CX Club – Round 7 – Leadership (part 1) – Motivations, Business Case & Trusted Adviser


In this next video in the CX Club series, Christopher Brooks from Clientship CX and Ian Williams from Jericho look at leadership in terms of the way it relates to customer experience. The specific topics in this video are motivations for undertaking a CX programme, writing a business case in support of customer experience & becoming a trusted adviser to the organisation.


Ian: Hello everyone and welcome to CX club. I would like to introduce my esteemed colleague Christopher Brooks from Clientship. And, first of all Christopher, I’m going to ask you a calibration question. It’s really important. So, The Simpsons or The Flintstones?

Christopher: I thought it was going to be something else then. The Simpsons, every time.

Ian: I agree 100%.

Christopher: Me and the boys watch it. I’ve nearly seen every episode I think. It’s brilliant.

Ian: It’s brilliant. A cultural commentary on America.

Christopher: A guide for life.

Ian: Exactly, I think that’s perfectly right. So, we’re on the same page.

Christopher: Phew!

Ian: It’s good to know where on the same page. Today we can talk about leadership. We’re going to talk about six subjects overall, but this first video is going cover the first three subjects, and those first three subjects are, I’m looking up at the board, that’s where my prompt is. Motivations for an organisation undertaking a customer experience transformation programme, writing a business case to prove the case for customer experience and then becoming a trusted adviser.

The first topic that I want to cover off is what are the motivations, in your opinion, for an organisation undertaking a CX transformation programme? 

Christopher: Okay, I think there’s the poster motivations, there’s the “put the customer at the heart of our business” and then there are the real drivers.

Now if you look at customer experience as an alternative business model, then you can start to look at the commercial value you can drive. You’re looking at retention. You’re looking at shortening the sales cycle. You’re looking at reaching new markets. You’re looking at distinction and differentiation. 

I think typically it’s driven by fear and it’s driven by risk. So, in regulated sectors, the customer is part of the agenda. And therefore the satisfaction scores are measured and performance bonuses are rewarded to organisations that excel and penalties are given to those who do not deliver. You could say if you took those away, would those organisations still be as focused on prioritising customer commitment and customer contentment. I’d like to think so. I’d like to think that it’s the catalyst that takes you in the new direction. But I think quite often that is the driver for it.

Customer experience is also very popular. It’s a popular topic. You know, we’ve seen the evolution from commodity to product to service and this is the new paradigm. I don’t value the service I expect it, it can be instant with technology it can be instant, so therefore it now becomes another rapper, the experience. So, I think as organisations are maturing through their different sector evolutions, we’re finding that experience is becoming an opportunity and interestingly, talking to one of my colleagues in South America, and I’ll get your perspective on this, because I think it is a global thing, but it would be interesting to hear. But in Mexico there is a growth in the middle classes, and and they had something that we didn’t have in the developed countries, they had technology on their side. 

Ian: Yeah. So they’ve not…

Christopher: They don’t see products as anything particularly exceptional, because they get the technology and the service to support it, so experience has become the new status for them. To have experience wrapped around it. So having a vehicle delivered, to your home and then having, kind of, the showroom experience outside your home, becomes a demonstration of your affluence. So it’s just an interesting… We didn’t have that in developed countries, we didn’t have that kind of technology…

Ian: That’s really interesting…

Christopher: Be at home in five minute’s time, because the car is going to be delivered…

Ian: Okay, So from what I understand, I’ve kind of heard four kind of things…

Christopher: Probably, I’ve got a whole load more, but we’ll stop at four…

Ian: So, commercial benefits organisations recognise the commercial benefits

Christopher: Yes, which is kind of the soundest place to start…

Ian: Okay, there is fear, the regulatory sector as you’ve said it

Christopher: Yeah…

Ian: The third one, as I understand it, is because of the fact that customer experience Is quite a cool and trendy thing to do…

Christopher: Yeah…

Ian: And then, you mentioned the fourth one, which for me sounds a little bit like status. So, for customers…

Christopher: And that’s cultural, it’s not everywhere. It’s a cultural thing in some of those areas. 

Ian: Well, I would argue that all of those things are relevant. One of the things that I’ve noticed is that if you go into an organisation and you talk to them about customer experience, sometimes you have that conversation, the initial conversation is with somebody who is a middle management level, or an upper middle management level and that’s one of the very first questions I ask, which is what are the motivations for the organisation in doing the transformation programme, and very often, the answer I get is “we just think it’s a good idea”.

