Businessman (in background, blurred out, in front of a screen, standing) giving presentation to colleagues (foreground, in focus, sitting).
PHOTO: Andrey Popov

On a February weekend in 2016, I received a call from the president of our payments division where he posed the following question, “How would you like to become the chief client officer?”

This was not only a new role to our organization, but at the time, a relatively new executive position within organizations that began to realize the importance of all things CX — the client experience. 

At the time I was responsible for running two sales teams that were both performing at a very high-level and fundamentally dialed-in on what it takes to be successful. Being the chief client officer meant that the sales life was over, and an operations life would begin. I’d been there before and was debating the fundamental question of do you really want to do this.

Yes. Yes, I do.

So now, as I look back on the past six-plus years, here are the three biggest lessons learned that have helped frame my thinking as a CX leader:

1. People: Empowering Your CX Teams

As a leader, and particularly as a CX leader, you are managing the team that has direct contact on a monthly, weekly, daily and by-the-minute basis with your customers. As such, this team is fundamentally the most important component of how the market views your enterprise.

It is up to you, as the leader, to develop and cultivate the team to fully understand that responsibility.

I’m a believer in the equation: EX + CX = RX

  • EX = Employee Experience as demonstrated by their level of engagement.
  • CX = Client Experience which can be readily measured but most importantly through the “ease of doing business” lens.
  • RX = Revenue Expansion and retention as a result of the absolute focus on EX and CX.

To be clear, driving employee engagement is not about pizza parties, T-Shirts or even free days off. It actually requires thought, and more importantly the input of the very team you are trying to engage.

There is no “one size fits all” on this front, but fundamentally being highly communicative, fostering two-way conversations, demonstrating that feedback has been actioned-on and treating people like adults tends to produce amazing results.

Related Article: What Do Customer Experience Teams Actually Look Like?

2. Consumers Rule!

Wait. What? Of course, consumers rule, but what has that got to do with lessons learned?

B2B is no more, and B2C rules the day. To be clear, my world was B2B, but the clients we engaged with daily are consumers first. Full stop.

You don’t enter your place of business and then suddenly lose your identity; your biases carry forward and are reflected in the expectations you have of the service provider with whom you are engaged. For too long B2B enterprises would hide behind the idea of we don’t need that or can’t deliver that — that is a B2C expectation.

Exactly.

The pandemic will yield more and more lessons (learned) as we study the full implications on human behavior. One thing that is not subject to debate: expectations accelerated and the tolerance for anything other than what I receive as a consumer is simply unacceptable.

So, client journey maps are lovely, but if you do not review the experience you’re creating for your clients through the lens of a consumer you are simply in limbo waiting to be disrupted by a provider who understands the importance of all things experience related.

Easy. Frictionless. Option oriented.

Related Article: Customer Experience Conundrum: Fix Bad Experiences or Make Good Ones Better?

3. Culture: The Challenge of Consistent, Excellent CX

So, how do you make it easy, frictionless and option oriented? The obvious answer is through the use of technology, and to be certain, you must deliver on this promise.

The issue is, however, no matter how sophisticated your technology, in the absence of a culture that recognizes the shared importance of the employee and customer experiences, you will lose. 

Too dire?

When entering my new role in March of 2016, I started by sharing a very simple mission statement or perhaps a commitment to our clients that read . . . We will deliver a consistently excellent client experience in every interaction.

Jerry Maguire would have been proud. 

While simple, it framed two very critical goals that we knew as a leadership team were going to be challenging — consistency and excellence. From there we developed the values we would value, developed recognition programs, held town halls, provided weekly communications with the team and welcomed clients into the mix by making them part of our journey.

I’m a believer that if integrity is defined by how you act when no one is watching then culture is how senior leadership acts when everyone is watching. Leaders set the tone. They demonstrate what is important. What is to be valued. And, what is valuable. 

Culture is not a destination but rather an ongoing journey and one that requires you to be intentionally relentless in fighting for it. Then you must defend it. 

I suspect my lessons learned are not necessarily shocking, but rather they speak to the fact that a truly great experience, be it an employee or client one, doesn’t just happen. It requires discipline, thought and a fundamental commitment to the outcomes you seek.