Behind the Handlebars: Getting Fully Engaged in Customer Experience Strategy

Sarah Simon

Sarah Simon

Author Bio

With over 20 years’ experience in customer experience, Sarah’s passion lies in operationalizing the Voice of Customer to drive outstanding customer experiences. Her specialties include VoC architecture, developing linkages to business performance, reduction of customer defection and analyzing customer feedback to tell the customer’s story. Her expertise in VoC survey design has combined with omni-channel customer listening to structure sophisticated, customer-friendly VoC programs. 

Currently, she serves as VoC Consulting Director at Confirmit, where she combines her industry thought-leadership with customized needs-analysis to architect new feedback initiatives and corresponding customer experience strategies. She also runs diagnostics on existing programs to optimize structure and function to yield significant business insights from mature programs.

Author Bio

After many years as a motorcycle passenger, I finally decided to get my own bike. I soon discovered the lessons I’m learning as a new rider closely mirror the challenges my clients face in managing their customer experience initiatives. Getting behind the handlebars has pushed me to learn a new skill, face quite a bit of fear, and buck up my confidence. It has also been a lot of fun, full of moments of elation and pure joy plus pride toward mastering a skill through experience. Through this series I hope to inspire customer experience practitioners to get behind the handlebars of their CX program with confidence, skill and finesse.


Behind the Handlebars


One of the first things that hit me as a new rider is the realization that riding a motorcycle demands that I be fully engaged in the experience. Motorcycle operation requires the coordination of all four limbs and all of my senses. If fiddling with a cell phone while driving a car at 65 mph is foolish and dangerous, trying to do so on a motorcycle is absolutely asinine. My left foot is for shifting. My right foot operates the rear break. I need my left hand on the clutch and my right hand is busy with the double duty of throttle and front break (sometimes in close succession!) My whole body is engaged in executing a smooth turn: Eyes, core, arms.  

I’ve met a few people who, like me, have tried to learn to ride later in life but they gave up: “There’s just too much going on, I can’t relax on a motorcycle, and I feel overwhelmed.” Even on perfect weather days, if I don’t feel like I’m “all in,” I’ll leave my bike in the garage and drive my Jeep instead. As a new rider, I need to feel sharp to ride safely, and can’t afford to let fatigue or a sour mood jeopardize a safe ride. I can’t do a half-baked job when I’m riding. A safe day on my bike requires total engagement.


Lessons for Customer Experience


Your customer experience program, likewise, requires your full engagement.  

So often I encounter CX initiatives that are being run in a half-hearted fashion due to resource constraints, lack of knowledge and experience or sheer fatigue. CX way too often is a part-time commitment for matrixed resources or handled by one overwhelmed generalist trying to fulfill too many roles. With so many competing priorities, CX gets relegated to being a “nice to have.” Many times programs focus only on part of the total customer experience initiative, unable to take on the full effort. For instance, they listen to the Voice of the Customer and dutifully report on the results, but the organization fails to convert reports into insights and insights into action. Other organizations get so wound up responding to tactical service recovery that they dismiss the need for deep strategic change efforts. Customer strategy is atrophying in these organizations because they’re not “all in.” Unfortunately, you cannot leave your CX initiative in the garage when you don’t feel up to it. And you cannot run an effective, transformative program without all four limbs on the controls.

The strongest customer strategy efforts I’ve encountered, programs with solid momentum steering behavioral and cultural change within their organizations, have a fully-engaged team dedicated to CEM. Someone is manipulating all of controls: evangelist, communications experts, methodologist, data insights story teller, change agent and program manager. They are solidly behind the handlebars of customer strategy, fully engaged and all-in.

While half-heartedly running a CX program might not be as actively dangerous as riding a motorcycle when you’re not engaged, it’s still a risky endeavor. A poorly-run CX program can easily alienate customers by providing a poor feedback experience – such as not tailoring surveys to each customer, or by failing to follow up on feedback when customers make the effort to provide it. Lack of peer education dampens VoC adoption, and weak or non-existent executive buy-in waters down efforts to foster growth and change. Just like a rider cannot “sort-of” ride a motorcycle, your business takes a risk in “sort-of” running an incomplete customer experience program.

You’ve got to love CX to succeed at CX, and if you have the passion to drive customer strategy but lack the resources to execute, then work with your consultant or with experienced peer practitioners to secure the people, processes and technology you need to get confidently behind the handlebars of your customer strategy, and ride your way to a successful program.

Inspired? Maybe you’re ready to get #CXtreme!