Monday, May 24, 2021

3 Leadership Secrets: Build Consensus, Be Open to Challengers, and Delegate


If you’re not familiar with the name Erika Andersen, then get ready for some valuable leadership take-aways. She is someone who stands out wherever she appears in the digital landscape, whether as a guest writer on Forbes, her own website, or on Twitter. 

Erika Andersen is the founding partner of Proteus, a coaching, consulting, and training firm that focuses on leader readiness; and over the past 30 years, she has developed a reputation for creating approaches to learning and business-building that are tailored to the challenges, goals, and cultures of her clients. Erika and her colleagues at Proteus focus on helping leaders at all levels GET ready and STAY ready to meet whatever the future might bring. In addition, Erika is the author of many books as well as the author and host of the Proteus Leader Show, a regular podcast that offers quick, practical support for leaders and managers. Follow on Twitter @erikaandersen and @ProteusLeader – and also on the web at Erika and I recently had a discussion about leadership, and highlights follow below.

QUESTION: When President Obama introduced Janet Yellen as the new Federal Reserve Chair in October 2013, he said, "Janet Yellen is a proven leader who knows how to build consensus, the kind of person who makes everybody around her better." Certainly, President Biden remembered this when nominating her as the first woman Secretary of the Treasury. What three characteristics do you think are necessary to create a consensus-builder?

Blog post referenced: What Kind of Leadership Legacy Are You Creating?

ERIKA ANDERSEN: The first three things that come to mind when I hear “consensus builder” are listening, “fair witnessing,” and generosity.

Listening – true, deep listening, where your intention is to fully understand what the other person is saying – is foundational to all good leadership and management, in fact to all healthy relationships. It’s especially necessary to building consensus: understanding what all parties think and feel is the core pre-requisite for being able to find a solution that includes the most important elements of each person’s point of view. It also assures that each person will feel heard and respected – which goes a long way toward “unsticking” people from rigid positions.

Being a fair witness, which I talk about a lot, means being as objective and neutral as possible. That becomes more challenging the more emotionally attached we are to a topic. If, as the person responsible for finding consensus, you can maintain a neutral focus on finding the best outcome for the greatest number of people (vs. lobbying for your preferred solution), I’ve found that helps everyone become more objective and less likely to simply argue for their own outcome.

Finally, generosity. Such a critical leadership capability – especially when emotions are running high and people have different and strongly-held viewpoints. If you as the leader can assume positive intent about everyone involved – that they are advocating for what they truly believe is the best outcome – it provides a powerful hopeful example that makes it less likely that people will fall into negative and limiting beliefs about each other, and much more likely for consensus to be achieved.  

QUESTION: Last year was the “year of women” in visible seats of influence - see my Blog post written in December. From your personal and consulting experiences, how can more women earn positions of influence in business, law, medicine, nonprofit, etc.?

Blog post referenced: 2020 Was the Year of Women

ERIKA ANDERSEN: I have great faith in the younger generations – Millennials and Gen Z – who now make up a majority of the workforce, and who will continue to grow as a force over the next decade. They are more diverse than previous generations, and more progressive in their thinking and actions regarding inclusion and collaboration of all kinds. The people I know in their 20’s and 30s expect that women – and people of color – will have power and influence commensurate with their skills, capabilities and ambition. I think that means that the future is in good hands.

But what about now? First, I would hope that any woman who is now in a position of power and influence will do her best to be a model of representation, and to remove obstacles and provide opportunities for those who are coming up behind her. I would also encourage powerful women to turn to their male colleagues and help them understand how they can be practical allies by creating more opportunities for women to succeed.

And all of us can, with kindness and hope, recognize in ourselves and point out to each other where we might have limiting assumptions about women – and people of color, the disabled, LGBTQ+, and other marginalized people. And once we recognize those limiting assumptions, we can all work to question and work against them, so that we invite and welcome a more diverse group of people into positions of power and influence.
QUESTION: I read a recent post from Wharton that shared the concept that all leaders need to be surrounded by a “challenge network.” Can you elaborate on this?

