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  • RIP customer experience: Seven reasons why customer experience is in danger of dying


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I am becoming increasingly concerned that the focus on improving the customer experience is heading the same way as CRM, into failure. I fear this as I am seeing the early signs I saw with CRM and really don't want to see the customer experience destroyed in the same way. Here are seven indications that are causing me concern:

'If I buy this IT system it will solve all my problems'

No it won't! I agree IT systems are part of the reason why many customer experiences are poor but only part of the reason. In my view the big IT companies, with their big marketing spend, are coercing organizations to believe all they have to do is buy an IT system and their customer experience will improve by magic, just like they did with CRM. We all know organizations made huge investments in CRM systems and expected the world to change overnight. It didn't and this sullied the name of CRM.

'Of course I know what the customer experience is about'

No you don't! Back in the day, when CRM was on everyone's lips, I always started a conversation about CRM by asking them 'what do you mean by CRM' as everyone had their own view of what it meant and I needed to ensure we were talking about the same thing. The same now is starting to apply with customer experience. I am seeing an increasing number of people who have a superficial knowledge of what a customer experience is really about. As the saying goes, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. Customer experience is a wide topic. It cuts across many areas. Customer experience is about human behaviour, customer emotions and to get the most from it you need to understand experience psychology. Like with anything else, you need to understand what you are doing in order to make a difference.

'What is the one thing I can do that would improve the customer experience?'

To be honest it is naive to think there is one thing that will improve the customer experience. It also shows that people that think this is the case don't understand the subject. I understand people always want a quick fix, it is human nature. But let me assure you there is no silver bullet that will solve your problems.

'Everyone else is doing customer experience, so should we?'

No you shouldn't! I understand you may feel the need to jump on the band wagon, but that is not the reason to focus on improving your customer experience. You need to make sure you understand where the band wagon is going and whether you want to go there and you are committed to the journey. Improving the customer experience is hard work. I strongly recommend that if you are not prepared to undertake this hard work, don't even start as you'll do more harm than good.

'I work in customer experience'

Do you really? Or have you just rebadged your job that you've been doing for the last ten years? Rebadging jobs, projects, functions and calling them customer experience doesn't mean you will magically change things. To change things you need to do something different! I was chatting to a client who informed me they were looking for a VP of customer experience. Their problem was that everyone they had was supposedly in customer experience but when they delved deeper they discovered that it wasn't really about customer experience, just a normal customer-facing role.

'We have mapped our processes to improve the customer experience'

There's a hint in the phrase "customer experience." It's about a customer EXPERIENCE not customer process! There is a big difference between experience and a process. Organizations obsess themselves with processes and fail to see the difference between an experience and a process. A process is internal. It is what you want the customer to do. Allow me to let you into a secret: Customers do not always do what you want them to do and if you force them to submit to your process this can cause a poor experience.

'Lack of true senior executive engagement'

Which senior exec would say that focusing on the customer is the wrong thing to do? Most senior execs would say focusing on the customer is the right thing to do but there is a big difference between their actions and their words. As outlined above, too many senior execs are now just jumping on a band wagon; too many don't know what their organization needs to do to change. Too many are looking for a quick fix, too many fail to lead. Customer experience is a way of life, it is a cultural change, it's a commitment needed from the heart as well as the head. It is not a slogan. You will do more harm than good if you say something and don't mean it.

Over the past ten years with our books, research and client work I am pleased to have helped, in some way, to shape a new industry. I am being provocative in this article to try and engender some debate. I see dangers on the horizon and I think we should all try to avoid. I don't want to see customer experience go the same way as CRM. Let's make sure we work together to avoid them for the benefit of the customer. Customers deserve better.

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User Comments – Give us your opinion!
  • Betty Steven
    This blog is definitely rather handy since I’m at the moment creating an internet floral website – although I am only starting out therefore it’s really fairly small, nothing like this site. Can link to a few of the posts here as they are quite. Thanks much...
  • Rick Harris
    I respect your work at BeyondPhilosophy, Colin - it's made a genuine difference to how CX is regarded as a business discipline.
    But that makes this post all the more odd!

    I've worked in CX consultancy for 12 years, and the trend towards it is undeniable. Far from senior managers saying things like 'If I buy this IT system it will solve all my problems', they are much more savvy now, and are more likely to look to operations and HR in recognition of the people and cultural CX aspects.
    I'd agree that the temptation to try and create a process for CX still haunts many companies, and that's because they've grown up in a world that has prized consistent behaviour over empathetic understanding.
    But I'm very surprised that you get to a conclusion that CX is 'in danger of dying'.

    Look at the growth of e-channels such as web and mobile - huge investment and massive improvement in recent years, in terms of ease of use, flexibility, visibility for the customer. Look at how these are becoming integrated with physical stores (still work to do of course) in order to drive choice and convenience.

    Full Disclosure: Yes - I'm a "glass-half-full" kind of guy, but I think the CX trend is still upward and offers good reason for optimism!
  • Colin Shaw
    Thanks for your comments and I am glad you disagree! As I mentioned in the last sentence I am trying to be provocative to engender some debate. I have no hesitation in saying Customer Experience with last for a while, and I hope forever! My comments are referring to where it will be in 5 years’ time. These are the danger signs as I see them now….I hope you are correct and I am just a ‘half empty guy’! :-)
  • Martin Amadio
    Retailers frequently talk about "Customer Experience" and then turn around and optimize (read reduce) the number of open Check Out lanes.
    This is just another glaring example of the "rhetoric and reality gap" which exists in so many organizations.

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Colin Shaw
Colin Shaw is founder & CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of world's first organizations devoted to customer experience. Colin is an international author of four best-selling books. Beyond Philosophy has a proven track record. They provide consulting, specialized research & training from Atlanta, Georgia and London, England.
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