Two steps forwards, five steps back: No-one said transforming the Customer Experience is easy!


bang head here

Every job has its ups and downs. Whether you are a teacher, a doctor, an accountant, a sales rep, an IT consultant or an artist, some days will be better than others. I could continue to name more professions, but the principle would be the same – as sure as night follows day, good will follow not so good and vice versa. Throughout our lives we will face challenges – from the moment we come into the world, to the moment we depart it – how we deal with those challenges in our personal and professional lives is what defines us as people on this planet.

The profession that is Customer Experience is no different. It is not exclusively challenging – or indeed more or less challenging than any other profession. It is a tough job that requires as much mental strength and fortitude as it does skill and technical knowledge. Like other professions, the job itself deals with a principle that to many is just plain good sense. Many feel that the concepts that encompass the world of Customer Experience are indeed obvious. However, the reality with most things that are obvious to some is that they are not always obvious to others.

In my career as a practitioner of Customer Experience, I have faced an unmentionable number of the ups and downs that we all experience. I have sometimes been heard muttering ‘everyone get out of the building – there is no hope!!’ On other occasions, I have been so elated at the progress being made, that I have had to pinch myself to check that I am not dreaming. Influencing the transformation of Customer Experience in any organisation is a remarkably rewarding role – but no-one ever said it would be easy!

The reason for writing this blog post is to reassure all Customer Experience Professionals (CXPs) who sometimes question the direction that their efforts are taking them. In defining the experience that customers have with organisations, I encourage companies to consider how it FEELS to be a customer – both in the present day and how the company would like them to feel in the future. I would like to take the same principle and explore how it FEELS to be a CXP by delving in to the emotions that they WILL inevitably experience in their daily role. The emotions can be described in the following diagram:

Emotions of a CXP

I have experienced all of these emotions over the last few years, let me further describe each one in turn:

THE WALL – the emotion I describe as akin to ‘pushing water uphill’, this is an emotion that is difficult to prepare for, irrespective of how often/hard peers or teachers try. If you have ever tried to get the support of a senior leader, or a board of directors, or even your boss and struggled to get their buy in/support; or if you have been talking about customer feedback in a room of people spending more time looking at their smartphones than paying attention to the invaluable insight being shared; or if you have ever been given feedback about a meeting that completely contradicts what you experienced – you will know how this feels. ‘The Wall’ emotion is one that is impossible to avoid – especially if your primary role is to influence change or transformation of the Customer Experience.

I recently observed a session between a brilliant CXP who has enabled remarkable progress in their organisation and a group of very senior executives. With mixed body language and interaction throughout the session, the result was (in my opinion) a very positive one. The feedback received from this CXPs ultimate boss was completely contradictory – the CXP felt the full force of ‘The Wall!’ The instant response was one of hopelessness. ‘Is this really all worth it?’ ‘Show me a wall and I will bang my head against it!’ Fortunately, the wall is only one of three emotions – as often as you experience ‘the wall’, you will also experience ‘the high’:

THE HIGH – as a mid-life crisis runner (jogger), the obvious analogy to this emotion is completing a physical challenge. I will never forget how I felt when I crossed the finish line at the end of my first marathon. The raw emotion that accompanied my huge sense of achievement will live with me for a very long time. I have many memories of significant milestones in my Customer Experience career that feel just the same. Seeing the lights in people’s eyes alight as they are hit with the ‘light bulb moment’ is a joy to behold. Last year I delivered a workshop with a fellow CXP – we had to give each other a man hug at the end of the workshop as an expression of our enormous sense of achievement in helping a group of people ‘see the light’.

The CXP I referred to in my description of ‘The Wall’ has since experienced a number of ‘high’ moments. In observing the adoption and delivery of CX behaviours that are required to deliver transformation, as well as receiving very positive feedback about the meeting with senior executives, this individual has bounced between both ends of the emotional spectrum. Experiencing a mix of ‘walls’ and ‘highs’ is completely ‘normal’.

THE USUAL – the third emotion is the one that we experience most often – although we are less conscious of it than the other two more extreme emotions. The overwhelming amount of effort exerted by CXPs is required to develop and maintain momentum for the tactical and/or strategic approach being taken in transforming the Customer Experience. This is the daily toil – communicating with teams; building and implementing measurement systems;  defining CX strategy – the list goes on. Most of the time this work allows the CXP to make progress in the right direction – that is ‘the usual’.

The reality to all of this is that there is a point where all three of these emotions meet. The reality is that ALL CXPs will experience ALL three of these emotions. The reality is that this is completely NORMAL! No approach to CX will work perfectly – no CXP will only ever experience ‘highs or walls’ – likewise it is unlikely that things will trundle along with ‘the usual’. Experiencing ‘the wall’ may not be pleasant but it is NORMAL. Transformation is tough – you sometimes need to experience resistance to propel your approach to CX further forward. Experiencing ‘the high’ is a wonderful feeling, but it will not last long – you can never rest on the laurels of this emotion.

Transforming the Customer Experience is not easy. Being conscious of the emotions that you will feel is a good thing – you will often feel as though you are taking two steps forward and five steps back. Sometimes you will feel as though you are taking 5 steps forward and 2 steps back – this is NORMAL. The most important thing as a CX professional is to listen and learn with every emotional experience you have. CXPs, like the organisations they serve can never stand still – it is our ability to continually adapt and evolve that will help the organisations we serve to do the same for their customers.

 

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