Blog post referenced: Why You Need a “Challenge Network”

ERIKA ANDERSEN: I love this idea – that leaders need people who will challenge their ideas and conclusions. I talk about something like this in my book “Leading So People Will Follow,” where I contend that leaders need “Wizards, Well-wishers, and Wildcards.”  

Wizards are those people who know things you don’t know, and who can help you break through your image of yourself or of what’s possible and find new solutions and new ways of operating – part of what you can get from a “challenge network.”

Well-wishers are the opposite of a challenge network: they’re the people who genuinely think you’re marvelous, and truly want the best for you (which I think is also invaluable –being challenged all the time is demoralizing and unhelpful).

Wildcards are those people from whom you get unexpected value – they may seem negative, or grouchy, or just weird, but they have insights, skills or assets that can support you to achieve an outcome or solve a problem better than you could yourself. The essence of what a challenge network provides!

A lot of research over many years has shown that one of the biggest predictors of leadership failure is an environment where others can’t or won’t push back on the leader’s decisions. Having a challenge network filled with Wizards and Wildcards helps make sure that doesn’t happen.  

TWEET THIS: One of the biggest predictors of leadership failure is an environment where others can’t or won’t push back on the leader’s decisions. ~@erikaandersen #LeadershipTip #ChallengeNetwork

QUESTION: Many people believe that leadership is only possible with a title. But there are many ways to lead and to be a leader. How do you counsel your clients to promote from within and build people up?

To read more on this topic, check out this Blog post: Spot these types of hidden talent in your organization:

ERIKA ANDERSEN: A lot of our coaching of leaders focuses on helping them become better developers of people. In addition to teaching them the core skills of feedback, delegation and coaching, we also encourage them to think about applying the “hedgehog” model Jim Collins popularized in Good to Great, where he noted companies that become great find the intersection among three things: what they’re best at, what they’re passionate about, and what “drives their economic engine” (i.e., makes them sustainably profitable).

Leaders can apply this to their folks by helping them think through what they’re best at and most passionate about, that will drive the organization’s economic engine. In other words, to focus their coaching and development on those areas where the employee would love to improve, where they can become really excellent, and where the company needs more capability.

Too often, leaders try to coach and develop just based on what the company needs, without thinking much about the employees’ interest or natural talent. And employees sometimes over-focus on what they’re passionate about, without thinking enough about whether they can get really good at that thing – or whether the company needs it.  

And once you, as a leader, have helped an employee get clearer about what they could be best at and passionate about, that will drive the company’s economic engine, it’s important to determine two other things. First, you need to find out if the employee is really willing to make the effort needed to grow (and, unfortunately, you can only really know that by seeing how they respond to growth opportunities). Second you need to have a “coach mindset” about that employee, which we define as “believing in their potential and wanting to help them succeed.”  

If all these things align, you get to have that wonderful experience of watching someone grow, knowing that you’ve helped.

TWEET THIS: Too often, leaders try to coach and develop just based on what the company needs, without thinking much about the employees’ interest or natural talent. ~@erikaandersen #LeadershipTip #LeadershipCoaching

QUESTION: You wrote a post published in Forbes comparing great leaders to movie heroes. Can you explain this comparison?

Blog post referenced: What Do Great Leaders And Movie Heroes Have In Common?

ERIKA ANDERSEN: I just used the movie hero comparison as an interesting way to tee up the importance of delegation!  

It’s easy to think that being a hero means doing everything yourself. But in almost every good movie, one of the things the hero learns is how essential it is to have the support, collaboration, and skills of others – that achieving difficult outcomes is almost always a group effort.

And leaders who are good at delegation, who have and use the skills and the mindset needed to share power and responsibility, are much more likely to build teams of capable and motivated people who achieve great things. Then, they all get to be real heroes!

QUESTION: Lastly, you have another inspiring leadership book out later in the year (October). How does it differ from “Growing Great Employees,” “Being Strategic,” “Leading So People Will Follow” and “Be Bad First”?

ERIKA ANDERSEN: Thank you for asking! The new book is called Change from the Inside Out, and it first explains the simple, predictable process any individual has to go through in order to make any change – we call it the Change Arc. Then it offers a model for cascading any change throughout an organization, by focusing well and consistently on the nuts-and-bolts necessities of change while supporting everyone in the organization through their own mental and emotional Change Arc.

