By Virginie Glaenzer, Director CX & Marketing

When I landed in San Diego to attend the Chief Customer Officer Exchange on May 9th, it was raining and cold.

But meeting inspiring CX leaders, listening to their success stories and seeing familiar faces was heartwarming – even the sky cleared up. It was time to hear actionable CX insights straight from the CCOs of some of the world’s largest firms.

For starters, the iconic Hotel Del Coronado made quite an impression on me as I always look for positive experiences in my own life as a customer and traveler. I was greeted with a smile, the TV had my name displayed, and when I asked for directions, I was offered to be accompanied rather than told where to go.

The Unique Role of Chief Customer Officers

In the two-day conference that followed, I gained a clear understanding of the role of a Chief Customer Officer (CCO): to simply improve people’s lives.

But “simply” isn’t quite the right term.

In fact, the issues CCOs face are complex.

Many sessions addressed the challenges of choosing technologies to empower customers while facing employee reluctance to embrace change. Further, budget increase decisions need to be made in a context of constantly changing consumer behaviors and desires; these decisions need to be balanced with leadership’s slow adoption and often conflicting interest to create a scalable and profitable business.

It’s amidst such challenges that CCOs operate – their role is unique in that it has the power to bring the customer into our organizations.

Here’s the inside scoop on the four key CX takeaways common to all presentations.

1-   MAKE IT EASY FOR CUSTOMERS TO DO BUSINESS WITH YOU

One of the highlights of the conference began with Diana Helfinstine, VP CX from Essilor, who shared her personal philosophy: Make it easier for customers to work with you. She recommends starting by understanding your internal stakeholders and customers-facing employees and knowing what their goals are and how you can help them succeed.

In another session, Mark Buchanan, Global Brand Experience and Brand Language Program Lead at Cisco, presented a very innovative approach to make it easy for customers to do business: simply align company language with how customers actually communicate. The language we use influences the way we think.

Mark shared two best practices his team implemented throughout the organization to streamline their language: make it simple and make it more distinctive. To make it simple, cut down on: long words, long sentences, corporate speech, jargon and acronyms.

Implementation required changing company culture, which they did by taking the following steps:

1.    Rewriting values and the brand promise

2.    Connecting to leaders

3.    Defining business strategy

4.    Engaging with key internal influencers

5.    Communicating to all employees

Finally, they supported the changes through a book titled 10 Tips for Better Writingand through a regular workshop, training, and ongoing support with office hours.

2-   ALIGN & UNITE YOUR LEADERSHIP

In her introduction, Lynn Skoczelas – Chief Experience Officer at Sharp Healthcare –outlined the importance of collaborating with leadership. She presented a challenging transformation which took creative thinking out of the box, invited inspiration by other successful brand experiences outside their industry, and involved investment in employees to craft their brand experience.

But this couldn’t have been possible without leadership agreeing on a code of conduct, and most importantly, aligning to customer stages.

Georgia Eddleman Little, Chief Customer Officer at Prime Therapeutics, made the case for the effort it took her and her team to bring all departments together.

In order to overcome the increasing challenge of getting funding for CX initiatives and becoming the priority for other executives, she applied the Pizza team tactic: an 8-person team to avoid the most common 15-20 people team, which often becomes neutralized by committees. Her unusual CX leadership team consisted of IT + CFO (controller) + CX design architect + contact center director + clinical leader (sales) + digital and mobile + marketing communication. After months of collaboration, a 3-year roadmap was co-presented by the team to the CEO and included:

–       8 customer scenarios (pain points)

–       Value maps, operation models, leading indicators

–       Capability models & heat maps

–       Investment roadmap

–       Business case

Ted Chen, President – North America at Maru/edr, hosted a BrainWeave session titled “Driving true engagement: How to involve the right people in the right way with your VOC program.”

When discussing senior executive engagement, the audience shared their best practices such as using video to capture attention and delivering insights via one-page summaries to respect others’ limited time. But one discussion revolved around creating opportunities for executives to have ‘skin in the game’ – by adding CX as a goal, embedding it in their incentives, and asking them to ‘own a problem’ so they could feel customers’ pain. Empathy can go a long way to fix an issue.

3-   FOCUS ON YOUR CUSTOMERS’ EMOTIONS

In an insightful session titled “The future of customer service: establishing an emotional connection with customers,” Claudiu Coltea, EVP & Corporate Head of CX at Citizens Bank made the case for building customer journey maps that include emotional weighting on each touchpoint.

Emotions are what differentiate one relationship from another and therefore, it is important to unify leadership around a relationship emotional metric. For example, an emotional metric starts by capturing data on emotions for each touchpoint. Then correlate to net promoter score and calculate the impact on NPS with statistic modeling and regression analysis.

In the slide shown here, hope is not a strategy unless it drives your customer.

Another insight came from the BrainWeave session hosted by Ted Chen from Maru/edr, during which the first topic was Customer Engagement. Various methods were discussed from implementing closed-loop feedback management to creating a specific page on Facebook to make customers aware of all the changes made based on their feedback.

A concept that resonated with me was de-escalation. This involves working with advocacy organizations and connecting with customers on a one-on-one basis to explain why we can’t do what they want us to do due to regulations or other reasons. It’s a useful tactic to address negative emotions and has the potential to turn angry customers into advocates.

4-   INVEST IN YOUR EMPLOYEES

Another idea shared during an opened discussion roundtable was the opportunity to value employees by using ideation sessions to engage and empower them to make the right decisions for customers.

CX is a hard concept to understand, so use simple communication of your CX Vision that can be explained in concrete terms. Making it easy for customers to do business with us is an easy concept that everyone understands.

Radha Penekelapati VP Global YouTube Operations at Google explained how many brands often overlooked a simple yet powerful way to engage employees and gather valuable feedback: asking employees to test and use our own products creates engagement and empathy amongst people in various departments while providing insights on customer experience.

A few last words: use CX to Build Customer Trust

What makes a company capable of building a strong relationship with its customers?

To me, it takes a strong and visionary leader. Someone capable of managing four responsibilities in one job: HR/growth strategy/marketing/operations.

A global well thought-out and executed CX strategy leads to many business benefits from reducing processing time to increasing loyalty. In today’s market, people want to feel in control, but they often feel left behind and let down by businesses.

I will leave you with this question: How do you build trust with customers?

One suggestion came from the Brand and CX key influencer Tom Asacker whom I follow on Twitter who says: “Manage Expectations”.

What are your thoughts?