POSTED : October 6, 2015
BY : Martin Mehalchin

One of the questions that Customer Experience (CX) leaders often grapple with is how to build a truly customer-centric culture in their company. Most realize that culture will be key to seeing their CX strategies and initiatives implemented and sustained.

We recently held a small gathering of CX-focused executives here in Seattle. Industries represented included travel, financial services and software. As we shared insights about the connection between culture and strategy, the group agreed that a critical early step in creating a CX culture is building a shared understanding of what CX actually means for your company.

What do I mean by shared understanding? It’s a lot more than platitudes like “The Customer is King.” When you’ve built a shared understanding of your CX strategy, everyone in your company—from the CEO to your front-line employees—has internalized and can express the specifics of the strategy, including key focus areas and points of differentiation.

Here are examples of what shared understanding looks like at two very different companies in very different industries:

  • Concur is a provider of cloud-based travel and expense management, recently acquired by SAP. Realizing that Concur’s customers want their travel and expense to be as simple as possible, VP of Customer Experience Tabitha Dunn and the rest of Concur’s executive team have been able to distill the company’s CX strategy down to one word: Effortless. This one word helps the Concur team remember that their customers want simple, quick and painless experiences; they really don’t want to be “surprised and delighted” by expense management. Concur’s Customer Experience strategy is very visible to employees, customers and everyone else that interacts with the brand.
  • Nike is the clear global leader in the athletic footwear and apparel market and they are well-known for outstanding customer service and experiences. Nike is known for pulling out all the stops when it comes to supporting their sponsored athletes, but their co-founder Bill Bowerman also famously said “If you have a body, you are an athlete.” Nike has taken Bowerman’s mantra and embedded it in its mission statement to “bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world.” The mission statement provides a clear connection to customer experience through the lens of helping consumers on their journey to become better athletes.

Once you’ve defined your strategy and approach to CX, here are three of the many ways you can build a shared understanding in your company:

  • Executive Commitment and Reinforcement: CX strategy is no different than other strategies in that genuine executive buy-in is key to success. Let’s face it, employees pay extra attention to messages from the C-Suite, especially the CEO. Getting top executives to visibly and repeatedly communicate your CX strategy is a required element to building a shared understanding.
  • Storytelling: Real-world examples help people learn and understand new concepts. Find examples of front-line staff or customer service agents delivering great, on-brand customer experiences and tell those stories to your whole company. Better yet, make a video of your CX stars telling the stories themselves.
  • Rewards and Recognition: As your staff starts modeling behavior aligned with your strategy and creating great new CX stories, be sure to have a rewards and recognition plan in place that will sustain the momentum. Fun, in-the-moment rewards are more effective in building a CX culture than the delayed recognition offered by incentive plans and performance management.

So, on this #CXDay ask yourself: Have you built a shared understanding of what CX means for your company? If not, it’s time to get to work building this critical element of your CX culture.


About the Author

A picture of Martin MehalchinMartin Mehalchin is a Partner at PK where he leads the relationship with some of the firm’s largest clients and helps drive the growth of our Customer Experience Services. He has dedicated his career to working with executives and managers to help them define their strategies and then translate those strategies into results. Martin is a Brain Trust panel member on Retailwire.com and is a sought after seminar leader and speaker at conferences and on webinars. Among the clients Martin has worked with are Nike, Atlantic Records, Microsoft, Qualcomm, Expedia, Victoria’s Secret, Adidas and DuPont. Martin is a Board member and Chair of the Marketing Committee for the North Cascades Institute.

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