I Admit It: I’m Biased

Published: Mar 08, 2017
Author: Cary Cusumano


Your data is worthless. All the effort you’ve expended on research and analysis is wasted. The weekly management reviews, monthly metrics readouts, semi-annual relationship survey results—all meaningless. Why does the time and brainpower you’ve invested in collecting the Voice of the Customer (VOC) and documenting the customer journey amount to little more than a nice show-and-tell topic?

Because you didn’t actually DO anything with it.

One of the simplest leadership lessons I learned long ago is a compact, five-word maxim: have a bias for action. Fundamentally, most organizations do believe it’s important to take action based on what collected data reveals. Unfortunately, many have a flawed view of what constitutes action. “Let’s have a follow-up meeting in two weeks” is not action. “You should present your findings to the Operations VP” is not action. “You need to form a cross-functional team” is not action. While leaders who prescribe these “next steps” may sincerely believe they are making a call to action, the uncomfortable truth is these are convenient means to avoid action.

You see, unless something changes – processes, support systems and especially behaviors – you haven’t actually done anything. To make a real difference, a CX professional needs to assemble collected VOC and other data in a persuasive story that creates genuine empathy among relevant stakeholders who shape the actual customer experience. But even in the face of compelling, empathy-inducing data, CX professionals often encounter resistance to action, both from stakeholders and senior leaders. Why?

Nobody gets up in the morning and says, “I don’t feel like taking action to improve customer experience today.” Instead, the motives beneath resistance to action are subtle and unspoken – indeed, likely not even recognized – and are often grounded in fear:

  • Risk aversion – fear of investing time and effort without a demonstrable financial return.
  • Accountability – fear of assuming de facto ownership simply because you cared enough to take charge

And the trademark of all highly siloed organizations:

  • Politics – fear that we might actually have to work with other groups.

The strategies to combat these obstacles to action vary, but recognizing the motives is the first step toward a solution. There is seemingly no end to the flow of materials describing how to document and justify the ROI of your CX program investment. They offer logical, fact-based, and financially sound suggestions to overcoming the risk aversion fear.

However, the further you move down that list, the further away you also move from logical, fact-based, and financially sound thinking towards emotional, ego-driven, and territorial considerations. It’s this type of political fear that’s most challenging to confront, not only because it’s not widely addressed, but also because there’s no “textbook” silo scenario. If you want to break down the silos that stand in the way of getting things done, your best bet is to find a champion – very likely outside of your own organization – who is able to approach the problem, not objectively, but with a bias: a bias for action.

A 2016 CX Impact Award winner from the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA), Cary Cusumano is a Customer Experience and Design Thinking practitioner in Verizon Enterprise Solutions. He is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP) and Certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt.

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