Lessons From the Frontline – Common Customer Experience Mistakes
It has now been over three years since I started CustCore, and what a fun ride it has been.
I’ve had the great fortune to work with many great people in some very focussed companies who have made real and significant improvements in the experience they provide to their customers.
Unfortunately, I have also worked with people and companies who don’t reach those lofty heights.
Sometimes it is through no fault of their own or that of the company they work within, but in many cases the reasons for the customer experience focussed projects not succeeding can be traced back to any number of underlying mistakes or issues, many of which manifest either at the start of a project, or even before it begins.
Below I have detailed 11 common customer experience mistakes (in no particular order) that I have observed that have hindered the success of Customer Experience (CX) projects.
By documenting these items, I am hoping others can either avoid these pitfalls altogether, or recognise them when they start to occur, and intervene before they become a problem.
11 Common Customer Experience Mistakes
Mistake #1: Its all just hot air
The most common reason I see for customer experience focussed projects failing is the lack of carry-through from senior management (and in many cases the CEO) regarding customer experience as a focus.
In a number of cases I have seen CEOs and leadership teams say that they are focussed on the customer, but not actually do anything to show this focus.
In effect, it’s all just talk.
There is no focus on customers in leadership meetings, no discussion or tracking of metrics related to the customers, and no visible support of customer experience initiatives from these senior leaders.
These leaders either
a) fail to realise that without their visible support its very difficult for any customer experience focussed effort to succeed OR
b) really aren’t committed to improving customer experience in the first place
Either of these is a clear indication of a lack of customer focus and are recipes for disaster in any customer experience improvement effort.
Mistake #2: If I put my head in the sand, I won’t need to do anything
Unfortunately, I have had a number of situations where I have worked with senior management to undertake customer research, only for them to then bury the results, not want to address the issues found, refuse to share them with anyone, and do very little to try and improve.
Often this has been because the results of the customer research have shown a number of issues within the company that need to be addressed. In many cases, these are items that perhaps the senior management should have been aware of and addressed earlier, or that (in their perception) makes them look bad.
If the recipients of the research do react this way, there is very little chance that an experience improvement effort can succeed, or even see the light of day.
Mistake #3: Great strategy, now what?
I have worked with a number of companies to develop really robust, well thought out and data-driven customer experience strategies.
Unfortunately, they then don’t put in place the appropriate actions and change management practices to turn the strategy into reality and drive change into the business.
This lack of action dooms the strategy to become a document or plan that looks good but has no real effect, and often just finishes up as a document in someone’s drawer.
This is one of the most frustrating outcomes that I see in some projects because I know that if the strategy was rolled out to the business it would drive real improvements in customer experience.
Mistake #4: We know our customers, we don’t need to ask
A trap I often see companies fall into is thinking that they know best.
Often the company feels they know their customer’s views of the experience they are receiving, and what needs to be done to change or improve.
Unfortunately, this often translates into people I am dealing with not realising they need to in fact ask customers their views, and instead forging ahead with change programs of their own design.
These change programs, even though they are well-intentioned, often don’t hit the mark, and don’t really address some of the key issues that customers actually have with the experience.
In the cases where I do manage to persuade my client to actually ask customers their views, it is amazing how many times the results surprise those inside the company, even if they thought they knew the customer intimately.
Not really understanding what customers think is a fatal flaw in any customer experience improvement effort.
Even if a company thinks they know what their customer’s views are, they should ask them, just to make sure that the basis of their understanding is correct.
Mistake #5: Ooh, look, shiny!
With customer experience becoming the key differentiator in many markets, there are a lot of new and interesting tools and systems that vendors are trying to market and promote which they claim will significantly improve the experiences that companies deliver.
Whilst most of these tools and systems do have benefits, there is no silver bullet.
Unfortunately, I have seen too many companies think they if they just install that one new measurement system, roll out the new fancy chatbot, or change their IVR system that they will instantly fix all the experience problems their customers have.
What they soon realise is that customer experience improvement doesn’t work like that, at least in a sustainable way.
It takes a broad approach to fixing customer issues and problems which in 99% of cases one system can’t solve. The sooner companies realise that the better.
Mistake #6: We have the number, that’s all we need
In this data-driven world, it’s really important that companies have the right metrics in place to understand how their business is performing, and how they are delivering on customer expectations.
However, a mistake that companies often make is to rely purely on numbers to understand customers views, especially with measures like NPS.
