Woman's hand with the word "no" on it
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Forrester predicted last year that one in four customer experience (CX) professionals who can’t prove their value to the business will lose their jobs this year.  That prediction was published in October 2019, so let’s take that for what it’s worth: the research and prediction scrapbook for anything before 2020 could be tossed due to COVID-19.

However, CX leaders should not dismiss the fact that no matter how great their data is and how glossy their CX-metrics presentations are, they need to keep in mind one of their primary functions is to get C-Suite leaders to say “yes.” Experts in interviews with CMSWire shared that advice, some common reasons executives say no to CX professionals and what they can do about it. 

Common Roadblock: CX? Not Now

Some CX practitioners are hearing “no” more often now in the current climate. CX practitioners often run into roadblocks at the C-Suite level trying to gain support in workplace environments where revenues are down because of the pandemic, according to Jeannie Walters, CCXP, CEO of Experience Investigators. “Lately, we're hearing a lot about how organizations can't focus on (CX) right now because they have to focus on supporting our employees at home,” Walters said. “Or they’ll talk about short-term obstacles instead of looking at those long-term goals because customer experience is a long-term play. It really is.”

To not help matters, Walters also finds CX practitioners brimming with excitement for ideas to improve customer experience but oftentimes lacking a stronger foundation for their own programs. “I think a big one is from the beginning, CX practitioners are not really set up for success,” walters said.“They don't connect the actual outcomes of the CX program with the desirable outcomes that the business has in mind.”

Too often, CX practitioners get excited about ideas. They’ll want a journey map. Then, they realize just how much work it is. “And they realize that you need to tie that to what is the goal of that journey map and how does that serve the company?” Walters said. “They get kind of tired out quickly.”

Related Article: A Holistic Customer Experience Means Saying Goodbye to Siloed Thinking

Are You Asking the Right Questions?

Krishna Mahavadhi, a customer experience manager, said that although CX initiatives are prioritized by every organization today, the initiatives never are entirely successful. “The simple reason for this is consumer experience is not a short-term metric where you can see returns on a weekly or a monthly dashboard,” Mahavadhi said. “It becomes challenging to continually invest in CX initiatives without looking at an actual return on investment for an extended period of time.”

It all comes down to asking the right question, according to Mahavadhi. He cited the example of an AI chatbot; nine out of 10 organizations, he said, would instantly jump on such a project considering the cost-cutting they could achieve by not having human agents answering phone calls. However, he added, most of these projects end up being unsuccessful once customers reduce interacting with these chatbots because they don’t find any value. The right question to ask is, “How do we help customers who hate to wait for a human agent?” according to Mahavadhi. That way, he said, an AI chatbot project becomes a complementary tool that customers can use along with the human agents providing continuous value to customers.

“As CX professionals I think the prime responsibility on us is to just ensure organizations do not jump into CX initiatives by starting with a wrong question,” he said. “Once it starts with the right question then naturally metrics and results and return on investments will follow.”

Internal Misalignments

Jannis Betschki, who writes a customer service blog Generation Reply, finds commonly executives respond to CX initiatives with, "We need to focus on sales right now.” How does it get to that point? From his own personal experience in different businesses, it mainly comes down to internal misalignment. “CX practitioners, be it product managers or the customer service team, are usually focused on the long-term goal: building a brand that stands for excellence in customer experience,” Betschki said. “They want to build a business that grows organically. After an interaction with a company, customers should feel so excited that they tell their friends. Executives who commonly say the sentence above (focusing on sales), usually have a short-term goal in mind: hitting the numbers for the quarterly report.”

Betschki said CX practitioners need to keep pushing. Don't be afraid to speak up. There are plenty of studies out there that show the positive impact of good CX on sales. “CX and customer service has always been seen as necessary evil,” he said. “That is changing now. As CX practitioners, we need to make ourselves heard and advocate for our company's interests internally and externally.”

Related Article: High-Impact Customer Experience Tactics

Don’t See “No” as the End

Stephanie Thum, CCXP, founding principal of Practical CX, said there are many reasons CX pros can get shot down. Executive resistance is common. “But look it as a form of feedback,” she said. “Re-examine your talk track. Are you framing your internal pitches in the context of what is best for the business, or just what is best for customers? Yes, customers are a noble cause. But the CX work is also about improving business efficiencies and bottom lines, clearing paths for employee retention, and finding business development opportunities. Make sure you're speaking the language of the entire business and of others in the business. Not just your own language and the language of customer experience.”

CX Can’t Be on an Island

So who can do better? We asked Walters about the onus of getting CX programs through organizations. Do C-Suite executives or CX practitioners need to do more? In response, Walters said it’s up to CX practitioners to start building bridges before they need them.

“We need to work with CIOs, we need to work with the data folks, we need to work with marketing,” Walters said. “We need to have a cross-functional coalition to make things happen. Because otherwise, if you're charged with customer experience, and all that really means for you is tracking the metrics, that has absolutely no teeth. That's where there's a huge missing piece in many organizations: that cross functional leadership and support. And so when CX practitioners pitch a project, if they're not tying it back to those bigger goals and the financial outcomes, then why would the executive say yes?”