From the Front Lines to the Boardroom: How to Prioritize CX & EX with Executive Leadership

A view from above of six board members sitting at a conference table

Executives rarely discuss customer experience and employee experience in the boardroom. Here’s how to change that and make CX and EX a company-wide priority.

The Board of Directors’ role is to ensure that shareholder objectives are delivered upon, and to drive governance as part of this agenda. More specifically, they have traditionally focused on risk management, reputation, financials, regulation, and compliance. They have also been focused on environmental, sustainability, and governance (ESG) strategy in recent years.

Customer employee and employee experience, as a result, have been left to operationally-focused discussions. With the Covid-19 pandemic accelerating the importance of understanding and communicating a company’s purpose, societal impact, and how these intersect with customer retention and growth, as well as employee retention and attracting new talent, it’s now time for CX and EX to be an important part of the shareholder objectives review.

CX and EX as a strategic board discussion topic, in theory, makes sense — but making this a reality is completely different. And the conversation needs to move beyond “tick-the-box” read-outs of customer satisfaction (CSAT) or Net Promoter Score (NPS®) metric changes, where the terms “experience” and “service” can be conflated.

Leaders in customer experience and employee experience, now more than ever, need to engage their CEO for a seat at the boardroom level in order to elevate the experience agenda.

4 Ways to Prioritize Customer Experience & Employee Experience in the C-Suite

Customer experience and employee experience deserve a spot in the boardroom. While your board members might not necessarily need to be privy to everything taking place on the front lines or in the office, it’s critical for executive leadership to understand both areas. You want to earn their buy-in to act on strategy as effectively as possible.

Here’s how to align customer experience and employee experience in the boardroom, starting with the key takeaways:

  • Identify new partners that are untraditional for customer or employee experience (such as Risk Management) but are always key areas of focus for the board.
  • Treat the board like your customers — get to know your audience and leverage your CEO here.
  • Be concise and outcome-driven in your presentation; manage your own expectations, so don’t expect a 2-hour commitment from the board.
  • Identify strategic topics that can severely impact the business over the near term, 12–24 months out, and show the impact of your team’s work on mitigating risks.

#1. Identify New Partners

To elevate experience as a priority in your company, it sometimes requires connecting with new partners. For some, that may be the Finance department. For others, it might include Risk Management. The takeaway here is that you should look for untraditional partners to engage with and draw a line between their work and the customer and employee experience.

Next, develop hypotheses to test and learn from, where you can collectively measure and understand the impact of the intersection between experience and your partner’s area of focus. For the Risk Management department, that might include embedding customer experience principles into risk management strategies, or identifying key-person risk and activities that drive retention.

When outlier events like a pandemic occurs, supply chain shortages materialize, a Great Resignation emerges, or recession impacts your business, your strategies move beyond safeguarding business continuity and focus more on proactively managing customer and employee expectations through challenging business conditions.

Finally, with CX or EX principles embedded in partner strategies, you can measure the impact on your Profit & Loss or Balance Sheet. This has a direct impact on what the board is concerned with and can be a key entry point for deeper discussion.

#2. Know Thy Audience

As a leader in any business, one of the most important lessons when presenting your ideas is to know your audience. The same holds true for the Board of Directors. Making an effort to understand their role, how they operate, getting insight into their objectives, and then how you can add value by solving their biggest challenges is key here. Risk mitigation and growth are critical areas of focus as mentioned, so leveraging your human-centered toolkit to keep up with, or exceed, market expectations is an excellent way to engage this audience in a more meaningful way.

Additionally, the CEO controls the boardroom agenda and will be a critical resource in connecting the dots for you to understand that agenda and to influence the conversations happening at that level. In the end, you have to meet the board where they are, just as you would any customer or employee from an experience perspective.

Use the CEO as a resource to understand the board in a deeper way. Ask your CEO for a one-to-one conversation with a board member to get their opinion if there would be appetite for it. And if you have a strong relationship with your CEO and they see value in the work you’re delivering, they might make that introduction.

#3. Be Concise & Outcome-Driven

Boards are known for having their “noses in and fingers out” of day-to-day operations. And they manage their time very carefully against dense agendas. As a result, it’s not realistic that you’ll get the board into a 2–3 hour session to review all things experience.

It is realistic, however, to expect that they’ll engage in a 30-minute discussion on how experience is driving efficiency gains, lowering cost-to-serve, or driving growth. Discussing how employee experience programs have reduced employee churn risk, with a defined impact on business performance relative to competitors, will most likely get you in the door as well.

To do any of the above, though, you’ll have to take a data-driven approach to problem-solving and create a concise view of the work, its impact, and next steps. And be prepared for the board to ask what you might need from them going forward to continue the great work you outlined. You may not always need their support on a topic, but having a strategic “ask” that your CEO supports can further solidify the work you are doing as an important agenda item.

#4. Future-Proof Your Business

Identifying customer and employee experience issues and trends that the board or CEO need to get ahead of in the next 12–24 months is also a possible entryway into the boardroom. As I mentioned before, a company’s purpose and societal impact as topics are getting a lot of attention at the executive level.

Work with your business partners to identify trends in customer needs, how they will evolve in the future, how the company’s purpose needs to be aligned, and the financial or risk impact if it’s not. Changes to strategy that are needed to continue being relevant in the marketplace is a key topic every CEO will bring to their board.

Become an Industry Leader with Experience Management

None of this work can be done in isolation, and it will require partnership from many stakeholders across your organization. As a CX or EX leader, it’s your responsibility to continuously engage other leaders and show them how experience management helps drive the company’s broader growth, efficiency, and culture agendas.

With the right focus and support from your direct leadership, customer experience and employee experience can become key board-level agenda items annually, if not more frequently.

Take your CX and EX programs to the next level by digging into the key trends spotlighted in our reports Uncovering the Secrets Behind a Successful Customer Experience Program and Understanding Why Employees Leave Their Jobs.