Shared Understanding: What great CX Leaders cultivate

“The question is not what you look at, but what you see.”  Henry David Thoreau

Great CX Leaders know that people at work can look at the same thing but see something different.  So they work to cultivate shared understanding.

Sometimes the differences in what people see are due to tradition – “We’ve always done it this way, not that way.”

Differences are due to strongly held beliefs – “Surveys are dead!” “NPS is flawed!”

Differences reflect where people are in their own personal growth – “I never thought of it that way before.”

But often it’s due to a lack of shared understanding among a designated group of people.

And that’s where leadership comes in.


My favorite definition of leadership is this one

There are so many ways to define leadership. I like using this one.

To inspire others to accomplish a shared goal.

Though to succeed at the goal, I’ll need to get us to a shared understanding first.

Because if we all see different things, we’ll all end up doing different things. And – ironically – we’ll all think that we’re right.

To get the right things done (to execute on our strategy) and move our organization measurably forward (in the accomplishment of our vision and strategic objectives), a shared understanding is foundational.

That’s why I find Thoreau’s quote so powerful.


Diverge and converge – what we can learn from Human Centered Design

Seeing things differently is valuable.  Some of you may have been saying this to yourselves already.

The question for me is this –

At what point is it valuable to bring different perspectives into consideration and at what point do we all agree to go with a shared understanding?

There’s a lesson we can learn from Human Centered Design

Human Centered Design is an approach to problem-solving that focuses on understanding the needs and behaviors of people who will use the product or service that is being designed.

It involves continuous collaboration with the people we’re solving for throughout the design process – to ensure that the final solution meets their needs.

Here is the classic design process itself showing the design phases in red font.

With any Customer initiative – whether that’s a Customer-centric transformation or a refresh of Quality standards for the Contact Center – it’s valuable to have different people bring different points of view to the conversation.

I liken this to the Ideate Phase in Human Centered Design – where no idea is a bad idea.

Ideate is a ‘diverge’ phase in the Human Centered Design process where we open ourselves up to everything.  The diamond in the picture opens and embraces.

Bring on those ideas.

But at some point, only a few ideas will be considered worthy enough to take forward into prototyping and eventually the testing phases.

The rest get discarded.

This is the ‘converge’ phase.  There’s a winnowing down. We’ve made our selection. The diamond in the picture closes.


As a cohesive group we get behind the ideas selected to move forward – even when our own idea wasn’t one of those selected.

There’s a time to build consensus and consider different perspectives. And there’s a time to make decisions that we all subsequently get on board with.

If you go to a Starbucks or Coffee Bean and the barista there makes your vanilla latte the way they think it should be made – and not like the recipe has been designed – you are probably going to have an unpleasant (or at least inconsistent) surprise.

As a Customer you simply expect that there is some recommended Starbucks recipe for a vanilla latte in place.

And that the baristas who are serving your are on board with that recipe.  Even if you’ve never consciously thought about it that way before.

Your CX Vision – a powerful tool for cultivating a shared understanding

At a macro over-arching level, crafting a meaningful CX Vision and then embedding that Vision across the organization is among the most important first and ongoing stepsthat CX practitioners use to cultivate shared understanding.

A meaningful CX Vision serves as both a guiding beacon and a lens for everyone to use – regardless of where they sit within the Customer ecosystem.

But your shared understanding work doesn’t stop at the vision level.

It needs to be brought down to the places where people work. And the places where people might see things differently.

There are many opportunities to cultivate shared understanding

Your Customer ecosystem is big – even huge.

And through the crafting and embedding of that meaningful CX Vision, you’ve already helped improve the overall ecosystem. Well done you.

But there are many different departments and activities operating within your Customer ecosystem.

So that means that you’ll have many opportunities to inspire shared understanding at functional levels as well.

One of the most popular and relevant functions for CX practitioners to explore is the Customer Service function.

As with any function, there are ‘things’ within the Customer Service function where the people who work there might see things differently.

Here are three examples –

1. Interpreting Interaction Quality

How would you describe the quality of that call recording that we just listened to? Was that a good call? A not so good call? What do you think?

In some Customer Service departments – when you listen to the Managers and Team Leaders talking about the quality of a call or email – their answers to these questions are all over the place.

And yet one of the most foundational aspects of a great Customer Service function is a shared understanding of what a ‘good’ call sounds like.

And something else to look out for – on a more strategic level.

Are the points that Customer Service management talks about in these quality conversations correlated in a meaningful way to the CX Vision?

Does the CX Vision serve as a lens through which to ‘see’ that call?

Of any two functions in the ecosystem where you’d expect to see close alignment it would be between the Customer Experience and the Customer Service functions.

2. Interpreting Metric results

When you look at those 17 Contact Center metrics that you report every week – what do you ‘see’?

Recently a Contact Center Manager told me this, “Dan, our Reports people have lost the plot.”

“They generate lots of reports but even they can’t quite explain why they do what they do.”

Some Contact Center metrics are unnecessary, secondary at best, interpreted incorrectly, are weighted too much (or too little) or are interpreted in different ways among the Team.

A Contact Center is an ‘interrelated system of causes’ – a fancy way of saying that everything is connected.

So it’s important to understand the interrelationships and trade-offs that exist between metrics.

And how to explain what they mean as they move together – not just how they move in isolation.

Looking at a dashboard of metrics, and having the entire Team accurately interpret what they ‘see’ – unlocks a world of shared understanding.

3. Interpreting how Customers behave

When that Customer scolded you what did you ‘see’?

Some Frontline folks will tell you that they consider the customer a ‘jerk’ after the Customer scolded them. They might also express feeling ‘abused’ or believe that Customers should ‘know better’

We hear Frontline conversations like these all the time when we teach folks how to deal with difficult Customer situations.

Even in deeply Customer-centric organizations, real world discussion about difficult Customers needs to happen.

Don’t assume that a shared understanding exists.

Because as you’ll find out when you start talking to Customer Service people, there can be a lack of distinction between Customer behavior that is indeed ‘abusive’ versus Customer behavior that we just don’t like.

They’re not the same things.

Helping your folks see that – and manage those situations better – is an important leadership responsibility.

CX & Customer Service practitioner questions have evolved

In our Management workshops – whether in CX or in Customer Service – we find that more Participants are asking questions like these –

– How can I get my bosses to see that our Contact Center is a profit center not a cost center?

– How can I get my Employees to see that the values we’ve chosen for culture change really matter?

–  How can I get other departments to see how important CX is?

These are wonderful questions.

Because they remind us – as leaders at all levels – that we need to inspire people to accomplish a shared goal.

And to do that, we’ll need to cultivate a shared understanding. Using our skill, knowledge and experience.

So that people don’t just look at things.

They see them.

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Daniel Ord

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Thank you for reading!

Thank you for the time you took to read this today!

Stay up to date on our articles and insights! Send me a message if you have any questions.

Daniel Ord

[email protected]

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