How to Gain Executive Buy-In for CX Initiatives

Shaun Belding, author of The Journey to WOW

Shaun Belding, author of The Journey to WOW

Advertising disclosure: We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.

"Our executives aren't committed."

That's the biggest gripe I hear about customer experience, or CX. Companies are launching new initiatives, but executives aren't making CX a true priority.

Here are some statements I've heard from frustrated leaders:

  • "We just report our Net Promoter Score results, but don't do anything."

  • "All we've done is have endless committee meetings."

  • "My VP doesn't want to hear customer feedback."

  • "I don't think our CEO actually knows what CX means."

  • "We were in the process of implementing the CX vision, when marketing surprised us with a new one."

One factor is the confusion between customer experience and customer service. 

Customer service teams are re-naming themselves the "customer experience" team, but customer experience is much broader than just service. (If you aren't sure about the difference, you can check out this handy explainer.)

There are other barriers to gaining executive buy-in.

CX expert Shaun Belding highlights a number of them in his book, The Journey to WOW: The Path to Outstanding Customer Experience and Loyalty. It's a story about a company embarking on a CX initiative and the difficulty the CEO faces when trying to get everyone on board.

The book is available on Amazon and I highly recommend it. 

Belding and I recently had a conversation about getting the c-suite to buy-in to CX initiatives. He provided insightful responses to a wide range of questions:

  • Why is it difficult to get buy-in for CX initiatives?

  • Should there be someone in the c-suite with CX in the title?

  • What does the CEO need to do to get the rest of the team to buy-in?

  • How do you prevent CX from becoming just a "flavor of the month" program?

  • Why is it challenging for leaders to embrace a CX vision?

You'll gain a ton of practical ideas by watching the 21 minute interview.

You can learn more about Belding by visiting his website or following him on Twitter.

I encourage you to pick up a copy of Belding's book, The Journey to WOW, and learn how to get your own CX journey back on track! 

Book Review: Would You Do That to Your Mother?

Advertising disclosure: We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.

Jeanne Bliss's new book would be a perfect addition to your company's customer experience book club.

The format of Would You Do That To Your Mother lends itself well to discussion. There are enough practical ideas for improving your customers' experience that you'll surely find something to implement.

The book asks you to imagine your mom as your customer. What type of experience would you want her to have? How can you apply lessons learned from Mom as a kid to make your customers' lives better?

A sign at Einstein Bagels encouraging customers to behave the way mom taught us.

A sign at Einstein Bagels encouraging customers to behave the way mom taught us.

There are four principles described in the book. Each comes with clear descriptions and many examples of what Bliss calls "Make Mom Proud" companies that are using the principles to succeed.


Enable Employees to Thrive

This principle means hiring people who fit with your organization's culture, and then enabling them to bring their best self to work each day.

One example Bliss shares comes from Vail Resorts, a company that runs ski resorts. It has banned the words "Our policy is" and other trigger words that could make a guest angry in a tense situation. Employees are instead empowered to provide a variety of goodwill gestures to make things right such as free lift tickets or a complimentary meal.


Make It Easy to Do Business With You

The idea here is to remove friction between your customers and your business so it becomes easy to do business with your company. 

If you don't already know this, removing friction is becoming a huge trend! It's the focus of Gopher Sport, winner of ICMI's 2018 Global Award for Best Small Contact Center. Shep Hyken's new book, The Convenience Revolution (October 2018), is written entirely around this concept as well!

Bliss gives the example of Casper's 100-day trial period for new mattresses. The company realized it's difficult to pick out the perfect mattress by lying on several options in a store for a few minutes each. So Casper gives customers 100 days to try return their new mattress for a full refund if they don't like it.


Help Your Customers Achieve Their Goals

The third principle is based on the concept that you are more likely to get what you want if you help other people get what they want. 

In other words, Bliss describes "Make Mom Proud" companies as having a customer service vision. This is a shared definition of outstanding service (or an outstanding experience) that gives every employee a clear and unified purpose.

Ikea is a terrific example shared in the book. As a customer myself, I know how Ikea makes it easy to find functional, stylish furniture on almost any budget. Walk into any Ikea store and you can see evidence of this vision in nicely-appointed rooms decked out in incredibly low-priced furniture and accessories.


Establish a Balanced Relationship with Customers

The fourth principle focuses on companies sticking to their values. This helps customers learn to trust companies since they know what they stand for and can trust them to remain consistent.

An example that really stood out in this chapter is Lemonade Insurance. One of the values the company operates under is trust, and it has designed its insurance claim process to demonstrate that. Customers filing a claim can skip a lot of paperwork and audits and simply record a short video of themselves taking an honesty pledge.

