Update Your LinkedIn: You’re a Customer Experience Steward

Customer-centric sales and marketing.

Customer success.

Customer engagement.

Customer Journey mapping.

Personalized marketing.

Customer intimacy.

Sentiment analysis.

360-degree view of customer.

I’d expect that most if not all of these terms are quite familiar, and most of you are either involved in – or at least aware of – data-centric programs within your organizations with the goal of delivering and optimizing one or more of these outcomes or processes.

Customer ExperienceAnd these programs today are rarely simple, siloed efforts within a single function like marketing or customer support. They are complex, cross-functional imperatives with the aim of significantly transforming your organization’s relationship and engagement with your end customers (or patients, citizens, members, or whomever your business ultimately serves).

Delivering a great, differentiated customer experience is a boardroom-dictated strategic imperative for just about every company across every industry worldwide. It’s the cornerstone of most C-suite’s data-driven digital transformation journeys.

So, if these customer-first initiatives are in fact aiming to transform all the major customer interaction points with your brand, who within your organization constitutes the ‘front line’?

Is it the associates at your retail locations? Or maybe your call center agents? How about the digital marketers sending emails, targeting digital ads and defining the web experience? Or perhaps it’s the field marketers hosting events and driving account-based marketing activities?

Oh right, it’s probably the finance professionals in your billing department. Ah, the lawyers working on our customer contracts. Oh duh, it’s obviously the sales and account management teams. But wait, what about our partners who often represent our brand on our behalf?

I think you get the point. It’s either all of the above (and more) – or you’re not going to be successful in actually transforming your customer’s experience into one that increases brand loyalty, reduces churn and intelligently disrupts your market. If you create an amazing sales, marketing and support experience – but the billing process is painful, filled with red tape and disconnected processes… that customer will lose interest in any repeat business.

Enter the Customer Experience Steward

In the world of data management where I’ve spent most of my career, many are familiar with a similarly critical cross-function imperative around Data Governance. After many years of false starts and inconsistent prioritization, data governance programs and practices within organizations have become pervasive – albeit with wide disparities in maturity. Data Governance even has a C-level officer officially responsible for it – the Chief Data Officer. And who is the ‘front line’ for data governance? Data stewards.

While sometimes considered an actual title and full-time job in some more mature data governance programs, data steward is more typically a part-time role that employees are asked to play to represent the data needs of their respective business functions, lines of business, systems, or geographies.

In addition to helping assess, define and implement the data rules and policies needed to support their data-dependent business objectives, these data stewards are responsible for ensuring that these rules and policies are complied with across the entire information supply chain – from point of capture through to human, system and process usage of that data. Effective data governance programs will have a defined percentage of these employees’ time dedicated to supporting these efforts. Their participation is built into their goals and is evaluated as part of their performance management process and impacts their merit and promotion within the organization.

Any data governance leader will tell you that the success or failure of their data governance objectives are wholly dependent on the buy-in and engagement they have with their army of data stewards across the organization.

I believe the customer-centric transformations all organizations are going through require the creation of a similar role – what I like to call the Customer Experience Steward.

All of the functions I suggested above qualify – because either they personally engage with the customer in-person or over the phone, or the processes they own directly engage with the customer through things like digital or in-product experiences.

Your Customer Experience Stewards are innumerable. I’m ultimately referring to a majority of your workforce once you’ve reached the pinnacle of customer-centricity you’re likely targeting. Which means a culture shift for many of your companies – that doesn’t happen overnight. You’ll need a change management plan to determine how to incent the right behaviors – and adjust the wrong ones. The best place to start? Take your cue from data governance’s experience and start adding the right customer-facing behaviors into the goals and performance management plans of your customer-facing employees.

I’ve love to hear your thoughts on what it will take to formalize the role of Customer Experience Steward!