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The Results Are In: Findings From the First CX Leader Pulse Study

Release Date: June 25, 2024 • Episode #322

It’s human nature to compare what we do professionally – and even personally – with others and CX leaders are no different. So Walker, along with the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA), launched The CX Leader Pulse as a way to give customer experience professionals a look into what companies are, and are not, doing within their CX programs. The results of the first study are in and host Pat Gibbons welcomes Walker’s own Troy Powell, Vice President of Strategy & Analytics, and Greg Melia, CEO of the CXPA, to discuss what was discovered.

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Greg Melia

Greg Melia
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Troy Powell

Troy Powell
Connect with Troy

In this episode:

  • Chapter 1: Introduction and Purpose of the Study (00:01 – 01:06)
  • Chapter 2: About the Study and Initial Impressions (01:06 – 04:1)
  • Chapter 3: Objectives and Scope of the Study (04:01 – 04:34)
  • Chapter 4: Insight into the First Topic: Team Structure and Governance (04:34 – 06:15)
  • Chapter 5: Participant Demographics and General Findings (06:15 – 08:29)
  • Chapter 6: CX Investment and Industry Trends (08:29 – 11:34)
  • Chapter 7: Importance of CX Team Placement within Organizations (11:34 – 15:06)
  • Chapter 8: Challenges and Barriers in CX Governance (15:06 – 22:53)
  • Chapter 9: Strategic Insights and Take Home Value (22:53 – 31:01)
  • Chapter 10: Conclusion (31:01 – 31:34)


What was the focus of the first CX Leader Pulse Study?

Troy: “…we dove into kind of the idea of the CX team and governance. It’s a question we get a lot about. Well, how are other, you know, CX orgs structured? How many people do they have, you know, what resources do they use, etc. So we wanted to dive into that topic here and ask some CX professionals, you know, what does their team and organization look like and how do they kind of treat CX? Where does it report to, you know, all of those questions that I think probably all of the CX leaders listening have asked themselves at some point, like, okay, we’re thinking about doing it this way. Do other people do it that way?”

CX Leaders are pretty positive

Greg: “You know, when I look at this data what we see is that we’ve enjoyed strong investment, and that we continue to maintain investment. We didn’t see a lot – or I didn’t interpret a lot from the survey – that had that doom and gloom that people were looking to cut programs. But with that, you know, I think that still leaves some questions. And and part of the reason this is a sequence of, of research collection is, is that it allows us to go back and look at items. I think part of what I’m hearing and what I’m seeing in other spaces is what people are expecting out of their CX programs is shifting and rising.”