I hadn't heard of Lemonade Insurance before reading Bliss's book, so I had to check them out. The story of the company processing and paying a claim in just three seconds is incredible.


The Bottom Line

Would You Do That To Your Mother? is a thought-provoking guide to giving your customers a better experience. The writing style easily lends itself to a company book club, where you can read a chapter, discuss the principles, and identify ways to implement the concepts in your own organization.

It's currently available on Amazon or get bulk discounts at 800-CEO-READ.

Book Review: Be Amazing or Go Home

Advertising disclosure: We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.

Shep Hyken's new book gets to the heart of what make someone exceptional at customer service.

The genesis of Be Amazing or Go Home was a conversation Hyken had with one of his own employees. This person had been an outstanding contributor for about a year until something changed. Suddenly, her commitment wavered and she began delivering sub-par results.

Hyken's company, Shepard Presentations, operates under the customer service vision, "Always Be Amazing!" He worked with his employee to help her fulfill the vision until it became apparent she had lost her desire. He finally gave her two choices, "You can be Amazing... or go home."

The story has a good ending. His employee decided to go home, and eventually found a new job that was a better fit. She and Hyken are still on good terms. And Hyken's employee was the one who suggested their conversation would make for a good book!

It did.


Amazement Defined

This is a concept that Hyken regularly discusses in his books. Here's his definition:

Amazement is a predictable and consistent above-average experience.

I appreciate that Hyken doesn't try to paint a picture of some over-the-top, unsustainable service experience. He correctly argues that doing things a little better than the competition over time will cement a reputation for amazing service.

So it's not a one-time grand gesture. Amazement is what you create when you work at delivering above-average service every single day.


The Seven Habits That Create Amazement

Hyken describes seven habits that create amazement.

The book is aimed squarely at individuals, though these are definitely habits customer service leaders can share with their teams. Even a freelance consultant (like me) can pick up some wonderful ideas.

I won't spoil them all (buy the book!). Instead, I'll point out one of my favorites: Amazing People Are Authentic.

This habit really resonated with me. Some of the characteristics of authenticity include being yourself, personalizing your interactions with others, and being as good as your word.

Hyken himself exemplifies all of the seven habits described in his book. These aren't ideas he made up just to write his latest bestseller! He truly lives them each day.

If that isn't authentic, I don't know what is!

Book Review: Chip Bell's Kaleidoscope: Delivering Innovative Service That Sparkles

This is a special Friday blog post. 

I just couldn't wait to tell you about Chip Bell's new book, Kaleidoscope: Delivering Innovative Service That Sparkles.

I've been lucky enough to see Chip speak at a couple of conferences I attended. His good humor and enthusiasm are contagious, and I could almost hear his voice as I read this book.

Kaleidoscope is an excellent resource for anyone who wants to deliver innovative customer service that's truly memorable. You can apply these concepts whether you're on the frontlines of service, a customer service manager, or an executive looking for a way to differentiate your organization.

It's organized around nine key concepts, and each one is backed by stories, specific ideas, and action steps for implementing them.

  1. Enchantment: Add a Little Sparkle
  2. Grace: Honor Your Customer
  3. Trust: Keep Your Covenants
  4. Generosity: Serve It Forward
  5. Truth: Nurture Total Candor
  6. Mercy: Let It Go
  7. Alliance: Stay...On Purpose
  8. Ease: Take Care of Flow
  9. Passion: Be All There

One of my favorite concepts is "Grace." 

We often encounter customers who seem overly demanding or may have suspicious motives. The concept of Grace tells us to assume their intentions are innocent, treat them with respect, and find a way to help them rather than view those customers with cynicism.

A client of mine recently shared this wonderful story about Grace.

The client is a college and one of the college's employees noticed an elderly couple wandering around campus. She approached the couple to introduce herself and offer assistance.

It turned out the couple had been touring area colleges, looking for the right place to make a substantial donation. They were big believers in education, but were frustrated that they had been ignored while they toured other campuses. This little bit of grace they received on my client's campus sparked a relationship that led to a donation, and now a hall is named after the couple!

Kaleidoscope is available on Amazon in Kindle and beautiful, full-color hardcover. 

As an added bonus, Chip is one of the keynote speakers slated for ICMI's Contact Center Expo & Conference May 22-25 in Orlando, Florida. 

I'll be speaking there too, and they give us speakers a special $200 discount to share. Visit my page to claim it:

Book Review: The Five Deadly Shoulds of Office Politics

This book was a huge surprise. But first, I have a confession.

