Don’t Accidentally Sabotage Customer Experience — Do This Instead

by Jeannie Walters

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Sure, you may not intend to, but there are probably ways you, as the leader of your department or organization, are sabotaging the experience your customers have. And who can blame you?

Today, leaders have more expectations with fewer resources. We’re asked to spend more time reporting on what’s happened than making things happen. Time is limited and people are pressured.

But if you’re not careful, these steps may sabotage customer experience, leading to more customers complaining, leaving, then telling everyone they know why your company (and you) stink!

There are patterns at many organizations that lead to some common pitfalls. 

Watch out for these sneaky ways typical business methods lead to customer defection.

Five Ways Leaders Accidentally Sabotage CX — And What to Do Instead

1. Never dealing with customers.

It’s shockingly easy, in today’s business environment, to never actually interact with customers. Web sites are designed, invoices are sent, and even customer feedback surveys are requested, but everything is so wonderfully automatic!

Survey results and behavioral analytics only tell you some of the story. Really getting to know your customers can go a lot further.

As employees gain experience and move up in the organization, they often get farther away from customers. It’s a point of friction in some ways but it also is a necessary part of scaling customer experience.

How can leaders overcome this distance from the actual experience? 

  • Ask your Customer Success Team, Account Managers, or other customer relationship specialists to include you in one client meeting a month.
    There is some inherent bias here, because they will pick the easy customer! If you want a more random experience, pick one and ask to attend. Make it clear this isn’t about being there as the leader, it’s about hearing from customers directly. And debrief with the employee about what you heard, what’s common and what’s not, etc.
  • Visit your contact center when you feel out of touch.
    See if you can listen in, talk directly to your contact center agents, and get a pulse on where customers are seeking support.I once sat for two hours listening to calls and heard a major issue the organization wasn’t even aware of. The contact center agents had such major call volumes they were told to categorize many issues the same way. By hearing it multiple times in such a short period of time, we were able to rank the issue much higher in the priority list.
  • Can’t make it to the actual center? Request a few recordings each week.
    One leader I know made this a priority and would listen to calls just before her weekly team meeting. She said it helped her stay connected to the real issues their customers were facing, and helped her team understand how their roles were connected to these outcomes.

2. Over-worrying about your competition.

I’m a huge proponent of paying attention to the marketplace. After all, your competitors could introduce the very offering which woos your customers away!

But when leaders become obsessed with “be better than X company” as the main driver for innovation, customer experience will suffer. Sometimes it’s ok to be #2 if your legions of customers are raving fans for you.

Don’t worry about the big fish. Worry about your pond.

It’s a slippery slope once a leader zeroes in on the competition. It can feel like whatever competitors are doing is what you SHOULD be doing. But humans like different things. They want to align with brands that reflect their values, their ideals and the experiences they want.

In fact, 86% of millennials find it important to have relationships with brands that align with their personal values, according to a report by 5W Public Relations.

It’s healthier for you and your customers to compete against your own goals. Many customer experience efforts are not defined well enough to help your team gauge how it’s going.

Vague customer experience strategies destroy customer experiences because there is no centralized definition of what success looks like. This means employees throughout the organization are guessing at what efforts to take and hoping they’ll achieve poorly defined goals like “create outstanding service” or “deliver quality every time.” 

The hero of the story always looks inward to achieve their goals! Make sure you are set up for success by having a clearCX Mission Statement , a strategy defined by a specificCX Success Statement , and a way to measure progress.

And don’t forget to look to your existing raving fans! If you have customers who love what you do, ensure you are proactively looking for ways to engage them.

  • Create a customer advocacy program to continuously engage and reward customers who share their feedback and refer others.
  • Look for opportunities to proactively include those customers in special events, behind-the-scenes access, or early product reviews.
  • Encourage feedback and make sure you are closing the loop with those customers who provide it. Raving fans often care enough to tell you when things are going wrong. If they don’t get a resolution or even an acknowledgment, they’re more likely to feel neglected and overlooked.

That competitor you’re so worried about? They are probably already doing these things. It’s time to focus on what you can control and deliver for the customers you have.

3. Encouraging bad behavior.

Customer-centric cultures are built from the top and the bottom within an organization.

