Microphone and stand in front of graduation ceremony audience against a background of auditorium.
PHOTO: wideonet

Customer experience is on a tear, with the market for CX products expected to increase by more than 12% annually over the next five years. This bodes well for customer experience professionals, but how does a new CX leader maximize their opportunity when they’re newly hired to kickstart or revamp a customer experience program?

Even within the B2B sector, approaches to CX vary significantly depending on company size, culture, maturity of existing CX programs, leadership preferences and numerous other factors. So how do you win over hearts and minds in your first year? How do you get from day one, when some people may not even fully understand what you’ve been hired to do, to 12 months later, when they’re offering you additional staff and more budget?

I’ve been fortunate to have had a great experience in my first year as head of CX at enterprise automation company Workato. The leadership has been appreciative of my efforts, and I’m now setting expanded priorities for my second year. But it took some strategizing to get here, so I wanted to share what I’ve learned from this and my previous CX roles in the hope others can learn from it, too.

Who Holds Keys to Customer Experience Leadership Success?

To build a successful program, step one is knowing who makes the investment decisions. The people who are most directly impacted by CX from a functional perspective often are not the ones who can unlock the resources that will move the needle for your program. Identify who holds the purse strings early in your engagement. This won’t be the same at every company, so don’t be misled by past experiences. 

You must then figure out what that person values in a CX program. In my case it was the CEO, who was interested in making immediate improvements for customers by understanding their journey, mapping out their experience and better meeting their needs at strategic moments. That’s a bit different from traditional CX programs, which often begin by establishing an NPS baseline before addressing customer improvements. Both can be effective, but you should understand what’s important to the person who primarily sponsors your efforts.

From there, I was able to build an initial program that provided exactly the right mix of qualitative and quantitative information for which our CEO was looking. After that, the conversation quickly turned to: “That’s very powerful, now here are three more issues I’d like you to look at.”

Related Article: Do You Have the Traits of a CX Leader?

Leave Your CX Preconceptions at the Door

Don’t come into the job with preconceived notions of how a CX program should be structured. Be inquisitive and open minded, because you need to understand how your new employer works and what it needs to be successful. Does it need quantitative or qualitative information? A new metric or anecdotal customer comments? Are there specific forums where that information needs to be surfaced?

In short, determine how CX can most effectively make an impact on your particular business. 

Earn Trust Broadly By Showing You Are There to Help

Everyone who owns a program within a company is a seller of sorts, whether that’s CX, marketing, engineering or something else. The business leads are your customers, and you want them to know that your primary job is to make them more successful.

Meet with as many as you can in the first few months and explain that your role isn't just to understand the customer experience but to provide information that will make them more successful in their jobs. People love to talk about their needs, and listening will build trust and appreciation and provide you with valuable information that will support your efforts in future.

Related Article: Where to Look for New Customer Experience Talent and Leadership

Build Out Your Backlog of CX Projects 

I capture everything that people tell me they need in these conversations, however ambitious it may seem at the time. You’re gathering information here about projects that departments and stakeholders feel will move the needle for them.

This is your project backlog, and it’s important to record it all so that later, when your program is ready to expand, you can make a case for all the great work in the company that you can do.

Show Restraint Even With CX Resources

Until you’ve gathered this information, show restraint. This is counterintuitive, but refrain from asking for resources until you understand the scope of what you can achieve and how it maps to the company’s success. When I was offered more resources two months into the job, I explained that I would need help eventually, but that first I wanted to understand what we could accomplish and what my priorities should be. This is a great way to demonstrate business acumen: You’re showing that any investment you’re given will be thoughtfully applied, which generates the trust and goodwill you need to expand your program in future.

The approach above worked very well for me. The CX industry has conventional methods for building programs, and too often we try to defend or impose those methods without considering what a particular business needs. Every company is at a different stage in its journey, composed of individuals with different priorities and needs.

Understand what those needs are, show that you can address them responsibly and effectively, and your customer experience program will soon be the talk of the company.