Are leaders and managers who are working in the customer experience domain different from their peers in other areas of an organization? My observation is that this is the case but what really makes them different has been something that was still an open question.
Recently I stumbled on a question on the Q&A site Quora about the innate traits of great product leaders and it seems to me that these traits also apply to great customer experience leaders:
In order to be able to improve something, it is necessary to challenge the status quo. This also means to not be satisfied with the way things are done right now. Nevertheless this should not be a negative feeling that drags everybody down but rather act as the positive feeling that drives improvement.
Managers are trained to delegate as much as possible and get things done through other people. Things are different for great customer experience leaders. They love to reach out to customers, they get involved in projects, they get emotionally invested to create better experiences. Sitting in the corner office and managing a customer experience team won‘t bring the desired results.
Decipherer of Customer Input
Collecting qualitative (user testing, input from customer service) and quantitative feedback (NPS, A/B, web analytics) is an essential task for every customer experience leader. However, collecting data is not the main task. Deciphering which input is important, what the input is actually saying, and then turning that into the next great product is the task that requires thorough skills but that can also create the biggest impact.
Guided by an Overall Vision and Philosophy
Customer experience leaders are not just driven by the necessary immediate improvements to make a customer‘s journey more pleasurable and meet annual performance goals. In many cases they are also driven by a very strong vision or philosophy that acts as the guiding frame or vision for all activities. This vision very often develops into a guiding vision that is picked up by top-management to drive throughout the organization.
Thinking in Leaps, Iterating in Steps
Envisioning a future state is one thing, getting there is the real challenge. The ability to envision a desired future state of customer experience and the ability to derive concrete steps that can be taken today to get a step closer to this state is essential.
Communicating your own activities and achievements is always important task. Customer experience leader take new ideas and spread them not just within an organization but also in the customers head. Only great communicators who are able to connect with individuals on different levels – from top-management down to a customer – are able to achieve results.
Improving the customer experience of an organization tends to be a huge undertaking with a lot of areas that need to be worked on. Spreading the ideas of a new customer experience vision throughout an organization is necessary to create support and momentum to achieve any change at all. The risk is that these efforts are spread out too thin and action gets substituted by talk. Customer experience leaders continuously focus on very concrete projects to achieve results. These results are then translated into „stories of change“ that are then spread within the organization.
The Conclusion: More than an Intellectual Exercise
Is such a discussion more than just an intellectual exercise? I do believe so because the abilities required from a customer experience leader within an organization are different from other positions. By giving clarity to this question it is possible to get a better understanding and ultimately recruit and train individuals to take on these leadership positions.