Data tells us a lot about where the challenges and opportunities are and where to focus our attention as leaders.

But when it comes to customer experience, the most impressive transformation stories go a step beyond great data and analytics. Companies that make big leaps in their customer experience performance go deeper to answer “people questions” like these:

  • How can I motivate executives to support a customer experience strategy?
  • How can we encourage more innovations to improve the customer experience?
  • How can we change our culture to become more customer-centric?

Making these things happen can require an unconventional approach – pushing employees at all levels of the organization out of their comfort zone.

One company that’s doing an effective job of this is Telstra. If you don’t live in Australia or work in the telecom industry, you might not know them. Telstra is a big company:

  • $25 billion in revenues
  • 40 thousand employees
  • millions of fixed line and mobile customers nationwide

They were once the government telecom provider in Australia, but are rapidly changing as Australia has opened up the industry to competition. Telstra’s new focus is on driving not just customer satisfaction, but experiences that delight customers and turn them into advocates. And this is requiring their leadership team to think differently.

I was lucky to meet one of their internal champions leading this cause at our Medallia Customer Experience Certification in December. He told the group a bit about their transformation journey, their customer experience program with Medallia, and their use of the Net Promoter approach as a tool to focus the organization on customer advocacy.

He also shared this You Tube video, which shows one of the innovative ways Telstra is driving change – by having executives walk in the shoes of the front line.

From what you can see in the video, Telstra understands that getting executives to move out of their comfort zone spurs different thinking. By having the executive team take calls directly from customers, the front line employees get an important signal that that their work is critical – both appreciated and understood by top management. And executives connect personally with the customer experience as it plays out in every customer call.

What seems like a small gesture can be pivotal in driving change. Most front line employees work in an environment defined by the policies, procedures, and culture that emanate from the day-to-day decisions of top leaders. When executives walk in the shoes of the front line, you take an important step toward transforming the internal conversation, and the culture.

So, if you want to change the conversation in your company, try something different:

  • Visit your customers with no agenda other than to listen and observe;
  • Invite a customer to your next management meeting;
  • Do some secret shopping of your own;
  • Or, ask your executives to take customer calls, like Telstra did.

Whatever you do, don’t be afraid to take a walk into uncharted territory.

Photo credit: Marine Corps Archives & Special Collections