If you're a friend of mine and you write a book, I want to buy it. I'm going to try to get you to sign it. And, I'm going to read it whether it's relevant to me or not. Taking time to read someone's book is a good way to support a friend.

So, let's get this out of the way. Grace Judson, the author of The Five Deadly Shoulds of Office Politics is a friend of mine. I'm especially indebted to her because she was one of the editors for my own book, Service Failure. Considering that I work for myself, it's very unlikely I would have found and read a book about corporate politics if I didn't know the author.

Ok, what's the surprise?

This short book is incredibly relevant to customer service. The focus is on office politics, but it's really about empathizing with other people and realizing their goals and interests might be different than yours.

Judson explains that politics are part of every human interaction. We don't often realize this when interacting with friends or family members because it feels authentic. It's situations where we don't have a strong relationship with the other person where politics feel forced or contrived.

The premise of the "Shoulds" is that we often tell ourselves that politics should work a certain way, but they don't. We limit ourselves and our success if we ignore reality. 

The first deadly should is:

I should be able to succeed without participating in office politics.

Judson goes on to explain that this feeling leads people to try to do good work without considering the wants and needs of others. This is a recipe for failure with co-workers who have different goals and face different pressures. It's also a recipe for failure in customer service when your customer may want something very different than you do.

And, it's especially difficult when you, your customer, and your boss all have different agendas. 

Judson provides case studies and practical advice for facing these challenges. I finished the book while traveling to a business meeting last week and immediately put a lesson to use.

The lesson centered around identifying power. In this case, I was advising a colleague on how to tackle a challenging internal service issue. She was having difficulty getting the support she needed from her boss for a key project.

Her boss had the power to support her, but her boss also seemed reluctant to use it.

Recalling Judson's book, I asked my colleague what sort of power might be influencing her boss. She thought about it and realized that he may have made some commitments that were counter to her project. So, his lack of support might stem from a fear that her project, while beneficial to the company, might make him look bad. 

My colleague decided she was going to find the hidden power source that was influencing her boss and then try to find a way to make him look good while still making her project a success. I think she'll succeed.

The Seven Deadly Shoulds of Office Politics is an easy read that's highly recommended for customer service professionals or anyone who has co-workers. 

Book Review: Scaling Up Excellence

The authors call it "The Problem of More."

Organizations face a challenge when they identify a best practice and try to do more. Maybe one location in a retail chain is doing something terrific and executives want every location to do the same thing.

Replicating a best practice or an innovative solution throughout a company seems like it should be so easy, but it isn't.

That's the issue tackled in Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More Without Settling for Less by Robert Sutton and Huggy Rao.



The lessons in this book can be applied to a wide range of challenges.

They describe how a failing hospital re-energized it's staff and turned it's fortunes around. Or, how companies like JetBlue or Disney create and sustain their famous customer-focused cultures.

The book immediately resonated with me in two ways. 

First, it's written as a how-to guide, but there are plenty of interesting real-life stories to spice it up. Second, much of what the book discusses is fundamentally organizational culture.

I read it as research for a book that I'm writing, The Service Culture Handbook, but I found it to be very enjoyable on its own.

The book starts by outlining a general philosophy for scaling excellence. It then describes five core principles and provides some general advice for implementing the ideas in your own organization.



There were quite a few take-aways in this book. Here are my top three:

Think Big + Small. Yes, you need to have a smart program to scale a best practice across an organization, but you also need subtle nudges to get things moving. For example, leaders need to consistently insist on modeling best practices.

Bad Apples Ruin It. Sutton and Rao suggest that people who actively work against an initiative have a far more damaging effect than people who actively support it. You see this time and time again in organizations where individual leaders undermine a program by insisting on doing their own thing. 

You Must Have Excellence. The book contains a quote that's both a blinding flash of the obvious, and an explanation for why so many corporate initiatives fail:

To spread excellence, you need to have some excellence to spread.


Buy This Book

The book is available in a variety of formats on Amazon. You can also check out more of my recommended reading list.


Book Review: The Good Jobs Strategy

What do Costco, Trader Joe's, and In-N-Out all have in common?

You might immediately think of their cult-like customer following. Or, perhaps you're drawn to their great products at reasonable prices. You may even think about their reputation for outstanding customer service.

These companies all have something else in common. They invest significantly more in their employees than their competitors.

That's the core lesson from The Good Jobs Strategy: How the Smartest Companies Invest in Employees to Lower Costs & Boost Profits by Zeynep Ton. 

Investing in your employees doesn't have to come at the expense of profits. A few smart companies have figured out how to succeed by creating better jobs for their employees.

