Written by Sonal Jaiswal | Evangelist, Customer Guru
The theme for International Women’s Day 2018 is Press for Progress. There is no better time to emphasize and work on this theme than now. The times today are very exciting – new technologies are disrupting old ways, newer ideas are revolutionizing the way in which the world functions. The only disappointment, however, is that there are not as many women leading such initiatives as men.
The same extrapolates to the world of customer experience. While we do know that customer experience is the next battleground for businesses and that it is the only true differentiator for brands in today’s ultra-competitive world, we see only a handful of women in the CX space. Undeniably, the world needs more women leaders in corporate, so does the CX space.
Through this article, I would like to present an argument on why we need more women leaders in customer experience. It is inspired by an article that I recently read on the Harvard Business Review. The article is written by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman. Mr. Zenger is the CEO and Mr. Folkman is the President of Zenger Folkman, a leadership development consultancy. This article reinforced my perspective that the more women we have heading customer experience initiatives, the more customers would benefit.
Zenger Folkman conducted a survey of over 7,200 leaders at various levels from organizations across the world and across sectors. The data that was compiled specified how these leaders were evaluated by their direct reports, peers, and bosses. The results are not going to shock you too much. At every level of leadership, women were rated higher by the evaluators than their male counterparts. The researchers also listed 16 competencies that they believed were essential to outstanding leaders. Women leaders scored higher than their male counterparts in a whopping 15 of those 16 competencies!
I am sharing a few of those competencies that I believe outstanding customer experience leaders must possess. And the fact that women outshone men is EVERY SINGLE of those competencies stands testimony to the idea that customer experience needs more women!
This is probably one of the foremost qualities that a customer-centric leader must possess. New and groundbreaking technology is coming to the fore every now and then. Customer dynamics and expectations are also changing constantly. In such a scenario, a successful CX professional must be willing to take initiatives. For many organizations, building a CX practice itself is the biggest initiative!
While traditionally, taking initiatives is thought of as a male strength, women outscored their male counterparts to the highest degree in this parameter.
Because customer experience is a new management discipline, it is imperative that customer-centric leaders continuously update their knowledge. Management practices have changed considerably in the last few decades. For instance, earlier, the inside-out approach was prevalent among organizations. It was believed that the main drivers of an organization were the company’s resources, processes, and products. However, CX demands an outside-in approach. It demands that organizations keep the customer at the core of all their business decisions and mould their processes to meet the customer’s expectations.
In a time of such changing practices, unless leaders focus on self-development, they will not be able to lead effectively.
Traditionally, financial goals were considered an indication of an organization’s success. However, with CX becoming increasingly important, customer-centric goals cannot be ignored. Customer-centric leaders need to strike a balance to achieve both goals. While they would realize that financial goals are important, they also understand that customer-centric goals can never be compromised.
Again, this is traditionally considered a male-dominated goal area. However, women outscored men by a considerable margin when it came to driving for results. Having a woman CX leader would help a business balance CX goals with financial goals.
Customer-centric leaders ensure that they nurture their employees by providing them the right training, resources, and tools. They understand that only an exceptional team can provide exceptional CX. Instead of micro-managing, such leaders empower their employees. They let employees own the problems and find the best possible solution. They also build a culture of healthy competition where best practices are shared.
This shouldn’t be a surprise because women have been known to be inherent nurturers. Moreover, employee happiness has a direct correlation with customer happiness. Women CX leaders could do a splendid job in developing a customer-centric culture for any organization.
There is no denying that a high-energy and positive environment is needed for employees to deliver a positive and exceptional experience to customers. Hence, business leaders must always inspire their team, despite occasional setbacks. They must make employees feel loved and appreciated, ensuring that employees convey similar vibes to customers. Further, they must reward and recognize good work to keep the morale of the team high.
While this is something any business leader would do, it takes courage and inner strength to be motivating and inspiring even in difficult times. Women CX leaders would prove to be exceptional in such situations given how women outscored men in this parameter too.
Building relationships and nurturing them are the cornerstones of any successful partnership. Customer-centric leaders build harmonious relationships with all stakeholders. They understand that they must be less transactional and more relationship-focused. This includes not only their clients and customers but also their employees. Not to forget, B2B businesses are built on relationships. The experience of a customer in B2B businesses is the relationship itself.
Gail Blanke, the author of ‘Throw Out Fifty Things: Clear the Clutter, Find Your Life’ explains how women try to personalize professional relationships. She says, “Before we think, ‘What can this person do for me,’ we ask, ‘What can I do for her in order to get what I need.'” This points that women always want to create meaningful and symbiotic long-lasting relationships professionally.
One of the biggest impediments to delivering a consistent experience to customers is the lack of cross-functional collaboration. Many times, organizations fail to dissolve the silos and to work in concordance across the various departments and functions. This results in the customer experience varying across multiple touch-points. A customer-centric leader ensures that all the functions of a business work together, providing a WOW customer experience. They follow this ideology of one of the most customer-centric leaders in the world, Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos:
“Customer service shouldn’t be a department; it should be the entire company.”
Here is another study that proves that women are better collaborators than men. The findings of the experiment also state that women were able to apply more successful strategies, resulting in higher payoffs.
A brand aspiring to differentiate itself from its competitors based on CX would have to set goals that are higher than that of their competitors. Customer-centric leaders help their employees in setting stretch goals. Furthermore, they review the performance and ascertain how far off the finish-line their team is.
CX is a change management process! Breaking silos, introducing newer metrics, bringing in newer processes to capture and analyze feedback effectively are all part of the change. If such changes are not managed and executed appropriately, the initiative can become a debacle.
Also, we do know that a cultural change towards customer experience can be achieved only when the change starts from the top.
Feedback analysis and action on the feedback is of paramount importance to enhancing the customer experience of any business. Acute CX leaders are able to analyze the feedback effectively. Moreover, they are also able to take the appropriate corrective action to solve the customer grievances.
Successful customer-centric leaders would communicate effectively and consistently with the customers. They understand that communication is a two-way process. So, apart from conveying information to customers, they also listen and empathize with customers. It is critical that customer-centric leaders spend a considerable amount of time communicating with their customers.
Further, they acknowledge that customer feedback – both positive and negative – is a goldmine of information. Subsequently, they use this information to enhance their products and services. But communication with customers is not the only aspect such leaders focus on. Such leaders also communicate effectively with employees. They communicate their customer-centric mission and vision cogently to the team. They realize that their commitment and passion to the cause of CX must be heard consistently by all their employees. Customer-centric leaders ensure that their employees understand what is at stake! Such leaders don’t just talk; they ensure that their actions are consistent with their world. They walk the talk!
Customer-centric leaders are always listening to the voice of the customers. They derive insights from this and use them to bring innovation in their products and services. Twitter really got its hashtag from customer feedback!!
Are these reasons not proof enough that we need more women in this space?! The above study goes to prove that women have the innate qualities required for a successful CX leader. We certainly need equal if not more women customer experience leaders than men CX leaders across the world. What’s your opinion on it? Do let me know!
Let’s #PressForProgress and #PressForParity this year, and always!
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