I speak with customer experience professionals every day. Some of them have fancy, customer-focused titles like Chief Customer Officer or Vice President of Customer Experience. Others have more common org chart regulars, like Chief Marketing Officer or Voice fo the Customer (VoC) Director. The one thing they all have in common? A desire to focus on listening to customers, doing right by them, and getting their organizations on board with the many, many benefits of a strategic customer experience program.
There’s some common agreement now in the world of business. Customer experience (CX) has become a critical factor in the success of businesses worldwide. Organizations are realizing that a customer-centric culture is key to driving growth and profitability.
While this can feel like it’s “common knowledge” it’s actually what I would call “common understanding.” What’s the difference? Well, I would say understanding is a bit passive. You can understand that you need to eat healthier and exercise more to live a healthy life. However, many people with that understanding don’t invest the time, effort, or resources needed to actually take action on that understanding.
The same happens with the common understanding that being a customer experience leader is good for business. Many leaders will nod along with this conversation, but they lack the true knowledge to put the right time, effort, or resources toward this understanding.
Many leaders claim being customer-centric is a priority.
But it can’t be a priority without funding, resources, and defined outcomes.
THIS is why convincing executive leadership to prioritize and invest in CX initiatives can be a challenge. And yet, leadership buy-in is a critical part of customer experience success.
Here are some strategies to gain leadership buy-in for customer experience, the importance of measuring CX performance, and how to effectively communicate the business case for CX transformation. Even if you believe you understand what it means to be customer-centric, or feel like you’re getting those nods of encouragement during conversations about CX, I encourage you to read this anyway. I’m seeing too many CX leaders who are not given the right authority or influence they need to be successful. CX leaders need to use the right language and focus on outcomes so leaders will pay attention.
Let’s get some leadership attention for what we really need. The right attention will lead to the right resources, support, and investments.
The Importance of Leadership Buy-In for Customer Experience
Having leadership buy-in is essential for creating a customer-centric culture within an organization. When executives understand the value and impact of CX on the bottom line, they are more likely to support and invest in CX initiatives. However, many CX professionals struggle to convince their executive leadership to prioritize and take action toward becoming a truly customer-centric organization. I believe some of this is because there is so much emphasis on customer feedback metrics that we lose sight of the forest for the trees!
Overcoming Challenges in Gaining Leadership Buy-In
It’s common to have buy-in and excitement when launching a new program, like a more robust Voice of the Customer solution or even a new survey.
But after a while, those numbers become less compelling. Reporting on a Net Promoter Score (NPS) month after month that doesn’t vary too dramatically can create a sense of complacency. Leaders who receive the reports don’t see real value in these numbers because they aren’t shown how they are connecting to the overall business strategy. And that’s where it gets tricky. Because the minute there’s a dip in revenue or forecast, then it becomes easy to think these efforts to collect customer feedback measurements aren’t really moving any of the busines goals forward.
This is why we have to continually connect to the business why. WHY are we collecting feedback? It’s to make real changes. It’s to stay ahead of customer defection. It’s to ensure our processes and internal efforts are supporting the best possible customer experience.
But ALL of that has to be tied back to business outcomes. Meaning – we need to show how these efforts increase revenue, decrease costs, or support the organizational vision and specific goals.
Competing business priorities and misaligned visions for customer centricity often hinder progress in gaining leadership buy-in. To further complicate things, the term “customer experience” is often thrown around as if it’s universally defined. But based on who you talk to in an organization, CX often doesn’t have a universally understood definition of success. This is the reason we created our CX Success Statement tool for CX leaders. CX leadership means understanding how these efforts support a larger business case beyond doing what’s right for customers.
To overcome these challenges, CX professionals should focus on demonstrating how a great customer experience can contribute to existing business goals and strategies. Speak the language of your leaders.
The Levels of Leadership Buy-In
Leadership buy-in for customer experience can be achieved through strategic action and alignment in a cross-functional way. The levels of leadership buy-in are defined based on general processes, rules, and expectations.
Organizational change is a long-term process, but knowing where your organization lies can help determine how to prioritize your actions. Let’s oversimplify this process and hit the highlights here.
Level 1: Awareness and Interest
At this stage, leaders may talk about customer experience as a priority but do not apply accountabilities or actions to it. CX is seen more as an idea or theory rather than a business strategy. There is a lack of a universal CX strategy, and resources are not provided to deliver a better customer experience. To advance to the next level, there should be a focus on creating a support system for leaders already invested in customer experience and establishing team-focused CX accountabilities. (But you need a strategy to align around first!)
Level 2: Accountability and Action
As more focus and adoption occurs, improving customer experience is assumed to be the responsibility of a few executives instead of the entire leadership team. These select leaders, often heads of customer-facing teams, become the source of CX insight for other leaders within the organization. To move forward, it is important to build a cross-functional CX coalition and encourage other leaders to take steps to improve the overall customer journey. Support these leaders by highlighting their achievements and success stories, and identify where CX investments have created real returns.
