Seven Inhibitors to Customer Experience Success

Want to make sure your customer experience work stays on track? Manage these inhibitors of customer experience work success.

1. Starting with a mantra, not an action plan. Often companies decide that they want to get some early traction by telling everyone to "focus on customer experience." What happens next is that people realize this is a big corporate priority and begin making plans, creating new scorecards, and taking action.

This proliferates the silo-based approach to actions that is contrary to the discipline of experience development and management. A lot of action occurs, executives get a "false positive" that action is occurring and traction is happening, but it eventually stalls because the actions don't tie together and aggregate up to improve complete end-to-end customer experiences.

2. Failing to define the customer experience and gaining alignment on the path of actions. The organization needs to agree on the stages of the customer experience and the definitions of success. This is important because we want to give leaders a new language set to use to ask questions and drive the business, and we want to establish the key cross-functional metrics for the development of key performance indicators for priority touchpoints.

This new attitude and approach to talking about and managing the business is key to achieving the cultural transformation. It's only when we drive the experience from this vantage point, and hardwire this approach into language, leadership, and operations, that it will become sustainable.

3. Not breaking the work into actionable pieces and not understanding what "success" is. Initially the work on the customer experience journey should be considered successful when "enabling infrastructure" actions occur.

Early actions include treating customer data like an asset by bridging the data silos, proactively managing customer data with technology such as data quality and master data management, and empowering customer-facing employees with an understanding of each customer's value to the organization.

4. Attaching early metrics to survey metrics alone rather than operational metrics people can impact. The challenge with this is that the outcome of a survey score is affected by numerous factors, not all of which can be affected by areas of the organization that are given the outcome metrics as their performance score.

If the outcome metrics are added too early, before the underlying processes and culture change and coaching and development are put into place, people WILL want to achieve great scores, but they will rely on involving the customer in helping them to achieve a better score. ("Any reason you can't give me a ten? ")

5. Not having executives engaged in the effort. Leaders must commit to being personally involved, beyond a perfunctory monthly check-in meeting. They need to engage in the process of the work. Without executive involvement driving the new prioritization, driving out the actions that are in the way and giving people permission to work together, it is hard to sustain this work.

This work is not like a typical project. Setting up a great project plan and executing on tactics and actions will get the infrastructure built (such as VOC systems), but it won't drive the change in culture and the development of cross-silo competencies.

6. Not having clear communication to the organization that walks people constantly through the road map, actions, and behaviors to model. It's not enough to do the work behind the scenes. The organization needs to be constantly kept up to speed on what is happening and what it means to them. As new decisions are made that focus on customer experiences, people must be kept apprised of these decisions and given permission to model this type of decision-making.

The organization must be kept up to speed on actions and successes. Without this constant communication, "permission setting," and "decision guidance," the organization will view the customer experience work as just one element of a long string of exercises or programs that will go the way of the others--away.

7. Taking actions based on what they think, not based on understanding what customers need. Many companies, especially those long entrenched in their business. believe they know what customers need. Even when they do research, they make the research about "validating" their plans rather than beginning with an open mind and asking the customer about their lives and what they need.

This approach will compromise the outcome of the new experiences that are built, and in some cases will completely backfire. Customer experience differentiation comes when companies begin by truly understanding customers' needs, rather than beginning with current processes and asking customers what they like or don't like. Many companies fall into this trap, from experience building to customer satisfaction scores that indicate that "they are doing ok". Customers are forced to react to the box of the experience you are currently giving and aren't given the chance to really talk about what they need.