I run. Very. Very. Slowly. This past weekend I ran the LA Marathon with about 25,000 of my best friends from Dodger Stadium to the Pier in Santa Monica. It was grueling but fantastic. I even had the honor of being the second Arkansan finisher (there were only 7 others, two of whom were ex SoCal folks who came with me).
While running this race my mind started to stray toward one of my other passions; customer experience. Somewhere in the fog of mile 20 chugging up La Cienega Boulevard on an annoying hill devoid of spectators, I started thinking about the parallels between distance running and changes organization must undergo to become more customer centric. Here’s my 5 tips for running the CX marathon.
You can improvise a 5k or 10k with little training. You might even be able to phone in a half marathon if you are young and fit enough. Full marathons are not something one can typically ‘wing’. The same can be said for Customer Experience initiatives. You cannot simply turn an organization from a product or sales centric organization into one that suddenly embraces the customer as the end –all-be-all. It just doesn’t work that way. It takes work. In what I call Agile CXTM, it requires organizations to engage in a series of successive small attempts and initiatives that build on one another. This iterative building approach is the key to building a successful and sustainable customer experience focus. You got to train to get results.
- Find a Buddy
Training for marathons are long and lonely enterprises. Three to five hour outings on cold and rainy Saturday mornings are not uncommon. Having a running group or buddy is almost a requirement to keep you accountable and maintain your sanity. The same is true for organizations trying to be more customer focused. You need help. It’s ok. Find others out there who are running faster or slower than your organization. You need the support. You need the accountability. Organizations like CXPA or forums like Customerthink can certainly help you meet like-minded others who on their own journeys.
It goes without saying you must have to discipline to stay training and not give up. Discipline includes staying with it and knowing when to change course. It also means forgiving yourself if you have an off week and couldn’t get your miles in. Your organization needs to have the discipline to stay the course for the highs and lows. You will experience setbacks and failures in creating a CX focus. You will screw up. Expect it. Plan for it. Successful organizations push through and keep going.
- Celebrate Successes
Whether you are an elite runner or a 15 minute miler, the point is, you are getting it done. Take the time to congratulate yourself. Take time to make sure your organization celebrates and focuses on its successes. Find that sales rep and recognize her. If accounts payable went out of their way to help a customer; give them a shout out. So much of the time we focus on what’s wrong; take some time to focus on what went right too. We know from human development that positive reinforcement is much more powerful force than punishment.
- Maniacal Perseverance
Distance runners are a curious bunch. They are unrepentant masochists. After the blisters have started to heal and they can ambulate not looking like a cast member from the Walking Dead, most distance runners start asking themselves “which one will I run next?” as their loved ones look down and shake their heads.
For organizations the CX race never ends. Sure we have some breathers in between races, but the race never ends. Why? Because others are always racing. They want to beat you. Stay still, you get left behind. Get left behind, and your racing days are over.
Anyone Can Do It
Distance running is really very simple. You put the right foot in front of the left, and then left in front of the right, and repeat about 90,000 times. Almost anyone can do it. You just need to be determined and train a bit (a helpful guide from Sport Fitness Advisor can be found here).
The same is true with organizations. Any organization can change provided they have the discipline, patience, and commitment to do so…and perhaps some help from some running buddies. If you need a CX buddy to help you train. Let me know. You got this.