Customer Experience: The One Big Thing!

Tony Hughes


As you survey the leadership team sitting around the boardroom table, have you ever wondered who is most important? Do you see commanders of fiefdoms acting in their own best interests or do you see a unified team, willing to sacrifice themselves for each other and act in best interests of the greater good? Are sales, marketing, customer support and service disjointed or seamless? They need to be united in their vision and commitment to creating legendary customer experience.

The reason that customer experience is so important is that it is the most powerful way to differentiate as commoditization, automation, algorithms, machine learning and omni-channel self-service gains increasing traction with buyers. Yet amidst all the technology and competitive pressure the most powerful customer experiences are human, where curiosity, insight and emotion combine to create relationships and make a memorable difference to go beyond winning a sale to create a loyal customer and market advocate.

Sales success today demands the right combinations to break through with buyers to win their hearts and minds. Sales, marketing and service must all come together with technology and people combining to support the entire buyer's journey and customer lifecycle. The very best sellers are therefore removing process friction and increasing value for the buyer in every interaction before, during and after a sale. They obsessively focus on customer journeys to anticipate needs, create awareness and attract through insight and value.

Speed, agility and innovation have never been more essential as sellers seek to create personal experiences that attract customers by showing them that they truly understand them.

We live in an age where 'the way we sell' is more important than 'what we sell' because buyers have never been more empowered and customer loyalty has never been more difficult to secure.

Technology and information can either empower or overwhelm. Predictive analytics may provide the lead but it cannot connect the solution in the mind of the buyer. AI can drive content personalization but cannot create the emotional connection and win the heart of a loyal customer.

The CEO is the first leader up the chain who 'owns' all the elements within the enterprise that deliver customer experience. The CEO must therefore be the catalyst to bring everyone together in a customer-centric culture. To do this successfully requires the right focus and agenda. Sales and marketing must be an integrated function; simmering hostility or finger-pointing cannot be allowed to prevail. They must come together to define and map customer engagement lifecycle where the right expectations are set so that delivery and service operations can excel. Everything must be integrated including social media thought leadership, brand building, website education, differentiating video content, reasons to contact and then the entire sales cycle, on-boarding, service, account management and retention through to case studies, upselling and market advocacy. Beyond your product, service or solution; what's the customer experience you can create that sets you apart? How can you be the most insightful, helpful and the easiest supplier to deal with in the eyes of your customers?

The CEO must take personal control - it's too important to delegate. The CEO needs to become Chief Revenue Officer with sales, marketing, support and service all reporting directly. The best leaders set a vision for the customer experience they want to create that will outshine competitors. Facilitate workshops to brainstorm the future-state of your company. Commit to innovation and leverage the real power of technology. Focus on buyer personas and the process-flows, content creation and the channels they need for the end-to-end customer experience they expect and deserve. What is your customer relationship management strategy and what are the metrics and KPIs that guide you on the path? Do you have a platform on which you can truly understand your customers, anticipate their needs and support their entire journey from prospect to delighted customer?

Only approve a technology investment request that comes to you if it clearly articulates where it fits within the end-to-end customer experience strategy. You need to drive a culture of customer success through best possible customer experience with every touch-point providing consistent high levels of service. Maybe you will appoint a Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) in the future but for now you will grasp the role yourself. It's a terrifying role because you cannot manage revenue or results; you can only manage activities and inputs. That's the very reason why these next two roles must also be assumed by you personally to instil the vision, unity and discipline in your team and throughout the entire organization.

CEO: Chief Customer Experience Officer. Align the business for buyer engagement. Create retention strategies based on irresistible value and exceptional service. Love your people and customers. Great 'employee experience' creates great 'customer experience'. Delight them, inspire them, and show them a better way by getting out into the field and truly listening. Create emotional connections to the way you do business. Ensure your mission makes a difference in the world and has an emotional connection. Also make sure that your values are manifest in your behavior... culture is really nothing more than the values and behaviors of the leaders.

CEO: Chief Culture Example Officer. Love your staff and serve them with all you have. Be Chief Encouragement Office. Take your vision, mission and values statements off the wall and write them on everyone's mind and heart. Again, bring it all to life in the way you live and lead. Be authentic - ditch the persona and instead be human in how you operate. It will cascade down through the organization and the market will notice. You'll be 'the good guys' in your industry and partners and customers will want to do business with you over anyone else. Are you brave enough? This case study can show you how it can work.

Being obsessed with customer intimacy, combined with innovation to create the best market-leading customer experience, is the most powerful form of differentiation. This, combined with motivated and competent employees and partners is what creates the world's best businesses. What are the barriers you see to breaking down fiefdoms for the benefit of customers and the prosperity of the business? How can you rally the entire company around customer journeys and customer experience?

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Tony Hughes is ranked as the #1 influencer on professional selling in Asia-Pacific and is a keynote speaker and best selling author. This article was originally published on LinkedIn where you can also follow Tony's award-winning blog. Also, visit Tony's keynote speaker website at or his sales methodology website at


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