Thursday, October 30, 2014

Why Customers Do What They Do

Image courtesy of Pixabay
I originally wrote today's blog for MindTouch; it appeared on their blog on June 2, 2014.

Have you heard about Aristotle's seven causes of human action?

They are certainly an interesting study of customer understanding!

A little background first.

In his book Rhetoric, Aristotle said: Now every action of every person either is or is not due to that person himself. Of those not due to himself some are due to chance, the others to necessity; of these latter, again, some are due to compulsion, the others to nature. Consequently all actions that are not due to a man himself are due either to chance or to nature or to compulsion. All actions that are due to a man himself and caused by himself are due either to habit or to rational or irrational craving. Rational craving is a craving for good, i.e. a wish-nobody wishes for anything unless he thinks it good. Irrational craving is twofold, viz. anger and appetite. Thus every action must be due to one or other of seven causes: chance, nature, compulsion, habit, reasoning, anger, or appetite.

So let's think for a moment how that applies to customer experience. I bet you don't have to think about that for too long, since Rule #1 in customer experience is "understand the customer." Understanding the customer includes listening, creating a customer journey map, and using other tools that will help you understand who they are, what their needs are, what jobs they are trying to do, what their painpoints are, and how you fit together. If you know customers well, it's much easier to meet, and especially exceed, expectations.

Aristotle also notes that all actions are due to either emotion or reasoning. I think we're familiar with that thinking in the world of customer experience. Reminds me of the left brain and right brain and how we need to engage both in order to gain executive commitment for our customer experience efforts.

O my. Perhaps Aristotle is our founding father! (Or not.)

He does go on to say, in not so many words, that target demographics are superfluous and if we focus on the seven causes, that's all we need to do. Think he knew about personas and/or jobs to be done?

Let's go back to the seven causes of human action, and I'll run through each one. They are seven interesting ways to look at why customers make the decisions they make.

Chance: The things that happen by chance are all those whose cause cannot be determined, that have no purpose, and that happen neither always nor usually nor in any fixed way.

Perhaps the customer stumbled upon your product or service and decided to give it a try. There is no rhyme or reason for the decision/action.

Nature: Those things happen by nature which have a fixed and internal cause; they take place uniformly, either always or usually.

In this instance, the customer makes a decision or acts because of some force of nature, e.g., he's hungry, or simply because of human nature, i.e., it's what I do. A different type of force of nature might be your approach to corporate social responsibility. The causes that your brand supports are those that the customer supports, as well. Instant alignment.

Compulsion: Those things happen through compulsion which take place contrary to the desire or
reason of the doer, yet through his own agency.

Some irrational behavior drove customers to take this action, make this purchase. It was just so easy to do. It might be an impulse move/buy.

Habit: Acts are done from habit which men do because they have often done them before.

This one is probably pretty straight forward. I purchase from X because I've always purchased from X. There is comfort. security, and trust in consistency.

Reasoning: Actions are due to reasoning when, in view of any of the goods already mentioned, they appear useful either as ends or as means to an end, and are performed for that reason.

This means that people have a rational motive to do something. Oftentimes, the company has given them a reason or told them why they need the product.

Anger/Passion: To passion and anger are due all acts of revenge. Revenge and punishment are different things. Punishment is inflicted for the sake of the person punished; revenge for that of the punisher, to satisfy his feelings.

Some emotional response has triggered the customer to purchase or to interact.

Appetite/Desire: Appetite is the cause of all actions that appear pleasant.

In the absence of reason, appetite (or desire) takes over. I want, I want, I want. Just ask your kids! It's about the feeling that the purchase elicits.


In order to deliver a great customer experience, we must first know who the customer is and what job/task he is trying to achieve/do with the organization. And why. If we understand what motivates him, we have a better chance of delivering a customer experience that is relevant and memorable.

Do you agree? What do you think of those seven causes? Are there others?

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. -Aristotle

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Are You Flying by the Seat of Your #CX Pants?

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Do you have a governance structure in place for your customer experience efforts?

A solid foundation for any customer experience management effort must include a governance structure. But what does that mean? What is governance? And why do we need it?

Let's start with what it is. According to, governance is the...

Establishment of policies, and continuous monitoring of their proper implementation, by the members of the governing body of an organization. It includes the mechanisms required to balance the powers of the members (with the associated accountability), and their primary duty of enhancing the prosperity and viability of the organization

In the CX world, yes, governance is about a governing body, policies, monitoring, accountability, and enhancing the prosperity of the organization. In a nutshell, governance is about both oversight and execution. This is an important foundation for your customer experience management strategy. You really can't make this stuff up as you go along; there needs to be a formal structure in place.

