An open letter from a CEO to customer experience practitioners

6th Oct 2011

Lior Arussy puts himself in the shoes of a CEO to pen an open letter commenting on the behaviour of customer experience practitioners and consultants.

Dear Esteemed Professionals,
For the last few years you have been on my case to sponsor the customer experience initiative. You told me how critical it is to the success of the program. Well, my response was lukewarm at best. In words, I supported you but in budgets less so. Let me provide you with some perspective that may be helpful in establishing a better relationship between us.
I would like to comment on the way I observed your behavior in the last few years as well as what I was missing from you to provide you with full executive sponsorship.
  • I get it – yes I, too, understand the importance of the customer. This is not new to me. I know who pay our salaries and bills. So please do not insult me by saying it over and over again.
  • Stop the hype and the fearmongering – in the last few years you have assaulted our organization with threats of the upcoming doom due to inability to address customer experience issues. Guess what? We made our numbers and the doom did not arrive. Do we have work to do? Absolutely. But scare tactics are not the way to obtain cooperation.
  • I am not Disney – I am tired of all these fairy tale stories about Disney, Ritz Carlton and Virgin. They have their business model we have ours. Our business is different. Do you have a solution for OUR business?
  • Stop the anecdotal story game – This one upset customer story from the call center is touching. But it will not get you a cultural transformation. We need more to get this started.
  • This is a transformation – I need you to understand what you are asking for. This transformation is risky. And I am allowed to have my doubts when and how I can activate it.
  • Show me a discipline – Customer experience is a huge understanding. We need to change our culture. I know it. Here is my fear. How do you do it? Do you have proven approach and discipline to take us from here to there? I do not need another research I need a clear path.
  • Show me your credibility – Let’s face it customer experience is a brand new profession. Show me where did you do what you propose to do at my organization and have been successful in it. I am not sure you have the knowledge and experience to deliver. Show me the proof.
  • The future is bright? – what is our future state? How would we look at the end of the process? I need clarity on this issues. None was provided to date.
  • What are the risk factors? – every change has risk factors. You have discussed customer experience as it's a magic pill with no side effects. Take a second look and come with a more realistic plan.
  • Address competing efforts – we are not operating in isolation. Make sure you plan respect and recognize the other efforts taking place in the organization. Integrate them do not compete with them.
  • Get your business plan – If I would get a dollar for each time someone promise me happy customers will buy more, we will beat our 2012 targets this year! Enough with the common sense. Show me a business case. Every initiative in the organization must pass this rigorous test in order to win support. Customer experience is not an exception. Build a financial case, show me how we would benefit from it in clear financial terms.
  • Passion is good. What about operational experience – Many of you are passionate presenters. I need people who can execute. I need people with proven change management skills and respect in the organization.
  • Make a commitment – I want leaders who can commit to success and live with the consequences of failure. Are you willing to commit?
Customer experience is important to our business. I need to make sure that we approach it not in a renegade way. It has to be a fully developed plan that will impact our future success. I need a leader who knows how, build the financial case, commit personally and lead others to follow him. Are you that person? If yes, I will give you the executive sponsorship you need.
Your CEO
Lior Arussy is the president of Strativity Group a global customer experience research and consulting firm. Arussy is the author of five books including Customer Experience Strategy – The Complete Guide From Innovation To Execution (4i, 2010). Follow Lior on Twitter @LiorStrativity

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Jack Springman
By Jack Springman
07th Oct 2011 14:10

Lior - this is a great post that summarizes exactly why so many customer experience initiatives stall at the mid-levels in organisations; also what needs to be done to change it.  The problem is of course that there have been relatively few successful transformations to model.  Even though I am sceptical as to how much value can be delivered by trying to copy what has worked at other companies, it remains the default aspiration of risk-averse senior managers and something we perhaps feed on too readily.  Perhaps then it is no surprise that so many exemplars in the customer experience world (outside Disney, Ritz Carlton) are relative recent arrivals - Amazon, Zappos etc. 

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