an end date, until you make the connections, causation and correlation between customer (and employee) happiness and the financial bottom line.

Do that and you’ll be talking a language they’ll hear: to misquote US President Lyndon Johnson, ‘get them by the numbers and their hearts and minds will follow’.


Someone – whether the CMO or the Chief Customer Officer – needs to fight hard for the customer and train the business to understand that great customer experiences ‘only work when it all works’ as far as the customer is concerned.

Stop the squabbling at the executive table and poring over internal efficiency metrics and look at customer outcomes, and start working together for the customer. The 2012 Temkin Group survey tells us that the top two obstacles to customer experience efforts are ‘other competing priorities’ (72% of companies) and ‘conflict across the internal organisations’ (52%).

So (and forgive the jargon) this means breaking down the silos, and using disciplines like customer journey mapping to design with intent the experience, and help business get its’ CEO: Customer Eyes On.


Customer centricity is a tough sell internally because it should challenge short term thinking. It’s about forgoing short term profit maximisation, the kinds of things that help the balance sheet but piss off customers (what Fred Reicheld calls Bad Profits), in return for the more uncertain expectation of longer term gains, the Good Profits that come from happy customers giving you more business, sticking with you and saying nice things. So, it takes guts and courage at the top to embark on this journey and then stay the course.


As the old saying goes, if you’re not serving customers, then you’d better be serving someone who is. However, the reality is, it is far too easy for most employees to find reasons to distance themselves – literally and emotionally – from the customer. Companies need to find imaginative ways to connect the back office and head office with customer’s lives. And to do this in a way that isn’t superficial and box ticking. Half-listening in on calls once a year on a back to the floor programme, whilst catching up on emails on your blackberry won’t cut the mustard.

And, how much time does the CEO spend with customers? According to PWC*, among global CEOs, 69% wish they could spend more time meeting with customers. I hope this doesn’t just mean inviting business customers to sporting junkets. And, how many of your employees use your own products and services? How well do you harness their own experiences, good and bad, and use these to improve the experience for all customers?

Imagine if the customer was in the conference room with you, observing the decisions being taken. Would you so be so quick to agree to that new pricing plan, knowing in your heart that the real winner isn’t the customer, but the company and the distributor too?  Jeff Bezos is famous for keeping an empty meeting-room chair for the customer at amazon. For many companies, they’d firstly have to remove the shareholder from the chair


I worry about all this talk of a brave new world where companies have unprecedented amounts of customer data, knowledge and analytics at their fingertips. To do what exactly? I doubt that many of us consumer want to be relentlessly sold to, having been brilliantly targeted and hunted down like prey. Where is the heart behind the machine? Organisations still have to firstly earn the right to ask for more of my money, which means getting the basics right and being there for me when I need them and moreover, doing this consistently. Sounds simple, but it’s not.

So, with power comes responsibility; with big data comes bigger responsibility.  Let’s please not forget the basics of serving customers, one at a time. There’s a great quote from Howard Schultz who, complaining in 2008 that Starbucks had lost its’ focus on the customer, wrote:  “We thought in terms of millions of customers and thousands of stores instead of one customer, one partner and one coffee at a time. We forgot that “ones” add up.”


It used to be enough for a company to act a good corporate citizen through its green initiatives, workforce volunteering and sponsorships.  Thus the CSR box got ticked. Wolff Olins wrote in their Game Changer paper about a ‘lukewarm bath’ of ad hoc policies to neutralise the embarrassing stuff: “banks stayed greedy but continued to pour money into the arts”. 

Reputation becomes all important as societal scrutiny grows: how close to the wind does the company sail in its tax affairs?; how well does it look after its workers, are suppliers exploited? Issues that in the past had, on the face of it, not that much to do with the actual product nor even with the customer voice. Apparently, when he took office, the IBM chairman asked, ‘why would society allow us to operate’? That’s a really good question and one that’s going to have to be taken more seriously in the future.

Managing the tensions between different groups’ needs – shareholders, customers, employees, suppliers, partners, and wider society – will become tougher and more visible.  Peter Drucker wrote in 1973: “to know what a business is, we have to start with its purpose. Its purpose must be outside of the business itself. In fact, it must lie in society since business enterprise is an organ of society”.


I’m no expert in social, but it’s here to stay, so let’s stop acting like rabbits dazzled in the headlights. It feels wrong to:

  • Run fun and sexy “like me, please” campaigns that have very little to do with what your business is about: I doubt that a ‘social’ veneer will turn it into something it isn’t. Think of Dad dancing at the disco
  • Sometimes respond, sometimes not. Are you really ‘closed’ at the weekend, for example? A recent survey by Customer Service Investigator found that big name brands responded to only 14% of requests for help, via social media!
  • Use social media for self-serving propaganda; consumers aren’t naive, and will see through it. Think of the Waitrose campaign from a few months ago, or more recently how Starbucks’ “spread the cheer” campaign backfired.
  • Treat it like a separate channel, or an add-on, to be picked up and put down

Social is turbo-charged conversations. Why wouldn’t you want to talk to, listen and learn from customers? And, because great customer experiences start with your own people…


As I suggested earlier, every employee ought to be an advocate for their own company’s products. If they’re not, then some serious questions need to be asked. Like what are you doing here, for one, and why does the company feel that a dis-engaged workforce will lead to happy customers?

