Apr 6, 2023
Promoting CX Excellence Through Strategic Leadership
On this week’s episode of the Digitally Irresistible Podcast, we welcome Adam Toporek. Adam is a third-generation entrepreneur, consultant, and highly sought-after CX keynote speaker.
Recognized as one of the top thought leaders in customer experience, Adam is a strategic analyst and consultant with appearances on top media outlets such as “Forbes,” “Entrepreneur,” “AMA,” and more. His innovative strategies guide brands to adapt their CX leadership to drive quality customer service in the digital age.
On this episode, we discuss Adam’s 3E Leadership Framework that equips CX leaders to guide high-performing customer service teams[GN1] to maximize positive CX outcomes that optimize digital and human customer interactions.
A Customer-Centric Culture is Key for Employee Engagement and Customer Satisfaction
Customer experience is in Adam's blood. His grandfather, father, and mother were all business owners who raised him with a customer-centric focus before it became a catchphrase. His family background taught him the importance of customer experience from a young age.
As a teenager packing boxes in his family’s warehouse, Adam remembers “just throwing stuff” in the boxes. His father guided him to realize that the customer’s first impression of the order began when they opened the box. He taught Adam how to pack the box neatly and ultimately set the foundation for a customer-centric focus that would direct the course of Adam’s career.
Adam went on to earn his MBA and develop his own entrepreneurial experience with a customer experience mindset. His expertise led him to recognize the need for brands to develop CX leadership strategies to improve customer service. Adam is now a trusted CX expert, keynote speaker, consultant, and author helping brands cultivate high-performing customer teams through improved education and increased engagement. His book, "Be Your Customer's Hero,"[GN2] serves as a playbook for customer service success.
The 3E Leadership Framework Equips Customer Service Teams for CX Success
Amid all the attention given to digital CX strategies, Adam advises CX leaders to recognize the importance of their teams. The digital transformation of customer service is crucial, but brands are still run first and foremost by human beings. Quality customer service teams are more important now than ever before in ensuring positive CX. For customer service teams to succeed, leadership must support them in strategic ways.
Adam has developed a three-part framework for leadership that focuses on key areas of frontline employee support that simultaneously improves the employee experience[GN3] as well as the customer experience. With this 3E Leadership Framework, Adam outlines a strategic path for leaders to model and equip their employees with a customer-centric focus, resulting in increased employee engagement and improved customer retention.
CX leaders must embody a customer-centric culture for their teams. Many brands talk the talk with missions and values that focus on the customer. More importantly, their leaders must walk the talk to ensure the CX culture they espouse aligns with their actual organizational priorities, actions, and practices. Team meetings, quarterly reviews, and most of all, incentives will always communicate a brand’s true priorities to employees regardless of the messaging. For employees to embody a customer-centric culture, incentives must be grounded in CX practices and not just sales.
Ensuring that the messaging aligns with the culture is an ongoing process. When leadership embodies this in both messaging and culture, employees know that they need to adopt the same customer-centric focus.
Once frontline employees integrate a customer-centric approach, leadership must educate them in how to implement it. Training in operational and technical skills is a necessary starting point. Leadership must also educate their customer service teams in the “soft skills” at the heart of customer service-client interactions.
Frontline employees need to feel equipped to handle difficult situations while still prioritizing positive outcomes. When customer concerns become too complex for digital tools to handle, a team's ability to efficiently handle “human moments” makes all the difference in ensuring a positive customer experience. Increased confidence in this area will boost employee engagement and improve the quality and efficiency of the customer service provided.
Adam says the key is to accommodate rather than resist difficult customer interactions. In his book “Be Your Customer’s Hero,” Adam describes a technique called “Let Customers Punch Themselves Out” as a de-escalation strategy. Though it sounds counterintuitive, this technique encourages a positive outcome by allowing a frustrated customer to express themselves without interference or excuses from the customer service agent. This lets the customer feel heard and makes it more likely that they will re-engage and allow a customer service agent to enact the best solution in that moment.
Employees must be empowered with the tools necessary to efficiently and effectively resolve customer concerns. The digital transformation of customer service has led customers to expect hassle-free resolutions to their issues in real time. If a customer is referred to human support after a digital channel couldn’t resolve their issue, it’s imperative that the human agent solve the issue without additional steps for the customer. When frontline employees are empowered to resolve issues without delays, both they and the customers win.
Employee empowerment is a win-win-win scenario: customers win by avoiding hassles; employees win by having the tools to resolve the situation; and management wins by avoiding costly and prolonged customer service concerns.
While leaders may feel that empowering employees can be risky, Adam advises that the risk is worth the reward. As long as the empowerment is appropriate for the context, the additional latitude to prevent hassles such as extra steps or delays is necessary for meeting customer expectations. Leaders who prioritize CX will find that empowering their teams is a necessary step for providing excellent customer service.
Culture Work Is the Way Forward for CX Success in the Hybrid Digital-Human World of Customer Service
The current state of customer service is a hybrid digital-human experience. Though the human element may be declining, this only increases the importance of human customer interaction. When a digital interaction can’t meet customer needs, human support must provide satisfactory service. As a result, customer service is increasingly becoming a highly skilled profession. Brands must be willing to invest in their team’s success.
Each step of the 3E Leadership Framework establishes the foundation for the next. When leadership embodies a customer-centric culture, employees follow suit. Leaders can educate their teams with the service skills needed to resolve complex customer interactions. This team empowerment ensures that employees have the latitude to provide hassle-free, real-time solutions.
Leaders who recognize and embrace the importance of a customer-centric culture will find that investing in their teams is a savvy way forward for providing positive CX that will create smiles for leadership, employees, and customers alike.
What Adam Does for Fun
An artist at heart, Adam enjoys writing fiction and playing music in his free time.
Watch the video here.
Read the blog post here.