Remember when you were a kid and played Red Light/Green Light? You know the game where you designate a starting line and a finish line and have a leader who stands at the front and calls either red light or green light? When the leader calls green light, everyone goes into action and starts moving from the starting line to the finish line. But when the leader calls red light, if you continue to move, sadly, you have to go back to the starting line.

The game teaches children the skills of listening, observation and agility. And this week's CMSWire guest contributor, Gaby Moran, customer experience director at Workato, recommends CX leaders coming into the first year of their role to embrace those same skills and look for the red light/green light leader. Learn the process in place to get a green light before blasting your own agenda and blowing potential opportunities, she says. 

Moran is a new CMSWire contributor, and in her first CMSWire piece, "How to Ace Customer Experience Leadership in Year 1," she imparts her wisdom on how to get the leaders and the team on your side without crashing at the intersection of what you want to do and getting the permission and resources to go for it. 

And she thinks it's important to have fun with CX. Nuff said. 

We caught up with Moran for a Q&A on the topic. Editor's note: This transcript is edited for clarity.

How to Get the Green Light When You're the New CX Leader

Dom Nicastro: All right. Dom Nicastro here, managing editor of CMSWire. We are here with — thank you, Gaby — a brand new CMSWire contributor. Thank you for being interested in writing for us. You are the customer experience director at Workato. Thanks for joining us. 

Gaby Moran: Thank you, happy to be here. 

Nicastro: Yeah. And your first column — it's a doozy — talks about customer experience leadership, we know there are so many leaders out there that are starting in that role, and you know, trying to make their, you know, their place felt in that first year. You have some great tips to kind of motor through that. The first one I thought that was super interesting was, you know, instead of just like telling everybody what you want to do, it's kind of like finding who is going to give you the green light on those projects. So that's, that was pretty important to you. 

Moran: Yeah, absolutely. Crucial, I would say, mostly because, you know, when you describe what customer experience does, there are very few companies out there that wouldn't want to do it. Who doesn't want to better understand what their customers need, how their customers experience a product or a service, and then adjust based on that. It's like an easy no brainer, yes. But then when you get to the point of okay, well, how much money are you willing to invest in order to accomplish that, that's where the conversation gets a little bit harder. And so being able to understand how a business makes those decisions and plug into that process, versus trying to kind of show up and bring your own point of view without being sensitive to that can be tough.

Related Article: My Top 3 Lessons Learned as a CX Leader

Sell Your CX Programs to Business Leaders and Employees, Too

Nicastro: Yeah. It's funny, like I, I've got so many ideas percolating, you know, my own team, but at the same time, you're thinking, alright, who's gonna give the stamp on this? And what is it going to take? What is it going to take to get there? You know, exactly. So that's a huge part of like, your first month, first couple of months is really finding out I mean, is it going to be my direct boss? Or do I really have to go a couple levels up, you know, to get this thumbs up. So I think it's a great way to sort of start things and just figure out the who, in the organization.

Another point you talk about is, you know, you're not just selling your customer experience programs for what they can do for customers, you're selling it for what they can do for the business leaders and employees and kind of tie, ties together employee experience with customer experience. So, you know, maybe you can give me an example of what that looks like, like, you know, hey, I have a great CX program. This is how it's going to affect your job. Anything top of mind for you with that in terms of examples? 

Moran: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, we have in the context of what we're really focused on our Workato, plenty of examples around that. We are a high growing SaaS business. So there's a lot of changes a lot of new customers, a lot of new processes. So we have a lot of business leaders that are doing things with a new team, in some cases, for the first time for this company. And when we talk about customer experience and employee experience, it's really about, I think, connecting that data in a context that's really important or timely for that leader.

So, for example, we just rolled out a brand new process for how we do value realization during the customer lifecycle. And there's a really specific set of things that our CSM team is focused on delivering for our customers. And instead of talking about customer experience, generally to our customer success leadership, we're plugging it right into that plan. They already have a process for how they're going to talk about value. Well, let's ask about that experience using exactly that process, using exactly those words, using exactly those outcomes as our North Star. And so then when we get the feedback, it's really easy to operationalize, right?

