Why Women Should Lead Customer Experience  

Customer experience futurist, author, and speaker Blake Morgan and I recently bonded over common views on women and customer experience.  (Our conversation is a part of Blake’s terrific Modern Customer podcast – check it out here.)  We ended up concluding that women are uniquely positioned to lead customer experience.

After our conversation, I thought about the topic more and, as usual, the points became even clearer to me.  Generally speaking, women naturally possess certain advantages that make them particularly suited to take a leadership role in an organization’s CX efforts:

– Empathy.  Great customer experiences are ones that demonstrate an understanding of what customers really want and need.  And, as is the case with any relationship, you can’t always rely on someone to tell you what they want and need.  People don’t always know their desires (especially in a field where what’s possible changes practically every day) or they don’t know how to articulate them.  That’s where empathy comes in.  Empathy, defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another, is how some brands manage to convey that they “get” their customers.  They anticipate what their customers want, many times even without being told, and then design and manage experiences to deliver it. Although it’s a common stereotype, research suggests that women are generally more empathetic than men.

– Connectedness.  Great customer experiences seamlessly weave together different elements into a cohesive experience.  Take, for example, a restaurant that connects food, service, environment, pricing, and location into a distinctive and memorable in-restaurant experience — and translates all of those elements into carry-out or delivery service — so that customers have a seamless experience from start to finish regardless of their dining mode.  Connectedness is also critical to customer experience from an organizational perspective, as it requires different departments (product, operations, sales, service, marketing, etc.) to come together and work toward common goals.  Given that one report says men on average lean towards linear thinking while women are more circular, and men are notorious for compartmentalizing, women seem more wired than men to see and optimize the connections needed to excel at customer experience.

– Relevance.  According to Interpublic, women make or influence 85% of all consumer purchase decisions.  So women can draw upon a greater number of personal experiences to guide the design and management of customer experience.  But gender differences exist in more than just the quantity of shopping.  The type of shopping women do — more journey-oriented, more hedonic (vs. utilitarian), emotion-driven decision-making, etc. — makes customer experience more important to them (check out this fascinating article about gender differences in purchase decisions by Anneke Van Aswegen.)  It makes sense that the greater personal relevance of customer experience  to women would give them an advantage as customer experience leaders.

Of course, exceptions to the rules definitely exist and I don’t intend to propagate stereotypes.  There are plenty of women who don’t conform to these advantages — and plenty of men who do express them.  And we need men in customer experience as well.  Diversity is key to any creative endeavor, but especially in such a broad and rapidly changing field as customer experience.

But because we still experience such an inherent bias in business toward men, I thought it was worth sharing a perspective on why women should lead customer experience.  And not surprisingly, some of my favorite customer experience leaders are women, including Annette Franz, Jeanne Bliss, Jeanie Walters, Lynn Hunsaker, Raphaelle Loren, Sonia Rhodes, Yvonne Nomizu, Tiffani Bova and Blake!  (A special thank you to Blake for including me — if you’re into customer experience, follow her like I do.) Please take a listen to our conversation and let us know what you think.


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