CX leaders have a lot of questions, and very often they’re about how their program compares to others. How do other companies collect feedback? How do they organize their CX programs? What tools and technology do they use? Well, we decided to find out the answers to some of these questions.
The study overall as we think about this, you know, across time, we want to be measuring this concept of the value that CX brings. But with each wave we want to dive into a certain topic. And in this one we dove into the CX team and governance. It’s a question we get a lot about.
The results from our first CX Leader Pulse study on this episode of The CX Leader Podcast.
The CX Leader Podcast is produced by Walker, an experience management firm that helps our clients accelerate their XM success. You can find out more at walkerinfo.com.
Hello everyone. I’m Pat Gibbons, host of this episode of The CX Leader Podcast, and thank you for listening. You know, it’s a great time to be a CX leader. And we say that a lot on this podcast. And in this episode, we might actually have some data to back it up. You know, it’s human nature to compare what we do professionally and even personally with others and leaders are no different. In fact, decades ago, our former CEO coined a saying that stuck with me. He said, “everybody wants to know if they’re normal.” So to provide some perspective for CX leaders, Walker, along with the Customer Experience Professional Association, launched The CX Leader Pulse. Very brief, timely studies on specific topics, all conducted to give CX leaders a look into what companies are and are not doing within their CX programs. Well, the results of our first CX Leader Pulse study are in. And to help us interpret what we discovered are Greg Melia, CEO of the CXPA, and Troy Powell, vice president here at Walker, who leads the CX Leader Pulse program. Greg, Troy, welcome to The CX Leader Podcast.
Thank you, pat. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Thanks, Pat. Always a joy.
Yeah, well, Greg, you know, I have to admit, when we’ve been toying with this idea for a while, you know, just to have relevant information, but to do it in kind of quick, short form and all that, and then finally to make it a reality, we knew it would make sense to partner with the CXPA. So first of all, thank you for your partnership. But I’m also curious, what was your first impression when we came to you with this idea?
Okay, first of all, you’re welcome. We were thankful when you came to us with this idea, because CXPA is on a ten year journey to really make sure that we collect the information and to be able to show the business impact of customer experience, and to make the case that customer experience is a preferred business discipline. That means we need to understand what CX leaders are facing and what CX leaders want us to investigate. So it’s natural to partner with a leader like Walker and The CX Leader Podcast. But I’ll add one more thing. We increasingly are seeing that CX leaders are being asked to have shorter times between data collection and action, so I really appreciate that this is a pulse survey and not an annual census. And it complements so nicely to have this short, real time, action focused research, along with the deeper research that we’re doing with other partners, all of which are detailed at cxpaglobal.org/research.
Yeah, yeah, you’re right, it does seem like it fits nicely. And I really look forward to continuing this over time because as we log in more and more topics and things, you know, we can even reflect back and see how things are changing and improving and evolving. And all of that is a big part of our profession. So, so, um, you know, I could go on about the, the Pulse and our goals and everything, but, uh, Troy, why don’t you tell us about our first topic here and kind of the nature of this first study.
Yeah. So you know the study overall as we think about this, you know across time we want to be measuring this concept of, you know the value that CX brings. So seeing the consistency of that and hopefully, you know seeing it rise over time so we can monitor that. But with each wave we want to dive into a certain topic. And in this one we dove into kind of the idea of the CX team and governance. It’s a question we get a lot about. Well, how are other, you know, CX orgs structured? How many people do they have, you know, what resources do they use, etc. So we wanted to dive into that topic here and ask some CX professionals, you know, what does their team and organization look like and how do they kind of treat CX? Where does it report to, you know, all of those questions that I think probably all of the CX leaders listening have asked themselves at some point, like, okay, we’re thinking about doing it this way. Do other people do it that way?
Right? Right. And that, uh, I think is exactly what we’re trying to, to get at is to provide some perspective on that. Well, let’s start kind of at the more broad level because you asked, uh, you know, for feedback about kind of value of the programs and how it’s perceived. What are some of the things you found and what did, uh, what did some organizations have in common?
Yes. And, you know, and I think two one thing to probably get out up front here is what did responses look like in general. Like, you know, who was responding this first time…
