We all know that sleep is important, which is why a lot of studies specifically focus on what keeps the CEO up at night.

You can read a list of the most common culprits in the research outlined through IBM Global CEO StudyPwC CEO Talent Challenge, and the yearly reports of the Conference Board.

Over the past years the usual suspects have topped the list: dealing with change, being innovative, and acquiring the right talent. These are indeed big and complex challenges.

But in recent years, another challenge has been on the rise: the relationship with the customer.

Conference Board Rankings

I see it also in my personal work. Customer-centricity and the customer experience are challenges that have become a more prominent in the minds of my clients.

It’s a Challenge

Most companies struggle with the challenge of creating a customer-centric organization. If we think about how businesses operated many years ago, craftsmen always had direct contact with their customers.

Then as corporations grew, “the customer” became an abstract entity, without direct contact with the producer. In fact, the term client was not used all that much.

Today with the internet, there’s increased competition and pressure as a result of the information spread through social media. Customers regained back influence and power.

Whose Challenge Is It?

For me, one of the most interesting aspects of a company is whether the emphasis on customer experience is embedded within the company, or if it remains the burden of the few people in direct contact with the client.

There are legendary examples of great customer service and truly customer-centered company cultures.

So what can managers do to shape a customer-centric company culture? As always, leadership has its role to play in terms of generating the Direction, Alignment, and Commitment (DAC) needed to address this challenge.

The Ways to the Customer

In our work to clarify how to “lead for customer experience,” we have created this holistic GPS of all the roads managers can walk to increase the customer orientation in their company:

Customer Experience Roadmap

  • Empathy Road: It all starts with empathizing for your customer segments. Tools to help you do that include: Empathy Mapping, observation techniques, drawing the customer journey, and listing the moments of truth.
  • Value Avenue: How does offering help to your customers (but be awesome at it!) heal their pains and contribute to their gains? One tool to help you here is a Value Map.
  • Satisfaction Boulevard: How are you satisfying your customer, and how do you know? One interesting tool here is the Kano model on satisfiers, dissatisfiers, and delighters.
  • Brand & Simplicity Lane: How can you leverage your brand to create a great customer experience? Brands work on an emotional level, and are less controlled by organizations these days. How can you use social media to continuously shape your brand?
  • Design Drive: In what ways do you have the customer in mind when creating new products and services? A popular approach to do so is Design Thinking.
  • Expectation Street: How do you manage customer expectations? One tool to help you here is the Customer Service Gap Model.
  • Alignment Parkway: We are getting on a major road here. Most companies we spoke with indicate that aligning internal structures and processes to drive better customer experience is a major challenge. We have developed a cross-company health check to help you focus your action in this area.
  • Company Culture: Ultimately, we believe that care for the customer is everyone’s business, not just the task of the customer service department or sales. When faced with the choice between running the business as usual for short-term financial gain, or taking care of the long-term customer relationship, often the decision is to go for the first one. How can a company do both? A tool to consider here is polarity thinking.

The GPS to customer experience breaks the challenge down in different paths. The overarching goal remains to arrive at a customer-centric culture.

What are your challenges in leading for customer experience?

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