Encouraging employees to do the wrong thing for short-term gains or report half-truths to avoid the wrath of a boss will inevitably lead to bad behavior toward customers. If employees think this is the way to get ahead within, they will think nothing of doing the wrong thing for a customer.

Metrics are often used to punish employees. They know this and start gaming the system to ensure that doesn’t happen.

This is why we as customers get chased down with the comment card and told “if there’s any reason NOT to rate this experience a 5, tell me now!” And it’s why focusing solely on efficiency metrics like “time on-call” in contact centers can encourage the wrong behaviors.

Mythology within your organization can often play a role here. That’s why communicating often and positively about the behavior you WANT is so important.

  • You have superstars among you! Make it a habit to highlight those employees who made the right choices and delivered on your customer experience mission.
  • When things go wrong and the metrics reflect that, treat it as a coaching opportunity instead of a punishment for all.
  • Use operational and experiential data to tell your customer’s story.
    For example, time on-call or waiting time are important measurements to track. These operational metrics can inform how customers are moving through their journey. But they don’t represent the actual customer experience.
    Combining metrics like that along with their experiential feedback, like a Customer Satisfaction rating after resolving an issue, paints a more realistic picture of their experience. Helping employees understand these metrics can empower them to make the right decisions for your customers.

4. Keeping customer praise to yourself.

Hearing positive feedback about our behavior is a pretty critical part of being a human being. We thrive on praise and positive feedback helps reinforce the behaviors we want to see.

Some leaders take any positive feedback and own it – for themselves. The best leaders seek out the teams and individuals who truly earned the praise and share it generously. It’s difficult to know what went right if all you’re hearing about is what went wrong.

There are some wonderful ways to do this, and it doesn’t just have to be within the context of your team: 

  • Reserve a place on the dashboard to highlight a customer quote. Reading a customer’s real words helps everyone in the organization connect with what customers appreciate.
  • Follow up directly with customers who have praise for the organization. Let them know what you’ll be doing to reward the employees who made it great for them. Customers love to know their feedback matters in this way, too!
  • Make it a point to share praise with your product development team, the digital team, or your property managers.
    Praise is often kept to the customer-facing groups, but the positive feedback sometimes is about these points on the journey. Tell the product development team, for example, that not only have service calls decreased but a customer raved about an improvement.
    This helps them know what customers like as they continue designing for the future, and it builds cross-functional awareness of the customer’s journey.

5. Defining what you aren’t more than what you are.

Similar to worrying about the competition, this one comes up more than you’d think. A critical part of any customer journey mapping   process is understanding what the promise is for customers.

When I ask this question, I often hear what they think they’re not: “We’re not like the others in our industry.”

But when asked what they ARE, there are blank stares. Understanding who you are and what you want to offer is just as important as knowing what you aren’t.

There are not enough processes or procedures to protect you from every customer situation. This is why knowing who you are, especially around your core values, is so critical. Your employees can rely on these values to guide them and create a unified, consistent customer experience.

And this comes back to your promise. What is the promise, exactly, that your brand makes to customers? If this isn’t well-articulated and, even more importantly, internalized, then customers won’t be able to trust the experience.

  • Do your employees all say the same thing when asked about the brand promise, customer experience mission and company values? If not, it’s time to communicate and educate.
  • What does it mean to be “not like others in the industry?” Get specific about who you are.
  • What is it your products and services actually do for customers? Employees need to connect with the why. It’s not about the widgets you sell. It’s about what those widgets do to improve your customer’s lives.

Recapping Five Ways Leaders Accidentally Sabotage CX

  1. Never dealing with customers
  2. Over-worrying about your competition
  3. Encouraging bad behavior
  4. Keeping customer praise to yourself
  5. Defining what you aren’t more than what you are

This customer experience work is not for the faint of heart.

It’s touchy and nuanced and always a little challenging. There won’t ever be a magic bullet because customers, and the people who work for them, are humans. Humans are unpredictable and emotional beings. Getting to know them can lead to amazing results, however.

There are natural friction points between organizational goals like profit and efficiency and the customer experience. It’s important to honor both what your business must achieve to succeed and what your customers expect from you. 

Keep an eye out for these subtle sabotaging ways. 

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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience.

Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, LinkedIn Learning instructor, TEDx speaker, and President-Elect of the National Speakers Association Illinois chapter.

Learn more here.

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