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Your CX Management Model Requires Commitment, Not Compliance

Published January 26, 2016

Are your people truly committed to customer experience? Or just following orders?

As organizations prioritize customer experience, they recognize the need to drive a shift from sales- or product-focused,  for example, to customer-focused throughout their company. What this means varies by business, but there is a common thread we’ve observed in firms focused on culture and change management, who are more successfully navigating this transition.

Change management-focused companies ensure that employees are truly committed to customer experience rather than simply complying with customer-related rules, policies or guidelines. In other words, delivering a great customer experience requires employee and leadership commitment, not just compliance.


A commitment culture means that everyone on every team, supported by every leader, is focused on delivering the right experience at the right times to the right customers. It’s about results vs. lip service, and excellence vs. good enough. 

When employees actively choose to behave in ways that delight customers.

Compliance-thinking is “minimal-thinking.” Compliance thinking means doing the least that has to be done to comply. It’s an “I have to” vs. an “I want to” attitude. If this sounds at all like your organization, this also means you’re probably spending a lot of extra effort policing your people to make sure they’re following the rules.

Contrast this with “commitment thinking.” In companies like this, employees actively choose to behave in ways that improve the experiences their customers enjoy. Commitment-thinking means a desire to go beyond what is required to deliver what is actually needed. Management pushes aspects of decision making down into the organization, and gives employees authority to do what needs to be done to delight customers and fix problems.

Though some may argue they’ve gone too far (see: Holacracy), Zappos is one company that is totally committed to better serving their customers, and whose employees are empowered to do so. They’re encouraged to do things like send gift baskets and thank-you cards to people whose complaints they’ve resolved – and they don’t have to consult a manager or get permission to do so.

Another famous example is the Ritz-Carlton, which has a policy that every employee is both encouraged and empowered to fix or improve a guest’s experience, and are given the authority to spend up to $2,000 per day, per guest, to “make it right or delight.”

Customer problem solving and delight – delivered exactly where the work needs to be done.

In a nutshell, that’s a commitment culture. A place where it is less about top-down mandates, and more about problem solving where the work needs to be done. When you get down to it, lots of leaders want their employees to behave in ways that are more customer-centric. But they’re disinclined to empower them to do so, because they’re worried about all kinds of things, primarily that employees will abuse the system or make poor, or expensive, decisions.

The reality is, most won’t. They already have accountability as customer-facing teammates, and CX management benefits from granting them the authority to fix a problem. They will rise to the occasion and act as the adults they are.

Yes, there’s always going to be an occasion when an employee blows it. For those who make an honest mistake, it’s a great opportunity to coach and improve. For those (very few) that may abuse the system, the price for learning about their nature is cheap. Good bye and good riddance.

When it comes to keeping the necessary authority at the appropriate level– and meaningfully distributing the rest of it –we recognize that it’s a constant negotiation and hard work, to be sure. It’s also potentially perilous. After all, if your sales team is comped on sales volume, the addition of customer-focused goals needs to be made in a way that doesn’t negatively impact revenue.

But this is important and valuable work – after all, the better able you are to drive a culture of commitment around delivering a great customer experience, the better your employee experience will be, and the greater the loyalty and engagement of your people and your customers. And the better you are at implementation, the more fun (and profitable!) it will be for you as well.

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