…around. And I will say we we got 135 responses to this first one. You know, we would love to get more. So, you know, we’re releasing the second wave, uh, today when we’re kind of releasing this episode. And so we’d love everybody to participate. You’ll get the data and the report on it, which can help you make cases for CX and your org, and then allows us to have a more robust, you know, sample to pull kind of information and findings from. But we did see a lot of participation. So about 60 over 60% were people who lead at least all or part of the efforts within their organization. Um, I think about 50% of them have been in CX for almost a decade or more. Um, but we do see a lot of involvement from people working in org, so they may have a lot of experience, but the organizations they work for and the companies they work for, having just 0 to 4 years of experience, you know, with CX `being a formal initiative. So we get a good, I think, cross-section, even though it’s not as many as we would like. It’s a good cross-section. And you know findings really did I think align with what we’ve seen elsewhere in some cases. You know, and so the biggest I think overall finding when we talk about this value concept. So you know, how broadly is CX `valued within your organization. That’s the question we kind of asked. And and you know we did have a pretty decent finding right I think two thirds of respondents said hey yeah we agree it is. That’s good. But then that leaves kind of this one third of respondents in the state of, you know, hey, it’s not it’s not broadly valued. And we hear, I think a lot from those people as to okay, how and what do we do. But again kind of a good news, bad news like all right. It’s decently high. But there’s definitely a set of you that are not feeling valued in your efforts.
Yeah, I think that that’s really interesting, Troy. Uh, you know, like all data, it’s data, you know? And so I think it’s incredibly valuable that we heard, uh, from, uh, what was 135 CX professionals and that a third of them are not feeling the love, you know, from from their organization. Uh, because we know the relationship between EX and employee engagement, it’s really hard to achieve those outcomes if you’re feeling undervalued. So I think that’s a great finding. And frankly, I think, uh, having 135, uh, CX professionals respond to a new data collection tool, Pat told me not to say the “s” word. So they like to write. The people like to write the surveys. They don’t…
…like to answer the surveys.
I think getting 135 answers from, from this qualified, uh, group is actually a really good first step for us.
Yeah. And hopefully people will, again, our hope is you find value in this so more people will want to participate so that they they get the results. So but in general it sounds like you, you got, you know, feedback from, you know, the right people in general and that they provided some good insights. You know, now, you know, sort of related to this whole area of value. I know in some other, you know, some analysts and others have started to say, well, maybe CX is sort of fading from the spotlight. It’s, you know, it’s sort of had its day in the sun as sort of the golden child. Maybe it’s starting to dip down, but I don’t think that’s what you found in the, in the feedback. Is it?
So we asked our respondents two questions on this topic of investment in CX. One was about changes the organization made in their investment in CX over the last two years. And then one question about what they forecast that change to be over the next 12 months. And, you know, we did see around 55% of our respondents saw their organizations investing more in CX over the last two years, which is in line with, I think, you know, expectations of what we’ve seen as even coming out of the pandemic, this investment in CX as important piece to competitive advantage for organizations. But while you’re starting to hear some discussion about in the industry is potentially a pullback from that, you know, companies saying, hey, maybe we invested too much and we’re going to, you know, as the markets change, we’re going to kind of decrease that investment. But according to our respondents, 94% of them think that their organizations are going to keep investments at current levels or increase them over the next year. So we’re not seeing much indication of of a pullback, but at least a stable, you know, state or continue increase, you know, moving forward.
Yeah. You know, when I look at this data, you know, what we see is, is that we’ve enjoyed strong investment, uh, and that we continue to maintain investment. We didn’t see a lot or I didn’t interpret a lot from the survey that had that doom and gloom that people were looking to cut programs. But with that, you know, I think that still leaves some questions. And and part of the reason this is a sequence of, of research collection is, is that it allows us to go back and look at, at items. I think part of what I’m hearing and what I’m seeing in other spaces is what people are expecting out of their CX programs is shifting and rising. And so you have the same might have the same budget, but the work that you’re expected to do is growing and becoming more, uh, focused on tying to the overall business outcomes. And that’s what I’m hearing in many different spaces. And I think that there’s actually some clues in the data that, that tell us that, uh, we can see greater focus and support, uh, or feeling of value, uh, and we can see, uh, a greater sense of outcome when you’re strategically placing connections to the senior leadership and the organization’s overall space.
To your point, Greg. I think, you know, you found some interesting things, Troy, about where it is in the organization and sort of the structures they put together that that really ties to the value that organizations see. Right?
