Author, Speaker, Creative Catalyst LiorArussy.com
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The six questions your CEO will ask before CX transformation is approved

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When a CEO considers your proposed customer-centric transformation, there are six dimensions and questions they will consider. Preparing yourself with answers and actions to these questions will get you much closer to obtaining real commitment with a cheque attached to it.

8th Nov 2021
Author, Speaker, Creative Catalyst LiorArussy.com
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It was a successful meeting. All the executives in attendance including your CEO complimented you on a well thought-out and presented proposed programme. You felt good and your boss told you that you did a phenomenal job: “I have never seen all of them in such a unison agreement on anything else before,” she reiterated. You felt good.

The next day she mentioned: “We have the go ahead to proceed with the proposed CX transformation with one minor change.”  

“What’s the change?" you asked. 

“The budget was not approved,” she explained

It is a story that has been played for years in boardrooms around the world. Customer experience professionals make their pitch with enthusiasm and passion. Executives buy into the premise but decline the budget.

I shared these questions with the participants of the World Usability Congress 2021 in Austria. A wonderful event arranged by my dear friend Hannes Robier. It resonated with them, and I guess many CX professionals around the world will relate to these frustrating scenario.

So what did go wrong? It felt like we did everything right, by the book.

While conceptually, they all agreed that customer experience strategy is important. They were not convinced it can take place at their organisation. While you were citing your case with statistics and stories and waving the latest NPS scores as a proof we ought to act with urgency, your CEO heard something totally different. Here is a glimpse into the CEO’s mind while you are speaking.

You want:

  • Budget (a lot!).

  • To change all processes.

  • To do the right thing for the customer (even if it causes short-term loss).

  • For digital transformation to be implemented immediately.

  • To change the culture across the whole organisation. 

  • To train all employees and disrupt their work routine.

  • To apologise to upset customers, the more the merrier.

  • To change the organisational measurements starting next quarter

  • To adapt the incentives to the sales force. 

  • To lead personally as you have nothing else to do.

  • In short - Take a risk that it might fail because I said so.

Now that you see it from the CEO’s perspective, you may understand why she was not rushing to fund your proposed experiment. (Yes, experiment. Even your CEO knows that you have never really done what you propose to do and definitely not on a scale of a large organisation.)

If you want to win the budget and commitment and not just the empathy vote, you ought to see transformation from the CEO's perspective. As a customer experience professional, personas are one of your tools of the trade, you design them and design for them. It is time to treat your customer as a persona and understands it in much greater depth. Here are some questions to start with.

  • What are your CEO's dreams and aspirations?

  • What are the fears your CEO harbor?

  • What legacy does your CEO seek to create?

  • What language does the CEO speak – stories, statistics, benchmarks?

  • What are measurements that really matters to your CEO?

Develop your CEO's persona and start by understanding the mindset that makes the decisions.

When a CEO considers your proposed customer-centric transformation, here are the six dimensions and questions she will consider. Preparing yourself with answers and actions to these questions will get you much closer to obtaining real commitment with a cheque attached to it.

The strategic dimension

  • Can a company transform itself to become customer-centric?

  • P.S. We were not born that way.

If you bring the typical examples – Starbucks, Disney, Ritz Carlton, Apple - you are not helping your case. It accentuates the CEO’s fears. All of these companies were born that way. Your company is a product or engineering company, and the real question is can companies who were not born customer-centric become one? Focus your case on answering the strategic questions first. 

The financial dimension

  • What is the financial justification to become customer-centric?

  • P.S. Can I afford the loss of short-term profitability?

Customer experience must rid itself from the image of spending money for customers without real return. It is how executives perceive it in the absence of real economics drivers (No, NPS is not an economic driver). Build your case with the finance team. Focus on demonstrating impact on lifetime value and retention and be ready to commit to deliver on the proposed improvements. Don’t just reference them. When the VP of sales asks for more budget, he commits to additional revenues. CX professionals ought to do the same.

The cultural dimension

  • Do we have the right talent to become customer-centric?

  • P.S. I cannot afford to replace all my people.

What if we hired the wrong people? What kind of change does this require, and can we afford it? Culture is not a simple matter and your CEO will want to avoid negative disruptions. As she listens to your case, she senses an accusatory tone towards the people, and she is afraid you will upset them with your judgemental tone.

The operational dimension

  • Can I afford to change all my processes to become customer-centric?

  • P.S. This is a HUGE task!

The heart of the business are the processes and procedures that tie everything together and ensure that we operate smoothly. They took years to craft and were evaluated over time. No CEO will want a massive process redesign as your proposals imply. It is a risk to the stability of the organisation and the revenue stream.

The transformational dimension

  • Can I afford the business disruption?

  • P.S. I cannot stop salespeople from selling to meet the targets!

Culture, processes, measurements and financials changing all at once? That sounds like a recipe for disaster. When was the last time the organisation underwent such a change? What were the results? An organisation with a poor record of transformation will be less inclined to venture into such a huge business disruption. The risk is simply too large

The personal dimension

  • What if we fail? 

  • P.S. I never did something like this before.

Yes, your CEO is human. She wants to succeed and leave a mark on the company; the world. Would that be her mark? How do you create a programme that will minimise the risk of failure and increase the chances of creating a lifetime legacy. Your CEO seeks to put herself behind highly successful changes with legacy-creating programmes. Make sure yours fits the bill.

Treating your CEO as a person is a wonderful way to get started on developing a programme that will be successful. Not only because you will hopefully obtain the budget. But because her considerations reflect the organisation. She knows the organisation very well and whatever her concerns are they are reflected on a large scale in the organisation you seek to change. Transform her beliefs and you are on your way to a programme with a higher chance of success.

Passion should never be confused with competence. Your CEO knows it. She will appreciate your passion for CX, but question if you are the right person and this is the right programme to transform his company. The risk is extremely high, and it ultimately lays on the CEO. 

Next time you plan your presentation, be ready to delight the CEO personal by addressing her fears, accelerating her dreams and helping her develop a legacy. It’s what every one of your customers seeks from their partners. It’s what your CEO deserves if she will commit to a customer-centric transformation.

 

 

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Rob Lancashire, CEO, Opinyin - Customer Satisfaction Survey Software
By Rob Lancashire
11th Nov 2021 11:31

Brilliant article Lior. Could be a guide to pitching anything to the board and I would suggest is process that is extensible to all the stakeholders in the board room.

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