The Ripple Effect

The Ripple Effect: What CEOs Value Most

Alex Allwood ALEX ALLWOOD, Customer Centricity, Customer Experience, CX Leadership, CX Strategy, CX Vision & Principles

What’s important to us drives our actions. Our behaviours big and small reflect what we care about. In organisations too, what’s valued by the CEO informs the business’s mindset, language and cultural norms. What the leader values shows up in what the business cares about and how they deliver this — leadership behaviour has a ripple effect across the entire business. 

For some businesses, the leadership team’s commitment and prioritisation is crystal clear; they walk-the-talk and lead by example. For other organisational leaders, whilst they may talk about what they value, this isn’t reflected in their actions. A classic example is customer centricity. On one hand there is a direction to deliver customer experience excellence. Resources and effort are invested into a CX vision, customer satisfaction performance data is reported and disseminated, closing the loop actions are initiated and optimising touchpoints with digital solutions is prioritised.

On the other hand however, the organisation’s operation remains unchanged. The structure, goals and performance metrics demonstrate alignment to a core culture of sales or product enhancement at the expense of customer experiences. Problem solving and decision making are based on a business agenda. Worse still, there is low to no empathy for the customer’s experience. The existing cultural status quo remains steadfast — a clear signal to the business that customer experience excellence is not what the leadership team really values.

On a daily basis, organisational leaders tell the story of their business’s pursuit of customer experience excellence. In reality though, the actions of their organisation reflect what they really value. Here’s a couple of examples to ponder from this week’s news.    

‘Apple’s behaviour is clearly now sales-centric’    

If the leadership values customers then this attitude will define the experiences the business delivers. Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, launched iPhone’s latest iteration during the week, and whilst his predecessor valued human-centric solutions with a mandate to disrupt, the iPhone 11 Pro, with it’s overly familiar features and discounted price tag, sent a clear message to the market – we care about sales. Led by Cook, Apple’s behaviour is clearly now sales-centric. 

‘AMP set to reorientate the business’s cultural core to product-centric’       

What a leader values has a ripple effect on a business’s attitudes and actions, impacting how things get done. Making front page news in the AFR was AMP’s incoming CEO Francesco De Ferrari. In the wake of the financial services royal commission finding there was a focus on profits at the expense of customers, De Ferrari is set to reinvent AMP’s wealth advisory model. Drawing inspiration from monolithic technology providers he is set to reorientate the business’s cultural core to product-centric.

‘Didi has 550 million users, President Jean Liu’s approach is customer-centric

Then there’s the head of Didi Chuxing, Jean Liu. Didi is the world’s biggest ride sharing company with 550 million users across 400 cities globally. Liu’s insights come from her most important asset, the company’s 30 million drivers. Her approach is customer-centric; walking a mile in the drivers’ shoes and taking joy rides to “get in their head”, Liu wants to know what they’re thinking when they’re behind the wheel. With ambitions of global expansion and the challenge of little-to-no differentiation between one brand and the next, Liu’s customer-centric actions shine a light on the importance of customer empathy.

What the leadership team values has a ripple effect across the business; if they care about customers then this shows up in how the business delivers its experiences. These leaders know that what they care about, the business cares about too.