Yeah. And I think it’s one of the reasons we did one, we wanted to phrase kind of the question around investments because it isn’t just money, right. It’s kind of that investment of our resource and, you know, time and people and all of that that I think does matter. And we we definitely found that to be the case that these organizations. So CX teams that had a formal cross-functional steering team as kind of part of their, you know, team governance, um, were substantially so, twice as likely 90% of them said that CX is valued in their organization as broadly valued within the organization, compared to just about 45% of those who don’t have a steering team. Um, and we saw also this idea of having a group of champions to kind of sit, you know, across the org also was something that raised a not quite as much, but they got, I think, 78% of orgs that had that. Um, and so, you know, when we saw that across all types of whether you were a brand new CX team or a CX team that’s had it forever, whether you had executive sponsor or not, like having that CX steering team and a group of champions, you know, involved one or both of those was hugely important to that org seeing value.
Yeah. No, I think it’s, uh, it’s really interesting. And, Greg, I’m curious, you know, uh, in talking to other CX leaders, consistent with what? What you say. And, you know, if, if you’re talking to an organization and they’re trying to figure out their structure, this provides, I think, even more definite advice. Right?
Yeah. You know, I love this because it it really does two different things for us. One, when we think about the CX profession and its development over time. You know, I think there are many organizations that started with a single CX leader. And there was a time when people used to say, oh, the CX department are our superheroes. And and the analogy was that you’d fly around the organization and fix things, you know, you were the fix break, uh, team. And I think that that was really sort of, uh, a misdirection, you know, in the long run, because what we see in the data is being successful is having influence across the different silos. And so the CX professional needs to work to develop collaboration. They need to work to develop understanding. And when I say understanding, that’s understanding, uh, in other departments of customer experience, and it’s understanding from customer experience of other departments in their goals. You know, the outcome that we’re looking for is not a great NPS score by itself. We’re looking for a outcome that is a great CSat and NPS and all the rest. But most importantly, we’re looking for sustainable business value that results in increased market share and increased loyalty and increased shareholder value. You know, so this is really, really important that we think about the implications of how we structure and give access for CX across the organization and steering committee is is just an outstanding, uh, model to help that and make that, uh, happen.
You may be wondering, how can I be part of the next CX Leader Pulse study? Well, we want to hear from you. So go to walkerinfo.com/pulse for a link to participate in the next study, and you’ll be able to see the results from this study as well. And if you have any questions at all, email us at podcast@walkerinfo.com.
Yeah, it really is impressive for those you know, and Troy you mentioned, so many of the people responding have more than ten years experience. Well, if you go back ten years, you know you’re still going to find organizations. Well, even the term was pretty new at that point, and there were still organizations that were considering it purely a research function. The fact that it is, um, in a more strategic role, I think is, is is definitely a significant thing.
Yeah. And Pat,
Go ahead.
I want to I want to pick up the second half of your question because I, uh, uh, and that really is, is the study’s insights into where a CX team should be located, you know, and, uh, spoiler alert, we don’t know. But what we do know is where it shouldn’t go. And so, uh, Troy, what I’m interested to, uh, know is, is what do we finding in the in the data where, um, CX teams were being put into places where the data suggests they shouldn’t be.
Yes. And you know and we to your point, we did see them being located in a lot of different places, which is our experience of, you know, it’s kind of who wants this thing and where does it start and all that. And, um, you know, and there’s definitely some places that it does well. But we did, interestingly enough, see a real low score on this kind of broad, broadly perceived value of CX when it was located within customer service or support. Um, and, you know, I know from just my experiences working with that, that is often where it starts and sometimes where it gets stuck, you know, because it just seems like, oh, well, yeah, the experience of support that makes sense. Like, that’s what we care about. Um, the rest of it. I don’t know how it helps or not, you know, and you get that kind of thought going sometimes I believe so. So customer service support seems to be an area that, you know, hey, it makes sense if that’s the only place you can get it started, great. But try not to get stuck there. You know, however you can do that. And then, um, you know, we did see, for instance, like sales, there weren’t as many teams there, but they had a little bit less value than some of the other places within the org. Um, and we definitely saw like if you can get in corporate strategy or if you can kind of be seen as, you know, a team reporting directly to the C-suite, um, you know, those are positive places to be.