This is especially the case if compensation is tied to the numbers (e.g. bonuses that rely on NPS as a measure).
What these companies fail to realise is that just having a number or rating from a customer doesn’t allow them to understand what is driving that rating, which is where the real “gold” is in determining what need to improve.
Instead of just focussing on the number, it is critical that companies realise they need to ask customers “why” they are giving that score, and then analyse the results to the nth degree.
Doing this allows companies to really understand what needs to improve and change in the business.
Mistake #7: Surely you don’t expect me to do this all
Driving real change in customer experience is difficult.
Some companies fail in driving CX improvements because they don’t appreciate that it’s not feasible for just one person to drive a full-scale CX initiative.
These companies may have someone appointed in Chief Customer role or similar, but then don’t support that person with the resources they need to actually drive improvements like they need to.
It’s not enough just to appoint someone to a role, and then expect they can do everything expected of them.
They need to have help where required, especially in major change projects. Too often, this help does not materialise, or if it does, it’s too little, too late.
Mistake #8: It’s been a month, why is it not all done?
Driving real change in customer experience takes time.
Unfortunately, many companies are so focussed on short-term profits and project outcomes that they find it very difficult to maintain the impetus of a customer experience improvement program which can often take a year or two to make real, long-term impacts.
This short-term focus means that often CX projects need to justify their existence every few months, which then drives a focus on short-term quick wins instead of real strategic change.
This turns in a vicious cycle, with less and less short-term improvement available, eventually jeopardising the project overall.
It is only through a deep understanding that CX improvement projects (and others like them) can take time to drive real, sustainable change that companies will ever really achieve the goals they are after.
Mistake #9: We fixed this bit, why is it all not working?
Although an understanding of the need to focus on customer journeys rather than interactions is becoming more widely accepted in many companies, I still too often see customer experience improvement projects not achieving their ultimate goals because they focus only on fixing parts of a journey, not the end-to-end customer outcome.
Focussing on a limited part of a customer journey (e.g. just on call centre interactions) can produce some customer experience improvements, but in the end, more often than not these point solutions don’t really impact on the ultimate goals of the customer much at all.
Whilst customer journey maps are sometimes viewed as “nice to have” in some companies, it is only by understanding customers end-to-end outcomes, and designing experiences to achieve these goals that true change can really be driven.
Mistake #10: It’s their problem, not mine
One of the fundamental things I focus on when helping companies to improve the customer-centricity of their culture is to make sure everyone in the business understand that they impact on the customer experience, either directly or indirectly.
In effect, they are either service customers directly or serving those who are serving customers.
Unfortunately, in many companies, especially those with a customer experience function, the rest of the organisation sees customer experience improvement as the responsibility of that central CX function (or customer service, or marketing, or just “someone else”).
Until everyone realises that customer experience improvement is the responsibility of everyone, the company will have very little chance of success.
Mistake #11: Our people don’t matter, it’s our customers that are important
More and more research is highlighting the key link between employee experience and customer experience in organisations.
This is especially critical for frontline employees (those interacting directly with customers), but is also critical for pretty much every employee in a company.
The problem that I have seen is that many companies don’t fully understand this link.
They design great customer experiences but don’t equip their staff to deliver them, or they demand their staff serve customers in an empathetic and focussed way, but don’t show them how to do that, and don’t give them the tools to make them successful.
Without a focus on improving employee experience, there is very little chance that any customer experience improvement program will succeed.
In documenting these common mistakes, it is very clear that a key underlying reason for a number of these issues is the culture of the organisation.
In fact, I’d suggest that having a customer-centric and employee-centric culture, or a strong desire to achieve one, is almost a pre-requisite for ensuring a customer experience improvement project will meet and exceed its goals.
Hopefully, this article serves as a guide for the kinds of issues that can derail a CX improvement project and a good checklist for what to avoid in setting one up!
Footnote: In addition to the above, I want to note that by no means am I indicating that unsuccessful projects are all as a result of something happening within my clients’ workspace or with the people I am dealing with.
If a project that I am involved with doesn’t succeed as well as expected, it is a failing on my part, either for not flagging concerns early enough, not recognising the issues, or not saying “no” initially to even taking the project on in the first place.
When I am part of a project that doesn’t meet the goals I set for it, I try and learn from what has occurred, so that I can do better with future clients in similar situations.
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