What #20 Can Teach CX

Abby Wambach, US soccer legend, played her final game on 16th December 2015. For fans of the sport, especially here in the USA, watching Ms. Wambach leave the field one last time was an emotional moment.

While a lot of women in my generation were hanging up our cleats to finish school, begin non-sporting careers and start families, Ms. Wambach was living our dream for us: Bringing women’s soccer into the global limelight with an unforgiving, in-your-face ferocity. 

Abby Wambach served as inspiration to many of us in our lives on and off the field. She was a heavy hitter, a straight shooter and remarkably effective on offense. Just as Abby Wambach inspired me, I want to share some of her inspiration with my colleagues in the customer experience discipline.

So what can #20 teach us about CX?


Attack the Goal

Abby Wambach didn’t tiptoe her way to the goal box. Far from it. Watch footage of her on a scoring drive and you’ll see speed and fury. Her offensive style has been described as “predatory.” She has one thing on her mind: Putting the ball in the back of the net. 

Customer experience practitioners can get awfully distracted by “everything else” going on inside and outside their company. Key elements of CX, including customer listening (VoC), insights analysis and reporting and communications strategies can easily take on a life of their own. Remember to bring your focus back to the goal: Providing customers a consistently positive experience throughout their journey with your company.


Position Yourself

When not making an aggressive run on the goal, Ms. Wambach had an almost eerie way of being at the right place at the right time to put the ball in the net. This was not by chance. Abby Wambach read the field and positioned herself to execute on a scoring opportunity. She was there to catch the pass or free kick and flick the ball into the goal.

CX still too often lives on the periphery of our corporate worlds. While owning a seat at the boardroom table may remain a dream for many CX teams, practitioners can work hard to position themselves to be ready to convert opportunities to goals. Brand your initiative, communicate effectively and often, and get CX on the agenda for critical strategic meetings. Map and know your stakeholders and have a strategy for earning and leveraging their endorsement, support and resource allocation.


Use Your Head

According to U.S. Soccer, an amazing 77 of Wambach’s 184 career goals were scored as headers! This figure is noteworthy in a sport heavily associated with footwork. Her header against Brazil in the 122th minute of 2011 World Cup tournament play is the stuff of legends. 

I encourage CX practitioners to use their heads toward the goal of customer experience excellence. Often your teams are smaller, you’re the new kids on the block, and your team may lack the sway that other departments, like sales and engineering, have enjoyed for years if not decades. Be creative, put your mind to work for you, and score some CX wins with the element of surprise.


Champions Don’t Track Benchmarks, They Set Records

With 184 goals in international competition, Abby Wambach is the world’s all-time leading scorer in soccer. I’ll say this again: No other player, man, woman or alien, in the history of the sport has scored more goals than Abby Wambach. That’s a goal-oriented scoring machine.

What about you? Are you happy keeping up with the industry Joneses? Pleased enough to sit in the top 30% of your vertical for customer satisfaction ratings “5 years running”? Maybe your company can take a lesson from #20’s playbook: Stop worrying about benchmarking and start blowing the competition out of the water.


Play with Passion and Celebrate Your Wins

For all her stoicism displayed during her recent farewell ceremonies, Abby Wambach was anything but stone-faced after scoring a goal. A passionate and fiery player, after hitting a goal in the net, she would often charge, open armed, across the field into a dog-pile of team member hugs.

We customer experience types can be a reserved and stoic bunch. We quietly go about our craft, and humbly accept praise for our successes. Nonsense. Bring a little #20 into your game. Bring fire and passion into your CX practice. And when those roadblocks to doing business with you are eliminated for your customer, when those NPS metrics improve, when that roster of active client advocates grows, celebrate with excited, wild-eyed abandon. 

Abby Wambach may be finished playing soccer, but her inspiration lives on in many of us. I hope her spirit helps inspire your customer experience efforts. Thanks, Abby.


Sarah Simon
By Sarah Simon

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.

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