The book offers new insights and models, and leverages many of the core skills and models you’ve seen in my earlier books, all in the service of helping leaders, their teams, and their organizations become more change-capable – better able to thrive and grow in this era of continual, disruptive change. I hope that’s a good “trailer for the movie” – and I look forward to having a more in-depth conversation about it as the publication date draws nearer this fall!

My heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to Erika for appearing on my Blog again and for sharing her leadership insights!

For more inspiration, check out Erika’s previous appearances on my Blog:

Review of: Leading So People Will Follow by Erika Andersen (October 2019)
(Fall Back to Reading with 12 Thought-Provoking Business Books)

Leadership + Strategy = Amazing Employee Experience (November 2018)

Review of: Be Bad First by Erika Andersen (October 2018)
(Fall Reading Recap: Leadership, Branding, and Voice of the Customer Marketing)

Are You the Type of Manager Or Leader YOU Would Follow? (January 2014)

25 Employee Engagement Tips to Improve Your Workplace

Want to be Nicknamed Strategy Guru? (July 2011)

Image Credit: Etsy.

Monday, May 17, 2021

How Has Covid Impacted the Workplace, Corporate Culture and Leadership?


Whenever I think about leadership, I think about Eric Jacobson. Today, I would like to welcome Eric back to my blog. We met through our work with MicroMentor in 2009, and since then, Eric has appeared on my blog four times as a featured guest and countless other times with quotes. 

Eric has more than a quarter-century of experience in successfully leading employees and teams through periods of revenue growth, new product development, and re-engineering. He is an experienced mentor and coach and holds an MBA Degree from Keller Graduate School. Eric’s passion is helping individuals to become effective leaders at work, within organizations, and wherever they are called upon to lead and inspire. 

Recently, Eric and I had a conversation about the changing nature of leadership based on a series of interesting and timely articles, and highlights follow below. For more about Eric, visit his Blog at and follow him on Twitter @EricJacobsonKC.

QUESTION: A recent article in Fast Company reported that the post-Covid office is not dead. What are your thoughts on this topic?

“After almost a year of remote working, we’re seeing a slow decay of connection. According to Gallup, remote employees are 7% less likely to see their connection to the mission of a company. Staring at a laptop screen with six other faces is inherently transactional, less spontaneous, and less human than working in an actual room with actual people.“

ERIC JACOBSON: This article mentioned, Susan Lund, PhD, a leader of the McKinsey Global Institute, who believes the return to offices will be about interaction. She said, “You’ll go into [the office] to meet with other people doing brainstorming and innovation, with more collaborative spaces, team rooms, and maybe individual phone booths for [private] conversations.”

The article also said that right now, there are too many unknowns (in public health, in the economy) to determine exactly when many employees will return to shared workplaces, but the advantages of human connection at work are so profound that a return to the office in some new, creative form is inevitable.

My thoughts are that many businesses will benefit from some type of physical office situation post-pandemic for the very reasons Lund stated in the article. I also believe that office space, at least for the foreseeable future (and where budgets permit), will and should look very different. Leaders will also need to help ensure employees feel comfortable and safe in a shared space, and employees will need to believe that space is purposeful.

The pandemic taught us that many businesses can function without employees being in a shared office space every day. It taught us that many employees can travel less often for work. It taught us how to use technology more effectively.

Post-pandemic, I advocate for leaders to offer flexible work schedules and flexibility as to where employees work – perhaps allowing a blending of working in a shared office and working from home.

And, in the meantime, while employees are working from home, leaders should go out of their way to be extra communicative – doing all they can to create a sense of teamwork, belonging and inclusion via a combination of Zoom (or similar platform), email, and phone conversations.

QUESTION: In a recent McKinsey article entitled, “The Vanishing Middle Manager,” several leaders discussed the loss of middle managers during the Covid era. How do you envision the impact of this phenomenon on the post-Covid workplace?

ERIC JACOBSON: Loss of middle managers during the Covid-19 era disappointments me. Because, as the article pointed out, middle managers are more often than not the individuals who are providing employees daily coaching, real-time feedback, and training.

