How CX managers can build better relationships within the businessby
CX managers need to foster relationships within their organisations if they are to successfully embed their customer experience programme.
CX leaders need to be foster relationships within their organisations if they are to successfully embed their customer experience programme. They not only need to develop a strong understanding with their immediate team, but because of the organisation-wide influence that CX programmes need to have, it is also absolutely crucial that they collaborate well with all the customer-facing departments, and beyond.
CX strategies will also fail to stick if they don’t have the commitment and support of the c-suite, so customer experience leaders also need to capture the imagination of the company’s top executives, and ensure that they have their buy-in.
So how can CX leaders foster their relationship-building skills?
“Great relationships are built on trust,” says Sinead Quinn, digital marketing executive at OMT Global. “It’s the foundation of all personal and business relationships.”
But while building trust may sound easy, for most people it can be hard work and it won’t happen overnight.
Quinn recommends that professionals consider the Trust Equation was first introduced in 2000, by author David Maister. David uses four variables to measure how trust works and we believe these can help you as a leader gain trust.
Credibility – This relates to your words and is revealed in your credentials and honesty. Are you a credible leader? Teams, peers and bosses trust expertise.
Reliability – This relates to your actions and is revealed through keeping your commitments. Are you reliable? Do you keep your promises? Once broken it’s very hard to come back.
Intimacy – This relates to your emotions; people feel safe talking to you about difficult topics. Can you keep conversations confidential? Your team need to feel they can confide in you as a leader, and as you collaborate with executives and other departments you may need to be involved with conversations of a sensitive nature, so others must feel comfortable sharing this information with you.
Self-orientation – This is the common denominator and relates to who you really care about, yourself or others. Do you care about the team? Do you care about your CX programme? Do you care about your company? Leaders must believe in their team and their project and have a clear focus on developing them and the programme and not just on themselves.
Don’t rely on assumptions
While you may be very experienced, you shouldn’t assume that this translates into you already having all of the answers. It is important to ask exploratory questions and show meaningful interest in what others think and believe.
Arran Heal, managing director of CMP, says: “Not only is curiosity a really strong working relationship building tool, it also gives you more information which will help with the problem-solving. Really listen to their side of the story and let them know they have been heard and understood.”
Arran continues: “Recognise your version of events is composed of a mix of fact, fiction and assumptions, and try to separate what you know, what you believe, and what you are unsure of, before you open your mouth. A manager who shares their assumptions and versions of events with others, will be more clearly understood, and mistakes or misunderstandings will be clear before they take hold and become ‘facts’. People will be more motivated to commit to a manager who is open, honest and trustworthy in this way.”
Develop your emotional intelligence
“People who function at a high rate of emotional intelligence have the ability to adjust their behaviours and are more effective at recognising and managing their own emotions as well as the emotions of others,” says Emma Sue Prince, director of Unimenta. “Ergo, emotional intelligence equals interpersonal effectiveness.”
Prince shares the following tips to develop your emotional intelligence:
Self-awareness. One way to raise your emotional intelligence is to use present language to help focus more on the present moment. Put your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs on paper. By doing this, you’re able to put things into perspective. Knowing how to express your emotions can often help you manage them in a proper and healthy way.
Empathy. Empathy is recognised as the second-most important emotion to acquire, since by showing someone that you understand where they’re coming from, you’re able to gain their respect. Be aware and listen carefully to what they are telling you. You know you are becoming more empathetic when you’re able to decipher and recognise the feelings of others.
Self-regulation. People who self-regulate think before they act, have the ability to say no, and shift their thoughts to prevent their emotions from controlling them. They are self-aware enough to know their strengths, weaknesses, and are willing to look at themselves honestly. Emotionally intelligent people aim for assertiveness, appropriately sharing their emotions, thoughts, and beliefs with the right people at the right time as a means to let others know where they stand.
Motivation. People who are emotionally intelligent are excellent decision-makers, and they know when to trust their intuition. This also means taking criticism well, and knowing when to use it to improve their performance. They are motivated to look at a problem and find a resolution in a calm and rational way.
Social skills. Another way of raising your emotional intelligence is being able to easily talk and connect with others. Being socially responsible demonstrates that you really care about others and not just about your own personal gain.
Meetings can be difficult environments, particularly when high-stakes conversations are taking place and many of the attendees are still unfamiliar with each other.
Arran Heal has the following advice: “People in groups mimic the behaviour of other people. If you’re tight-lipped and looking only to protect your position, they’ll do the same. So if there’s a problem, don’t make it just about them. It’s usually very easy to see how the other person has contributed to the current difficulties – something they said, or something they did. Harder to spot is our own role. Once we give up the belief that the other person is completely responsible, we can start to see how we’ve added to the confusion and miscommunication.
“Ask yourself, “how might I have contributed to this?” Talking about your contribution you immediately open up a dialogue because they won’t feel you’re there to attack them. This means they are more likely to hear you and engage with what you need to talk about.”
Develop your communication skills
“Whilst we might know exactly what we mean when trying to convey a message to others, there are many times when the true meaning simply gets lost in translation,” communications trainer Simon De Cintra notes.
MyCustomer has published an article dedicated to improving your communication skills. Tips include improving your listening skills, developing your self-confidence and self-belief, and being more empathic.
Don’t avoid difficult conversations
CX leaders shouldn’t always avoid conflict.
“Challenging conversations are good for business - for encouraging new perspectives and innovation, as a basis for a better working environment, better self-awareness, more positivity and sense of motivation,” says Arran Heal.
However, you can prepare yourself for difficult conversations to ensure that they ultimately become positive, rather than toxic.
Arran continues: “Actively decide a conversation is needed - don’t be bounced into it by circumstances or in an emotional way. Plan what you want to accomplish: ’what do I need to talk about? what do I really want for myself, for them, for the relationship?’And set out a clear purpose: if a conversation feels risky to you, it will be feeling risky to the other person. Find ‘something in it for them’ to talk – a mutual purpose.”
Do more of it
Arran Heal explains: “Workplace pressures, new routines and use of technology are all acting against the everyday flow of conversations. Businesses want action and efficiency without debate. But conversations only improve through being a natural and regular part of working lives, not as an event - being summoned to a meeting, or into a weekly team slot.
“Frequent, open and trusting conversations need to be part of the culture, encouraged and supported.”
Neil Davey was previously the editor of MyCustomer from 2007 until May 2023. An experienced business journalist and editor, Neil has worked on a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites over the past 20 years, including Internet Works, CXO magazine and Business Management.
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