A close encounter of the fifth kind

Observing a focus group reminded me of the most important role of a CEO in the 21st century

I recently observed focus group members as they shared their observations and frustrations with recent changes in online and mobile banking applications at their multibillion dollar Credit Union.  I came away thinking how impressed I was with these members’ knowledge of banking services and their willingness to share their thoughts on how the Credit Union could serve them better.  And I came away thinking, as well, that the issues raised spoke directly to the changing role of CEOs in Credit Unions in the 21st Century.

And what is that changing role?  

In a recent article, “The Changing Role of the 21st Century CEO”, we discussed the need for CEOs to adjust their roles to focus on listening to learn, developing learners to be leaders, and changing their organizations’ planning and focus to succeed in this new digital environment.  What was left unsaid, was the critical role the CEO must play in driving the organization toward an enterprise-wide focus on customer needs and satisfaction.  And before you say, “but of course, that is what we all want and expect,” ask yourself if your organization has a Voice of the Customer (VoC) program that enables customer-centric problem solving and decision-making?  And ask yourself if your organization has initiated enterprise-wide efforts to make Customer Experience Management a pillar of your strategic and tactical plans and actions. I suspect the answers to both are somewhere between “started” and “what’s VoC and what’s CX?”

Why must the CEO’s role include CX leadership?

The biggest issue raised by those focus group participants centered on the failure of the new online and mobile services to preserve functionality the members needed and had come to expect.  And the members questioned what process the Credit Union went through to choose the new applications and to develop use cases and test plans, including testing those use cases with members.

The members’ issues and questions revealed that the Credit Union’s efforts (decisions and processes) were more product-centric than customer-centric, leaving the members wondering why the Credit Union did what it did; and why they, the members, weren’t asked.  

Despite the marketing rhetoric and proclamations of being member focused, most Credit Unions are product-centric, not customer-centric, and make decisions based largely on internal interests and assumed understanding of what members want.  This has to change.  

For Credit Unions to succeed in this digital, customer-needs-driven environment, CEOs must take on the role of Chief Customer Experience Officer.  CEOs must lead the way for their organizations to focus on member needs first and foremost by showing how success at customer experience satisfaction will lead to new business, higher retention, lower delivery costs and higher net returns.  There is no greater new “focus” for 21st Century CEOs than this because digital delivery, data access and data analysis is driving your competitors forward, and you must keep up to succeed, even survive.

If You Aren’t Actively Engaged in VoC and CX Efforts, You Better Start, Now

We all like to think we know our businesses, and that includes knowing our customers.  But there is too much evidence to the contrary, when it comes to customer understanding, to hold onto that belief.  It is no longer enough to be close to right when creating and delivering products and services to your customers.  It is no longer enough to be a bit better than your competition at delivering those products and services. It is no longer enough to be “friendlier” or less “fee focused.’’  In this digital age, “enough” is not god enough. You must outperform your competitors at the task of meeting the stated needs of your customers.  Do that well, and you will retain their business, get more of it, and get their friends and family members’ business too.  But to do that, you have to get busy, now.

It’s time you got busy working on these VoC and CX initiatives

  • Assessing your culture and working to turn it to customer-centric listening and learning.
  • Assigning champions to help you introduce and grow cultural change that leads to decision-making and process change.
  • Setting objectives for capturing and prioritizing customer expectations and preferences that let you organize to act to consistently delight customers.
  • Designing VoC processes and implementing technology to continuously gather customer feedback and stage it for analysis and action.
  • Governing data from multiple sources (including CRM) to understand and act upon customer needs and interactions.
  • Measuring results, learning from them, and doing better in each iteration of effort; because you must become a learning organization to succeed.

Why a close encounter of the fifth kind?

Too often, we think we know what our customers want and we act on that belief.  But when we actually communicate with them, we find that they are not who we thought they were.  In fact, who they are and what they want often turns out to be quite “alien” to us.  

The 21st century CEO’s role, therefore, must include leading efforts to listen and learn from customers and members; and to redefine your organization’s mission and culture to enable meeting your members’ most important needs and wants.

UFOs:  Encounters with Unidentified Flying Objects have been categorized into five groups as close encounters of the first, second, third, fourth and fifth kind. The fifth kind involves direct communication between aliens and humans.

Greg Crandell

Greg Crandell

Greg Crandell provides strategy, market planning, business development, and management consulting to financial technology firms and their clients – Credit Unions and Banks. For more years than he wishes to admit, ... Web: queryconsultinggroup.com Details