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Securing Stakeholder Allyship

Bibi Sofowote, CCXP

You’ve just started as the Customer Experience Leader for a company that hasn’t historically prioritized CX. Shortly after joining though, you begin to wonder if you've been hired just so the company can say they have a CX Executive. None of the company’s other leaders seem to really care about improving Customer Experience and you realize that to be successful here, you need to begin with them.

Let’s talk about it.

When Satya Nadella became Microsoft’s CEO in 2014, he brought with him a vision of “customer obsession”, and made this clear to all executives in the company. According to Brad Anderson, a former VP at Microsoft, whenever you went in to talk with Nadella, you always had to begin with the customer. “What’s the customer problem? What are they trying to solve?”

It is incredibly fortunate when it’s the CEO who’s this customer-obsessed. They, as a natural consequence of their office, have the authority and influence to drive CX-obsession from the very top. However, most CX leaders are not the CEO. In the better scenarios, they are one or two rungs removed from the company captain. How then, do these CX leaders ensure that the value of Customer Experience is understood, prioritized, modeled and governed by all functional and executive leaders in the organization, some of whom might have seniority on the org chart?

I know it’s tempting to rush in with a print-out of your extensive knowledge and expertise, complete with a customer-centric quote or two, but you’ve got to remember: Nobody cares what you know, only whether you can help, be a hindrance, or just something to be tolerated. This is especially true when you’re the newcomer joining a group of leaders who are used to doing things a certain way.

First, you need to find out the WIIFM or “What’s In It For Me” of each of your important stakeholders. What do they care about, and how can you demonstrate that prioritizing CX will help them achieve it?

Another thing you’ll need to do, if the organization is for-profit, is show exactly how much in dollars and cents the company is missing out on, or losing, by maintaining the status quo. Nothing gets most top execs fired up, quite like the thought of money being left on the table, or flat-out tossed away.

It is important to note that in order to do this, you must come correct with the facts. You cannot convince these people with just anecdotes or the rousing speech of Leonidas. You’ll need to show your working and use available data to calculate the cost of customer churn, and the value of increased retention or Customer Lifetime Value (CLV).

Identify your champions. Leverage the senior leaders who get it, and recruit them to influence any stakeholders who may still be lagging. It’s all part of your change-management strategy. Once again, don’t forget that in this scenario, you’re the newcomer, and these people, who’ve worked together longer than they’ve known you, are more likely to listen to one another. It’s nothing personal.

And finally, in the interest of keeping this short, I’ll mention just one more thing: After you’ve done all that work identifying your stakeholders, finding out what they care about, showing them in tangible ways what the CX opportunity is, and leveraging your champions... involve them. Instead of simply presenting to them, involve them in the process. Ask for their feedback and concerns, and engage them in co-designing CX strategies, bearing in mind that these strategies will have to be executed through the various pillars of the business that they oversee.

The best way to ensure that your stakeholders are fully invested, is to make sure they feel a sense of ownership. If they are involved in creating the thing, they are more likely to do everything they can to make sure it succeeds.

Remember: You, by yourself, no matter how passionate you are about CX, are just one person… one leader. And there’s a limit to what you can accomplish by yourself. If you’re to succeed in this role, in this organization, you need everyone thinking and acting in customer-centric ways. And for most organizations, that begins with the folks at the top. Make sure then, that you and your team are not the only ones who care about this stuff, otherwise, it’s just not going to happen.

And that, my friend, would be a damn shame.

Thanks for reading this article. How will you use this information to make your customer experience better today? What have you observed in your environment Reach out. Connect. I’ll be reading and responding. And learning.

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