It's like, Yes, you had a plan, your teams are executing on that plan, that you're getting feedback specifically related to that plan. And it's making what you were already doing just that much easier, or more powerful, rather than some kind of abstract research topic that isn't really connected to the operationalization of that team today. So it's all about just like being relevant, right?

At the end of the day, customer experience isn't really valuable unless the frontline is executing on our findings, right? If I tell you how to improve the customer experience, but you don't do anything different, then there's no impact. So what's the easiest way for me to get you to do something different, it's to talk in your language, it's to talk and what you care about. So again, just being really connected to how the business already operates right off the bat, helps you honestly get credibility so that when you want them to operate a little differently, you're starting from a place of trust, you're starting from a place of support, you're starting from a place of being on the same team. And then you know, you can kind of push the envelope a little more. 

Related Article: What It Takes to Build the Best Customer Experience Team

Learning Opportunities

Show Some Restraint to Win CX Trust

Nicastro: Yeah, you know, you look back at like different bosses, different teams you worked under you think you know who made things fun, who made it easy, who made it better for me, so I can make things better for the customers. And that's such a great point to tie employee experience to the customer experience, but we're watching that super closely. You know, at CMSWire, connecting those two and how they kind of weave together.

The other thing you mentioned was, you know, when you do get the support, don't just write the check and cover the balance right away, you know, kinda show restraint, as you put it. So that's an important thing to think of. 

Moran: That definitely, in my context, it's crucial, you know, with with a high-gross, private company, we watch how we spend, right, I think all companies do, but you might be in different circumstances, depending on what brand you work for. But I think, you know, at the end of the day, showing restraint, what it really translates into is business acumen. Right?

When you're when you're the CEO of a company, and you're looking at, where are you putting investments? And what kinds of returns are you getting? Part of that calculus is do I think that this part of the organization is going to spend this money wisely? So you have to kind of ask yourself as a CX professional, how can I create a reputation where people trust that I'm going to be spending my resources wisely.

And maybe you can still spend a bunch right off the bat and get that reputation? I'm sure it's possible. The way it's worked for me is to have a really, really solid backlog first, to talk about potential value. But then to explain to people if I had resources, this is what I would do. And only when they're just like clamoring for it. Yes, please, please. Then I go out, and I spend that money. And I find that that usually is, you know, they're ready for impact. They're ready to understand why we made that investment. And you know, it, I think it makes the organization more trusting to give more resources to the CX team. 

Related Article: 5 Ways Customer Experience Strategies Fail

Making CX More Actionable and Practical

Nicastro: Yeah. Well, Gaby Moran, you're in a great position as a director of customer experience at a big company, and we want to hear more from you. We this, isn't it, we just, this isn't a one off, we're putting you on the spot here. We want to have you as a regular contributor talking about all things CX leadership, CX metrics, yes. So I'm not going to speak for you. What kind of things are top of mind for you? And maybe our readers can expect down the road? 

Moran: Yeah, no, I mean, I'm super excited to share our CX journey at Workato wiith the broader community and what we learn and what we struggle with too, what isn't working and hear from others on how they've tackled those issues. For us a huge, huge point of innovation hopefully, is how do we make CX something that is easier to action on, more practical?

You know as CX professionals, we spent so much time operationalizing like how do we know people's first names? How do we get frontline employees to really close the loop timely, it's all about the processes. And that takes so much effort and energy right now, how can we tackle that data problem, that process problem with new technology and innovative ways but that are really, really practical and make CX easy, fun and impactful to do? So we'll be testing a lot of new things and sharing what we find and where we find success as well.  

Nicastro: Our community is going to be super appreciative of that, our CX leaders who are watching the website, Gaby Moran of Workato, thanks so much for joining us. You've got a busy week with there with your customer conference over there. So back to it. OK.

Moran: Thank you, Dom.

Nicastro: Thank you very much for joining us, bye now.