Should CEOs spend "a day in our shoes"?

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Bob London
Bob London Member Posts: 54 Expert
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edited April 8 in CS Conversations

Starbucks’ CEO did a lengthy stint as a barista. Uber’s CEO took to the road as an Uber driver.

Is this because they both happen to be such curious people with extra time on their hands? 

Probably not. There had to be a compelling business reason.

My take: These CEOs became extremely concerned that their respective companies - their teams - didn't truly understand the customer’s perspective. And this lack of understanding was impacting financial performance. So these CEOs felt the need to personally step in.

Questions for you as a CS manager or leader: 

  • Do you ever find yourself wishing your CEO would do a “customer listening tour” or become a CSM or a week so they could really walk in the customers’ shoes - and empathize with the challenges of your role?
  • What are the benefits and/or risks of your CEO doing a customer listening tour?
  • Has your CEO actually done this? How did it go, and what were the results?

Comments

  • Jordan Silverman
    Jordan Silverman Member, CS Leader Posts: 109 Expert
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    At my first company Mention we had everyone spend 1 day per year doing customer service ride alongs. This was such an instrumental experience. CEO, developers, sales, marketing, etc. all did this. I loved the exercise not only as a CS leader but as a team member. It gave the entire team exposure and learning to new things.

    Jordan Silverman
    jordan.silverman@usestarfish.com
    (914) 844-5775
    https://www.linkedin.com/in/jordansilverman/
  • Bob London
    Bob London Member Posts: 54 Expert
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    I love this story Jordan. In addition to the insights that can be gained, the top down empathy it demonstrates to the team can be priceless. Very motivating.

  • llitton
    llitton Member, CS Leader Posts: 10 Navigator
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    I've been a strong advocate for recording all our calls, stressing the importance of sharing snippets across departments. This initiative has significantly improved our organization's understanding and empathy towards customers.

    It's also great to see this practice gaining traction within our Sales team. Everyone now sees the value in "hearing directly from the customer." Plus, having recordings means our CEO doesn't need to be present during every conversation; they can be reviewed at any time.

    These recordings are also invaluable for onboarding new team members and revisiting old feature requests as they're incorporated into our roadmap.

  • Bob London
    Bob London Member Posts: 54 Expert
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    This is such an important point, thanks for sharing. Yes, delivering customer insights in a way that allows others to time shift, meaning they don’t have to sit through a meeting to learn what customers are saying, and as you point out, they don’t have to be on tons of custom calls. Love it.

  • Anna Alley
    Anna Alley Member Posts: 70 Expert
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    At my previous job, our CEO did participate in a listening tour. One limitation, however, was that it was specifically focused on our largest, highest revenue customers while a lot of the pain points our teams experienced were from our smaller, SMB customers. However, I think anytime you're getting people in front of customers and talking to them directly it makes a huge difference in the empathy and understanding across the business. No matter how many times you share quotes, case studies, etc. in-person conversations will always have a greater impact.

    I don't think it created as much empathy for Customer Success teammates, I think if that's the goal of the exercise then a day in the life of is more impactful where the CEO is a silent observer on calls, etc. Many customers will behave differently if they know an executive is on the line. Just as you would talk directly to a customer to understand them, talk directly to your teammates if you want to understand their experiences.

    The risks we saw were promises being made to customers that were perhaps less than realistic. At least for our CEO, his initial reaction was to try to offer solutions when problems were raised (great in theory!), but often was not in touch with complexities of the problem or time/effort to deliver a solution. In several instances, it resulted in our team having to back track after the fact and reset expectations with the customer.

  • Bob London
    Bob London Member Posts: 54 Expert
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    Thanks for this important perspective Anna. As you probably know - but worth mentioning again for the community - is that one of the most important aspects of listening and empathy is to NOT rush in to solve. Even though that may be our strongest instinct at that moment. Customers (being the humans that they are) want to be heard and understood first, before considering what to do next.

    Thanks again.

  • PiperWilson
    PiperWilson HLAdmin, Member Posts: 47 Navigator
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    This deserves repetition.

    Customers (being the humans that they are) want to be heard and understood first, before considering what to do next.

  • Anna Alley
    Anna Alley Member Posts: 70 Expert
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    Agreed, Bob! I think we all have a tendency to want to solve as we're receiving feedback but it is so important to just actively listen, then think about what should be solved (and how) after the fact.