Most importantly, middle managers are also an organization’s next generation of leaders. I believe, as the article stated, that middle manager roles should be coveted and nurtured and curated, not eliminated. If you want to eliminate something, eliminate tasks—tasks that are administrative or bureaucratic and don’t add value. Hopefully, if an organization eliminated its middle managers during the pandemic for budget reasons, better future financial times will allow that organization to reinstate those roles.

TWEET THIS: Middle managers are an organization’s next generation of leaders. –@EricJacobsonKC #Leadership #EmployeeExperience #EmployerBranding

QUESTION: A recent article by Knowledge@Wharton was titled, “Why You Need a ‘Challenge Network.’” What are your thoughts on this topic?

ERIC JACOBSON: Here are my two main takeaways from this article:

First, the ideal members of a challenge network are disagreeable — critical and skeptical. They’re fearless about questioning the way things have always been done and foster constructive conflict. Second, we learn more from people who challenge our thought process than from those who affirm our conclusions. I agree with both takeaways and see great value in having a challenge network within an organization, team, group, etc.

Leaders don’t have all the answers. Strong, effective leaders know that, and they value input from employees who question the status quo, play devil’s advocate, ask “what-if,” and, collectively, provide the opportunity for everyone to consider all sides of an issue.

Key, though, is that the challenge network members must be both constructive and respectful in their approach. Healthy conflict, discussion and evaluation are both critical and valuable when done in that manner.

QUESTION: I read an article by Paul LaRue (@Paul_LaRue on Twitter) that shared excellent leadership advice: Don’t lead from the rearview mirror. What does this advice mean to you?

ERIC JACOBSON: This advice reminds me of what one of my first supervisors taught me. He told me, “if you make a decision I disagree with, I’ll tell you so and why, and let’s use that as an opportunity to learn, and then let’s move on.” I’ve done my best to live by that advice ever since in my leadership roles.

This leadership practice is quite similar to what LaRue shares in his article (his analogy), that cars have a large windshield and a small rear-view mirror. As drivers need to check behind them once in a while, they need to focus on the road ahead to ensure that they can successfully get where they are going. Great leaders know the wisdom of focusing on the present and future and spending very little time on the recent past.

He adds that when a leader works hard to train their people to get ahead of situations and prevent errors or poor execution, that leader becomes more effective than the one who would rather wait and pounce on an issue in arrears.

LaRue’s advice is so valuable, it is worth repeating here: People that are rear-view managers tend to be reactionary. They would rather jump on an issue after it occurred. Usually those issues are ones in which an error or poor performance took place, in which case the manager reprimands, then takes steps to correct the individual through steps such as remedial training or formal discipline.

Windshield leadership is quite the opposite mindset. A windshield leader is always looking ahead and doing whatever it takes to avoid the hazards and potholes up ahead. They set clear expectations, build reminders of what the goal and vision are continually, and train incessantly to ensure their people are on top of their game and perform at a high level at all times.

Finally, as he states, “We learn from our mistakes so we can succeed better,” rather than “You messed up, here are the consequences.”

QUESTION: A quote by Lolly Daskal (@LollyDaskal on Twitter) stands out: “Leaders sometimes think the more they withhold, the more power they hold. But I believe the opposite is true: the more you communicate, the more power it gives you.” What do you think about this advice?

ERIC JACOBSON: I agree with Lolly Daskal’s advice to be a communicative leader. As she explained in her article, a leader’s lack of communication has the potential to harm teams, businesses, workplace dynamics, and the processes that keep everything moving.

More specifically, she adds that an uncommunicative leader and ineffective communication leads to employee frustration, distrust and confusion, a lack of respect, and a decrease in employee morale and motivation. In addition, when a leader doesn’t communicate, employees typically create a dialog and stories in their own minds, often assuming worse-case scenarios.

Leaders should communicate often and regularly, sharing both the good news and the bad news – good news to help celebrate, motivate, encourage, and inspire. And bad news to help build trust, to be truthful, and perhaps most importantly, because employees very likely have ideas and solutions to help turn a bad situation into a positive outcome.

