Lacey Grey is a Customer Management executive and one of the first Chief Customer Officers in the US. Grey is currently the principal at Customer Value Growth, an umbrella company formed by Grey for her consulting efforts with global companies in some stage of the customer centric journey. Prior to Customer Value Growth, Grey led the US business model change and customer centric efforts of Merck and Company. Grey has worked as an executive in many capacities and industries, including telecommunications where she served as VP, Customer Experience and also Chief Customer Officer at EarthLink.
We caught up with Ms. Grey this week and discussed the direction of Customer Experience and how your company can find success with it.
You’ve been in the Customer space for a long time, Lacey. Please tell us what you see about the direction of the Customer Experience.
I see the Customer Experience, or CX, as non-negotiable for businesses, Sean. Customers are increasingly educated. And, they can easily connect with each other in many ways to share their opinions or experiences or to ask a question. Customers have choices, and they have recognized the power in their pocketbooks by making those choices! In today’s marketplace, a successful company has to consistently return value to their customers, make it easy to interact with them, and have employees that genuinely care about growing the business by satisfying customers. Those are basic elements of the CX, so I see a focus on delivering a unique, top quality CX as a must-have for a company that is interested in growth.
How does a company create a unique CX?
Well, that is much easier said than done! It starts with a plan or strategy. Then, the leadership team needs a vision for how to achieve that strategy, which will include what the ideal CX will be. The leaders need to communicate this (verbally and by example) as often as possible, in a variety of ways. From there, it becomes about taking action to make steps toward the ideal CX or strategy. This sounds easy, but strategy can be very difficult for companies. It is never easy to make choices, but businesses become successful by doing so and sticking to their guns!
You often hear that a company’s employees are critical to success. Why is that?
Well, there are 2 types of companies…first, there are companies that have the right culture and need to maintain it, and second, there are companies that need to create a new culture (and realize the benefit) in order to succeed. The work of either type is slightly different but is hard work, nonetheless. Any time you are dealing with a company’s culture, you are talking about people’s (employees’) behavior, and that can be a very difficult thing to change. Employees must genuinely, authentically believe that the path to success for the company can only be achieved by delivering on their customers needs in their space. By doing so, they will take the appropriate steps to make it happen, but a manager has to have the trust and confidence in his or her employees in order to manage this and let it happen!
If a company has the right strategy and the right culture, what comes next?
Well, this is where the action and results are, Sean. “Next” is operating the business in a way that leads the company to fulfill their strategy. It is the day-to-day decisions and actions a company takes. Each and every one must move the company toward the ideal CX, in order to move in a straight line, which is to say, as quickly as possible toward their realizing their strategy. A company must regularly listen to their customers and ask themselves at every juncture whether or not a certain decision or action will move toward meeting (or exceeding) customers’ needs or not. If so, charge ahead! If not, the company has to try another approach.
Ahh… the opportunity to learn comes into play, right?
Exactly. It is critical that the company has an environment that rewards testing-and-learning. People have to be comfortable trying things so they can learn what the outcome is (but don’t forget to capture what is learned, so you can close the loop!) If people do not feel comfortable doing so, it is impossible to realize change because the culture will never allow anything to be done differently!