In terms of oversight, the governance structure outlines people, roles, and responsibilities. Who is going to ensure that there is alignment and accountability across the organization? We often see this piece of the governance structure refer to a core program team, an executive sponsor, and cross-functional champions. Your oversight committee should include the team of people you believe will best carry out the strategy, driven by your corporate and customer experience vision, for your organization.

Next, there must be clearly-defined rules and guidelines for how the customer experience management strategy will be executed. Who will drive the efforts and how? How will we transform to a customer-centric culture? How will organizational buy-in be achieved? How do we continue to motivate employees to focus on the customer? How will we listen to customers? Who will use the data and how? Where does accountability lie? What processes and policies must be in place in order to roll out these efforts? How will change management be handled? How will we measure success? How does it all tie to our desired business outcomes?

According to Forrester's Customer Experience Maturity Model, governance includes the following best practices:
  • Define a consistent set of customer experience standards across the organization.
  • Review customer experience program status and metrics regularly to monitor progress toward meeting business goals, adjusting tactics or resource allocations if needed.
  • Maintain a dedicated queue of customer experience improvement projects.
  • Facilitate the necessary coordination across groups that share responsibility for a given experience.
  • Include impact to customer experience as a criterion for business decisions about policies, processes, technology, and communications.
  • Include alignment with the customer experience strategy as a criterion for evaluating project funding and prioritization decisions.
  • Assign role-specific customer experience management tasks to employees as a requirement of their positions.
  • Evaluate employee performance against role-specific customer experience metrics.
Do you have a governance structure in place? Or are you simply flying by the seat of your pants?

In putting together your standards, remember that it is essential to involve your entire team. Standards are not rules issued by the boss; they are a collective identity. Remember, standards are the things that you do all the time and the things for which you hold one another accountable. -Mike Krzyzewski, USA Men’s Basketball Coach

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Beware of the #CX Inflection Point

I originally wrote today's post for Intradiem. It appeared on their blog on June 19, 2014. 

What is the customer experience inflection point?

There comes a time in every company's history, present time, or future when it must change or adapt - or die.

That's a pretty melodramatic statement, isn't it? Maybe. But perhaps it's also an eye-opener for some companies.

Why? Well, that time is known as an inflection point. What's that, you say? According to Investopedia, an inflection point is: An event that results in a significant change in the progress of a company, industry, sector, economy or geopolitical situation. An inflection point can be considered a turning point after which a dramatic change, with either positive or negative results, is expected to result. Companies, industries, sectors and economies are dynamic and constantly evolving. Inflection points are more significant than the small day-to-day progress that is made and the effects of the change are often well-known and widespread.

They go on to explain that: Andy Grove, Intel's co-founder, described a strategic inflection point as "an event that changes the way we think and act." Inflection points can be a result of action taken by a company, or through actions taken by another entity, that has a direct impact on the company.

So, in order for the business to move forward - successfully - some change or shift needs to occur at that point. I think the customer experience plays a huge role. Don't think so? I'll name a few companies, and then let's talk: Kodak, Blockbuster, Circuit City, RIM, Nokia.

I don't think there's a big event within the organization itself that signals you've reached the customer experience inflection point. It's more about the signs all around you; the winds of change are blowing. What are some of the signs?
  • Things you've been doing for your customers that worked before don't seem to work any more
  • Customer needs shift, but you can't or don't keep up
  • As a result, customer engagement is down - they're just not that into you any more
  • Competitive influences cause a shift, but you can't or don't keep up
  • Everyone around you adapts or advances, but you stand still
What are some of the causes? I think there's a big one. You don't listen or have stopped listening - to customers, to employees, and to the marketplace. Or maybe you listen but you just don't really hear what's being said: you don't care, or you think you know better. Customers don't know what they need, right?

How does an organization move beyond the inflection point? How does it survive and come out better and stronger on the other side? How do we take the business to a new level?

Without a doubt, serious changes need to be made. Let's start with this high-level list.

Leadership: It starts at the top. If you've got the wrong leadership in place, it'll be really tough to steer the ship in the right direction. I'm reminded of the struggles that J.C. Penney has had and is having.

People: You need to have the right people on board: employees who want to be there; employees who are passionate about the brand; employees who are motivated to push through the tough times and see the business survive and thrive. This may require training, hiring for new skills and new attitudes; you'll certainly want to be sure there's a culture fit.

Employee Engagement: I list this separately from "leadership" and from "people" because employee engagement is a two-way street that requires both to work together for the greater good. When employees are engaged, their passion and ambition for the business will ensure they are focused on its success.

Employee Empowerment: This is no time to not trust employees to move the business forward. You hired each individual for the background, experience, and value that he/she brings to the table. Let them contribute. You'll be amazed at what this level of trust can do for employees, and, ultimately, for the business.

