Top-Down or Bottom-Up: The Importance of Executive Support

By: Kate Zimmerman

September 23, 2015

Tags:
CEM Programs
CEM Solutions
Customer Engagement

We’ve all heard that executive buy-in is critical to a successful customer experience management (CEM) program. But getting it can be a lot easier said than done. You can try a top-down or a bottom-up approach—but either way, executive support will make the difference between the success and failure of your Customer Experience (CX) initiatives.

“Top-down” development means that your CEO and other executives believe in customer experience and champion CEM initiatives. It ensures support for your program. It can also help create a culture of CX throughout the organization. If your CEO believes in CX then you can assume that the rest of your company will eventually be on board.

On the other hand, in some organizations it is the day-to-day CX analysts that define how the program looks and works. This is the “bottom-up” arrangement. The CX team finds insights and shares them, spreading their influence throughout the organization. Eventually the value of investigating and proving the customer experience is felt all the way to the top of the org chart.

Wherever your CX program originates from, it’s important that you are regularly sharing insights with your executive team. Some CX teams meet weekly with executives like the CCO or the CMO and less frequently with the larger leadership team. Regardless of the cadence, keeping a standing meeting is a good way to keep everyone on the same page and accountable for their roles. This collaboration keeps your executive team up to date on how your customers are doing and how their investment in CX is paying off. It also creates a strong standard for analysts to step back and look at the bigger picture. A reporting dashboard such as Clarabridge’s CX Studio can ease the barriers between analysts and executives, providing an easy way to share and display insights.

In a perfect world, once you have shared insights with your executive team (at their request or at your instigation), those execs should communicate key findings to their respective teams. That way, CX is integrated throughout your entire company culture. A mature CX program improves your customers’ experiences throughout their entire journey, which includes more than just marketing, operations or customer care.

In addition to a formalized sharing process, it’s important to be able to provide ad-hoc feedback too. You might be responding to a top-down request or reporting on some bottom-up feedback, but there will definitely be times that the information can’t wait until your formal insights meeting. This can present itself as emergency situations that need to be addressed quickly, as time-sensitive but not critical, or in response to needs, such as a board meeting or goal setting.

Once you have insights and they have been communicated to the respective teams, you need to mobilize your entire organization and operationalize your data. An active and engaged CEO motivates employees to take action from the top down, but an energetic analyst can also present data that requires a response. Either way, it’s important that something is done.

Customer experience can come from the bottom of your organization to the top or start at the top and go down—and it can be successful either way. But whether the motivation for starting and maintaining your CX program comes from the top or bottom it’s important that your executive team supports it. A successful CX program can’t live at just one end of the organization or the other; it needs to be an integral part of your company, just as your customers should be.


Kate Zimmerman is a Product Marketing Associate at Clarabridge. Kate focuses on building content that supports CX efforts, product marketing, analyst relations, and has become an industry expert in Customer Experience Management. Kate holds a B.A in Politics from the University of Virginia and can be found on Twitter at @kmzimm.

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