What Makes a Great Customer Experience Leader?
By Ron Welty, Founder & Chief Client Officer
Customers are constantly increasing their expectations for brands. According to Salesforce, 66 percent say it takes more for a company to impress them with new products and services than ever before. When you look at the companies that boast some of the best customer experiences, what you’ll often find is that there are strong leaders behind them.
Customer experience leaders are becoming highly sought after to lead the charge in acquiring new customers, meeting their expectations, and converting them into advocates. How do you find such an exceptional customer experience leader? Here are 11 essential traits to look for.
From email to in-person conversations, great leaders know how to effectively communicate. Customer experience leaders, essentially, bring the voice of the customer to the company. It’s important, then, to get your message across clearly and concisely and by using the right channel. Whether it’s sharing data with your marketing department or gathering feedback from your social media team, leaders need to be comfortable communicating with customers, associates, and executives.
Great leaders understand they need to share the microphone. In doing so, they need to listen to and welcome feedback from both customers and associates. In order to effectively communicate feedback and expectations, customer experience leaders need to first give their undivided attention before offering a solution. By listening to the customer, leaders can then better understand the customer’s needs and translate it into company initiatives.
One of the primary jobs of a customer experience leader is to create a culture of customer-centricity within the organization. Motivation, then, is crucial to championing your team to maintain a customer-first mindset and deliver exceptional experiences. When associates feel motivated, inspired, and encouraged, it can lead to better job satisfaction and a better experience for that associate. In return, a better associate experience can also lead to an improved customer experience.
In creating a culture of customer-centricity, leaders must be approachable. Consider an “open door” policy that applies to both customers and associates. Customers should feel comfortable asking questions and providing feedback, and associates should feel encouraged to speak up, as well. Along with being approachable, leaders should also be easily accessible so that associates can share their thoughts whenever an idea strikes or a challenge is met.
Empathy is an important trait for any customer experience leader. Leaders can practice empathy by understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, or vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experiences of their customers. By practicing empathy, customer experience leaders will be better equipped to anticipate and meet customer needs.
Tony Hsieh, CEO of online shoe retailer Zappos, exemplifies what it means to be an empathetic customer experience leader. Whether it’s delivering shoes in time for a wedding or helping a hungry client order a pizza, Hsieh and his team serve as great examples of practicing empathy in the customer experience.
Transparency is key for any brand. A great customer experience leader won’t keep important information from associates and customers nor guarantee anything they can’t deliver. To be transparent, leaders must be honest and take accountability for their actions.
Dominos serves as a great example here. After receiving negative feedback about the taste of their pizza, the company owned up to their poor reputation in a nationwide campaign and reintroduced their improved pizzas made with fresh ingredients.
Trust is one of the most important building blocks of any relationship. Customers want brands they can trust, so it’s important that leaders exemplify that through their brand. Leaders can build trust by improving associate experiences, improving customer security measures, being accessible, and providing consistent customer experiences.
Touted as one of the most trustworthy brands, Levi Strauss & Co. serves as a great example of building trust for over 165 years. Despite the rise of fast fashion and changes in denim trends, Levi’s maintains its “built-to-last” message through its quality and signature design details that have withstood the test of time.
Any leader’s role can be stressful at times. It can be challenging to meet customer experience KPIs, especially when a customer leaves a negative review or an associate fails to follow protocol. When that happens, a leader must be able to stay positive in working to remedy the situation. In creating a customer-centric culture, it’s important for leaders to maintain a positive disposition by smiling and using upbeat language. Associates tend to take after their leaders, so while negative emotions are natural, it’s important not to brood over them.
Customer expectations and trends are constantly changing. Leaders need to be ready to adapt at a moment’s notice. A day in the life of a customer experience leader is never the same. One day, you may be experimenting with augmented reality, the next your team may have a fake online review thrown their way. Being flexible is crucial to meeting the evolving needs and expectations of your customers.
As we’ve said, customer expectations and trends are always emerging. Leaders need to stay up-to-date on the latest solutions to improve the customer experience. They need to be willing to take risks that could lead to high rewards, like improved customer retention or a competitive edge. Read blogs, subscribe to newsletters, and don’t be afraid to try out the latest technology. Whether it’s artificial intelligence one day, or voice commerce the next, leaders must always be innovating with the latest customer experience solutions.
Apple is a great example here. Whether it’s removing the headphone jack in favor of wireless earbuds or adding additional camera lenses to capture the perfect picture, the tech giant isn’t afraid to test the waters with new products and updates.
A good leader understands that they can’t do it alone. A collaborative spirit is essential, which is why it’s important to build a team of associates and partners that are focused on improving your customer experience. Whether you’re looking to make your next hire or evaluating a company to partner with, it’s important that your customer experience goals and expectations align.
When you partner with IntelliShop, we’ll take the time to understand your core values, needs, and goals to design customer experience solutions that can take you from good to great. Contact IntelliShop today to request a consultation.