Customer Experience Leaders Make A Difference

Gartner and 1to1 Media recently announced their 2010 CRM Excellence Awards. The two winners for customer experience were Sprint and CIGNA — congratulations to both organizations!

My take: These winners are not a surprise. I highlighted Sprint as one of the companies that had improved the most in Forrester’s 2010 Customer Experience Index. Both firms are on very aggressive customer experience journeys being led by two of the strongest customer experience executives in the industry — Jerry Adriano (Sprint) and Ingrid Lindberg (CIGNA).

Customer experience transformation isn’t easy; it takes a lot more than a few superficial changes. As I’ve highlighted in recent research, companies that want to build customer experience differentiation need to master 4 competencies: Purposeful Leadership, Compelling Brand Values, Employee Engagement, and Customer Connectedness. That’s why these efforts require strong leaders like Adriano and Lindberg.

To understand the impact of leadership, I took another look at the data from our May 2010 survey of large North American companies. For this analysis, I compared the companies that had a senior executive in charge of customer experience for at east 6 months with all of the other firms in the survey. Here are the major obstacles identified by each group:

What jumps out from this data is that companies without a senior executive in charge of customer experience suffer from a lack a clear strategy. There’s a 32 percentage point gap between the two groups in that area.

Here are some of other things that I found interesting:

  • All companies suffer from competing priorities
  • Companies without customer experience leaders are 10+ percentage points more likely to run into several problems associated with starting their journey:
    • Lack of a clear strategy
    • Lack of incentives and rewards
    • Wrong people or organizations leading the effort
    • Lack of important skills
  • Companies with customer experience leaders run into more problems as they start to make changes:
    • Limited funding
    • Conflict across organizations

The bottom line: Customer experience takes leadership

Written by 

I am an experience management transformist, helping organizations improve business results by engaging the hearts and minds of their customers, employees, and partners. My "job" is Head of the Qualtrics XM Institute. The Institute is still being established, but our goal is to help organizations around the world thrive by mastering Experience Management (XM). As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. Prior to joining Qualtrics, I was managing partner of Temkin Group (leading CX research, advisory, and training firm), co-founder and chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (, and a VP at Forrester Research. I'm a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Check out my LinkedIn profile:

3 thoughts on “Customer Experience Leaders Make A Difference”

  1. Bruce-

    Thanks for the kind words! I have to say – it was awesome to hear Sprint’s story last week at Gartner and 1-1 Media. Always inspiring to see other companies really stepping up and changing the game! I’m also delighted to share that the reason we’ve had such success over here is definitely because I have such an amazing team that works with me every day – pushing and stretching the organization to think about things differently. Congrats to Sprint and to all the other applicants – it is great to see so many companies being committed to doing what is right for their customers!

  2. Bruce

    Certainly our practical experience of working with Senior people in organisation would agree with your findings. The senior team need to ‘get it’ and then put a strategy in place, that is executed. Over the years of doing these implementations it’s not just about having CE leaders. It’s about having CE leaders who have power to change things. Too many companies allocate a CE leader and then give them no power. All that then happens is they get the blame for everything that goes wrong.


    Colin Shaw
    Author & Founder Beyond Philosophy

  3. Bruce,

    Very amazing article that highlights one of the most common problems we have to face : when a company has a CE leader, conflicts break out everywhere.

    Many CEO/ boards are unprepared to that “strange” consequence.
    In many cases, they decided to hire a CE with the unsaid purpose to reduce the conflicts around customer care.

    French sociologist B Dupuy has well described this phenomenon since the 80s.
    If the head of a company is not prepared to face it, or to back the CE leader, it could even be crazy to undertake the role.

    Thank you for your post !

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