She had not been in a customer experience role for very long, but Nienke Bloem had already reached what she describes as “a point of total despair.”
There she was, with a team of 12 and the opportunity to transform CX at an incumbent telecommunications firm, but it was difficult for people to understand what she was doing. Tired of people asking, she finally found a way to get the point across.
“I said I was the lonely nut, knitting it all together,” Bloem, now a CX trainer based in the Netherlands, recalled during a virtual event hosted by the CXPA last week. “That is the job title you don’t want, but sometimes it feels like that. We have to get beyond that.”
Finding a way to build and grow authority as a CX leader is a big focus as the CXPA celebrates its 10th anniversary, according to the association’s CEO Greg Melia.
Among the initiatives for 2021 is a research project where the CPXA is trying to understand where custoemr experience design and management is being taught within the higher education sector. Melia said the hope is to develop an accurate picture of MBA programs, post-graduate studies and other avenues where future CCXPs might be born.
“We need to understand how people are being introduced (to CX) so they can then go even further,” Melia said. “We need to get past that vernacular use of CX — that this is a one-time interchange to being the systematic approach of the organization, which really begins with the design and intentional management of the processes.”
Part of the problem is that CX gets thrown in with related but less holistic roles such as customer success, or (as Melia said he’s heard one role described) as “post sale customer experience.”
You’ve Got The Job. Now What?
Even when the term is used correctly and turned into a job title, the organizational thinking can be limited.
Melia made an analogy to the recent controversy over vote counts in the U.S. presidential election, where potential fraud became more talked about than the new administration’s next steps.
“You may get more votes in an election but that’s just the starting point,” he argued. “(Similarly), defining CX is not the end of the process, but the beginning of the process.”
Bloem agreed, noting that one key to establishing and maintaining authority as a CX leader is to be able to demonstrate ongoing progress. One of her goals at the telecom firm, for instance, was to take a -14 Net Promoter Score and raise it by 15 points.
“I would have a monthly briefing with our CEO and he asked, ‘What are your results this month?’” she recalled. “I said it was a strategic goal, and that I had two and a half years. He didn’t care — he wanted to see, were my resources being well used? Was I getting somewhere? That was a wakeup call for me.”
Bloem said she started doing a lot more internal-facing as well as customer-focused activities to ensure milestones were being reached.
Improved NPS is also among the CX-related goals at Royal Schiphol Group, but that’s far from the only one, said Berend-Jan Rietveld, its head of Passenger Experience.
The Amsterdam airport has also created a longer-term “Vision 2050,” where quality of service is one of the pillars. Rietveld said translating that into a CX perspective where everyone understands their ability to contribute is now a big part of his job.
“We’re in the process of making that concrete for other departments, other people, behaviours, culture and even the kind of leadership we need,” he said.
Gaining Authority By Empowering Others
Alison Circle described as similar journey as chief customer experience officer at Columbus Metropolitan Library. When she started as a marketing director, Circle said she was focused on making big changes to modernize the library’s approaches to conveying its messages. However, she was doing it in a top-down way.
“I came across as arrogant,” she admitted. “I didn’t take the time to understand the culture I had emerged myself into.”
In her current role, however, Circle said success is primarily measured by how well she can help her team encourage everyone in the library to become more customer-centric.
“They need to feel empowered and strong and committed to it,” she said, adding that some of the tactics have included everything from recognizing customer champions to weaving CX into training for future leaders.
CX has often been called a movement, and Melia said there were many lessons to be learned from history, including the Civil Rights marches in the U.S. to the early days of the space race.
“You set a bold goal. You set a future desired state,” he said, suggesting CX leaders avoid “unicorn” stories that are more like one-offs or aberrations. “We need to tell stories as an example of progress in the right direction, but recognize that in terms of the long term goals, there’s still work to be done.”
Shane Schick tells stories that help people innovate, and to manage the change innovation brings. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine and has also been Vice-President, Content & Community (Editor-in-Chief), at IT World Canada, a technology columnist with the Globe and Mail and Yahoo Canada and is the founding editor of ITBusiness.ca. Shane has been recognized for journalistic excellence by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.