Rate Your Customer Experience Progress: Why Customer Efforts Fail – Signs to Look For and Avoid

If you have tried repeatedly to get a focus on customers, customer loyalty and customer profitability inside your organization with less than stellar results, you’re far from alone.  Most companies jump in without evaluating how the organization works together, whether the CEO is truly committed and if the patience exists for the long road ahead.  These are the key issues that usually get in the way of making progress.

Here are the eight key issues that usually get in the way of making progress in your focus on customers inside your organization. See if you recognize any of them in your organization.

1.  CEO’s aren’t clear about where they want to take the company for customers. (Lack of clarity of  “one company” customer experience)

When the CEO says ‘go focus on the customer,’ every one takes it differently. The shot gets fired into the air and a proliferation of tactics, vendor proposals and actions get going.  But they often don’t aggregate up to something meaningful for customers.

 2.  The ‘commitment’ doesn’t frame and modify actions for leaders and the organization. (Lack of alignment of “one company” customer experience)

 What we have now is a frenzied awareness of a problem that often leads to an even more frenzied approach to a “solution.”  When CEO’s say they’re committed to the customer mission, ask these questions to gain more clarity about their commitment to the customer and the mission.

  • Are you clear in your mind about what you want to accomplish?
  • Do you understand the sweeping scope of the work?
  • Will you develop the new skills required for the company to thrive with customers?
  • Are you willing to commit company time and resources to make this happen?
  • As the CEO, do you sign up to be a true partner?
  • Will you insist on corporate patience?
  • Are you ready to push hard for strategic customer metrics?
  • Do you have the guts to drive reliability in company operations?
  • Do you have the focus to define the differentiated value you want to deliver to customers?

 3.  The ‘customer’ still isn’t elevated as the major asset of the corporation. (Customers aren’t an asset)

Organic customer growth drives long-term profitability.  So why isn’t it as important to CEOs as quarterly sales goals?

Understanding the state of customer relationships and even something as simple as customer counts still pale in comparison to quarterly sales goals in the rate at which they are understood, managed and held up as a success factor of the business.   No one knows the goal-line for customers.  Most CEOs haven’t told their company what it is.

4.  The metrics and motivation don’t line up with the commitment.  

CEOs say they’re committed to customers but don’t make any modifications for how success is defined and what people are compensated and rewarded for.  Or if modifications are made, it’s at such a high level such as attaching bonus to customer satisfaction survey score increases – that people don’t really know how to change their behavior.  The metrics aren’t attached down to relevant operational changes.  There are even times that satisfaction score goals can be negotiated out of relevance if a high sales performer doesn’t make the grade on customer satisfaction but hit the ball out of park bringing in new business.   Tilt.  The company takes a queue from where people are rewarded and what the company really cares about and will act accordingly.

5.  There is inconsistency for driving accountability.  

Companies who do this right spend the time to lay out what the new metrics are down to the operational level.  And they establish meaningful forums and methods to hold people accountable.  The ‘customer stuff’ is not wedged into an over-crowded meeting agenda and potentially pushed completely off when time falls short.  The work is done to clearly identify how the different sections of the customer experience are accountable by individual areas and through collaboration.  And accountability is clearly attached to each.

6.  It’s not natural for the company to work together. 

Each faction of the company continues to establish their own plans, budgets and goals.  The challenge of this work is that it cuts across the entire organization and orchestrating that new behavior isn’t often factored in.  This won’t happen naturally and the CEO must be a major player in a)identifying that this new skill is necessary, b) finding someone to bring the pieces together to work on common efforts, and c) reinforce through accountability, metrics and motivation that these are the necessary behaviors in the new customer-focused world.

7.  Fleeting corporate patience exists to drive sustainable change. 

This work is not for the mild-hearted or quarterly inclined.  Becoming a ‘customer’ company is a multi-year endeavor.  When things seem to waver (and they will), people will need to hear that the corporate patience exists to stay the course.

