Vision channels energy. And leads to super enthusiastic customers. But you need power to execute avision.Rolling out a vision requires formal authority and what do when you have a vision but no formal authority? Sell your vision without being the boss!
Customer Experience starts with leadership
Customer Experience always starts with leadership. Some individual that is passionate about serving customers can initiate the spark that leads to a Customer Experience programme. The question now is who can spark off this kind of leadership.
Customer Leadership can come from other places than the top. In fact, many of the large companies I worked for, had management on the top that were more or less disconnected from customers. They tend to have their eyes on numbers, not people (employees or customers).
Early December, I attended the Customer Experience Management Certification in London. The participants came from everywhere in the world and predominantly worked in the retail, banking or telco industry. It was only at that time that I realised that those people had a clear view on the customer and developed a vision on customer experience. However, they all said that they had not any mandate to execute. So, were they powerless? Sorry guys, I don’t buy that.
Vision with the power to execute
I have worked often with entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are passionate about customers and have the power to execute their vision. Top managers and leaders have this power to execute. So, if you have the power to execute and see a problem which needs to be solved, how do you execute? In five steps:
- describe the vision in from … to …. Tell “we must go from product focused to customer centered” or “we must go from a intransparent proposition to a clear proposition”
- clearly describe the problem. You do this with objective pain factors, facts that can not be disputed. Then say “I find this unacceptable” followed by “is that clear?”
- describe the target. Tell “That is the reason why I want to achieve <this and that, the target>” followed by “is that clear?”
- give the criteria. Proposed and executed solutions must comply with criteria. Provide all criteria where the solution has to comply with. End with “Are these criteria clear?”
- ask for solutions. Say “All proposed solutions that comply with the specified criteria are acceptable for me”.
This last step is the most difficult one for leaders and managers. Because they do not spend enough time during the fourth step, they can not guarantee that all criteria are specified. So, they keep the right to throw in additional criteria if one or more solutions do not match with their ideas. This is pure motivation killing!
Vision with the power to influence
But you do not have the power to execute. What you do have is the power to influence. The two drivers to influence are:
- become a credible specialist and thoughtleader, see the six steps after this paragraph
- communicate with your organisation in these five steps
The five steps to communicate with your organisation are surprisingly similar to those five steps when you would have had the power to execute. Look at what you need to do influence:
- describe the vision in from … to …. Say “I think it is desirable to go from a product focused to customer centered organisation”
- clearly describe the problem. You do this with objective pain factors, facts that can not be disputed. Then say “Personally I found this a problem. How do you see that?”
- describe the target. Say “In my opinion, we should achieve that we meet <this and that, the target>. Do you agree that with me?”
- give the criteria. Proposed and executed solutions must comply with criteria. Analyse all criteria where the solution has to comply with. “Personally, I think the following criteria are crucial” and you list the critiria you have seen so far. Then end with “Which additional criteria can you think of?”
- ask for solutions. Ask “Do I understand that if proposed solutions comply with these criteria, that they are OK to you?”.
Become a credible thoughtleader
People like to listen to passionate people. Become passionate about customers and customer experience. But probably you are already!
What can you do more to sell your vision is these six steps:
- build a reputation / personal brand. If people within your organisation exactly know where you stand for, they can recognise you. It is easier to build a reputation on a specialism. So, what is your specialism?
- create a track record. In commercial organisations everything is about results. Top managers tend to listen to employees that have achieved results. So, create a track record and do not hesitate to celebrate newly achieved results.
- be a member of the relevant networks – internally and externally. Internally means that you commit yourself to focus groups, customer commitees and relevant people and initiatives in line with your reputation. But also external networks are relevant for hearing the newest trends and staying inspired. Because as long as you are at the beginning of your customer experience journey in your organisation, you need to inspire yourself.
- formulate and communicate a clear vision. Create a statement which precisely tells what customer experience is and make it exciting.
- generate urgency with supporting data. In a result driven organisation, it helps to create urgency to get airtime. Use all data for creating urgency.
- identify a champion sponsor at sufficiently high level in the organisation that can make sure that there is organisational commitment. Someone at top level must be able to take your spark and magnify it.
With these six steps and discipline you can build your customer experience case. Your challenge? Combine passion and patience! But the end game is worth it. Customer Experience for all.
And what if your boss does not listen?
There are cases where bosses and management is not sensitive to your vision, for various reason. If so, then you could change the question from “How do I sell my vision to my management” to “To which management can I sell my vision to?”. You will be surprised that a slightly rephrased question will deliver you very different answers.