The best service-focused organizations are led by chief experience officers whose devotion to customer experience comes out in everything they say, do, and are.
The overall thesis of this series of four articles is that the only four ways to succeed as a CEO are to act as chief enabler, enforcer, enroller or customer experience officer. This is the final choice flowing from your overall strategic choice, which dictates your choice of culture, organization, how to operate, and the CEO’s role.
The framework for What It Takes To Accelerate Through A Strategic Inflection Point is laid out in that earlier article. The main point is that you must align your culture, organization, operations and CEO’s real job around one of four strategies. The overall framework for CEOs’ focus is laid out in my article on Why Most CEOs Are Not Strategic Personally. This current article will dig into what it means to be the chief experience officer.
Best-in-class service organizations are marked by the flexibility, purpose and caring (and interdependence) of their decentralized interpersonal leaders operating with guided accountability under the direction of chief experience officers leveraging helpful guidelines.
Strategy – Service
“I’ve learned that people won’t remember what you said. And people won’t remember what you did. People will only remember how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
The only thing that matters in a service-focused organization is the customer’s experience. And the only thing that matters about the customer’s experience is how the customer feels.
Culture – Flexibility
Great customer service requires flexibility. Customer service organizations are purpose driven. And their purpose is always customer focused, driving how the customer feels. Flexibility and interdependence are key. There are no heroes except the customers. Everything can be sacrificed – in service of the customer.
Organization – Decentralized
This only works if decisions are pushed as close to the customer as possible. For great customer service organizations, the more they can decentralize, the better.
Operations – Guided Accountability
Great customer service organizations operate with guided accountable. Everyone holds themselves accountable for how they make each and every customer they come in contact with feel.
Clear guidelines are critical. Think Goldilocks. Policies – mandatory, definite courses of action that all must follow – are too strict. Principles – ways of thinking about action – are too loose. Guidelines – preferred courses or methods of action that all should generally follow – are just right, freeing people up to act in the best interest of the customer with the guidance they need to make decisions on the spot.
CEO – Chief Experience Officer
In a service-focused, flexible, decentralized organization operating with a guided accountability the “E” in CEO should stand for Experience. The Chief Experience Officer owns the vision and the values. They must live customer experience in everything they say, do, and are. If they don’t fundamentally believe, they will get caught.
Just like all that matters for customers is how people in the organization make them feel, all that matters for members of the organization is how customers and others in their organization make them feel. Leaders’ must talk about customers first. They must act customers first. They must believe and reinforce customers first every way, every time.
Service-oriented people love the attitude of chief experience officers. Those that don’t quite get it won’t be so sure. Those that value independence will see the CEO as too unfocused. Those that value stability will see the CEO as a renegade. Those that value interdependence will see the CEO as out of control. That’s the cost of the required flexibility.
If you’re leading a service organization, both parts of guided accountability are critical to effective decentralization. Decentralizing without guidance is abrogating your authority. Guidance without accountability turns the guidance into theoretical gibberish. Only by letting people take up true accountability for the customer experience within agreed guidelines will things go the way you want. Though, if you’ve read this far you know that it’s not about what you want. It’s about what the customer wants.