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“Effective immediately, we are placing the customer experience strategy on pause,” was the simple and unexpected message from the CEO’s office. We were already on the road rolling out an approved strategy, and the early signs demonstrated that employees were embracing the new strategy and excited about it. They saw it as a new license to go to work with a sense of purpose and the power to make an impact on people, their customers. The CEO wouldn’t hear any of that.
In over 200 CX transformations we have executed worldwide, this was the harshest decision we have ever encountered. Was it a matter of budget? No. Was there a misalignment in the messages? Not at all.
So what happened? We were wondering that as well. We discovered that it was the classic “Customer Experience and the CEO Challenge.” They are fully committed to CX but in the wrong way and with ignorant motives. In this case, the CEO received a damaging report about some operational challenges, and his Ops people delivered an ultimatum: “It's either operations or CX, you decide.” The CEO caved.
Every day, we face operations leaders struggling with CX because it implies empowerment and, therefore, a bit of a loss of control and uniformity in the name of personalization and customization. Veteran operations people refuse to have any of it. They want the world to fit perfectly in their KPI spreadsheets and make all customers be one-size-fits-all (which means fitting their one-size process). Doing so as they move forward will deem the organization non-customer centric, inflexible, and not relevant to evolving customers demands. This is where the CEO should come in and direct the organization’s strategy towards the future and realign operations accordingly.
Our CEO caved. He failed in the moment of truth to demonstrate the necessary courage to move forward. Instead, he opted for the short term while sacrificing the long-term strategic relevance of the organization.
The CEO we worked with hoped for a quick win with smiling faces but without any real changes or trade-offs. The essence of every strategy is tradeoffs, but he was not ready to make any of it. Instead, he allowed the voice of the status quo to dictate the future of the organization.
It was a painful reminder that no CX strategy should be launched without a full understanding of what we are trying to achieve and how would it impact, in a measurable way, the short-term and long-term results of the organization. They say that if your strategy is executed at the right time, it is probably already late to the market. Any strategy that has a unanimous agreement is merely common sense but not daring or, therefore, differentiating enough. Some CEOs have the courage to launch a daring strategy; many others are merely followers, trying to grab small pieces of success from emulating others’ big visions. Make sure you know where your CEO stands and adapt your CX strategy accordingly.
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