Practice seeing things from your customer’s perspective

The most successful leaders are uneasy with depending on data alone to tell them what’s happening. They take steps to put themselves in their customers’ shoes. They want to deeply understand and experience the organization— and its products, employees and competitors—as customers do.

I agree. Get out there and see what’s happening firsthand. Make it a habit. Learn as much as you can, as quickly as you can, informally. These sources of insight may include direct customer input, social posts, employee input, product and service reviews, operational data, informal focus groups and actually working with customers yourself.

As a leader, it’s not practical to be directly involved in all of these sources all of the time. But finding ways to stay tuned in — beyond formal reports — makes a huge difference. And it sets the right example. Let me make a few simple recommendations:

  • First, brainstorm and identify the many sources of insight that are available. That will probably trigger ideas on how you want to stay close to the action.
  • Think about your schedule and how you can find time for this aspect of leadership. If it’s not intentional, it’s probably not going to happen.
  • Be ready to work through any initial awkwardness. It’s not easy, at first, to get out there and observe. And if you’re brave enough to help handle the work—say in retail, the contact center, or operations—it takes time and practice. But it yields tremendous insight.
  • Use good judgment in how you respond to what you see. Fixing issues in isolation is not the end goal; instead, you’re getting a good sense of how well your organization is adjusting and responding.

Excerpt from Leading the Customer Experience: How to Chart a Course and Deliver Outstanding Results by Brad Cleveland

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