CEM maturity model pt 3: Assessing if your leadership lives up to its customer-centric vision

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As MyCustomer launches CX Leader of the Year, we share a checklist to help you assess how visionary your leadership is. 

After recently examining the growing popularity of the CEM maturity model - a framework designed to gauge and steer the development of customer experience management programmes - MyCustomer has been exploring different dimensions of the model, and highlighting questions that organisations should ask themselves to assess their customer experience maturity to identify gaps between CX performance and aspiration. 

We've already examined how to assess your customer-centric vision, and developing a customer-centric culture. This week we'll be discussing the importance of creating visionary leadership. 

Leadership

The leadership team plays a crucial role in making a company customer-centric. They need to manage the business in a way that demonstrates that it always puts customers first. If the leadership of a company doesn’t live up to its customer-centric vision by walking the talk then it is very unlikely that the whole company will become customer-focused.

So, leadership teams need to visibly believe in it (mindset) and also act accordingly for others to see (behaviour). Referring back to the section on vision this is an important reason why a leadership consensus around a common vision and purpose is so important. 

Managers usually speak about customers and their importance for the company. A lot of money is spent on conducting surveys and other sorts of market research to find out how customers rate a company. The results then feature in presentations to employees that are instructed to use them to make improvements in areas that turn out the weakest numbers. Indeed, dealing with the customer is too often delegated to employees as a task and few managers take the lead to resolve customer issues let alone connect with them at all.

Some managers will maintain relationships with selected customers worthy of their time and attention. Usually they get involved to negotiate new contracts or celebrate signing them. Few are really on the pulse of a representative sample of their customer base on an ongoing basis. Typical excuses for such behaviour are the lack of time and having other, more important priorities.

If managers truly want to lead their organisations they need to talk to lots of customers and get personally involved in sorting out their issues until they are actually solved. This not only makes the leadership more customer-centric, but also sends the right signals to others in the organisation on what is important and how to behave.

If the leadership of a company doesn’t live up to its customer-centric vision by walking the talk then it is very unlikely that the whole company will become customer-focused.

Answering the questions below will give a good impression of the degree of customer engagement the leadership team of the company is demonstrating. The answers are most revealing if the questions are put to both managers as well as employees. Normally managers assess themselves more favourably than the people that report to them.

Indeed, in most companies the further up the organisational ladder you climb the less frequent the interaction with customers tends to be as managers tend not to deal with the day-to-day affairs of their customers like their staff.

Leadership (self-)assessment

  • Does the leadership of the company focus on understanding the needs of our customers?
  • Does my manager frequently review and discuss customer opinions and feedback with me?
  • Is the customer experience on every management meeting agenda?
  • When a customer issue occurs, does management ensure that it is dealt with immediately?
  • Does my management actively take part in solving customer issues and making improvements?
  • Does management regularly talk to or visits customers to get their feedback on how the company is performing?

To ensure that the leadership team manages the business in a customer-centric way it helps to define the leadership traits you expect from your managers. Managers typically have a job description and get annual business targets they need to achieve. They tend to be functionally defined and specific to the department. It is rare to include cultural leadership traits when selecting someone for a position in a company let alone when assessing their performance on the job.

If a company is serious about CEM they need to be brave enough not to hire or reward those who don’t live up to the customer-centric leadership traits that the company has predetermined. To make sure that they are both understood and adopted before enforcing compliance through HR processes it is recommended to provide class-room training and coaching to every person in the company that leads or supervises a team.

A good method to connect the leadership team with customers on the job is the top-down Net Promoter Approach.

First you need to classify customers into groups of Detractors, Passives and Promoters. This can be done in various ways, either by calling them or using surveys. The point is not to have scores and to report them, but rather to distinguish with which customer you need to have a conversation. Most companies tend to focus on their Detractors as these are the ones that can point out the things you need to improve.

The best companies also reach out to Promoters as they can tell you what you do really well and which many companies are actually not aware of. Getting feedback directly from customers makes it personal and hard to ignore for any manager. As the number of calls will be limited they will not necessarily lead to an improvement of the overall performance of the company.

However, this dialogue with customers will naturally lead to a more customer-centric mindset and behaviour of the leadership team that will influence the way they make decisions and how they lead their people. Over time that does move the needle.

About Kim MacGillavry and Alan Wilson

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