In a recent blog post and during a panel chat at the recent Qualtrics X4 conference in Salt Lake City, we talked about the many ways you can leverage customer and citizen feedback to help your business or government agency get ahead of operational and business risk.

The subject is ripe for breakthrough moments because for a long time, customers, citizens, and other stakeholders have been viewed as a source of business and operational risk. But, times are changing. The modern business world demands that change.

Because in today’s business world, if you ask customers the right questions, listen in a different way, and let customers share feedback on their terms, then you’re making the right moves toward finding new sources that can alert you to certain risks. Examples include website vulnerabilities, policy dangers and shortcomings, employee attrition, top hiring losses, confidentiality breaches, citizen safety, expensive marketing missteps, and potential social media firestorms.

After the initial blog post and X4 panel discussion, my colleague, Peter Spoehr, asked a great question online:

Love the perspective shift of viewing customers as partners rather than the subjects of our investigatory experiments. You said it’s relatively uncharted territory, but any first steps you would recommend to an org trying to initiate that shift?

That’s a practical question worth exploring. Changing your colleagues’ mindsets surrounding how customers are viewed takes culture shift, patience, and time. It’s important to know how to influence change, or validate that what you’re already doing is the right thing.

From where I sit, influencing a shift in perception is about humanizing the customers, citizens, intermediaries, and other stakeholders associated with your organization. Here are some inexpensive ways to “initiate the shift,” as Peter said.

1. Democratize the customer X (experience) and O (operational) data

“Democratize the data” simply means you share customer experience data in a widespread manner throughout your organization in a way that creates a reaction from people. It doesn’t really matter if it’s the reaction you hoped for, initially. The purpose is to put customers in the company’s conversations the same way profits, expenses, staffing, and technology get “air time” internally.

Ideas: Play a contact center recording at a team meeting. Share a chart of your company’s progress toward reducing customer wait times on a slide at a town hall meeting. Set up a page on your company’s intranet site where you can post customer survey results or testimonials. Share survey findings with your organization’s board of directors or advisory committee. I also love Jeanne Bliss’ concept of building a customer room.

2. Start a conversation

So much of the customer experience work at any organization is about socializing concepts, especially if you’re just getting started.

Ideas: Share a customer anecdote with your colleagues over a lunch meeting or happy hour drinks. It may sound simple, but anecdotes humanize quantitative data. And almost everyone has a story of how a customer’s life has been impacted by the work of their agency or company. The good news is, the person you share a customer story with probably has their own they can share with you as well. More good news: having a conversation is completely free. So, make it a habit to speak up with those stories.

3. Include customers in the business

I’m talking about inviting the actual live human beings who are your customers to be part of company activities.

 Ideas: Ask customers to participate on advisory boards, in a customer appreciation day, or as a speaker at a conference or special event. In my past life in B2B CX, my firm brought the CEO of a priority account into planning meetings where we talked about how we wanted to deepen our relationships and opportunities with his company. My colleague, Ed Bodensiek, spoke on our panel at X4 about how he created a client advisory board at a law firm to bring more client-oriented context to the firm’s ongoing business and personnel matters. One government example would be The Export-Import Bank of the United States’ annual conference that hosts 1,000+ customers each year. During my time at EXIM, we hosted customer and intermediary roundtables at the event where risk-oriented topics oftentimes came to the surface.

Customers aren’t outsiders to your business. They’re part of your business. Without their stories and experiences being part of the day-to-day business conversation, you don’t have the full picture of your company’s risks (or opportunities). Collecting feedback via a FedRAMP authorized experience management platform like Qualtrics is a smart decision. Changing mindsets of your fellow executives is another smart move that will require your time and attention, as well. But the work is most certainly worth doing.

Reach out to the Qualtrics federal team for more insights on our experience management work with many federal government clients and agencies. Ask us about our work as the only FedRAMP authorized experience management platform available. FedRAMP authorization means the technology has been assessed and authorized under one of the most stringent cloud security standards in government.

Want expert help? Request a consultation from our federal team

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Author Bio: Stephanie Thum is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP) and Chief Advisor for Federal Customer Experience at Qualtrics. In a past life, Stephanie was the head of CX for a federal government agency where she built a CX program that included customer surveys, executive councils, employee engagement, and data governance practices. She was also responsible for coordinating her agency’s public-facing annual performance plan and report, based on OMB Circular A-11. She is formally trained in strategic planning for government organizations and in planning, budgeting, and performance reporting for government organizations.