Customer Obsession And The CEO
Forrester designated July 15 to be CX Reality Day. We challenged CEOs to become undercover customers so they could see their company’s experience up close and personal. The goal was to compare the actual experience with what was promised — to look for misalignment and skewed delivery. I am sure that it was painful for some CEOs (it was for me), but no pain, no gain.
CEOs can’t wave their arms and claim that they are “for the customer” — and then deliver inferior digital and physical experiences. It’s a lie that every customer will see straight through — and then merrily disseminate through social media. And in a time of pandemic, amateurish digital experience will be particularly noted.
If you have misalignment between reality and promise (most do), how do you proceed? Challenge yourself and the organization to place the customer and their needs at the center of everything your company does and in every way that it behaves. We call this customer obsession.
Sounds easy? It’s not. Throughout the age of the customer, we have found that the vast majority of organizations can’t hit the mark. According to Forrester analyst Shar VanBoskirk, “Eight years into the age of the customer, just 15% of enterprises are customer-obsessed. Our research finds that executives agree with the idea . . . they just struggle to put it into practice.”
Getting to customer obsession is a complex, all-in effort that is more of a cause than a program. It flows directly from the heart of an organization — it’s about how you behave and what you value. If you want to lead this voyage, here’s a rough map:
- Answer the “why.” As CEO, you have to clearly articulate the reason to pursue obsession. Delta Dental strives to be customer-obsessed in order to counter disruption from healthcare startups. The Australian financial services firm Westpac started on its path to being “one of the world’s great service companies” to win market share.
- Answer the “how.” Forrester sees three common expressions of customer obsession — “Count on us” (reliability), “At your service” (service), and “On your side” (advocacy). Decide where you are going to major.
- Link obsession to growth. More customers who keep coming back equals expansion. Companies must connect how a customer-obsessed culture will deliver growth — the ultimate ROI of the effort. Caterpillar Financial modeled the effects of improved customer loyalty on revenue over five years to size its customer experience (CX) transformation before launch.
- Link obsession to company goals. A misalignment between company goals and a customer-obsessed operating model will take you backward, not forward. CenturyLink broke its CX vision into five operating objectives and then linked them to day-to-day decisions and customer interactions.
Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, customer obsession starts with you, the CEO. Don’t expect any progress beyond corporate Kabuki theater if you and your executive team don’t commit heart and soul. Obsession is an emotional state, and the emotion of an organization flows from leadership. Want more? Go to Shar’s report, which you can find here. Or check out our complimentary customer obsession strategy eBook.