recommended reading

5 Lessons From a Former Agency Customer Experience Leader

Den Rise/Shutterstock.com

ARCHIVES

By Stephanie Thum February 10, 2017

recent posts

Stephanie Thum is the former vice president of customer experience at the Export-Import Bank of the United States. She is currently practice director, customer experience and analytics, at Capitol Management Consulting Services. Follow her on Twitter: @stephaniethum.

"I understand what you did, but how did you do that?"

I hear this question occasionally when people ask about my past life as the head of customer experience for a federal government agency. For four years, I was the vice president of customer experience at the EXIM Bank, an agency that finances and insures U.S. exports toward the creation of U.S. jobs.

» Get the best federal technology news and ideas delivered right to your inbox. Sign up here.

During my time at EXIM, the bank managed a $107 billion portfolio of transactions. My role was new, and I was part of the agency's senior leadership team. At one point, the bank was, in effect, shut down for several months, causing a stoppage of service to the agency's customers. Interesting times, for sure!

"How?" is a question I really appreciate because, specifically in government, we now have a portfolio of case studies outlining the who, what, why, when and where of multiple agencies' successes and failures toward advancing the concepts and principles of CX as a management discipline.

The how cannot be overlooked, though, because when you're building something new, or doing things in a new way people haven't seen before, no matter what industry you're working in, getting things done is about more than knowing the rules, regulations, procurement protocols, policies and governance practices of your agency. Getting things done takes on a much more human feel.

In that spirit, here's what I learned about how to get the work done.

Knowing your stuff gets you only so far. It's like your mama used to say: "Watch your language!" If you're a CX practitioner, the vernacular you've picked up along the way may sound sexy—journey mapping, ethnographic research, user experience, etc.—but let's be honest: It's sexy only to you. In the trenches, you're going to have to work with people who have never heard those terms before. You'll scare the hell out of them if you geek out on the CX vernacular.

Show more than you tell. In one instance in my past life, two departments weren't communicating with one another, resulting in a slow-down of service to customers. I brought together both groups, brokered a mutual exchange of information, created a communication plan to get the agency back on track with customers, and circled around with everyone involved to let them know how customer wait times were improving as time went on. That course of action eased the tension for everyone involved, including customers. So, sure, you can talk about CX, but showing your colleagues what it looks like in practice will be the action that moves the needle on deepening a customer-centric culture.

It's your job to make people comfortable with you. As a CX leader, you pretty much live your life in others' swim lanes. That can be uncomfortable for everyone, particularly if you're new and not everyone understands why you're there in the first place. It takes take time for people to get comfortable with you. Not everyone will get comfortable at the same time in the same way. For some, it means you're taking them out for a coffee every Tuesday. For others, you will need to help them reach a deadline or goal before they partner with you. You have to be generous with your time, connections and ability. Be willing to do things that build trust.

You have to sell it. "You're always selling something," was a phrase my boss from the Ernst & Young days used to say. No truer words were ever spoken. When you're leading any type of organizational change, especially the type of change a CX leader is tasked to bring to an organization, you'll need to build a case for what needs to be done. You'll have to collect data, staff input and customer anecdotes. You'll have to articulate your case—sometimes in several different ways, over and over—to many different people. The good news is, those you're "selling to" want to do right by customers just as much as you do. That's a great place to start the discussion.

The hardest: patience and tenacity. While everyone can agree doing right by customers is the mutual goal, the programs and projects you're working on can take a very long time to build to maturity. Let's go back to the selling analogy above. Every good salesperson knows you rarely get a "yes" on a first "sales" attempt. It's the same when you're working with colleagues to build certain CX-oriented programs. Keep connecting with people. Be part of the solution. Keep listening. Keep respecting people. If at first you don't succeed, try again. Some programs take years to unfold. You just have to be ready to advance when the time and circumstances are right.

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

Close [ x ] More from Nextgov
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from Nextgov.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • It’s Time for the Federal Government to Embrace Wireless and Mobility

    The United States has turned a corner on the adoption of mobile phones, tablets and other smart devices, outpacing traditional desktop and laptop sales by a wide margin. This issue brief discusses the state of wireless and mobility in federal government and outlines why now is the time to embrace these technologies in government.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

    Download
  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.