Who would you say owns the customer experience?
It’s an honest question, and it tends to come up early in the process when a client and I discuss the first steps in mapping and evaluating the experience they provide. Who is responsible? Who should be responsible?
If your answer is, “Everyone should own the customer experience…” I know it rolls of the tongue nicely and makes a nice little quote to retweet but I beg of you, please stop saying that.
It would be great to live in a world where everyone really does own the customer experience. It creates visions of friendly and empowered employees at every level. Even the guy changing the light bulbs will come down from his ladder to check on a customer and make sure the experience is magical. All employees are ready to jump in as needed, regardless of pay scale and title, to engage and connect with customers. Brand fanatics are lined up at the door because everyone involved has shown so much love, and we all live happily ever after.
In reality, employee goals seldom align with customer-centric culture.
Employers expect better results from their staff, with fewer resources. Real customers have very little contact with the executive team. And these employees often have no real motivation to engage with customers, especially when they are unhappy in their jobs. Bonuses and raises are often tied to specific, acquisition-focused results. Employees tend to only be rewarded for gaining new customers or increasing profit. While generating more revenue absolutely should be a goal, what does so much emphasis on short-term gains cost us the long run?
Everyone owns their piece.
Every employee should play their part in providing an outstanding experience to each customer. However, if the leader is not, well, leading… How can employees really be expected to own their piece?
A culture does not become customer-centric by creating mandates, mantras or inspirational posters on the walls, they are created by enlightened leaders. And its roots must be firmly planted in the executive chair. The CEO should be keeping it in perspective for everyone – customers, stockholders, employees, and officers. A customer advocate should be present in every meeting, for every project and with every result.
A customer-centric CEO should also be choosing executives who can lead with this mission. Creating a whole new culture built around customer centric leadership is even more difficult than it sounds. Fear is often a key driver when employees have been focused on short-term results at the expense of long-term customers. When someone feels insecure at a job, speaking up on behalf of customers is often a losing proposition. Leadership is charged with the responsibility of changing that.
Employees know when they are seen as tools in the shed.
They know they can function without enthusiasm or engagement while they seek a job that suits them better. If leaders talk a good game about “everyone owning the customer experience” but don’t support it with long-term visions and constant, repeated reinforcement through both words and actions, individuals within the company will focus on the short-term goals they can be certain leadership cares about. And why should they do anything differently?
Leaders must understand the consequences of NOT focusing on the customers if they plan on changing the game. If they can inspire each person within the company to do so, that’s step one. But words, actions and results are big steps, too.
Don’t fall for the words.
Yes, please, believe that everyone should own the customer experience. But look to the leaders to see if it’s all talk or more than that. Are they ready to dig into the cold, bitter truth? And more importantly, do they have someone who will actually give it to them?
This article was written for, and a version originally appeared on Sensei blogs.