There’s a wealth of data out there to show that when people are proud of their company good things happen: they stand up for it, they own their friends’ problems and so on, all in order to change the external perception.

I was reminded of this when I read a spokesperson for Barclays say, in a recent Marketing Week article “I see what the organisation believes internally and it is not the organisation that is portrayed, the organisation people see from the exterior”.

The power and role of workforce advocates will grow. After all, the 2012 Edelmans Trust Barometer tells us that while the CEO is declining as a credible information source (understandable, given the bad rep automatically bestowed on most high profile CEOs these days), the rank and file employee is growing in credibility as an information source and company representative, probably because it’s much easier to relate to them than it is your average CEO.


You get the most behaviours from the behaviours you reward the most. A couple of recent US cases involving big companies are noteworthy. The New York Times ran a story about Staples in the US who, according to employees, “has in place a set of incentives that make it unpleasant, to put it mildly, for staffers to sell a computer without a whole bunch of accessories, particularly a service plan”. Hmm. On the plus side, GM Motors’ CEO launched a new compensation structure that connects staff bonuses to loyalty, measured by repeat purchases, in other words, people coming back and buying more cars.

 Incentivising for short-term sales is not compatible with generating long term loyalty. No amount of positive internal messages about looking after customers – the kind of stuff seen on office walls – will counteract those metrics that affect the pay-packet.


  • Forrester, December 2012
  • PWC 10 Minutes on Customer Impact, March 2012.         
  • Wolff Olins, Game Changers, 2012
  • Peter Drucker, 1973
  • Marketing Week, Barclays promises a ‘relentless customer focus’ to rebuild trust, 6th December 2012
  • CSI Infographic, 11th December in mediabistro.com

Image courtesy of www.freeimageslive.com

Who fights for the customer in the boardroom?

4 Dec

SuccessWell, not necessarily marketing, according to this new research report from the Economist Intelligence Unit.

It reveals a worrying lack of support around the top table for marketing. The report title signals the problem well: “Outside Looking In: The CMO struggles to get in sync with the C-suite”.

Why? Because “many organisations still have trouble defining the Chief Marketing Officer’s (CMO) role and responsibilities” and therefore marketing’s priorities. And while the “CMO has a potentially critical ally in its quest, the voice of the customer” it’s alarming to read that:

  •  While over a quarter of CMOs believe they are the voice of the customer at their organisation, only 13% of other C-suite executives agree, and, in fact…
  • 27% of c-suite executives see the Head of Sales as the voice of the customer today…
  • And, more CMOs see the Head of Sales filling this role than they do themselves!

On the plus side, all feel that marketing should step into this role: “The CMO occupies the perfect chair to serve as the disciple for the customer internally”.

What’s holding marketing back? The C-suite believes marketing has not earned the right to be more strategic because it is ineffective at demonstrating the return on investment for its activities. The other big issue comes down to making the “soft stuff” work, in other words getting the c-suite to come together and work collaboratively around the customer agenda: “For many marketing leaders, success will be determined by their ability to align the marketing function – and the entire organisation—around delivering a superior customer experience”.

The soft stuff is also the hard stuff: “CMOs view communication skills and team-building as two of the three of most important skills they need to succeed. The ability to work cross-functionally and break down the internal silos will be key”.

So, marketing needs to break out of marketing and re-shape internal perceptions and the key to this is external, the customer : “If marketing can provide a more comprehensive view of how a customer interacts with the business as a whole, it stands to gain more credibility and more influence in driving strategic change”.

What about the alternative, the new kid on the block, the Chief Customer Officer? As the report suggest, someone needs to transcend organisational and functional boundaries to truly fight for the customer. I’m in the CCO camp, to be honest, but for me the bottom line is: more important that functional background is the need to make sure it’s a strong individual with the respect and support of the C-suite peers and the ability to herd the cats and fight the customer’s battles when the boardroom door closes.

I still struggle with the Head of Sales, though!

Creating employee experiences that drive business growth

15 Nov

Well worth a read, this is a great paper from Frank. W. Capek, Chief Customer Officer at Customer Innovations that serves to remind us about the importance of ‘fixing’ the employee experience in order to drive better customer experiences.

The statement that “every organization is strongly predisposed to deliver the current customer experience based on deeply entrenched legacy effects, beliefs, values and unwritten rules” really strikes a chord. The outcome of this of course is “a vision for the desired customer experience that is fundamentally at odds with the character and culture of the organization”.

In summary, great customer experiences and great employee experiences need to go hand in hand. You can’t have one without the other : “By creating a strong linkage between the customer experience required to drive profitable growth and the employee experience required to generate this customer experience, a company can justify and prioritize investments in the employee experience”. 


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