While workforces are remote working from home, leaders should make a deliberate effort to communicate not only in writing, but also via Zoom (or similar tool). Good news or bad, it is important that employees receive communication from their leaders visually and verbally and not only through email.

My gratitude to Eric for appearing on my Blog a record fifth time and for sharing his always inspiring and thought-provoking leadership insights.

To read previous Q&A’s with Eric, see below for titles, dates, and links:

The Importance of Training, Customer Connections & Leadership (March 21, 2011)

The Importance of Mentorships (March 11, 2013)

Leadership Doesn’t Have to Be Hard (May 3, 2016)

How Leadership Crafts the #EmployeeExperience (May 1, 2018)

Image Credit: Real Leaders (Twitter and Instagram: @Real_Leaders).

Monday, May 10, 2021

Marketing Tips from 3 Brands that Pivoted During the Pandemic


While the Covid Pandemic has thankfully taken a turn away from stay-at-home orders and quarantines, we must all continue to protect ourselves and our loved ones. Smart brands realize this and have pivoted and will continue to pivot because it’s not yet time for business to return to “pre-Covid normal.”

Which brands pivoted to stay in business during the height of the pandemic? Which brands stood out by pivoting? Which brands will be long remembered by their actions during the Covid pandemic? Which brands disappeared during the pandemic never to be seen again? 

Here are three brands that clearly explained why they pivoted – and their actions can teach all brands a thing or two.

On February 7, 2021, there were no Budweiser Clydesdales in Super Bowl ads. The company chose to apply its $5 million ad budget allocated for the big game toward covid vaccine awareness and education. In addition, Budweiser donated some of its advertising airtime during the rest of 2021 to the Ad Council and the Covid Collaborative’s Vaccine Education Initiative.

“Like everyone else, we are eager to get people back together, reopen restaurants and bars, and be able to gather to cheer with friends and family. To do this, and to bring consumers back into neighborhood bars and restaurants that were hit exceptionally hard by the pandemic, we’re stepping in to support critical awareness of the Covid-19 vaccine,” Monica Rustgi, Budweiser vice president of marketing, explained.

MARKETING TIP: Budweiser wanted to provide vaccine awareness and education.

Despite what seemed to this baseball fan like months of discussions, major league baseball executives unveiled a shortened season comprised of 60 games rather than the normal 162-game regular season. The intent was to provide a sense of normally in an incredibly crazy and difficult time to millions of people who were quarantined at home and wanted to watch the nation’s pastime. Of course, it did not hurt that this fan’s team won the World Series!

According to Wikipedia, “The 2020 Major League Baseball season began on July 23 and ended on September 27 with 60 games amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. The full 162-game regular season was originally scheduled to begin on March 26. However, the pandemic caused Major League Baseball (MLB) to announce on March 12 that the remainder of spring training was canceled and that the start of the regular season would be delayed by at least two weeks On March 16, MLB announced that the season would be postponed indefinitely, following recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to restrict events of more than 50 people. This was the first time that MLB games have been put on hold since the 2001 season, when the season was paused for over a week after the September 11 attacks.

On July 6, MLB released the revised schedule for the shortened 60-game season. The season started on July 23, with two games: New York Yankees at Washington Nationals and San Francisco Giants at Los Angeles Dodgers. The remaining 26 teams opened the season on July 24. An expanded 16-team postseason tournament began on September 29, with games of all but the first round being played at neutral sites. The World Series began on October 20 at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, and ended on October 27, with the Los Angeles Dodgers defeating the Tampa Bay Rays in six games to win their first title since 1988.”

MARKETING TIP: MLB wanted to provide a sense of normalcy in a difficult time.

Once the pandemic started, the “Bear crew” at this company known for meticulously-designed, handcrafted teddy bears that are guaranteed for life since 1981 wondered how it could help.

