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The Politics of Customer Experience Management

Published March 23, 2015

There are many ways you can improve the customer experience, and drive value from it. But your people need to be moving in the same direction to do so.

Customer experience is one of the fastest growing areas of business strategy, and with good reason. Its linkage to better business performance across key measurement and metrics is clear. From higher per-customer value and significantly greater market valuations, improving customer experience makes sense on many levels, for almost all organizations.

But many executives behave as if it’s just a buzzword, doing little more than improving smaller, incremental customer-facing processes. Not that there’s anything wrong with incremental improvements—far from it, in fact. But the questions customer experience leaders are asking go a lot further: “How do we change the way we do business to become more customer centric?”


The issue is that “big questions” like this often indicate (or threaten) “big change.” And for those leaders and managers who are more concerned with smaller improvements to the way things are often find themselves with a very different perspective than the “let’s champion culture and change management” folks.

Getting people to change their behavior is hard work

The truth is, there are many ways to improve customer experience, and there are many ways you can use that improvement to drive value, revenue and loyalty. And while this balance can be positive, these discussions or issues often don’t see the light of day in a forum that can lead to healthy dialogue and a clear direction that everyone agrees on.

Even in organizations that have senior executive sponsorship, getting people to change their behavior is hard work. When it comes to consistently delivering seamless, end-to-end customer experiences across an organization, culture and change management is usually a big part of the transformation. That’s because aligning rewards with outcomes is just part of the puzzle. A high level of cross-organization cooperation is also essential for building a truly customer-focused culture—and for building political support for customer experience as a strategic imperative.

This is also why the most successful companies don’t just have a customer experience group. And why CX isn’t just the responsibility of customer-facing departments. This is important because almost every CX improvement effort requires coordination and cooperation across multiple silos, groups and functions.

But to make this work, you need a way to hold people and groups accountable. Most often, this accountability is the result of influence and cooperation rather than holding people’s feet to the fire. And people are most likely to cooperate when the actually see the benefits to them (and their customers).

The politics of customer experience management: Getting everyone on board

The process of shifting to a customer-centric culture takes time. In a committed organization with executive buy-in, getting there can easily be a two to three year journey. In the early stages of this process, we see customer experience leaders using their skills and capabilities to build awareness of CX, prove value by applying CX management capabilities to strategically important pilots, and leveraging things like Voice-of-the-Customer (VOC) insights to identify common issues and business problems that drive tangible—though often incremental—results.

This kind of approach helps everybody get on board with the idea that the quality and consistency of the customer experience is strategically important, and drives measurable value. As your people see the results on customer loyalty and employee engagement, it becomes easier to get support for a broader change initiative. Instead of suspicion or fear, CX transformation becomes something that everyone understands, and sees value in.

The common enemy becomes complacency—the common goal CX excellence. Which is why a key aspect of every customer experience leader’s mission is to be a political champion for customer experience. These leaders know they can’t force other people or groups to do anything—so they spend time building relationships, knowing that true customer centricity will come only from the cultural change that comes about over time, as the result of a concerted, collective effort.

When everyone sees how important customer experience is to your company’s future—and how critically important everyone’s individual contribution is to delivering it—you’ll be able to align everything your company does with helping your customers achieve their goals.

Driven by a shared vision of what it means to be customer-centric, delighting customers truly does become everyone’s responsibility—and your culture. And you and your customers will prosper as a result.

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