Listening to Aisling Hassel, Head of Global CX at Airbnb at the recent CX event organised by CXPA Ireland was inspirational. Airbnb are true game changers and not just in how they have democratised travel. In our context, they have motivated and enabled employees to deliver a powerful customer-centric strategy based on that most precarious of variables - trust. The result - 200,000,000 guests and counting…
Back in W5, we wanted to assess the extent to which employees in Ireland are embracing and being encouraged to engage with the CX agenda in 2017. We conducted an online poll over 5 days in September surveying a nationally representative, quota controlled sample of 1000 workers. Mirroring the survey we conducted in the same period in 2016 allowed us to benchmark the data.
Little has changed
The first striking, and perhaps a little disappointing, finding was that there has been very little change over the course of a year in a lot of measures.
Though almost all employees claimed that a positive customer experience is the primary goal of the organisation for which they work, a culture of customer centricity was found still to be failing to reach all levels of organisations. Awareness and belief in the customer experience agenda is much less developed amongst workers as opposed to management. Public service workers and employees of larger companies continue to be less likely to be aware or convinced of the importance of customer experience.
More work to do in creating a customer centric culture
The survey also revealed that Irish employers must try harder to engage employees in the customer experience process. Almost half of employees are not convinced that they know how the fit into and impact on the customer experience ‘big picture’. Just two out of five feel that their ideas to improve customer experience are encouraged. Just over one in three feel that customer feedback is communicated to them effectively and one in four feel that it employees customer experience efforts are celebrated. From our own consultancy work, we know that these practices are really critical to engage employees and deliver positive customer experience.
Leadership makes the difference
However, our research did suggest that there is one factor that makes all the difference when it comes to creating and sustaining a customer experience culture that delivers. That distinguishing factor is the CEO.
We asked employees the extent to which they felt that the CEO of the organisation for which they work leads by example in creating customer centric culture. Although less than one in three claimed that their CEO does so, these respondents were much more likely to:
- believe that customer experience is the primary goal of the organisation
- feel that what they do impacts on the service received
- be more confident that their ideas to improve the customer experience are welcomed
- claim customer feedback is shared effectively with employees and that successes are celebrated.
Of particular importance is that they were also much more likely to advocate their organisation’s products and services as well as advocate working there.
Beyond the indisputable facts of this research, from our own experience working closely in SME and larger organisations, we know that a convinced and leading CEO is so important to customer experience. S/he drives coherence within an organisation and strategic focus, ensuring that the promises made for a brand are understood and delivered by employees across the organisation.
Convincing the CEO
So how do we convince CEOs of the customer experience agenda and get them fully on board? Bluntly, money talks. We need to be able to show the revenue benefits of a strong customer experience strategy in terms of reducing churn, upselling and new customers acquisition through enhanced word of mouth. There are many American studies proving that positive customer experience is the leading driver of financial success. We need to build the same evidence base here in Ireland. We need rigorous financial measures of our customer experience success.
Building C-suite commitment
Once the CEO is convinced then we need to start building the aligned commitment of the senior management team to the customer experience agenda. There are a number of ways to do this, depending on the organisation and team. A starting point that often works well is simply but provocatively to ask: To what extent do we share a common understanding and commitment to a desired customer experience? What is that experience? In this way we can start to drill into and then build on what customer experience really means to the organisation.
Fad or future?
We’re all a little obsessed with customer experience at the minute. But how do we ensure that this is not just a fad or the fashion of today? Rather a practice, a style that establishes itself and endures? We need to listen to and empower the employees who have told us that they have a greater role to play in creating winning customer experiences. We need the leadership which understands and enables this. We need the data to make the financial case. We need the Irish customer experience success stories that convince and inspire.
Clare Kavanagh is Managing Director of specialist customer experience measurement and insight consultancy, W5