Yeah. So, Troy, what were some of the obstacles that, uh, came through as far as governance is concerned?
And so well. And so these were definitely the obstacles listed as to why, um, CX isn’t valued more in an org. Like it’s kind of keeping it from, you know, achieving the value. And and top ones aren’t surprising considering other places we’ve kind of asked this being competing, other competing priorities. You know, it’s always fighting for, uh, you know, a piece of the pie relative to other things that the organization is focused on. Um, and then the second one that we’ve seen a lot, again, is this kind of poor integration across systems, not necessarily, you know, across functions that finds its way in here. This kind of conflict of internal organizations is kind of a top five obstacle. But but seeing this issue of of integration across systems and of the data issue and the getting the names of the customers who are our customers to even understand what their experience is. Right. Like, um, that was something that 50% of, you know, people selected. Um, one piece that was kind of low. We still had, you know, it’s not not too low, I guess, really. We still had 50% of people selecting this idea of, uh, inconsistent buy in. And, you know, that’s another piece we see a lot of and talked about quite a bit. And we had the question of, all right, well, if you have like an executive or a senior, you know, kind of director level person leading your team, does that help with adding consistent buy in? And, you know, what we saw is a little bit but not as much as you would think.
And so we saw a decrease. So it went down to around like 45% of people listing competing priorities. So down a little bit from like the 60%, you know, otherwise. And then we saw the inconsistent buy in go from like 52 down to about 41. But you know kind of on a again not a huge base size but probably significant. Um, and so yes, it does help, but it still exists. And, you know, I think in being in some of these executive meetings, we you tend to see it even with an executive on board, they’re often still conflicted. They’re like, yes, this is important, but how do I factor it in when I’ve got a, you know, make these calls about where to put resources and, and often it’s because we’re not helping them make the case enough, you know, and they’re like, yeah, we want to. Right. But it’s got to for the CFO to get on board with me. Got to be a good reason.
Yeah, I think I’ll jump in here. Um, you know, because I, I have this theory that sometimes we get in our own way, uh, and that is, we know that we want to improve the customer experience, and sometimes we make that priority, the top priority. And again, the outcome that we’re looking for is a solid business result, something that works for employees and something that works for the customer as well. And so, uh, it actually would be probably a challenge if we didn’t run into competing priorities, you know, because it is a balance. How do we have a balanced outcome that is good for the customers, good for the stakeholders, good for our colleagues? So, you know, I think that that that that mythical idea that we’re going to get someone from the C-suite to come down and solve all the competing priorities is missing the fact that every choice that we make should go through that triangle. How does this impact the customer? How does it impact the stake share stakeholders, and how does it impact other business units or employees? And we shouldn’t be looking for one of those corners of the triangle to win. We should be looking to the center to have a strong balance point and bring out solutions that are good for all three.
Okay. Well, I think there’s obviously a lot more and, and, uh, people can access, uh, more of the results in our full report and everything. But to kind of wrap up, Greg, what’s your biggest takeaways from this? If you go back to the office or you’re talking to board members and they say, hey, I heard I saw that Pulse thing, what did we get out of it? What would be the things you would mention?
Thanks, Pat. I love the way that you phrased that. And I’m gonna break that out into two different sides to to answer the question. The first is, what should we say that a CEO, CFO, or member of the board should take away from the CX Leader Pulse? And to me, the big thing there is is that if you don’t structure your CX program correctly, you may be undermining your own success, you know? So we heard that a 1 in 3 feel undervalued. And that typically is happening when they’re being shoehorned into a siloed portion of the organization, or when they’re not getting cross-functional engagement through a steering committee or other space. So are you setting your team up for success? You’re making the investment. You’re keeping the investment. How do we make sure that you’re setting your team up for success? What should a CX practitioner take away from the CX Leader Pulse. I think what’s really important there is to recognize that your job is to work in collaboration across the organization to drive business results, not just CX, but drive business results with a customer focus. And I would highly encourage you if you haven’t looked at it yet, uh, look at CXPA’s effective collaboration series, where we have a series of monographs so that you can better understand how you work together with finance, how you work together with sales and marketing, how you work together with data governance to set those, uh, successful relationships and achieve more together.