Now of course there’s that trendy thing, let’s do it because it’s something that appears to be good, but it also raises concerns and alarms in my mind if the person who’s been charged to do this doesn’t really understand what the commercial objective of having it happen is.

Christopher: Yeah.

Ian: Then there’s a significant chance if you don’t know what the objectives are, you don’t know what to aim for and therefore whatever you implement isn’t going to necessarily hit the mark. So, one of the things that I attempt to do is if I’m speaking to someone at a middle management layer, I say to them, okay, it would be really, really good if we could speak to somebody at the senior level because part of th… significant part of the customer expense transformation is cultural change and you can’t do cultural change without involvement from people the top. And if it’s a big programme, and if the person I’m speaking to says “oh no you can’t do that, you can’t go and speak to the senior team”, I usually cut it off at that point.

Christopher: It’s kind of a red flag.

Ian: And I say, “no I can’t help you we need to do this or move forward”. Have you come across that as well?

Christopher: Not that resistance. But I mean exactly the same place as you. You know, I think you need to have an understanding, a calibration of the senior leader’s perception on what their current customer experience delivery is. And I’ve been fortunate, I’ve worked with Dr Prof Phil Klauss, who’s built an academic model to support that…

Ian: I know Phil!

Christopher: You know Phil? Yeah, it not only is kind of it makes sense, there is good scientific evidence to show that the organisations who have, I mean there’s a multitude of things you need to get aligned in the right way, Phil’s work has identified kind of 47, and when you get those 47 in the right order, you’re getting the highest ROI on your CX. 

Ian: Yeah. 

Christopher: So, you need to make sure you understand where you are when you start. If the first thing you do is come in and say “Right! We need to listen to our customers”, and you’re diving in, but “don’t listen to your senior stakeholders, they won’t know!” Go talk to the customers! So you go out and you spend maybe 6 or 7 figures on a customer feedback platform, and then your customers tell you “These are the things that are wrong!”, and then what you do is, do you go “Okay, we’ll fix them!”.You go, “Oh my god, I wasn’t expecting that. Close the doors, don’t let them in!”. And now you’ve done the worst thing you could have done. And you’ve just enlivened customers, given them the belief and expectation…

Ian: Created an expectation level. 

Christopher: Yeah! Exactly. Do it towards the end. You know, of course, you need to get the reads in, you just get some sense of what’s going on, but you don’t want to go out straight away and say let’s start measuring and see how we can improve upon it. That’s just a vanity exercise. 

Ian: We’re going slightly off course, but it’s fine, there’s not a problem, because I think we’ve got to have a conversation. But I’ve done both… two different ways of doing Customer Journey Mapping as an information gathering exercise. And one I did, well, I’ve done it several different times, but one approach has been the VoC approach, and when I say VoC, I don’t mean VoC platform, I mean VoC research, so qual and quant, in order to gather information from customers. And that’s big and it’s expensive and it takes a long time to do that approach, it’s really good because you can analyse the data and identify key drivers through multiple regression analysis, etc.

However I’ve also done the other approach which is the customer journey man approach where you get the front line people in the room and these people come across customers on a daily basis, so they know what the issues are the customers have and I often find that’s good because it’s a better way of gathering information, but it’s also a way in which you’re not raising those customer expectations as you quite rightly pointed out, by asking customers the questions.

Okay, so we’ve spoken about lots of different motivations for organisations doing customer experience programs…

Christopher: If I may, I’ll just finish this one as well, as you had prompted in my mind an example where I did kind of get a red flag. It was many many years ago. I’m not going to reveal who it is, as the individual is still in position.

Ian: No, come on. Come on!

Christopher: He’s in a very good position now. It was many years ago, working in the financial services sector, and, actually, I’ve always, from day one, as a direct marketeer, thought “well, you put the customer first and you deliver things better for them than anyone else can”. Whether that’s product, price, or whatever you can do. And we were talking about the customer, and how it would be great if they could develop this new product and campaign around the customer, and the response back was, very much kind of, like Field of Dreams. If we build it, they will come. And I said “no, but you…

And they said “product always comes first, customer buys product, that’s the way it works”, and I very nearly got, kind of, asked to leave, because my boss at the time was like “now, just calm down now”, it just didn’t connect, it didn’t work for me that. And I think that the abundance of technology start-ups at the moment, they’re actually producing solutions for issues customers have, which is very different to how start-ups perhaps used to work before, find a gap in the market. He is now chief customer officer, so, you know I guess everyone can come around, and it wasn’t particular popular way of thinking. Yeah, I’d like to think that mentality where we don’t recognise the value of at least exploring where we are in terms of customer doesn’t exist now, but perhaps it does. I mean, your example… Was that a long time ago, the one you mentioned?