If the CEO doesn’t personally commit to corporate patience, people will see right through it. They’ll abandon efforts when their performance rating is at risk for staying focused on the “customer thing” that’s not yielding results quickly enough for the impatient corporate machine.

8.  There is a lack of understanding and commitment to the scale of work required. 

For the customer work to take-hold it must be seen for what it is and understood for the challenge that it will be to the ‘normal’ workings of the corporate machine.  The CEO needs to be realistic about what accomplishments are requested and support it accordingly.  I’ve been in more situations than I care to remember where the ‘commitment’ was there but not much more.  People will see right through this and the corporate ‘Nay-Sayers’ will be quick to point out that this is yet one more empty promise about customers. CEOs on a realistic path for this work recognize its scale and understand that many people may need to be assembled to bring about the level of wholesale change required.


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2 comments to " Rate Your Customer Experience Progress: Why Customer Efforts Fail – Signs to Look For and Avoid "

  • Jeanne – thanks for the post. A list post that actually has some very actionable recommendations.

    One big thing struck me as I read through.

    And this really doesn’t have to do with the theme of your post, but more related to a challenge in retaining customers. In number 3 you indicate that organic customer growth drives long-term profitability. Indulge me in a bit of context here. It is commonly accepted that retaining customers is “cheaper” than acquiring new ones. This is one of those tag lines that has diluted the reality of the equation. First off, “cheaper” is a term that I don’t understand. In some industries, and on line especially, the long tail has made it very cheap to acquire new customers. Now that’s not to say those customers are profitable. But, the cost to acquire in some cases is very low. That being said, I think your statement in number three also has additional requirements that need to be satisfied in order to make this statement true. First, as a point of clarification for me, when you refer to growth, are you referring to revenue growth from a single customer? Share of wallet? What is the measure of growth? In terms of profitability, increasing that can be achieved by moving many different levers. You can reduce the number of customers (the unprofitable ones). You can reduce the footprint within that customer (only focusing on those services or solutions that are perceived as high value for that customer and thus improving the profitability of that customer relationship). You can shift the mix….you get the idea.

    And here is the part that falls on the provider of the product or service that is required to make that statement true. Long term clients will only remain profitable if you continue to deliver a value to the customer beyond (or at least equal to) the price that the client is willing to pay. In my business (business services), if you are not continually doing that, customers will be willing to stay with you but will continue to demand lower and lower prices. In other words, customers don’t commoditize things on their own. Companies commoditize themselves by not continuing to deliver value that exceeds the cost. In this scenario, the customer is telling you “yes I continue to need what you have. but I’m not willing to pay what I used to for it” This is where innovation and continuous value creation enters into the equation.

    So, the point being, we need to be crystal clear when we talk about statements relating to customer retention vs acquisition. There is in many cases a significant number of conditions that need to be met on a continuous basis in order to make those statements true and in order to realize that outcome.

    This blog is a great addition to my reading list. thank you

    • Hi Barry,
      Thanks for the thoughtful feedback.

      Couldn’t agree with you more that customer math is not as easy as adding and subtracting. One of the biggest and critical cultural elements of this exercise is volume but also what i consider ‘value’ of the customer. This can be a variety of factors, such as tenure, profitability, share of wallet, depth of product and services. The most important thing that must happen for this type of understanding of managing the customer asset is united agreement and alignment of how ‘volume’ and ‘value’ are measured. Too many businesses use retention rates – which gives a false positive. Yes you may be holding steady at sixty percent retention, for example, but the missed increased growth due to just refilling the leaky bucket to stay steady at sixty percent retention is not focused on.

      Your next point is another critical part of the equation Barry, which is when we do “customer math” inside organizations, we need to ask the question and know the answer “why?” Why did they leave, why did they come – and what have we done to earn greater business or drive business and relationships away. By mapping these issues to the customer journey and then attaching them to this customer mathematics, the ROI of experience and customer focus become more real and relevant — especially to those who are a bit cynical that this is a growth driving strategy for business.

      So glad you are finding value in this content — look forward to more discussions with you!

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