Behind the Handlebars Part 2: Intersections are Dangerous Places

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. Read the first of the blog post series here.

Behind the Handlebars


Intersections are well recognized as dangerous places for all types of motorists. There is a lot going on, with traffic coming from and going in multiple directions at various rates of speed. The sheer volume and concentration of vehicles at an intersection makes an accident more likely. Each vehicle with its own agenda trying to reach a unique location. Many of us have even witnessed aggressive acts of road rage at an intersection, where tempers between strangers flare. 
It is easy to take the dangers of an intersection for granted surrounded by two tons of metal and machinery. When I’m on two wheels, however, I do not take the risks posed by an intersection lightly. I approach intersections with a high level of alertness, scanning for anything out of place or threatening. 
I’m going to argue that when customer experience practitioners enter functional intersections, they should likewise be alert and cautious. On the road or within your organization, intersections are dangerous places!


Lessons for Customer Experience

We were attending the same conference full of like-minded professionals. Her inquiry at first seemed pretty run-of-the-mill. “I’m struggling, my program is struggling. How can I get buy-in for my VoC and CX initiatives at my company?” If her challenge, lack of engagement buy-in from management and colleagues, is a common one, the extreme nature of the hostility she faced at work was exceptional.
Many CX practitioners in her situation face apathy and a healthy dose of politicking. This woman, however, was facing outright hostility! A young professional dedicated to generating and delivering insights, her deeply entrenched sales team was bullying her. When she tried to share customer insights, she was scolded: “What do you know? We’ve been doing this for two or three decades, kid, we don’t need your Market Research.” Attempting to undermine her at every turn, the sales reps would dismiss her findings and scoff at her attempts to share valuable business intelligence.
Indeed, functional intersections are dangerous places for CX professionals. Here are some tips for staying safe when interacting with other teams.


Slow down and look around

Stakeholder assessments and mapping can help a CX practitioner know what she is getting herself into. Who are your stakeholders? What are their roles within your organization? What is their individual ability to influence program and business outcomes? Are they bought-in, lukewarm, indifferent or hostile to your efforts? What is your desired level of commitment from them, and is this target achievable?

Know your coworker’s destination

Your program is pushing change, and change means challenging existing ways of doing business. People do not like to change. Many young CX efforts do not yet benefit from the alignment of program objectives and business unit KPIs. If you want to alter colleague behavior, you’ll need to answer the question “What’s in it for me?” before the question is even asked. And to answer this question, you have to know where your coworkers are trying to get in the first place.

Bigger and stronger can mean safer

People can be tribal. As a CX practitioner, more than likely, you are not a member of your colleagues’ tribes. I cannot overstate the power of having an executive stand behind you (or lead the way, in particularly hostile territory) as you engage other teams. One junior VoC analyst is easy to push around. The VP of marketing or head of customer support? Not so much. There is no shame in hitching your CX cart to a big, strong, persuasive corporate horse! Click here to discover how to get the executive support you need.

Avoid the most dangerous crossroads altogether

None of us like to give up, we like to fight the good fight. Discretion, however, is the better part of valor. Reference those stakeholder maps and decide which fights have the best chance of being won, and learn which battles you need to walk away from. Focus your efforts where traction can be gained and be willing to walk away, if only temporarily, from combative and uncooperative teams.