If you’re struggling to get your company’s customer experience program off the ground, you’re not alone. Customer experience (CX) initiatives are often relegated to the to-do list in favor of more urgent projects that promise quick results. What’s more, when companies do prioritize them, they often take a chunk out of already-stretched budgets, like customer service or customer success. Those departments can’t justify new initiatives that promise long-term benefits when they’re focused on keeping customers happy now.

On top of all that, “customer experience” is still a bit… fluffy. We see the statistics, like the fact that 87% of companies report a positive business impact from their CX efforts. We see the research linking CX to revenue growth. And we read the articles that emphasize the urgency of effective CX management. But still, 59% of large companies say they generally ignore or have just begun to explore CX efforts.

Here’s a look at why CX initiatives often lose steam—and how you can adjust your approach to become a CX champion for your company.

3 Reasons a CX Program Can Fail Before It Begins

Most companies want to better manage and improve their customer experiences. In fact, 67% of companies surveyed say they plan to increase their CX spending this year. But obstacles often stand in the way when it’s time to act.

1. You don’t have executive buy-in.

We know that getting support from the top is critical when rolling out any program, but it’s especially important with long-play initiatives that rely on multiple departments to succeed. CX is one of those. In fact, Annette Franz calls a lack of executive commitment the #1 “Deadly Sin” for a CX program:

Oh sure, you might have localized or departmentalized efforts, but those will be silo’d efforts that translate to silo’d experiences for the customer. Without executive commitment, you’ll never get resources – human, capital, or other – to execute on your customer experience strategy.

Every department impacts the customer experience in some way. That means they all have to be on board when it comes time to assess and refine the customer touchpoints causing friction. If that sounds touchy, it’s because it is. No one likes to be critiqued by another department leader. It’s another reason C-level buy-in is so essential to your success. Set out with clear, vocalized support from your company’s leaders and you’ll be much more likely to get the entire company on board. Their support will eliminate obstacles at every step and create a more customer-centric mentality in general.

So how do you get it? Franz suggests 7 key steps.

Getting Executive Buy-In:

  1. Get on the same page as execs when it comes to the company’s future.
  2. Talk about hard-hitting and familiar metrics, like customer lifetime value and customer churn rate.
  3. Show them how you’ll delegate projects and who will be accountable to their success.
  4. Find a C-level ally who can help you win support.
  5. Tie CX initiatives into other, existing projects they’ve already bought into.
  6. Tell a good story. Even better, tell a good customer story.
  7. Set their expectations.

2. You haven’t demonstrated return on investment.

A big part of getting executive buy-in is #2: proving the value of your CX program with trackable metrics. Well, that’s easier said than done. CX suffers from the same early-adopter hesitation that most things do. Whether we’re talking about a business strategy or the latest superfood, it’s all the same—no one wants to be the first to try it.

So aside from some of the newer research, we’ve been hard-pressed to find concrete metrics that explicitly support CX initiatives. Sure, there are endless stats on customer retention and customer service, but we long ago accepted how important it is to retain customers and provide good service. Customer experience is a little tougher.

First, it’s broad and all-encompassing. It’s not just about customer retention or market share, and it doesn’t just fall on customer-facing teams. That makes it harder to clearly articulate its value, no matter how certain we are that is in fact valuable. To top it off, many industries see CX as industry jargon that’s not relevant to their business or their customer base.

Unsurprisingly, the majority of stats we see about the ROI of customer experience come from industries that are already well-acquainted with it. Again, that makes positioning CX spend harder at companies that don’t have an array of data to support them. But there are a couple tactics you can use to present data that backs your initiative.

Proving the Value of Your CX Program:

  • Pull stats from related research. To really get the point across, the more pragmatic CX champions use a combination of ROI statistics from smaller pieces of the CX puzzle. They draw connections between specific initiatives and established concepts, like customer loyalty, brand advocacy, and customer satisfaction. You can find plenty of reliable examples that highlight the importance of customer experience management, like Salesforce’s recent finding that 66% of consumers will likely to switch brands if they’re treated like a number instead of a person.
  • Use comparisons wisely. CX champions also use data on how other companies are faring to establish some urgency. For example, 64% of companies that report “at least moderately positive results” from their 2016 CX initiatives performed better financially than their peers. That’s huge. It also speaks at a competitive level that executives are raring to riff on. Customer experience is no longer a nice-to-have that falls somewhere between the next marketing campaign and new company furniture on the priority scale. It suddenly becomes a critical pathway to competitive differentiation.

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3. The program plan lacks structure.

Going back to that “fluffy” statement—CX initiatives sometimes end up on the backburner because they don’t seem realistic. And usually, they don’t seem realistic because they consist of vague projects and disorganized action items, like “improve customer service quality” or “measure customer touchpoints.”

In order to get backing and actually execute, your CX program needs structure and clarity. That starts with a realistic vision of where you want your customer experience to be in six months, a year, and onward. Once you’ve articulated that, you can begin planning the necessary projects and growth phases to help you get there.

Temkin Group cites four “CX competencies” that companies need to master in order to build a successful CX program and compete effectively on customer experience:

  1. Purposeful Leadership
  2. Compelling Brand Values
  3. Employee Engagement
  4. Customer Connectedness

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Temkin Group also breaks CX maturity down into six key phases that every company goes through: Ignore, Explore, Mobilize, Operationalize, Align, and Embed. While the majority of companies won’t reach Level 6 in the near future, it’s important for CX leaders to visualize that final state, when customer experience is embedded into the company culture so deeply that it informs everything, big and small. When you share that visualization with your executives, they can begin to see the same future you do.


McKinsey partner Harald Fanderl said of customer experience: “When a customer is satisfied with a company, they are also lower in the cost to serve, but also have a higher potential to be more loyal customers for the company. And maybe they’ll even promote the company among their friends.”

He puts simply what many CX leaders want to get across—that customer experience is quite literally the path to organic growth. Companies that excel at it not only reduce overhead, but they create brand advocates who market and sell to their prospects for them. In other words, they cultivate a priceless resource.

As you head off on the CX path, just remember you’re not alone. Plenty of companies have struggled to overcome these hurdles, but many have become the early adopters that are now leading their industries in customer experience and enjoying the fruits of their labor. Like any investment, it takes determination and direction to make it worthwhile. It all starts with action.

Read more: Exactly What Is A CX Program?