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Pop-up project reveals the current status of customer orientation in Finnish Boards of Directors

By Johanna Vesterinen posted 02-08-2016 02:16 PM


An interesting Pop-up project called ‘Customer Advocates on Board’ is currently ongoing in Finland. The purpose of the project is to boost discussion about the significance of customer experience as a strategic topic for companies, with specific emphasis on its role in Boards of Directors.

The project was started by two customer experience professionals –Tarja Ilvonen and Tuija Koskimäki. One of the specifics of this Pop-up project is that it is not carried out under the wings of any company or organization. Instead, it uses principles from crowd-sourcing and networking, and pulls together CX specialists from different arenas – enterprises, entrepreneurs, academics – all committed through their passion for getting CX into the limelight. The aim is to get top leaders actively engaged into the discussion.


A major milestone was completed with a survey about the current status of customer orientation in the Boards of Directors of Finnish companies. The topic was approached from four angles: 

1) The role of customer orientation on the Board agenda; 2) The shared mindset of the importance and value of understanding customers; 3) The Board members’ customer-related competencies and capabilities; 4) Reporting of customer experience topics to Boards of Directors.

186 chairmen and members of Boards of Directors participated in the survey, which was carried out in August-September. The responses reveal the maturity of customer focus on the board agendas in Finnish companies. The results show e.g. the following:

  • The level of customer-related competencies is considered almost as good as economic, strategic or business competencies and the majority of Boards raise customer experience related topics to their agenda.  Despite this, less than twenty percent of companies are able to anticipate changes in customer needs and behavior and utilize the insights for differentiation.
  • Only 13 percent of respondents say that the Board has discussed customer experience and defined what kind of customer experience the company wants to deliver – and only 29 percent have set a target for the customer experience.
  • Monitoring and analyzing customer experience and changes in customer behavior are considered inadequate and only 10 percent of Boards continuously challenge the strategy from the customer experience viewpoint.



After the survey, the project owners carried out an extensive roadshow giving around 80 presentations and being in contact with over 700 people. For many Boards of Directors, the results have been surprising and in many cases they have raised a discussion about the border between strategic versus operational activities. It has become clear that the Board of Directors often lack a customer vision, which would be crucially important for guiding the company’s operational actions. Also the terminology around customer centricity is often unclear – e.g. customer focus may be one of the company values – but its meaning has never been defined or communicated.


In case a company doesn’t have customer understanding at the heart of its strategy, it may lose huge opportunities. The Project Owners raise the following areas as top customer experience priorities for Boards of Directors:

  • Define what customer orientation means for the company. This will be the basis for a common language for customer focus and guide all further activities.
  • Develop a shared CX mindset for the Board and expand it throughout the company. A shared mindset is a cornerstone for a customer-centric company culture.
  • Continuously challenge the strategy and its implementation from the customer experience angle and ensure that the company’s operational capabilities are built to enable the delivery of its CX vision.

Implications to CX professionals

Seeing the survey results makes me ask what the implications are to customer experience professionals. How can we contribute to the practices that help company leaders and Boards of Directors put more focus on customer experience?

Only 12 percent of respondents consider that they get adequate reporting about the development of customer experience. A clear development area for CX teams is to define the content, format and regular practices for providing relevant insights to the Boards.

Another area, where CX professionals can offer their expertise is organizing CX competence development for all parts of a company, ensuring that each stakeholder group gets an info session or training that is meaningful for their role.

Thirdly, selection and definition of customer metrics for the company and preparation of target setting naturally fall into CX professionals’ competence area.

Let’s take a proactive role in making CX a priority!

#Prioritization #IndustryBestPractices #ChangeManagement #CoCreation