We have been involved in many customer experience implementations over the years and
what has struck us, above all else, is the vital role that leaders play in ensuring that the
initiative delivers lasting results.
Senior leaders play a crucial role in setting the tone for the organisation. They set priorities,
allocate resources, and provide the necessary support to ensure that the initiative gets the
attention it deserves. Without this the customer experience strategy will struggle to gain
traction, remain a low priority and will have little or no impact on results.
When implementing a customer experience strategy, it often requires organisations to shift
the focus from internal processes outwards towards customers. This requires the culture to
become customer-centric and able to ‘Stand Firm’ in the face of competing pressures and
agendas. Without the full sponsorship of the CEO and the board, this shift in mindset and
culture is likely to fail.
An example of one of our clients that did succeed as a result of strong senior level
engagement is Premier Inn. Patrick Dempsey, the former MD of Whitbread Hotels and
Resorts and CEO of Premier Inn, made it his priority to drive the customer experience
initiative throughout the organisation. He personally championed the definition of a new
brand purpose and created a customer-centric culture by regularly communicating the
importance of the guest experience and recognising and rewarding employees who
delivered outstanding service. He led workshops with his senior team to brief them on the
brand purpose, the new guest experience and the actions required to deliver it. Finally, he
approved significant expenditure to upgrade rooms to deliver on the promise. The result was
an experience that consistently receives high guest ratings and accolades and a brand
whose shares have outperformed the market for several years. Indeed, for the last quarter of
2022, Premier Inn reported that it outperformed the midscale and economy hotel market, driven
by both increased occupancy and higher average room rates. It would seem that even though
Patrick Dempsey left the business several years ago his legacy of customer-centricity lives on.
Seven Steps to Ensure Senior Level Engagement
So how can you ensure senior level engagement from the start? From experience, we
applying these ‘magnificent seven’ practices from day one brings in the right support and
sponsorship and sets the programme up for success.
- Communicate the Business Case: Clearly articulate the business case for customer experience and the potential impact it can have. Highlight the benefits including: competitive advantage, increased customer loyalty and improved financial performance. It doesn’t need to be a sophisticated ROI at this stage; we often use a very simple concept called the ‘Power of One’ to estimate the potential impact of improving customer loyalty. For example, “If we were to create an experience such that each customer visited on one more occasion, what would that do to our revenue?”
- Involve Leaders Early: Involve stakeholders in the planning and implementation process from the outset. This ensures that executives are fully invested in the initiative and have a clear understanding of its importance and how it can support their own agendas. This creates true buy-in not mere compliance.
- Make it a Priority: The CEO must make customer experience a priority for senior leaders and ensure that it is incorporated into the overall business strategy and reflected in their personal KPIs. This requires regular communication, updates, and reporting on the progress of the initiatives.
- Align Objectives: Align the customer experience objectives with the brand’s overall business objectives. This ensures that the customer experience strategy supports the organisation’s broader goals and is seen as a critical enabler of the business agenda rather than a competitor.
- Lead by Example: Executives must be seen to demonstrate their commitment to the initiative. This includes being involved in customer-facing activities, reviewing customer feedback, and making customer input a key part of their decision-making process.
- Regularly Communicate: Share progress, results, and impact to keep leaders engaged and informed.
- Make it Real: Make sure customer experience is incorporated into management reporting and key performance indicators so that it becomes part of the business as usual.
Senior level engagement is critical to the success of customer experience initiatives. By
involving senior leaders early, making customer experience a priority, aligning objectives,
and leading by example, sponsors can ensure that the customer experience strategy is
implemented effectively and has a positive impact on the organisation.