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How Silicon Valley’s CX leaders are tackling their top 3 challenges

How Silicon Valley’s CX leaders are tackling their top 3 challenges

A rare behind-the-scenes look at what’s keeping CX leaders up at night in 2020.

Do you ever wonder how customer experience is really getting done at other companies? Do other CX leaders face the same challenges? Do they have more internal support and resources to drive action, impact, and improvement from the customer insights they work so hard to enable? Is it possible that you’re the only one that doesn’t have this whole CX thing all figured out?

In her new role as VP of Customer Experience & Advocacy at SurveyMonkey, Christine Rimer found herself wondering about these very questions and knew she wasn’t the only one. Seeking to build connections with the CX community, she invited a group of CX peers from across the Bay Area for dinner and, in advance, asked them to pick the table topic. Just like Christine, this group of around a dozen leaders was eager to discuss their toughest challenges, biggest goals, and best metrics to help them prove value in 2020.

The lively conversation revealed that even the most accomplished CX leaders at some of the most successful high-growth companies in Silicon Valley still struggle with the same underlying challenges of influencing cross-functional partners to drive action, managing CX programs across system complexity, and driving a company culture of customer centricity. Here, we’ll summarize the top 3 challenges that are keeping CX leaders up at night right now—and offer some practical recommendations to take back to your org.

1. Solving the Product–CX disconnect

One of the hottest dinner topics was how to successfully influence the Product team to prioritize adjusting the product roadmap based on insights from the customer experience program.

CX professionals are drawn to their work because they want to make a positive impact on their customers’ experience. After setting up dozens of listening posts, gathering feedback from customers, and enthusiastically sharing synthesized insights with their Product counterparts, there’s nothing more frustrating if nothing changes. Common objections CX leaders hear from the Product team include limited resources, CX efforts being a lower priority than other initiatives, or skepticism about the relevance of the feedback itself. At times, the loudest customers get the attention while the majority’s voice stays buried in the data. 

There’s no denying the Product team has a hard job. They’re often working with technology and resource limitations and must sift through lots of input from cross-functional partners in Sales, Support, and Marketing, who all have a differing opinion about what matters most. Customer feedback can often be inconsistent, conflicting, and received too late to impact decisions. Given a CX leader’s dependency on the product team to take action to improve a customer’s experience, a strong partnership is critical to getting things done. 

Practical recommendations:

  • Seek to understand. Try to understand, from the Product team’s perspective, why your customer insights aren’t influencing the roadmap as quickly as you think they should. Rather than asking them to shake up their roadmap half-way through the year, flip your approach and start by understanding your product team’s 2020 priorities and where customer insights could help. Then, get them the customer data they need to make more confident decisions. 
  • Connect CX efforts to profit. The Product team is under pressure to drive growth. To build a case for prioritizing customers’ requests, it’s imperative to connect customer experience initiatives to growth and revenue or pinpoint the cost of not taking action. Often where profits flow, resources will go. 

2. The impact of acquisitions

Mergers and acquisitions are a reality in Silicon Valley, so it was no surprise that many of the CX leaders we spoke with said their CX initiatives had been impacted by company mergers that resulted in multiple systems and customer databases. Some CX leaders from large companies are juggling programs across a dozen Salesforce instances. 

Of course this complexity brings with it a whole host of challenges for running a successful CX program. Getting a holistic view of the customer experience, triggering feedback from multiple CRM instances and email platforms, and marrying customer feedback to operational and financial data to prove impact become exponentially more difficult. Most importantly, times of change can have a huge impact on the satisfaction of your customers, often triggering uneasiness and worry. 

Practical recommendations:

  • Orient to action: The more complex systems you have in the mix, the harder the end-to-end execution becomes and the more important it is to be laser focused on the “so what” of your program. What decision are you helping leaders make? What action are you trying to drive? If you’re asking a question, adding a touchpoint for feedback, or pulling meta-data from a system and you aren’t crystal clear of how that will help drive CX improvements in the next 6 months, consider further focus.
  • Integrate for impact:  One CX leader said the first thing she did was invest in creating a close partnership with her IT team. This allowed her to put in place the integrations her team needed to flow feedback data into the systems of record, where it can be accessed by all the teams who need it to take action. 

3. Culture, culture, culture

When asked his top 3 priorities for 2020, one CX leader said culture, culture, and culture. When it comes to motivating teams to take action, part of the challenge can be accountability. In an organization where the customer is not truly at the center of every team, it’s common to run into pushback from folks whose priorities and metrics are focused on their functional objectives rather than CX improvements.

At our dinner, we learned that CX leaders encounter this frequently, which is why many of them report their top challenge for 2020 is driving a culture of customer centricity. To get anything done, you need the rest of the organization on your side. Everyone has to play a part in delivering an incredible customer experience. But how do you put the customer’s success at the center of every employee’s work? And how do you shift an organizational mindset that’s long been focused on products and profits? 

Practical recommendations:

  • Connect CX to employee experience: According to our research, among employees who think about customers at least once a week, 72% find their jobs meaningful. For those who think about customers less often, that number drops to 58%. Learn more in our report: How a customer centric culture ties to happier employees.
  • Appeal to emotions. Rather than relying on numbers alone to influence the roadmap, use storytelling to humanize the data. Leveraging the voices and feelings of individual customers through stories can help your partners build an authentic, emotional connection to the people who will feel the impact of their work.

What’s next for CX leaders?

In spite of the challenges ahead, the CX leaders we hosted shared an enthusiasm and dedication to tackling obstacles, building alignment and stronger partnerships with cross-functional stakeholders, and working hard to serve their customers in 2020. A few key takeaways from the evening: 

  • When you’re starting out, it’s key to aim for small victories and stay focused in order to influence Product, work across complex systems, and change company culture. 
  • Look at the big picture to prioritize your time. While touchpoints can provide focus, they can also leave you with blindspots. Start by looking at what your customer is trying to achieve, and then help them get to their desired outcome. 
  • The role of the CX leader can become overwhelming, which is why it’s so important to have real, authentic conversations with your peers.

Want to stay in the loop about the latest happenings in the CX space? Follow us here and tune into our monthly Linkedin Livestream series, #CXConfessions, where CX leaders will share how they’re navigating the evolving role of customer experience.