The health of your customer experience is vital for the health of virtually any business. But discussing it with senior executives can be a daunting topic for many of the mid- to senior-level leaders with whom I’ve talked. There may not be publicly filed financial reports or flashy ad campaigns to present. But believe me, this is one conversation worth having – no matter how difficult it might seem.
How else will you ensure that you and the executive you report to are on the same page regarding the role customer experience plays in your company’s strategy? Or how execution on your target experience shows up in your organizations business performance? It’s not enough to simply agree that happy customers are good for business. Your senior executives must:
- See the direct link between your customer experience and your financial performance
- Share a definition of customer experience that sets direction for your firm
- Support a champion inside the organization who’s responsible for customer experience strategy (you!)
- Install a process and metrics that demonstrate whether customer experience efforts are effective and adding value
- Build a culture that values customers
So, how do you go about holding a conversation with the executive you report up through? As you set out to earn support, or for your first step or your next step toward strengthening your company’s customer experience, here are a few steps to help you prepare:
1. Know your executive’s goals.
Hopefully you know your executive’s business goals and personal priorities to achieve them. (If not…that’s a whole other post.) How will improving customer experience help your leader achieve them? What are the areas of overlap between customer experience and your leader’s purview? Keep these things in mind when you’re planning what to say.
2. Present the facts.
Walk into the meeting with data readily available to support your call for improving customer experience. Match data to the biggest gaps and opportunities in your customer’s experience. You may bring data about a specific step in the experience such as your close ratio, or over-arching indicators such as NPS or profit per customer.
Look outside your company for facts as well. Are competitors excelling – or failing, presenting a gap in the market that your company can fill? Additionally, be ready to demonstrate your broad knowledge via resources on the topic of customer experience. My blog, my book Domino and my colleague’s book ROAR are just a few places to start. Or, check out this list of customer experience books I recommended last year.
3. Anticipate tough questions.
Put yourself in your leader’s shoes and imagine what questions he or she will ask. Imagine the conversation they might have with your CEO or board. Whether your leader is the kind of person who first points out a lack of budget or is the type to analyze the most minor needs from every angle, do your best to anticipate points of resistance and demonstrate that you have the tough spots covered.
4. Have an “ask.”
Identify what you’d like to get out of this conversation about customer experience. Would you like funding for a specific project? Do you want to see a committee formed? Do you want to lead customer experience efforts in the organization? Is there a pressing problem in your organization’s process that you’d like to see changed ASAP? Or are you simply planting a seed in hopes of continuing the customer experience conversation? Whatever the desired outcome, be sure to share it with your leader during the meeting so your conversation doesn’t fizzle out with no next steps defined.
5. Have an action map.
When you hear “OK. I’m with you. Now what would you like to do?” have a high level approach of the actions you will take, resources you’ll need, timeline you expect and the outcomes you are after. Have examples of how your target customer experience should translate to decisions and actions across your firm.
6. Follow up.
You know your leader’s style and the speed at which your organization moves. After your leader has had a fair amount of time (whatever that may be in your organization) to review your request, check in and pursue next steps to keep the process moving. Perhaps your leader will say changing processes just isn’t in the budget – in that case, ask if it can be revisited during the next budget cycle.
Lastly, or perhaps overall: Demonstrate that you are a “T” thinker – that you have a deep understanding of your functional responsibility, and a broad understanding of how you can impact the company and how others across the company impact you.
Have you broached this topic with your executives? Any advice you’d add to my list?