Do your company leaders care about customers? Here is how to know
“Our customers are our top priority.”
“Everything we do, we do for our customers.”
“Customers come first.”
Internal and external corporate communication is full of statements like these. Do they actually mean anything? Here is how to know, at least for your own company.
The nature of business strategy
The reason you need a strategy is that you do not have unlimited resources. Effective business strategy is about concentrating your scarce resources on a small number of things that will allow you to crush your competitors. So, if your CEO keeps saying things like the statements at the start of this post, there must be corresponding investments, right? The actions must match the words, right?
How to know
It is quite simple, really. There are three steps:
- Go to your company intranet. Your CEO and senior leaders should each have descriptions of their objectives and investments. (If they don’t, your company has a different sort of problem.) Do any of those objectives mention customers? Will any of the formal initiatives and investments that are listed do anything to improve customer experience? Or do you only see things like “Reduce operating costs by 15%”, “Move our travel expense administration to Poland”, “Move our HQ building to a less expensive part of town,”, “Migrate our manufacturing systems to SAP version x.x.”
- Read the emails sent to all employees by the CEO and the leaders of each business and function. When talking about quarterly results, do they mention things done for customers? Where the leadership team members set out the priorities for the coming months, do they mention investments in areas that customers have requested? Look for statements like, “Our customer research has told us we need to reduce hold times and let more people bypass the IVR system to talk immediately to a human, so we are investing there.”, “Our customers need us to cut our delivery times from three days to one…”, “Our customers tell us they want help understanding their data, so we have decided to hire 100 data scientists and train 100 existing employees in this important area.”
- Examine the formal job objectives for your team and for yourself. Do you see anything based on customer research and feedback?
OK, so the what you have found is disappointing
Companies that have to report quarterly results have an understandable tendency to concentrate communication on things that will take a single quarter, or at least produce clear financial results in the short term. Things like brand marketing and customer experience improvement work have their effect over time, usually taking 12 to 18 months to make a real difference. If you find your company in this situation, you should make it as easy as possible for executives to communicate on customer experience. Find out who actually writes their all-employee emails. Find out who prepares the material for their intranet sites. Supply those people with short paragraphs that describe customer feedback and what is being done with it. Make communication as easy as possible.
Make the communication gap your problem, not theirs
If you are in charge of customer experience, find out when each leader has to set their formal annual or quarterly priorities and how they will communicate them. Give them a single fact-based customer priority as a starting point. Try to think about it the way I thought about language the first time I visited a country where the people around me could not speak any language I spoke. I considered it to be my problem, not theirs. I had to fit into their way of communicating, not the other way around. Yes, I needed an interpreter in China. You may need a friendly interpreter to help you fit your thoughts into your executives’ communication styles.
The mid-term nature of customer experience improvements make them challenging for executives to communicate in a short-term world. Customer experience leaders need to internalize this and make CX work and initiatives as easy and memorable to communicate as possible. As mentioned in my newsletter last week, this means communicating using personal examples rather than statistics, leading with emotion rather than numbers.
And of course a word about a book
Our book Customer Experience Strategy – Design & Implementation is now available in paperback format on Amazon. Personally, I think the ‘Look inside’ preview on the Amazon sites is nice and it lets you read the table of contents and first pages. At the time of writing, the paperback is listed on amazon.com, amazon.co.uk, amazon.de, amazon.it, amazon.co.jp. It should also become available on amazon.fr and amazon.es. The paperback version will only be available on these stores. The Kindle version is available on all Amazon stores.