Yeah. Well put, well put. Well, we mentioned this is an ongoing thing. This is just the first one. So Troy, what’s next? What’s our next topic?
Yes, our next deep dive so we can continue asking, you know, about the value of CX in the org. And hopefully, you know, we’re pulling in more and more respondents and, you know, people as we go along to keep bolstering that view. But then this time we’re going to be deep diving into how we get customer feedback and information. Right. So thinking of all the different channels we have available to us solicited, unsolicited, structured, unstructured, um, you know, all the different ways we can go about getting this sort of customer voice of customer, um, into our organizations. So we’re going to look at, you know, what are the ones that most people are using. I think we have a good idea of what’s going to be top of that list. But what’s really interesting is, you know, all of these new, um, modes and channels, you know, how much are we taking advantage of that? And how does that factor into, you know, the value we’re able to provide to our organizations?
Excellent and our pattern will be as we release results, we’re ready for the next one so people will be able to take part. If you’re listening today, you’ll have that opportunity. So it’s time for our final question, which is always to ask each participant for take home value. That’s a quick tip or an idea that a CX leader can produce very efficiently. So, Troy, let’s start with you. What is your take home value today?
Yeah. You know, the there’s a lot of focus sometimes on just the realities of where you’re at with your CX team, you know, where have you been stuck to, you know, reporting wise? Um, you know what? How big is your team? Who’s your senior sponsor, like and kind of how that may help or limit, you know, the, the effectiveness of CX. And I think some of those things are out of your control. Right. Okay. If you’ve in a certain reporting structure, it’s hard to change that on your own. Maybe. But I think the piece that I definitely see in all of this is, you know, the value in getting that cross-functional, cross-organizational buy in and whether that, you know, it’s not always easy to get a formal steering team up and running if you don’t have a lot of executive support. But this idea of like the CX champions group, you know, that’s just finding people in other parts of the org that really want to deliver a good experience. And honestly, those people aren’t… that’s not a small percentage of people. I don’t meet very many people who are like, yeah, I don’t care if the customer is happy when I deal with them, right. So, so finding other people like that and parts of the org that have some juice and getting them involved and, you know, forming this kind of a champions team can be a really good way if you’re struggling to, you know, really make inroads in your org can be a way to start that process.
All right, Greg, what’s your take home value?
Yeah. You know, such a rich conversation, such a rich set of studies. And I think I’ve already shared a few things that I would look at. So I think I want to end with a different observation. I noticed in the respondents that the median CX team size was five individuals. And that’s a lot of work for five individuals. And I know that that’s median. So a lot of people who are listening are from smaller CX teams. Get help, get support, get research, get facts and figures, use this data, participate in this data, and help build a knowledge base so that you’re not a voice of one or 2 or 3 or 4 or 5. You are a voice of the community that is helping to bring the wisdom of the community to advance CX in your organization.
A great advice, and I love the way that, uh, there’s a common theme between the take home value from from both of you. So thank you. Greg Melia is the CEO of the Customer Experience Professionals Association, and Troy Powell is VP for strategy and analytics here at Walker. Greg, Troy, thanks for being on The CX Leader Podcast.
Thanks, Pat.
Thanks, Pat.
And if anybody wants to continue the conversation, I assume it’s okay if they reach out to you via LinkedIn. Is that the best way for both of you?
Absolutely happy to have people connect with me on LinkedIn, but the best way is come join us at cxpaglobal.org.
Of course. Of course. Troy. I’m sure it’s okay with you too, right?
Yes, you can always get me on LinkedIn. May take a week or two for me to see it, but feel free to reach out there.
All right. And if you want to discuss this topic with one of our experts, or have a great idea for a topic for a future episode, email us at podcast@walkerinfo.com. We’d love to hear from you! Be sure to rate The CX Leader Podcast through your podcast service and leave a review, because your feedback will help us improve the show and deliver the best possible value to you, our listeners. Check out our website cxleaderpodcast.com. From there you can follow the show. You can find all of our previous episodes, over 300 of them, and you can link to our blog, which we update regularly. The CX Leader Podcast is a production of Walker. We’re an experience management firm that helps companies accelerate their XM success, and you can read more about us at walkerinfo.com. Thank you for listening and remember, it’s a great time to be a CX leader. We’ll see you next time.
* This transcript was created using an A.I. tool and may contain some mistakes. Email podcast@walkerinfo.com with any questions or corrections.