According to its website, “We decided to put new Bear creation on hold and donate our supply of 620 surgical and N95 masks. (These masks protect our crew from breathing in fur and stuffing fibers as the bears are made.) The masks went to the Medical Countermeasures and Strategic National Stockpile, Division of Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Injury Prevention, Vermont Department of Health. Next on the list was to start making masks. A few of our crew volunteered to round up materials at our manufacturing facility to make kits for face mask creation (we stayed a safe distance apart!), and community members volunteered to start making masks from home. We have a network of over 150 at home sewers helping us! We have distributed over 14,000 masks to the City of Burlington, and they have all gone directly to essential workers. Our goal is to make 125,000 masks, enough to give 20% of Vermonters masks.”

MARKETING TIP: Vermont Teddy Bear Factory wanted to make an impact on the needs of local essential workers – and by thinking outside the box, used its factory, workers, and volunteers to create a much-needed commodity, face masks.

So, how can YOUR brand pivot, and what can it learn from these marketing tips?

Image Credits: Budweiser, MLB, and Vermont Teddy Bear Factory.

Monday, May 3, 2021

How Does Your Brand Ensure a Positive Customer Experience?

Over the last decade, thanks to social media, I have had the privilege of meeting a variety of amazing marketing, branding, customer experience, leadership, and social media experts. One of these experts is Ben Motteram from Australia. We recently discussed customer experience marketing, and highlights follow Ben’s bio.

Ben Motteram is a customer experience consultant based in Melbourne, Australia, that has worked with some of Australia’s best-known brands in areas, such as, CX strategy, customer insights, employee engagement, and culture. Through his company, CXpert, he helps build organizations that employees and customers love. Ben’s company can be found at; he’s on LinkedIn at; and he’s on Twitter at @CXpert.

QUESTION: How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted customer experiences in Australia?
BEN MOTTERAM: The impact of the pandemic on CX in Australia has been profound but disproportionate. Almost every state and territory managed to control the virus soon after it arrived on our shores through measures like reducing capacity at public venues, social distancing, effective contact tracing, closing their borders, and quarantining returning travelers. In those states, customer experience remained largely the same.

In Victoria where I live, however, the virus escaped into the community leading to the government imposing one of the world’s harshest lockdowns which included amongst many other restrictions:
* All non-essential stores were closed including almost all retail and hospitality.
* People were allowed out of their homes once a day for exercise.
* Travel more than 5km (3 miles) from your home was not permitted.
* An 8pm to 6am curfew was imposed.

That lockdown lasted 112 days until late October. Businesses pivoted where they could, and it hastened the move to digital for many, but a lot of them simply closed their doors. Some permanently. At the end of last year, it was heartbreaking to walk along once-vibrant shopping strips and see all the “For Lease” signs in vacant store windows.  

If you define customer experience as how a person feels about you based on every interaction they have with you, the impact of COVID-19 on CX was enormous for those businesses, because none of those interactions were happening either online or off.

QUESTION: Have you had any exceptional customer experiences during the COVID-19 era?
BEN MOTTERAM: In May last year, I transferred my home internet service to a new provider, Aussie Broadband. After signing up online, my first real interaction with them was terrible – the company cut over my service from my old provider to them without sending me the modem I needed to make it work. But it was the way they recovered from that situation that impressed me. For no extra cost, they couriered a better modem, and after it arrived the next day, their service department spent hours on the phone with me to fix a technical issue I was having.

The lesson here is that sometimes a breakdown in your customer experience gives you an opportunity to shine in ways you otherwise couldn’t which results in deeper loyalty from the customer. Aussie Broadband’s recovery from that awful initial experience left me feeling even more positive about the company and my decision to transfer my business to them.

As a postscript to that story, a few weeks later, I received an email from the Managing Director laying out what the company stood for. Titled “Why Aussie Broadband Exists”, it read in part: “Aussie Broadband was founded in 2003 to deliver great internet to regional areas, but now we cover all of Australia. Obviously our "why" has changed. We concluded that we're in business to change the game. We want to change not just the telco game, but things like easy-as-possible customer service, what a regional business can look like, how a rapidly growing company can still feel like family, and more. That's what drives us, and we hope that resonates with you as well. Without you, our customers, none of this could be possible. For that, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”

What a wonderful way to engage customers in the corporate mission and thank them!

