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Seven Habits of Exceptional Customer Experience Leaders

By Jake Sorofman | August 21, 2015 | 1 Comment

Customer experience is really important. We all got that memo. But how do you drive company-wide improvements for something that’s, let’s be honest, almost laughably broad in mandate?

First, you acknowledge that customer experience a team sport.

Next, you practice the seven habits of exceptional customer experience leaders. These leaders:

  1. Flip the orientation

Average organizations focus on what they have to sell, but customer-centered organizations focus on serving actual, honest-to-goodness customer needs. Average organizations expose the complex nuances of their operations—better ones go to great lengths to hide the internal madness of how things get done.

  1. Listen to the voice of the customer

Most every marketing and customer experience leader thinks they know their customer, but sometimes what they mistake as knowledge is actually a form of mythology. The best customer experience leaders look beyond anecdotes and assumptions, insisting on primary research through social listening, surveys, focus groups and ethnography, together with behavioral analytics to understand customer journeys through the lens of observed multichannel behavior.

  1. Close the loop

Listening is nice, but it’s taking action that pays the bills. The best customer experience leaders close the loop between insight and action, both with customers and with the organization itself. Here, the goal is to acknowledge and address customer experience issues with customers, but also shine light on your own operations, identifying the patterns and the root causes to drive continuous improvement.

  1. Think horizontally, act vertically

Large companies are organized around functional and business unit silos, which exist for good reason: to enable the separation of concerns necessary to operate an organization at scale. But these boundaries can also bleed through, leaving an unpleasant imprint on the customer experience. The best customer experience leaders design experiences horizontally—end to end, from the perspective of the customers’ needs and goals. They then integrate the vertically-oriented operational silos behind the scenes. They’re like the elegant duck, calm and placid on the surface, but paddling like mad below the waterline.

  1. Sweat the details

Customers now judge you on the basis of their last best experience. Your customers now expect simple, elegant and well-designed experiences. The best customer experience leaders follow the principles of design thinking, which starts with customer goals and puts aside tired assumptions, dogma and constraints that get in the way. They then enforce high standards and consistency in the aesthetics and interaction design across all touchpoints, paying particular attention to intersecting channels, which enable the ensemble experiences that create a whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts.

  1. Incent and inspire action

With all the fuss about digital, some companies forget to invest in the people part of the customer experience. The best customer experience leaders define a common set of customer experience KPIs that guide and align the entire organization and hold stakeholders accountable to continuous improvement. Instead of seeking to control every experience, they create incentives and a culture that motivates, reinforces and inspires the right behaviors at scale.

  1. Continuously innovate

The best customer experience leaders never assume they’ve delivered enough customer value. Instead, they commit to a process of continuous renewal of their value proposition. They recognize the dynamic nature of markets and the impermanence of brand loyalty and they never—ever—rest on their laurels.

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