How do you get your board excited about customer experience?

30 Aug 2019

Image: © ViDi Studio/

There are lots of things that UX professionals can do to enthuse business leaders about customer experience, writes Gareth Dunlop.

“My boss doesn’t get it.”

During the delivery of user experience training to hundreds of delegates across dozens of countries, this is by far the most common blocker attendees cite when we discuss the challenges of putting their new-found knowledge into practice.

I find it intriguing that in an environment where both the leadership team and designers want the same thing get more happier customers, sell more stuff, make more profit, grow a healthy business that designers struggle to persuade decision-makers that they have skills, knowledge and processes relevant to help them achieve their ends.

If you struggle with this because your boss is a jerk, then I can’t help. However, assuming the leaders in your business are good folks who want to do their best for the business and for themselves, then there are lots of things that UX professionals (researchers, analysts and designers) can do to enthuse business leaders about UX, get it on the agenda at board meetings and secure budget for investment.

Here are some of them:

Speak their language

Get fluent – really fluent – talking about the metrics that matter for your digital products.

You need to lead the drive for your organisation to value digital data. Your data needs to be rich, nuanced and integrated closely with organisational goals. You need to convince your manager that you are as fluent as they are in the numbers that matter to them. Focus on the numbers that tell you the following:

  • How users behave (page impressions, flows, funnels, goals, conversion)
  • Outcomes users achieved (goal completion, bottleneck identification, bounce)
  • How users are being treated (page load time, average time on site)
  • Commercial reality (cost of customer acquisition, cost of conversion, cost of visit, cost of click, conversion rate, lifetime value of customer)

Every month I witness first-hand the credibility debt that UX professionals incur by underinvesting in understanding their data.

Manage the metrics, manage the outcomes.

Highlight the impact of bad experience

The leaders in your business probably spend less time with your customers now than when they first joined.

It is an unfortunate consequence of corporate life that the further an individual gets promoted, the further they get from the coalface.

Your job is to get your leaders back to the coalface, because that is where reality lies. Achieve this by producing eye-catching, easy-to digest materials to put your customers’ challenges on their agenda. This could take the form of a usability lowlights reel, a short report outlining your customer experience benchmarked against your competitors, or running an open usability session.

Get them to the front line.

Excite about the possibility of good experience

The leaders in your business are probably constantly searching for new areas of competitive advantage and maybe just don’t know that CX could be one.

Like the previous point, your job here is to put eye-catching, easy-to digest materials on your leaders’ desks and get them reading or watching it.

Those of us involved in UX know that you can’t win in any sector unless you are obsessive about experience. A brief glance at the digital brands that dominate our lives illustrates that across all sectors those who win have a cultural obsession with the customer.

Help join those dots for your bosses. Identify relevant exemplars. Inspire them about potential.

Understand and embrace your role

Take your UX medicine. Define a persona for your manager(s) and, based on insight, articulate their goals, needs and behaviours. Work hard to solve their problems as well as yours.

Understand the science of influence. Be patient. Be positive. Be open.

Start small. Find kindred spirits. Involve people. Inform people. Be vulnerable. Admit your mistakes.

Play the long game

Your boss and your company’s leaders are likely to face regular lobbying from your co-workers. Like you, your colleagues will be trying to further the cause of their own area of expertise. In response, your leadership team will be constantly trying to fit all the pieces into their mental jigsaw.

This takes time. And patience.

And that’s how and when you get your chance to start the revolution.

By Gareth Dunlop

Gareth Dunlop owns and runs Fathom, a UX consultancy that helps ambitious organisations get the most from their digital products by viewing the world from the perspective of their customers. Specialist areas include UX strategy, usability testing, customer journey planning and accessibility. Clients include BBC, Bord Bia, Firmus Energy, Kingspan, AIB and Tesco Mobile. 

Gareth Dunlop runs Fathom, a UX consultancy that helps organisations get the most from their digital products.