How to get your business leaders to believe in customer experience

“If I’d only known that being nice to customers was going to be so good for my business, I would have done it years ago.” 

So said Michael O’Leary, Ryanair’s CEO as profits jumped 66% in October 2015 following the implementation of a number of customer-led initiatives.  He was engaged in customer experience through the very real, commercial and tangible benefits of giving customers more of what they wanted.  It’s hard to believe that these were the words of the very same business leader just a matter of months before.

"Are we going to say sorry for our lack of customer service? Absolutely not."

Michael O’Leary’s refusal to listen to his customers was high profile and well documented as was his change of heart when he admitted in 2015 that he’d made a mistake neglecting customer service and intended to make the airline’s customers “happy” from now on. And happy he did with load factors higher and stronger profits that year than ever before.

The Ryanair story is a great example of the necessity of leadership buy-in, in order to achieve real customer experience transformation. Whichever way you look at it, without your most senior leaders on board, any attempt to improve, change or enhance what you do for customers will not deliver on it’s potential and will be an uphill struggle. 

So to the million dollar question - how do you get your business leaders to believe in customer experience?

  1. Show them the evidence - no business leader can resist the attraction of being more profitable which is proven to come as a result of happy customers being 9x more likely to recommend, 7x more likely to buy again and 7x more likely to try new products from the same company[1]

  2. Show them the future - By 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator[2] and 89% of companies expect to compete primarily on the basis of CX[3] - business leaders usually sit up and take notice of a burning platform

  3. Show them the competition - business leaders are competitive - show them how the competition is winning customers through great customer experiences and you’ll almost definitely get their attentio

  4. Put customer love into context - the argument for greater customer centricity is compelling but it has to compete on an equal footing with all the other drivers of business performance for leadership time and attention

  5. Put clear measures in place - ultimately business leaders need to believe that doing more of what customers want is good for business and to sustain buy-in, they need to see results. Make sure you demonstrate plans for robust and timely measures as part of your pitch

  6. Be transparent about the investment - your leadership team do need to accept that improving customer experience will cost money. Don’t be shy in being clear about the investment and combine it with confidence it will be worth it and generate a performance uplift

  7. Hear it from the customer’s mouth - capture the voice of your customer and play it back to your business leaders. It can be uncomfortable listening but is powerful stuff to support your customer experience business case

  8. Keep it simple - customer centricity, customer journey mapping and touch point mapping can sound scary, complex and expensive to a leadership team. Ditch the jargon, keep it simple and talk about basic steps to ensuring happy customers who don’t feel let down

  9. Focus on customer alignment not centricity - framing customer experience alongside operational capability will be music to the ears of your leadership team because it sends a clear signal that this will not end up as an intellectual customer insight exercise that gathers dust 

  10. Start small and build - try to do too much, too soon and you’ll fall at the first hurdle and lose the trust of the leadership team. Wow them with small steps, big wins first and you’ll be pushing on an open door for more investment. 

Any successful customer experience strategy is really about nailing what your customers want in a way that both your leadership love and your people can deliver. Without the genuine support of the leadership team across the organisation, it becomes very difficult to really change what the business promises its customers and how its people deliver (or don’t deliver) on those promises. Ultimately the proof is in the pudding, but until the pudding is cooked it’s about talking the language of your leaders, dangling the evidence carrot and proving the business case to get over the starting line.

[1] Temkin Group - 105,000 US Consumer Interactions

[2] Walker Insights

[3] Gartner