Jeanne Bliss Asks: Would You Do That to Your Mother?

Howard Schulman

When it comes to Customer Experience (CX) these days, customer experience industry expert and author, Jeanne Bliss, thinks businesses should ask themselves whether or not they are treating customers as well as they would treat their mothers. We recently sat down with Jeanne, and asked her about the current state of CX and what we should look for in 2019.

The CX Missing Link: Leadership

For years, customer experience has been called CX but it’s missing something very vital—leadership. CX should be a full experience of leadership vision, not simply tasks to be check marked on a department chart. It’s choosing how you will and will not grow. It’s the behavior of leaders in giving people permission. It’s enabling people to offer value. Where CX falls short today is focusing on the mechanics: journey mapping, touchpoints, survey work, and other tactics. Companies are doing the busy work but they’ve lost the real meaning of what CX should be.

When Jeanne engages with businesses who know they want more from their CX initiatives, she starts with the leadership team. Their journey begins with framing the work, defining the work and changing the talk track, all from a leadership standpoint. With most companies, employees focus on action items and the CX work gets marginalized. Even worse, CX gets presented in silo-based fashion instead of being transformation work that leaders sign up for and put their skin in the game.

What’s come to fruition over the years is the practice of looking at CX as tactics, not transformation. The hard truth is that businesses will change only because leaders choose how they will grow or won’t grow. Just the idea of thinking about it as CX instead of a growth strategy is limiting. Leaders should ask themselves some hard questions. Are you going to improve lives? When the hard work is slotted into silo work and creating reports, it will never really become the business of leaders.

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Defining Real Growth with Business Leaders

Jeanne coaches companies on embedding competencies that starts with asking: are you honoring customers as an asset? Many people focus on surveys or NPS but the real reason companies are in business is to grow their customer base. Organizations have often not done the hard work of understanding whether they’ve brought in more customers than they’ve lost.
One of the first exercises Jeanne starts with new clients is to engage the CEO, CFO, CMO and CTO to determine one company version of customers brought in—including volume and value.

Generally, companies consider growth around sales but growth is not a definition of sales. Growth is simply the number of new customers, minus the loss of lapsed customers. Businesses need to ask themselves the hard questions. How many customers did you lose? How many reduce “share of wallet” with you? Are we defining customers or are we just tracking products?

When companies aren’t tracking customers, and focus only on metrics around products and sales and top-line revenue growth, they don’t have their eye fixed on the real issue—the customer asset. Again, leaders need to ask the hard questions. How many customers did we bring in? How many did we lose? What’s our net customer asset growth?

Jeanne finds that when that hard work is connected to caring and desire and passion around growing that asset, it really does shift leaders and their understanding of the work.

Five Competencies to Optimize Business CX

After the work of defining customer volume and value, the balance comes in when leaders care about the why. They need to question themselves about what they do operationally, culturally or behaviorally to either bond customers and employees or drive them away. The lesson is in separating what was done and how it was done.
Through the years, Jeanne has developed five competencies that guide leaders to optimizing their CX initiatives:

  1. Customers as assets
  2. Align around experience
  3. Build a customer listening path
  4. Proactive experience reliability and innovation
  5. One-company accountability, leadership, and culture

Quite simply, companies must view customers as assets and care about their engagements with them. Businesses have to understand what mission the customer is trying to accomplish and all activity stem from that.

People tend to attach the words CX to every project that exists and they’re not solving the most important things. Leaders aren’t united on what’s working. Silo by silo people are chipping away at what they’re going to work on but growth won’t change until the customer component becomes the most important thing.

Too many organizations work on issues on a silo basis and that’s just a small percentage of solving customer issues. This is one reason why Jeanne believes that CX has failed. People are doing lots of work but not getting a great outcome. And that’s because there’s not a comprehensive view of the company’s standpoint of what needs to be done.

In order for CX to change, leadership must change. Stages must be defined from the customer point of view and the leadership team then has commitments to building out the competencies.

All CEOs Want a Legacy of Growth

All CEOs want a legacy of growth and authentic growth based in customer knowledge will almost certainly cement it. They should start with questions that will assure the end result. It’s not only growth but how will you grow? What kind of company will you become? Do you want to be a company where people are proud to work? Leaders must decide if and how they can use the growth strategy to grow and become part of the business.

The reason CX work is failing is because people look at it like tactics and actions and not as part of an overall shift in the organization and leadership.

One of the things Jeanne builds with clients is a defector pipeline which identifies the multiple pressure points along the customer journey will lead to defection if needs aren’t met. There are moments of truth along the customer pipeline. Businesses that are really proactive can easily recognize the customer pressure points and they also need to enlist rescue moments to put the customer back together again when necessary.

Proactivity in addition to what a business is already offering could be very powerful. They shouldn’t wait until the customer has been strained and you’ve lost them or their respect. Many companies have created captive loyalty where customers will stay because the cost of departing is so expensive, but if respect has been eroded, they may stay but will defect at the earliest opportunity.

Companies should be in great shape with their CX initiatives if they treat customers like their close family members such as their mom. Employees and leaders alike should ask themselves: Are we asking customers to do something we wouldn’t ask of our mothers? The answer they choose will ultimately drive the fate of CX in their organization.

Jeanne Bliss is the Founder and President of CustomerBliss, and the Co-Founder of The Customer Experience Professionals Association. Her book, Would You Do That to Your Mother is available now.

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