TWEET THIS: Sometimes a breakdown in your #CX gives you an opportunity to shine in ways you otherwise couldn’t which results in deeper loyalty from the customer. –@CXpert #brandexperience

QUESTION: Which social platform is the best tool for creating a quality customer experience, and why? If different, which platform is the most effective for addressing customer complaints or issues in a timely manner, and why?
BEN MOTTERAM: First, full disclosure: I’m a man in my 40’s, my knowledge of social media platforms is very much limited to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

A customer’s experience with a brand encompasses every interaction they have with it from when they are forming their initial impressions of the brand prior to their first purchase through to after they’ve made their last. For this reason, there’s no one best platform for every business across every interaction.

Instagram is perfect for showing your customers your products and making it easy for customers to order them but won’t be as effective for a service business. Facebook offers brands a great way to build like-minded communities amongst their customers. And Twitter is often used as an alternative service channel. Each platform has its strengths when used in a certain way.

Regarding which platform is the most effective for addressing customer complaints or issues in a timely manner, I think Facebook and Twitter are both great at it. Both now offer bot integrations which allow brands to quickly answer higher volumes of basic customer enquiries leaving their customer service representatives free to handle more complex matters.

The risk of usual social media as a customer service channel though is, of course, the damage to brand image if something goes viral. It’s great to give customers the convenience but a viral screen shot or tweet can kill in minutes the brand equity that’s taken 20 years to build. For this reason, it’s imperative to provide the necessary training to your social media customer service representatives.

QUESTION: How can businesses teach employees that they are the front line to customer happiness?
BEN MOTTERAM: To me, this is about creating a customer service culture and then reinforcing it with front line employees by sharing customer feedback with them. Creating a customer service culture demonstrates to employees that the organization is committed to exactly that: serving its customers. This starts with the organization’s mission statement and is reinforced in the company’s values. Then the head of the company should be constantly communicating it both internally and externally.

Then it’s about ensuring the right people are working in front line roles and giving them the training and tools they need to provide a great experience. Front line managers should adopt a servant leadership mindset by checking in at regular intervals with their employees and asking, “How can I help you to deliver excellent customer service?” and then acting on what they’re told.

Finally, coach employees on what they can do to improve their customer service skills by allowing them to hear verbatim customer feedback. Some companies worry about sharing verbatim feedback with employees. The fear is that poor feedback may negatively impact the employees’ performance. But when used as part of a coaching program, customer feedback can be used to ENGAGE staff and can even be used to EMPOWER them. Nothing will teach an employee that they are the front line to customer happiness more than when they hear it from a customer themselves.

TWEET THIS: Creating a customer service culture demonstrates to employees that the organization is committed to exactly that: serving its customers. –@CXpert #CX #brandexperience

QUESTION: In a recent post on your blog, you explained how to develop a CX strategy. You wrote, “In the words of consulting house, McKinsey, a great CX Vision will “inspire, align, and guide an organization but also bring innovation, energy, and a human face to what would otherwise just be strategy.” Amazon’s CX Vision is “to be earth’s most customer-centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.” Therefore, what do you consider to be the three key components of an effective CX strategy?

(Blog post referenced:

BEN MOTTERAM: I’ve successfully developed CX strategies in the past using a framework found here:

Using this model, the three key components of an effective CX strategy are:
1.    The CX Vision
2.    The Principles
3.    The Enablers

The CX Vision: Drawn from the organization’s overall purpose, vision, and mission, the CX vision should also align with the organization’s goals. It brings your strategy to life and should engage and inspire employees to work towards making it a reality.

The Principles: The principles are the pillars upon which the CX vision sits. They are the criteria against which any new initiative is reviewed to ensure the organization is delivering its brand promise and the lens through which all business decisions are evaluated to ensure a consistent customer experience. They are rooted in addressing customer needs/delivering customer value and are what delivers the CX vision.

The Enablers: Every successful CX strategy relies on people, processes, and systems supporting the program as a whole. These are the crucial elements that support the implementation of the strategy and can include things like an Employee Experience manager, a Voice of the Customer program, a CX dashboard, a governance structure, or analytics software.

My gratitude and appreciation to Ben for appearing on my Blog and for sharing his customer experience insights that will most definitely help any brand to create a positive customer experience!

Image Credit: Debbie Laskey.