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How Do Smart Leaders Create the Best Experiences?

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In many ways, customer experience is still a new phenomenon.

Ok that’s not really accurate, of course.

Your customers have experiences with you, and judge their relationship with your brand based on how they feel about those experiences, whether you want them to or not. But the idea of investing in creating powerful, meaningful and delightful experiences is still a relatively new idea. It’s only been in the last decade that we’ve seen any companies take the time to proactively think about a customer’s journey, and only within the last 5 years or so we’ve seen a steady expansion of those with “experience” or “customer” in their titles at the upper tiers of management.

And yet…so much has already happened. At the sixth Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA) Insight Exchange, I had the chance to learn and share with 350 of my fellow experience fanatics. Here are a few observations from our days together in Phoenix last month.

1. “Customer Effort” should be a serious metric to consider.

In his opening keynote, Matt Dixon, author of Effortless Experience, informed with data and stories about why reducing customer effort is actually more important than creating delight for customers overall. Yes, those moments of delight can create great stories of loyalty, but what all of us are seeking as customers are simple ways to get what we need. If the company can proactively avoid creating more effort for customers, the customers will be happier.

In a great example, Dixon illustrated how Dyson sends two of the same parts out to customers who have a specific issue with one of their vacuum cleaners. They learned how customers often had issues installing the part originally and had to call for another replacement. By sending out the two parts, as well as proactively explaining how to avoid those potential issues, Dyson is reducing the effort for customers AND signaling the customer’s time and energy are valuable.

Instead of thinking “how can we resolve this issue” for customers, start thinking “how can we reduce effort for them and possibly avoid this issue completely?”


“Smart leaders know there’s no “right way” to attack #CustomerExperience.” @jeanniecw
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2. Stop discounting the connection between your employees “Net Promoter Score” and how your customers feel about your brand.

So many organizations are diligent about surveying customers with the Net Promoter Score famous (or infamous, depending on your outlook) 1-question: Would you recommend our company? NPS reports are almost commonplace among those enlightened organizations who began adopting customer-centric ideas a decade ago or more. Fewer organizations, however, use this same measurement technique with their employees.

Some smart leaders have begun to correlate this data in their organizations. As the Employee NPS goes up or down, the customer NPS is sure to follow. Employees are not just the front-line for your customers’ experiences. They are the front line for your leadership.

Now is the time to determine what methods you’ll use to determine what’s really going on with your employees. Providing an average score for the lot of them is not enough. “Congratulations, team, you are 85% happy!” This doesn’t tell them where to improve, how to improve, or what customers really want them to improve. Instead, find ways to connect the dots between each employee’s individual success AND the team’s success with customer success.

Knowing what to measure is the first step.

3. Money talks, but so do customers.

Karen Mangia, VP of Customer Insights at Salesforce, shared the entire secret to becoming a company of $50 billion in revenue. Ready?

It’s listening to your customers.

The way Salesforce prioritizes their work is by listening to customer feedback. Salesforce teams pay attention to the emotions behind the feedback customers provide. This means understanding that the outcome of listening to customers could be prioritizing outcomes like “how can we get customer the contract today?” to “why can’t we get the feature we promised out sooner?”

Small shifts and big improvements mean happier customers. It’s not always about the sexy innovation. It’s about listening to cues from customers that tell you they are frustrated, merely satisfied, or even if they are happy but could be happier.

4. Stop talking about innovation, and just do it!

Karen from Salesforce also talked about innovation, and how challenging today’s pace can be. They believe in co-innovating with customers. This year, there is a Trailblazer Award for customers who are using Salesforce in innovative ways. “Show us what you do with Salesforce!”

Heather Figallo, Senior Director of Innovation and Labs at Southwest Airlines, also talked about the importance of innovation for customer experience.

Heather and members of her team fly Southwest an average of twice a week, just to stay connected to the actual experience and observe all the various scenarios that can happen when flying. Innovation is a great buzzword, but it’s just talk unless there is real action taken. They take swift action to test out innovation ideas. They measure innovation through “idea flow” and acceleration. And they believe in the power of observation – and getting lots of feedback from those dedicated customer service people in their company.

5. The best customer experiences all come back to culture.

Geeta Wilson, Vice President of Consumer Experience at Humana, and members of her team demonstrated how “getting scrappy” is a solid strategy to improve customer experience. And it all comes back to culture.

To understand what needs fixing, you need to know what needs to be fixed.

Start with a problem statement. “Consumers want to get their issues resolved with a minimum of transfers and repeat calls.” From there, they dug into what was fact versus fiction. For example, there are typically “urban legends” floating around an organization.

One such legend was that agents at Humana were measured on “time on call.” This wasn’t true, but it was believed because of tweets or feedback that “Humana hung up on me.” So Humana began testing what to do to solve the consumer issue and keep the internal culture focused on customers. One result was simple, but totally effective. When a customer call is dropped, the agent calls back. Totally simple, but consumers are “shocked and happy” when it happens.

Smart leaders know there’s no “right way” to attack customer experience.

Culture, communication, metrics, business results, and innovation are all important things to consider. It’s inspiring to see how far we’ve come in a short time of really addressing customer experience. And I, for one, can’t wait to see where we go next!

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