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CX as a team sport: How to get organization-wide buy-in

by Christopher Stark, Director of Business Value at Khoros & Kahlil Dumas, Senior Business Value Engineer | Jun 11, 2021

In this limited blog series, we’re covering the steps brands can take to measure, expand, and improve their CX programs. Here, our topic is working with the business — what you can do to get buy-in and support from other teams, including the c-suite.




So many customer engagement best practices start from the bottom and move up. Customer care agents, social media managers, and other employees who manage customer relationships generally have their fingers on the pulse of customer sentiment. Thus, they’re often the best people to turn to when things need to improve.

In many ways, a CX center of excellence is no different; getting input and guidance from every level is crucial. But unlike, for example, a vertically integrated contact center, a CX program has to be horizontally integrated. In other words, it’s not just one team from top to bottom that holds a stake — it’s a variety of teams across the entire organization.

This, of course, makes CX a special challenge. In this blog, we’ll talk about how to get management buy-in not just from members of one team, but across your entire organization — especially the executive level.

Getting buy-in from leadership

A CX program is, by its very nature, disruptive. It aims to address pain points that have likely been entrenched for a long time. A successful CX program will uncover insights that align with current business objectives and some insights that don’t at all. This means that there will inevitably be business hurdles along the way — and in order to overcome those challenges, you’ll need to get buy-in at the top of your organization.

In a survey conducted by The Petrova Experience, 47% of respondents had a CX leader in their organization, and 23% had a customer experience leader that reported directly to the CEO. And although surveys aren’t everything, we expect those numbers to continue growing.

Taking customer feedback seriously

Let’s say, for example, that customers are consistently providing feedback that runs counter to an entrenched practice of one of your business functions. This feedback can be difficult for functions to handle, and some may try to discredit customer insights altogether — especially if they don’t align with established goals.

Needless to say (hopefully), you can’t simply discredit and ignore valuable customer feedback. But you also may not be able to change things by yourself because CX programs are cross-functional, and you may not work on the team that needs to change.

What do you do when you run into a wall like this one? How do you move forward when a business function refuses to adopt the voice of the customer?

Call in back-up from an executive who understands the value of the customer’s voice. This isn’t a matter of going over your coworkers’ heads. Rather, it’s a way to ensure that every business function takes customer feedback — and by extension, the customer’s experience — seriously. This is a key component of a mature CX program.

CX and Executive Landscape

Translating CX success into business value

An executive owner in your CX program isn’t only going to bat for you with your coworkers in other departments. They can also help your team figure out how to measure success in a way that makes sense to company leadership.

McKinsey reports that just 4% of CX leaders believe their CX measurement system enables them to calculate a decision's return on investment. That’s an uncomfortably low number for a non-traditional program whose budget relies on getting buy-in from the organization’s leadership. It's such a challenge for CX leaders, in fact, that we created a whole webinar around it.

An executive owner is key in demonstrating business value — and, as we’ll see below, getting company-wide buy-in. Along with understanding the value a CX program can offer, they will also understand the business’ current data landscape and help provide access to data sets you otherwise might not have. Even more importantly, their bird’s eye view of the business, combined with their commitment to customer experience, can help you turn your KPIs into demonstrations of ROI.

CX and Executive Landscape Flow

The best candidates for initial ownership are typically marketing, analytics, or operations executives. But anyone who has a real interest or stake in the brand’s customer experience — and who’s willing to work closely with and promote the interests of the CX team — will do.

Of course, your executive sponsor can only do so much…

Working across the business

Christopher Stark Quote - CX Pro


As we’ve said before, improving CX is an inherently cross-functional, collaborative effort. Each of your brand’s established teams is probably already thinking about CX within their own business function. The problem is that they may not be doing so together.

Christopher Stark Quote - Gaps

That’s where a cross-functional CX team comes in. It’s in your company’s best interest for every customer-facing team to understand not just their portion of CX, but the whole thing. A team cannot be held accountable for what it doesn’t know.

The CX team should work with business functions to learn their roadmaps, initiatives, terminology, concerns, struggles, and expectations as they relate to the customer experience. This will allow them to identify ways to improve the customer experience, specifically within those functions.

From Team To COE

It’s especially vital that the team is up-to-date on any new initiatives or programs that could affect how customers interact with the brand. Launching a new membership program? Releasing new products or UX? Offering free shipping? Ensure the CX team is aware of these programs so they're able to listen and provide meaningful insights both on the day of launch and beyond. In some cases, the CX team can help whoever is launching the new program by providing key insights to guide how it gets built.

Learn the language and nomenclature your company uses and analyze it to see how it aligns with your customers. Oftentimes, you'll find the language a company uses is not the language customers use, leading to confusion. Try to understand the terms and phrases customers use to describe your products, services, and experiences.

Teams to include in your CX program

So, we’ve covered that it’s important to include representatives from a variety of different departments on your CX team.

But specifically which ones matter? What if you can’t get a representative from every team? To a certain extent, the answers to these questions will vary from brand to brand. Still, a great rule of thumb is that to have the greatest impact, you should start with the ones that directly affect the customer experience to have the greatest impact. Those teams include:

  • Digital

  • Marketing

  • Website

  • Content

  • App

  • Marketing

  • Pricing

  • Product

  • Service

  • Sales

  • Operations

  • Brand

  • Strategy

  • Events

  • Public Relations

  • Contact Center

  • HR

Even if you can’t get a representative from each team (we know that’s a bit of a tall order), make sure to keep them updated on your progress.

What to ask your brand’s CX experts

Even more importantly, consult these teams. They know what they’re doing, and their input is crucial to your success. Here are a few questions to ask them:

  • What part of the customer experience do you impact?

  • What data do you use today to make decisions?

  • How would you like to see customer experience insights align with your current work?

  • What are customers currently saying about the piece of the customer experience your team owns?

  • What are customers not mentioning?

  • What additional data or information would be valuable to you?

How stakeholders receive CX insights is crucial. Some may take offense to the (perceived) implication that they don’t know their customers; others may simply embrace a new insight or data point. Still others might be so excited that they’ll want to work even more closely with your team — that’s the ideal scenario.

To get the best response, be sure to reassure them that the CX team is there to help make their jobs easier by empowering them with the voice of the customer. The key is confirming what they already know while diplomatically enlightening them on what they may not.

Learn the Business Then Report

The best CX insights come from a combination of great tech, executive buy-in, and collaboration across departments

Customers are always voicing their opinions and issues — and not just through surveys. The only questions are whether you’re listening, and what you do with what you hear. A digital-first solution like Khoros CX Insights is key to gathering and understanding customer feedback without relying solely upon unreliable surveys. You can listen to the voice of the customer across every channel — from phone to email to social media and more — and generate key insights.

Christopher Stark Quote - CX Data


What you do with those insights will be enhanced by how the buy-in you can get from leadership and how well you can establish cross-functional collaboration.

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