The six commonalities of CX Leader of the Year finalists
As part of MyCustomer's inaugural CX Leader of the Year award, applicants were asked to share their stories of customer experience success. Here we highlight some of the common traits and best practices that bind the finalists.
Earlier this year, MyCustomer launched the inaugural CX Leader of the Year award, designed to showcase the great work being done by today’s customer experience practitioners, and promote the discipline of customer experience management.
All of the entrants were required to fill out a questionnaire encouraging them to share insights into their background, the way their organisations approached customer experience management and the way that they developed and executed their CX programmes.
The result is a wealth of material that provides a fascinating snapshot of how modern customer experience leaders tackle their discipline; including the obstacles that they need to confront and the strategies, tools and technologies that are helping them overcome them.
While each applicant had their own individual story to tell, some commonalities emerged - particularly amongst the finalists. Here we share some of the key takeaways from the finalists’ applications, supported by some anonymised quotes from the application forms themselves.
1. Net Promoter Score is the key metric for customer experience leaders
Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a metric for determining the state of a customer’s loyalty and satisfaction with a brand or product. NPS is typically measured using the NPS survey question which asks the respondent the following question (or a slightly altered version of the same question without changing its meaning): Considering your complete experience with us, how likely are you to recommend us to a family or friend?
Despite some detractors, NPS has become the de facto standard for measuring and improving the customer experience. And almost every applicant in the CX Leader of the Year reported that they were measuring NPS.
- “I've made full use of our internal Intranet and communities to ensure NPS improvement is visible. This has ranged from wallboards, visuals on screen around the building, NPS awards hosted by our CEO, NPS progress totalisers tracking progress against targets and by attending and presenting at various board and leadership meetings with our executive. We have also made an element of our corporate bonus dependent on achieving the NPS - which 33% of every employee's personal bonus is attached to.”
- “The adoption of the NPS framework has created an environment for accountability. Through actual customer and employee feedback, a list of actions and initiatives are made; each one is assigned as owner/s, and we established an NPS programme manager who helps these teams drive toward resolution. Monthly reports are shared with leadership and the executive board to show how the entire company is progressing as well as places where we are lagging so that roadblocks are removed.”
2. CX leaders can’t do it alone – they need a team to support them
How big does an organisation’s customer experience team need to be? In The State of Customer Experience Management 2019 benchmark survey, the study found that the average company with a centralised CX team has six to ten full-time CX employees, with a third of organisations reporting that they have 11 or more full-time employees dedicated to customer experience.
Certainly the applications to the CX Leader of the Year reveal that customer experience leaders rarely operate alone, and in many cases their teams are large and growing, with some reporting that their teams are 20+ in number.
And many of our applicants were at pains to point out that while they were the ones in the spotlight, the credit for the success of their customer experience programmes should be to the whole CX team.
- “The accomplishments of our customer experience programme took a “village” – it is a collaborative effort. I may be the leader, but the execution was through many cross-teams and I could not have done it alone.”
- “Our CX team has grown from 5 to 25 full-time staff in the last three years. The team has exceptional knowledge and skill and we couldn’t have achieved what we have, and made the improvements we have seen, without the investment in them, and without their hard work and commitment they have shown in their jobs.”
3. CX team members with dedicated data expertise is a huge advantage
One of the key components of almost all of the applications we received was a drive towards customer insight. In almost all cases, a Voice of the Customer programme was at the core of the leader’s CX programme. But there were many other initiatives in addition to VoC that were being executed to gather customer insight, such as market research, speech and text analytics, social media monitoring and customer journey mapping.
Little wonder then, that so many of our applicants reported that their CX teams included data expertise, with numerous CX leaders reporting that they worked with data scientists and data analysts, to sift through the vast amounts of raw data being collected and surface actionable insights that could improve the customer experience.
- “Investment has been made in acquiring and developing skills in analytics. In addition to recruiting a data scientist, a data analyst was also employed. This team used customer data derived from the various interactions (surveys, contact centre, digital platforms, etc) at different stage of the journey map to create insights for business decisions and innovation. These insights have helped the company to prioritise interventions and innovation thereby optimising available resources. Specifically, through the insights, we realised the urgent need for intervention in a stage of the customer journey (inflow management) which we didn't focus on initially.”