Level 3: Alignment and Integration
Ultimately, the goal is to gain alignment throughout the organization and your culture. This represents a significant shift in leadership buy-in for customer experience. At this stage, customer experience is a priority at all levels across teams, and action is taken to nurture and evolve customer happiness and satisfaction. There is a strong alignment between business goals and customer-centricity, with leaders actively integrating CX strategies into their decision-making processes. Leaders begin to champion customer experience as a core value and ensure that customer-centricity is embedded in the organization’s operations at every level.
Communicating the Business Case for CX Transformation
To gain leadership buy-in for customer experience, it is crucial to effectively communicate the business case for CX transformation. Executives want to see a clear link between CX initiatives and financial goals. Here are some strategies to craft a compelling CX business case and effectively communicate it to leadership:
1. Identify Business Outcomes
Before presenting the business case for CX efforts, it is important to identify the specific business outcomes that will be impacted by improved customer experience. These outcomes can include increased customer retention, higher customer lifetime value, and improved brand reputation. Better yet, these are tied to real revenue or cost-saving dollars. For example, if you can find the cost of losing a customer within the first year, you can make a strong case for both the higher customer lifetime value of keeping a customer AND the savings that come with that.
Use your CX Success Statement to get clear on what objectives your leaders care about, and define success criteria before discussing needs and next steps.
2. Gather Data and Insights
To support the business case, gather relevant data and insights that demonstrate the impact of CX on the identified business outcomes. This can include customer feedback, financial data, behavioral analytics, operational metrics, and industry benchmarks. Use real-life examples and case studies to illustrate the potential benefits of CX efforts.
Determine what a specific measurable outcome would look like. For example, what would the cost of losing a customer mean for the business? What would a modest improvement in renewals mean in revenue? Use these as guides for your discussions around investments.
Caution! Don’t let customer feedback metrics be the only measures leaders hear about on a regular basis. When this happens, I call this becoming a “Number Narrator” instead of a leading with strategy. Provide a conclusion to these conversations every time. What should leaders take away from these numbers? What is our action plan? How does this data impact our business goals and operations? Provide insights and context, not just numbers! Think about what you want leaders to know before you determine what data to include.
3. Develop a Measurable Plan
Outline a clear plan for CX strategy with measurable goals and milestones. This will not only provide a roadmap for implementation but also enable the tracking of progress and the measurement of the impact of CX initiatives on business outcomes.
Don’t be afraid of leveraging goals like “Full implementation of a new AI-powered Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system.” But only state that as a goal if you define why it’s important. For example, your plan might include defining requirements for a new CRM, based on the need for more visibility across the organization. You can state how you believe this visibility will speed up the way the organization can close the loop with customers. This will lead to keeping more customers and maintaining more loyalty with at-risk customers. (And that leads to more retained revenue.)
Your leaders might never interact with a CRM system or understand its importance. Provide context for each goal so they see the outcomes, not just the activities.
4. Create a Compelling Story
Craft a compelling narrative that resonates with executives and appeals to their personal goals and motivations. Show how CX efforts align with the organization’s mission and values, and how it can drive growth and profitability. Use storytelling techniques to make the business case more engaging and memorable.
Storytelling is a powerful tool for CX leaders. Data is important, but spreadsheets don’t move leaders. Stories can.
5. Present a Visual Dashboard
Create a visual dashboard that provides a consolidated view of CX metrics and their impact on business outcomes. Use charts, graphs, and visualizations to communicate the data effectively. Include real-life examples of dashboard designs and sources for data to inspire and guide the implementation of reporting systems.
Use some storytelling techniques here, too. For example, share a good or not-so-good real customer story, a customer call recording, or a social media example.
6. Establish Continuous Feedback Loops
To maintain leadership buy-in for customer experience, establish continuous feedback loops to keep executives informed about the progress and impact of CX initiatives. Regularly share updates, insights, and success stories to demonstrate the ongoing value of CX transformation.
They need to hear about progress. Make sure those progress reports tie back to organizational goals.
7. Engage Employees
A great way to keep things fresh and gain cross-functional support is to ask team members from various departments to assist with your reporting and/or communications to leaders. If your contact center leaders have made progress on decreasing wait times, for example, ask them to share their stories of what worked and showcase their progress. Or perhaps there is more communication with the distribution team because of suggested improvements, and a distribution partner can provide an update on the improvement plan. The more CX leaders can build bridges across the organization, the more customer experience becomes part of how business is done.
What Does It Mean to Be a CX Change Agent?
Gaining leadership buy-in for customer experience is essential for creating a customer-centric culture and driving business growth. By demonstrating the value of a true CX strategy, measuring performance, and effectively communicating the business case for CX transformation, organizations can secure executive support and investment in CX initiatives. Remember to focus on creating business outcomes with insights, provide examples of how to report and communicate the business case, and utilize real-life dashboard examples to inspire and guide your organization toward CX success.
As a CX Change Agent, YOU can empower your organization to prioritize customer experience and achieve remarkable results. Your leaders (and your customers) are counting on you.
Looking for more? Learn more about CXI Flight School™