Let’s just be honest. C-level leaders don’t take a lot of web surveys.
But that doesn’t mean that we don’t NEED their feedback. It also doesn’t mean they don’t WANT to share feedback. Without it, sometimes we’re looking at a very incomplete picture of the customer experience.
This is particularly true in certain types of industries and companies where the business hinges on high-ranking relationships, long-term contracts and large dollar value transactions. In these cases, a unique approach is needed to gather feedback from top decision makers in your largest accounts.
Where does a special approach for executive interviewing make the most sense?
- Business-to-business companies with a concentrated customer base
- Purchase decisions tend to happen high in the customer organization
- Large dollar value transactions
- Long-term contracts
So, what CAN you do?
- Lots of companies rely on anecdotes. In a sales-dominant culture, this might work to some degree. But usually even the account teams tire of this approach because it’s hard to get a cohesive customer-focused message across to the leadership team, and they become frustrated that common customer concerns aren’t prioritized or resourced the way they would like.
- Others try to filter feedback through the account management team in a formalized way – perhaps through meeting notes or tracking interactions at QBRs or briefing center visits. Eventually, that falls short because it is impossible to separate bias and it’s very hard to get consistent, organized and in-depth feedback across accounts.
- A better approach involves flexible face-to-face or telephone-based “high touch” interviews with senior decision makers. Interviews must be flexible in nature – not focused on answering a long series of rigid questions. And it requires some training and preparation to make them flow smoothly. ARRIS provides a great example of this approach.
Four key benefits of executive interviews:
- Unlike most of the other CX feedback, it’s forward-looking. Dialog with execs can capture current experience but should also focus on emerging future trends and how their needs for the future are changing. Because of that, the business return is almost inherent. These programs excel at identifying revenue risk and growth opportunity areas in very clear terms.
- You’ll get deeper than you may think. First of all, execs are almost always confident and candid in their feedback. They don’t hold back. They are good at balancing feedback – they share the good and the bad and they can share examples of each. In a qualitative interview setting, there are also more opportunities for follow-up clarifications and ‘why’ type questions that feel natural in the conversation.
- Fewer participants are needed to glean useful and relevant insights. There is economy in this type of approach. You don’t need thousands of responses. As little as 30 or 40 interviews with the right execs could be enough to provide real value for some companies.
- It’s unfiltered. Using an external interviewer who isn’t involved with the account day-to-day (and naturally invested in the next sale) is key to success. It allows the CX team to capture the direct perspective of your highest-level decision makers.
Can’t we just do this internally?
The question I probably get asked most often is: Can we just do this through our own teams? Maybe. I have seen it work in some cases to use internal resources – either executive sponsors or those not directly involved in the relationship. It won’t happen automatically. Most CX teams will find that it requires a lot of sponsorship and follow-through from the CX team to get the job done. And at the end of the day, many organizations still struggle to feel like they are getting depth and objectivity with this approach. So, if you’re grappling with this, try a pilot and test. Use internal resources for half and use an outside perspective for the other half and see what works best for you.