- “Every customer journey stage has a CX analyst assigned who delivers weekly and monthly insight reports with recommendations to managers at every level.”
4. Training programmes represent a crucial component of successful CX programmes – with company leaders amongst those that are receiving training
Many organisations starting out on their path to customer-centricity will produce a customer focus statement, or create a set of brand values. But these are just words unless the organisation brings them alive for their staff in way that in turn will enable them to bring them to life for the customers. This means training staff on what it means to be customer-centric, engaging staff to want to be customer-centric, and then giving them the specific set of skills that they require to fulfill this. Without all three of these components, training can simply be something of a sticking plaster – HR-driven training has acquired something of a bad reputation over the years, so it needs to transcend this and ensure that it engages, empowers and ultimately drives real cultural change as much as improves skills.
Many of the applicants reported that they had implemented comprehensive CX training programmes, with some bringing in experts to aid with the delivery, and others even working with competitors to share best practices and learnings. Several also emphasised how important it was that their organisation’s senior management were also actively involved in this training programme in order to deliver cultural change.
- “The CX Academy is our flagship training programme, and all colleagues receive one-day of classroom-based learning within a month of joining the company, and then everyone joins a learning set of around 20 people, carrying out virtual and face-to-face activities, using the learning in their roles (and providing evidence of this) and joining a range of workshops, seminars and teach-ins, all focused on the six modules we have created - empathy, language, adult-to-adult conversations, identifying needs, taking ownership and listening. We have also created SHINE, a leadership training programme, which our top 40 managers are currently experiencing, and is aimed at embedding the behaviours and culture we need to take customer service to the next level, principally through empowering our teams.”
- “I launched a CX Academy, which is a programme of events. The sessions are all based around CX improvement and employee engagement and typically include things like best practice sharing between departments, CX training workshops, and how to create effective journey maps. I also arrange external speakers that have included the CX directors and heads of employee engagement at some of the leading companies in our field. The idea behind CX Academy is to spread experience and skills across the business and reach as many of our staff as I can and create ambassadors across the business.”
5. The appointment of customer experience champions throughout the organisation is a staple part of successful CX programmes
As well as having a skilled team working under them, many of our applicants also reported that as part of their customer experience programmes they had worked to foster CX champions across the organisation.
CX champions are ambassadors for the customer that are appointed across the organisation, and are a useful way to drive cultural change towards a more customer-centric mindset. Customer champions are customer advocates that ensure the customer voice is always considered; they encourage others to develop and become more customer-centric; and they celebrate the customer-centric successes of others within the organisation.
- “We have customer experience champions in ever department and we continue to develop new ones. This means defining them, motivating them and then training them so that they understand how to motivate others.”
- “When I first started leading CX in the organisation, I recognised that customer-centricity was an area that needed improving in the company. So I established a CX-Centricity programme, which provides customised customer experience training for both HQ and touchpoint employees, but crucially also defines and motivates customer experience ambassadors. We now have 51 ambassadors in our shops and call centres.”
6. Most CX strategies have processes in place to ensure they close the loop with the customers
All of our applicants demonstrated an appetite to collect customer information through a variety of mechanisms. Voice of the Customer programmes represented the very core of the majority of our applications. Most also demonstrated how they are also working hard to turn this information into action – with teams of data analysts in many cases being deployed to surface actionable insights, while others have regular workshops in place to tease out ideas from across the organisation as to how they should respond. But impressively, the majority of our CX leaders also emphasised just how important it was to their programmes to ensure that they are closing the loop with the customer.
Closing the loop means reporting back to the customers who have spent time sharing their feedback with you to let them know how their insights were used. It sounds like an obvious best practice, but according to Gartner, while 95% of companies actively collect customer feedback, only 10% actually use it to improve products and services, and of those a mere 5% bother telling customers that they did.
So it’s good news to see that our CX leaders are making it a core part of their customer experience strategies to ensure that they are closing the loop.
“To ensure customers understand how we both listen to and react to their feedback we hold quarterly Webinars, to both share an overview of the feedback we have received from our customer base and what action we are taking to address them. We are also very transparent about where we are not planning action so there is no LOST communication.”
Neil Davey is the managing editor of MyCustomer. An experienced business journalist and editor, Neil has worked on a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites over the past 15 years, including Internet Works, CXO magazine and Business Management. He joined Sift Media in 2007.