Ian: Erm. Six years ago, something like that. 

Christopher: So still recent enough to kind of…

Ian: Relatively recent…

Okay, thanks Christopher. We need to move on very quickly to the next subject, which is writing a business case.Now this is one of the subjects that is very very close to my heart and when I mentioned on LinkedIn that this is a subject we were going to talk about, Ben Smithwell from Commotion made the point look whatever you do from a leadership perspective if you don’t have a solid business case in place you can forget about it because some of the stakeholders including the finance director are not going to engage with you are not going to be interested in  customer experience unless you can prove there is a real return on investment from doing the activity. And I think that’s something we can both agree with.

Christopher: Yeah.

Ian: However from your perspective what tips and thoughts can you put forward about what needs to be included within a business case?

Christopher: Well, I think it’s probably when we say customer experience, most people think about the delivery of a better experience.

Ian: Yeah.

Christopher: But what I’d say the customer experience has got to work really hard in the organisation, and one of the toughest place it has to work Is around the trading table. It needs to sit there with operations, with marketing, with finance and justify its position, it needs to show other people within the organisation, if you use customer experience as a solution to this particular requirement, it will give everyone around the table, our employees, our shareholders, our customers, our communities a better return than anyone else.

So therefore, it has to work on the same basis as others do. It can’t go in there and say “operations, how satisfied are people with your operations?” or “sales, how satisfied are people with sales?”. You’ve got to go in there with the same commercial terms. What the organisation is measuring. If the organisation is looking for 4 percent growth this year from product development or its looking for increased repeat sales by 12%, that’s the business case that’s got to go against it say have to fold the sentiment back on it and stay commercial.

Ian: One of the challenges I’ve come across… Yes, it has to be commercial. One of the challenges that I’ve come across is where organisations say… Sorry! Just take a step back there…

That when you say it has to remain commercial, you have to put forward something compelling, so you can demonstrate cause and effect. So, if we do this activity, this is what the commercial benefit will be. And some of the models that I’ve come across and it’s similar to the Watermark Consulting study that they do every year, where they show that if there is a direct correlation between organisations with very strong customer satisfaction or Net Promoter Score performance and the financial performance of those organisations from a market perspective and I’ve seen that within a number of different models.

It’s a model that I use, I’ve created business cases that have tried to look historically at an organisation’s NPS data and financial data and see if there’s some kind of correlation between the two. I know that Confirmit, the VoC provider, when they’re doing consultancy with organisations they use a similar model.

Is that, some sort of an approach that you use as well?

Christopher: Yeah, I think to show the overarching correlation is really important but what I kind of get is I can’t, and an organisation cannot change your satisfaction. What they can change is the factors that increase your satisfaction. So, I think if the business a case focuses at that level, you’ve still left a great big piece underneath which is called “trust us”.

And if you’re sitting there at the trading table with people who’ve got evidence all the way through in terms of how much return they anticipate getting, it’s going to be a real struggle. Now I think one of the biggest challenges in customer experience is quite often the solution is at the end of the journey, as opposed to most parts of the business we can start off with a strong hypothesis about what you are going to do and then you can project what you’re get…

Ian: Let me jump in Christopher. I’ve got a really interesting story about this. The whole “trust us” and you’re not actually going to be able to prove it until the end of the process. I hope you don’t mind me jumping in. There was one organisation I was working with in the Middle East, and the Finance Director of that organisation wasn’t Arabic he was a Westerner.

And, we sat down together and I said “let me show you this business model, I believe that if we improve NPS by X amount your financial performance will increase by X amount, because I’d looked at historical data and there is a direct correlation between the two. And his words were “yes, but that could just be coincidence” and I said “yes but that correlation is so close, it’s unlikely to be” and he said “yeah, but it could still be coincidence, couldn’t it?” and I started to get a little bit under the hot under the collar, I started to worry about “is this guy being deliberately difficult”.

And I looked around the table and other members of the senior team all had wry smiles on their faces. They knew, what it was that he was trying to do. And then I realised, I can argue until I’m blue in the face about this correlation between those two things and deep down he knows that the correlation is positive and that there is sufficient proof of cause and effect to make the assumption that…

Christopher: Tell me there’s a happy ending…

Ian: Well, what I did is that, I turned round to him and I said to him “do you have kids?”.

