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Do you have an executive empathy program?

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

I’ve been working with chief customer officers for nearly a decade now and one of the things that perpetually hampers CCOs and other customer executives in their efforts to become customer focused is the struggle for CEO buy-in. There are a number of reasons for this lack of support, including the distraction of other priorities; a lack of awareness that a problem exists or of its severity; or the inability to outweigh the seemingly guaranteed ROI of more traditional investments. However, they all boil down to the same root cause: becoming customer centric is not a sufficiently high priority in the CEO’s mind.

Embarking on an executive empathy program is a sure-fire way to elevate customer centricity to a strategic imperative.  The purpose of the program is to bring the customer into the boardroom, both figuratively and literally, by using data, customer anecdotes, and first-hand experiences to show executives the nature and scope of customer issues and, most importantly, the negative impact on the business of maintaining the status quo. Solid data is a prerequisite for this program. Without data showing the frequency, severity, and impact of customer issues, priorities will not be realigned.  Assuming this data is in place, here are seven recommendations to expose executives to customer issues and create more passionate support for your efforts on behalf of the customer and business:

  1. Play selected audio excerpts from call center calls during executive committee meetings
  2. Either video customer interviews or invite customers to record their own videos describing their challenges with your products, services or interactions and play them back in executive meetingsSimulate customer interactions to highlight convoluted or broken processes
  3. Select a customer with a complaint representative of a systemic issue and ask an executive to call the customer, listen to the issue, and commit to address it during the month.
  4. Have the executive write about the experience, the issue, and the resolution on an internal blog.  Engage each member of the executive team each month
  5. Bring a strongly dissatisfied customer into the executive committee meeting to tell his or her story personally
  6. In advance of an executive retreat, assign each executive to shadow a front-line employee for a day, withholding judgment of personal skills and committing to come away with one key issue or process that harms customers or hampers front-line employees from serving customers; share, prioritize, and commit to resolve during the executive retreat
  7. Assign executives sponsorships of key accounts, with responsibilities to meet face to face with decision makers to discuss key indicators of relationship health, uncover dissatisfiers, and commit to fix within one month.

There are many more ways in which executive empathy can be cultivated. How else are you doing so?

Logic makes people think, but emotion makes them act.  Show compelling data to get their attention. Tell the customer stories using powerful and compelling vehicles to make them act.

If you’d like to talk further about any of these ideas, please feel free to drop me a line.

View Curtis Bingham's profile on LinkedIn

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Categories: Chief Customer Officer | Customer Centricity | Customer Insight

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