By Nancy Porte
MichaelGaida / Pixabay
You’ve scored big with C-level buy-in and you’re starting to engage the frontlines. Here are three strategies for ensuring middle managers are CX advocates, too.
Some frontline employees are CX naturals. They have an intrinsic understanding of what it means to be customer-centric in the work they do.
Far more common are the employees who need support from their supervisors and managers when it comes to putting their daily tasks in the context of enterprise-wide CX strategies. That’s why it’s important to have middle management on board with any CX initiative, but sometimes that’s easier said than done.
C-level executives and senior vice presidents are paid to be visionaries, whether it’s CX or any other company-wide initiative, while department managers and directors have more immediate priorities—namely, the objectives of their specific department or area of leadership. They are focused on the task at hand. They also are accountable to finance and have other organizational obligations. The CX effort is often just not top-of-mind for them.
Let me be clear: I love working with middle managers and see them as a critical part of the process. Nonetheless, at our company, we’re facing a breakdown in the CX communication cascade at the mid-management level, and we have carved out some strategies to solve it.
1. Set clear expectations
When we developed our “Customers for Life” program, we did our due diligence and gained senior executive buy-in. After that, we took on the task of motivating employees to start making changes. We created a “Customers for Life” Steering Committee made up of middle managers—VPs and directors from service, support, renewal and sales, all customer-facing teams. We met with the committee, reported our latest customer satisfaction scores and ways to improve them, and assumed that the information would cascade down to their employees.
Guess what—it didn’t.
I discovered in subsequent meetings that the managers were unclear about how much communicating I would be doing with their people, and how much was their responsibility. I learned that the short vision/mission statement we had developed for the steering committee wasn’t enough, so we followed up with a list of expectations of committee members:
- Model customer-centric behavior.
- Communicate CX information regularly, using the Voice of the Customer.
- Assign CX Catalysts for your area or areas. (See last month’s column on our CX Catalyst Network, a program that enlists formal and informal leaders within each department to serve as CX motivators for their teams.)
- Align hiring, performance management and reward systems.
- Embed customer centricity into core business processes.
2. Invest more time communicating
We generated a lot of excitement across our company when we launched our “Customers for Life” program, but the excitement had to be followed quickly by real details and a concrete plan to keep the momentum going. The plan includes frequent communication with steering committee members.
There are times when I defer our monthly group meetings and schedule individual meetings with them. These conversations can be particularly illuminating. For example, in recent one-on-one sessions, I asked about the expectations we had shared. Are they …read more
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