And he went “yeah!”

And I said “This is going to sound like a strange question, but do you love your kids?”

And he went “Yeah, of course I do! Why are you asking me that question?

And I turned around and said “prove it”. 

Now, it was a very risky strategy at the time. I don’t think I’d use it again, but he laughed and he really started to laugh, and I think he got the point that, that at the end of the day, there has to be that trust element there. You have to believe that… Okay, within the business case there is lots of evidence to suggest that this is going to improve the commercial performance of the organisation, but at the end of the day we know that this is the right thing to do by the customers and therefore lets not think about this too much, let’s just go ahead and do it. 

Christopher: Yes absolutely. And I think that, in CX management, what you got to recognise is your customers are your associates you’re working with. And if what we are looking to do for the end customer is to fulfil what matters most to them in a more compelling way than anyone else can, why is it any different here? If we walk in with verbatims and soundbites about this is how happy our customers are, that’s not how operations work, and that’s not how the sales team… That’s not how finance have been trained through the years of accountancy.

You’ve got to understand what’s gonna matter most to them, so that they go “oh my goodness, that is so the right solution and it’s also going to commit customers to us on terms that they value us for, not because we’re selling to them”, so, you know, you’ve got to accept that this is quite a long piece…

Ian: And that comes onto our next subject, actually, becoming a trusted adviser…

Christopher: Bingo! As if by magic…

Ian: As if by magic. So what are your thoughts on becoming a trusted advisor?

Christopher: So I guess there’s two types of adviser. There’s either… there’s advisers (external people) that come in, and hopefully that conversation always starts with “I don’t know why you’re in my business”

Ian: Yeah yeah absolutely…

Christopher: That’s where it should start. Or there’s the kind of internally, and I think we’ll take it from the perspective of internally. Is that what you were getting at? People who work in organisations…

Ian: I’m happy for us to discuss both.

Christopher: So, I think you have to have ensure that you have evidence for what you’re supporting and then I think you’ve got to be very conscious of what the organisation is trying to achieve. There are quite number of areas in customer experience the crossover and overlap in other places.

And I’ve had this myself first-hand. I remember working with a bank, and we developed a set of customer standards and these were things that mattered most to the customers based on what was going to change their behaviour and they were fused with their brand values to give it some kind of uniqueness.

The large advertising agency, brand agency, one of the biggest in the country saw that as a threat.

Ian: Oh really?

Christopher: Rather than saying that bringing to life their brand, in a way that could now connect with customers, it was actually a direct threat. You’re trying to achieve what we are trying to achieve. And it took a long, not that heated, but a long conversation before they kind of got to a point where they went “right!”, and they went out and produced some amazing advertising. Some great brand advertising that really landed the things that mattered most to customers in a way that only that brand could deliver it.

And I think that’s what you got to do as an adviser, you’ve got to kind of understand that it’s not just “hey! No one’s been able to do what they’ve been doing since trading ever began. Thank goodness we’re here!”. It’s about kind of recognising that you’re fitting into an existing model.And you’ve got to kind of evolve that. I was up at the mini factory, and what was really interesting about walking around the many factory was that they’ve now started to do electric cars…

Ian: Yeah

Christopher: Now, electric cars are going to be the only thing in the future.

Ian: Yeah

Christopher: I guess that’s the case, all we going to be living in some kind of Mad Max world! And they kind of had a choice. Let’s open a brand-new factory, as it’s all about electricity and electric cars, and the team went “no, lets of a look and see the ways of working at the moment to see can we incorporate the electric components into the current production lines and they went through and they worked out exactly where the opportunities were and now it fits in.

So, the business model of every single vehicle is individually ordered can still stay the same. Everyone has bought into the values of what everyone else is doing, but now they’ve incorporated this new element to it. Customer experience is a bit like that, it’s not a replacement for everything that’s gone before. It’s actually about coming in and finding out how we can take the organisation to the next level. 

So I think customer experience people have to be conscious of that is the kind of going through the ranks. There’s lots of opportunities to support, fulfil and improve areas for their colleagues. I remember doing a piece with an organisation where there was two outcomes, one was an OPEX and one was a CAPEX saving by improving the customer experience quite significant, it happens quite often, when you have organisations merging.

But actually, what we recognised was we couldn’t actually claim the OPEX, as it actually belongs to all the other parts of the business.They were doing these things already, the experience was going to make what they did even better. 

