Who owns your customer experience?

I’m regularly asked my views on ownership of the customer experience, and over the years, my response has swung wildly from a single dedicated contact to the whole business.

But let’s step back a moment and consider what do we mean by “own” the customer experience?  It’s not a tangible asset, but a veritable melange of products, services, processes, measures, systems, values and behaviours that combine to deliver what your customers pay for.  Chief Customer Officers and Customer Experience Directors are becoming ever-more common as company rush to jump on the bandwagon of being seen to champion the cause.

The risk we take is that we try and compartmentalise and constrain this beautiful thing called Customer Experience.  What we create, how we interpret and measure it and ultimately what it feels like to the customer can be so far away from each other as to be unrecognisable.  Any customer experience guru will have you chant the mantra of “listen to your customer” to avoid the above scenario arising – and rightly so! It closes the loop between what we create and what is consumed.  I believe that when most people have asked me “who owns the customer experience”, they are talking about its delivery – the consumption of the customer experience.

Lots of start-ups employ amazing people, who are able to perform the jobs of various functions.  As the business grows, these “diamonds” take on more and more skills and ultimately end up in senior roles.  Whilst this progression is clearly deserved, there’s a risk that as a business fleshes out the various functions (previously performed by the “diamond”), knowledge of the role, the tasks and, for customer facing functions, the behaviours are lost.  What was once an incredibly personal experience with diligent and reliable delivery can quickly start to feel generic, task-based and no different to the competition.

Last week I talked about engaging the customer facing teams – this is your biggest win in terms of keeping your customer experience fresh and human.  Throw down the gauntlet to the team, re-enforce their role and their responsibility to the customer, then encouraging them to demonstrate their skills and rewarding them when they demonstrate successful delivery is key.  Time away from their desks may be hard to achieve, but ultimately, you wont drive improvement unless you create the space to do this.  A continuous follow-up loop to keep this spark alive is so important, so this cant be a one-off exercise (a mistake often made by larger organisations!)

As customer experience leaders, we are on the hook with the management team and shareholders for driving customers through the customer journey to retention and advocacy, but we can’t achieve this goal in isolation.  It’s our job to keep the broader business, especially those customer facing function with the customer front of mind!

Back to the original question, who owns the customer experience – my view is that we all own customer experience, but no-one owns the customer experience.  Instead, here’s my points of how I’d carve things up:

  • As leaders, we hold collective responsibility for ensuring the magic happens
  • We own the tasks, projects, behaviours that drive the customer experience
  • We manage the changes to our customer experience
  • We’re responsible for empowering our customer-facing teams
  • We owe it to our customers to ensure we know what that experience really feels like
  • Those delivering the experience have earned the right to be heard & drive change

It’s never going to be easy, there is no magic formula, but take an hour or so to reflect on where responsibilities and ownership currently lie and whether those who deliver the experience are fully enabled to do so.  Could you make subtle refinements to make it work better overall for your customer?

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