Why Outside-In Thinking Is So Difficult

by Jeannie Walters

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Whenever embarking on a customer experience investigation™, which is what we do to help our clients walk in their customer’s shoes, we discuss why this is so challenging.

It’s easy to think, “I get it. I get what our customers experience with us.”

But here’s why outside-in thinking is so difficult:

outside-in thinking

When you are working within your role in any organization, there are certain truths. You have responsibilities around goals, outcomes, and results. You need to react to whatever crises or smaller challenges pop up. You report to others, whether it’s a boss or a board or stakeholders. There’s a lot to do, whatever you do!

You also know the inside “why” of the processes developed. So while you know the billing process isn’t ideal for your customers, you also know that the cumbersome process inside the organization is the best your team can do right now. Until the software is updated, or more people are hired, or that awful online portal is changed for good…or…or…

You also know that Sally in billing is the hardest working person you know. You know she cares very much about customers.

Your own brain denies the ugly truth.

So when challenged with customer feedback that not only does the billing process stink but Sally hasn’t been helpful, your brain literally rejects these ideas. Your belief system is completely challenged and your brain can’t compute this information. Your brain literally works against the truth here. It reorganizes and rationalizes the information to FIT your current belief system.

This means you take in information and within seconds reconstruct the truth to fit your beliefs. Sally couldn’t have been who they dealt with, you’ll tell yourself.

Meanwhile, your customers have issues you are totally unaware of, simply because they don’t fit into the construct of your version of how customers move through the process.

outside-in thinking

True outside-in thinking comes from the outside.

Stepping out of your own viewpoint is really, really difficult. I can’t stress it enough. It’s harder than it seems and more challenging than we think it should be.

That’s why enlightened leaders, as we refer to them, ask for outside help. They appreciate the view is difficult to achieve from the inside. They bring us in to walk through their customer’s experiences. They invite customers in to share their stories. They view feedback as a gift of enlightenment instead of a punch in the gut.

The best companies do this again and again and again.

Because just when you think you’ve figured it out, something changes. Departments change their goals. A new product is launched. Sally in billing gets a new job elsewhere. And that’s just what can happen within an organization.

Customers change, too, and sometimes in subtle ways. Loyalty one month can be challenged the next by outside influences. A new competitor in the marketplace offers something you don’t. Their most recent customer service experience was not great. Anything can happen.

When was the last time you really got an outside-in view of your organization? When will the next time be?

Featured image by Elvert Barnes via Creative Commons license

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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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