Ian: Well that’s interesting, as I always argue that every single part of the business is involved either directly or indirectly, with the delivery of the customer experience, and therefore, very often… Which is one of the reasons why watermark look at the relationship between NPS and the overall financial performance of the organisation. 

It’s interesting what you say about, as a consultant coming into an organisation and becoming a trusted adviser. It’s very dangerous to come into the organisation and say “you’re doing it all wrong!”. Because, as a consultant, we want to prove that we are good at what we do, but I have seen situations where I’ve been an associate of other consultancies, and we gone through the door and the senior consultant on that particular project said “oh, you’re doing it all wrong!”, And we didn’t get that piece of work, and part of the feedback was “it didn’t feel like you’d become a trusted adviser, it just felt like you’d come in and criticised the organisation”.

You’ve got to come in and understand what the decision-making unit in the organisation are, who the gatekeepers are, who the decision-makers are, and the point the you make is the every single part of the operation is involved in delivering the customer experience, so you’ve got to understand what the motivations of the different parts of the organisation are and create this common theme that everyone in the organisation can relate to and agree with.

Christopher: And you’ve got to recognise what your remit is as well. Well,, I remember the very first… I worked… I spent a lot of time in the world of agencies and the very first gig we got set up as a consultancy was for an international brand and they wanted me and my colleague to go in there based on my experience and my credibility, but the thing they wanted us to go and do wasn’t what we felt we had a specialism in. So the very first opportunity we got we turned down and my colleague was like “how can we possibly do this?”, And I said because…

Ian: Integrity!

Christopher: Yeah, exactly. I think they’ll trust us more because we’ve said no, and it did prove to be the case. It wasn’t kind of like a well thought through strategy, it was just like “we’ll be out of our depth, okay. That is something kind of is what we’re doing”. 

Ian: And that’s really important. You’d be out of your depth, and therefore you’d potentially do a bad job, but

Christopher: Yeah, we found someone who was credible enough to say “can we recommend this individual?” and I think they did eventually go with them, but it’s just kind of knowing where your… And this is the problem. We talk about customer experience kind of permeating throughout all parts of the business. That’s fine, but that doesn’t mean we are all experts about every part of the business. I always say to clients “we don’t necessarily have the ideas in terms of this is what you should do in terms of what you deliver it. The business has those ideas, were just helping them to kind of enlighten them.

Ian: And that’s what I always say, that as a customer experience consultant, don’t come to me and expect me to give you the answers, my job is almost as a facilitator within your organisation to draw out the ideas as to how we solve the problems that exist, you know my… The ideas are already there, part of the problem, and this is the old adage of “borrow your watch to tell you the time”, but very often as a consultant our job is to go in there and not provide the answers but to know the questions to ask in order to draw the answers out of the organisation.

Christopher: I talk about in terms of kind of policing their CX superpowers, and what I found is I’ve been around for a long time doing what I’ve been doing, and…

Ian: You don’t look that old Christopher. 

Christopher: And I see a lot of people now that I worked with many many years ago in great positions, and they did the right things, good people with integrity who made the right choices and they had had those superpowers, really analyse effectively, great influencers and they came up with… And I love getting involved with “would you like to participate in the… We’re going to be doing a To Be workshop and were going to look and actually what the output could be.” and it’s great. I know I’m not a specialist you know in crop protection in the agricultural sector. 

Ian: Of course.

Christopher: I don’t know how that whole thing works. So I can certainly get to the point where I understand what the customer is looking for and what matters most to them and how the organisation can position itself to deliver it, but to actually come up with the chemical compound or the proposition that’s wrapped around it… I think that’s where consultants sometimes forget, that’s drifting…

Ian: You’re drifting now…

Christopher: You can’t be an expert in everything. 

Ian: You’re too invested in it. 

I often get asked the question “so, you’re a customer experience guy. So, which sectors?” And my answers to that is, you know I have done work in quite a few sectors so I’ve specialised in insurance and financial services, telecommunications, aviation and airlines, so there are certain industries where I’ve focused, but at the end of the day my answer is “no particular sectors, because the approach that I take is about customers, it’s not about the organisation.

Okay Christopher,, thank you very much for covering off those first three subjects, we’re going to see each other in the next video as well, and talk about the next three subjects, but thank you very much for your time. 

Christopher: That’s okay, thank you, I mean really interesting topics. It’s great to talk with you always Ian, but they’re really interesting topics, so thank you. 

Ian: Thank you very much, I’ll see you in the next video. 

Christopher: Okay goodbye.

Ian: See you all. Bye. 

Christopher: Bye.