Ton focuses on jobs in retail, a traditionally low-wage industry. She also gives examples from fast food companies like In-N-Out and other industries where wages are typically low.

A good job has a few characteristics:

  • Higher than average pay
  • Better than average benefits
  • Comprehensive training
  • Predictable work schedules
  • Greater levels of empowerment

Ton explains in detail how these companies make a strategic choice to combine high-caliber employees with operational excellence.

Here are just a few characteristics of good jobs companies:

This book was an enjoyable and inspiring read. It proved that companies can become successful by truly treating employees like their most valuable asset.

You can buy the book on Amazon.

Book Review: Be Your Customer's Hero

Where did you learn how to serve customers?

For customer service veterans, serving customers becomes so instinctive that it feels like common sense. It isn't. That knowledge has to come from somewhere.

All of us faced a time when we didn't know what to do.

We lacked the experience. We hadn't received enough training. Perhaps we didn't have a mentor to guide us through difficult situations. We've all been there at some point in time.

Adam Toporek's new book was written with those employees in mind. It's called Be Your Customer's Hero: Real-World Tips & Techniques for the Service Front Lines and was designed to be a how-to guide for customer service professionals.

Toporek says in the book's introduction, "I'd always wanted something that showed frontline employees not just what they needed to know to be competent at customer service but what they needed to know to be great at it."

The book is divided into ten parts. This makes it easy to pick and choose the subjects you'd like to review most:

  1. Great service is all in your head
  2. The mind of the modern customer
  3. The seven service triggers
  4. Be a great teammate
  5. Own the service floor
  6. Communicate like a pro
  7. Master difficult situations
  8. Handle nightmare customers
  9. Understand the digital front lines
  10. Be your customer's hero

What I like most about the book is Toporek devotes the first three sections to the psychology of customer service. Understanding how we think as employees and how our customers think when they're being served is essential. I know I'd have been saved a lot of grief if I knew this stuff 20 years ago!

You might find this book too basic if your an experienced service pro. That's ok. Be Your Customer's Hero wasn't written for you. This is the book you give to each member of your team as part of their development.

Of course, you'll still need to read the book too so you can follow-up with your employees to discuss what they've learned and how they plan to apply it.

Be Your Customer's Hero is available in paperback and on Kindle. I highly recommend it.


My Favorite Business Books of 2014

Here are some of the best business books I read in 2014. These books are perfect for a last-minute Christmas gift or a good business book to read yourself over the winter holiday.


The Effortless Experience

I discovered this book when author Matt Dixon gave a riveting keynote address at ICMI’s CC Expo conference in May. 

The core message is avoiding service failures is a much stronger loyalty driver than delight. Dixon makes a compelling case for finding ways to make service consistently effortless for customers. He offers practical solutions and common-sense tactics than can easily be implemented.


What Great Brands Do

Author Denise Lee Yohn makes the compelling argument that branding is more than just a marketing exercise. It’s how to run a business. All departments impact a company’s brand whether it’s operations, R&D, or even customer service.

The book is full of practical examples and hands-on exercises that make it easy to translate the ideas into action.


Your Brain at Work

This book offers a fascinating look at how we can improve our success by having a better understanding of how our brains work.

It follows a typical workday for Emily and Paul, who are both overwhelmed with constant emails, meetings, and distractions. The author, David Rock, rewinds the scenes that unfold throughout their day to show us how small changes can lead to big improvements.

I'd be remiss if I didn't also mention my own book, Service Failure. It uncovers hidden reasons that employees struggle with customer service.

Happy Holidays!

Book Review: What Great Brands Do

Denise Lee Yohn’s new book isn’t just for marketing people. 

The central message of What Great Brands Do is that developing a well-respected brand goes way beyond marketing. A strong brand serves as a central theme for how the entire business is run.

Yohn lays out seven key principles in her book:

  • Great brands start inside
  • Great brands avoid selling products
  • Great brands ignore trends
  • Great brands don’t chase customers
  • Great brands sweat the small stuff
  • Great brands commit and stay committed
  • Great brands never have to “give back”

I found myself taking pages of notes as I read the book. Perhaps it was because many of Yohn’s branding philosophies align squarely with my own thinking for customer service. It may also be her engaging writing style that uses a blend of real-life examples and practical exercises to help the reader understand each concept.


What's the connection to customer service?

Customer service is ultimately part of a company's brand. What a company promises must ultimately match the service its customers receive for a brand to be authentic. As I pointed out in a recent blog post, you can't advertise your way to great service.

This book is highly recommended for any business leader. It’s available in hardcover and e-book format from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.