Culture: Tying the items just mentioned together is the culture; ideally, at this point, the culture shifts ever so slightly into a culture of survival. But, having said that, if you've got a strong culture in place already, there should be no shift.

Processes: Kill the bad ones, and create new ones. Bad processes are often deal breakers. Map the customer journey, from the customer viewpoint, to understand the processes the customer must go through to engage with your business, but also take a look at what happens behind the scenes that hinders the employee from delivering a great experience.

Customer Experience Redesign: Clearly, what was working for customers before is no longer working; this could be products, services, service, and more. Understand your customers and their evolving needs. Define personas. Take a look at that map you just created and figure out where the painpoints are. Figure out where customer needs have shifted and where your competitors excel. Listen to customers, employees, and the market. Act on what you hear. Sometimes they really do know what they want. Even if it is a faster horse.

Innovation: Take a human-centered approach to defining and designing new products and services for your customers. Do your homework. Listen to your customers. Design and deliver based on their needs. It's OK to think ahead, too.

Customers: If you've built a fan base over time, if you have a community of customers that have been by your side, that want you to survive, they will stay with you through thick and thin. If you've got this fan base, you should never reach this customer experience inflection point. In theory. But, customers can't control your internal decisions. Ah, perhaps you're not as customer-centric and customer-focused as you thought you were. Hmmm. Time to fix that.

There are probably more things that a business can do. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

There is at least one point in the history of any company when you have to change dramatically to rise to the next level of performance. Miss that moment - and you start to decline. -Andy Grove

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Getting Employee Buy-In for Your #CX Transformation

Image courtesy of Todd Quakenbush/Unsplash
What tools can you use to facilitate employee buy-in for your customer experience improvement efforts?

A couple weeks ago, I hosted a webinar with ZenDesk on the seven steps to customer experience heaven. A question posed by one of the audience members was about what tools are available to facilitate employee buy-in for your customer experience initiative.

I think this is a great question because, as you know by now, the employee experience drives the customer experience. Employees who are happy in their roles with the company will translate that happiness into delivering a great experience for customers. How do they get to that point? There are several factors/tools, no doubt, not the least of which is hiring the right people. Once you've got the right people on staff, what tools can you use to ensure they are on board with delivering a great customer experience?

I knew I had written several blog posts that could easily answer the question. Here are my recommendations for tools to gain employee buy-in.

1. Provide a clear line of sight for employees to the target: customers. When employees know how their contributions matter, when they know how what they do impacts the customer experience, that makes all the difference in the world. In this post, I provide 6 Tools to Create a Clear Line of Sight for Employees. If you don't read another post I recommend here, this one will provide you with the tools you need to get employee buy-in.

2. Use one of the most powerful customer experience training tools at your disposal: the customer journey map. It provides clarity in a lot of ways, including those mentioned in #1. Journey maps help the organization be more customer-focused and customer-centric, understand the customer and his interactions with your organization, align around a common cause, speak a universal language (customer), break down silos, achieve a single view of the customer, and improve the customer experience. In this post, I share details about Your Most Important #CX Training Tool.

3. Involve employees in customer experience design and improvement rather than imposing or forcing it on them. Here’s a post I wrote about Kotter’s change management model that might give you some additional ideas: 8 Steps for Customer Experience Change Management.

4. Empower employees to deliver the experience you expect them to deliver. In this post, I share 11 ideas on how Employee Empowerment involves employees rather than alienates them. When we unleash employee empowerment, we set employees on the path to deliver the experience you expect them to deliver.

5. And finally, as I already alluded to, the employee experience itself is important. Putting employees first and ensuring they have a great experience will translate to a great customer and pay returns in spades. In my post Does "Employees More First" Disparage Customers?, I share the results of putting employees more first and prescribe some ways to ensure they have a great experience.

If you've got other tips or suggestions, please share them in the comments. You probably uncovered the most important tool of all in #1: communication.

Research indicates that employees have three prime needs: Interesting work, recognition for doing a good job, and being let in on things that are going on in the company. -Zig Ziglar

Friday, October 17, 2014

Are You Beating a Dead Snake?

Image courtesy of Pixabay
I originally wrote today's post for EQ List on August 10, 2014.

I recently wrote a post called Time to Kill a Customer Experience Snake, in which I outlined Jim Barksdale's Three Rules of Business and how they relate to improving the customer experience. His rules tell us how to kill a snake, metaphorically.

What Are Snakes?

Jim referred to problems start-ups or small businesses may encounter as they grow the business or strive for success as snakes. In your organization, those problems might be things like an idea, a project, a person, your org structure, operational inefficiencies, rules and policies that are outdated, technology that no longer meets employee or customer needs, and more.

One of his rules is: Don’t go back and play with dead snakes. This is an important one to follow, as oftentimes people waste too much time dwelling on decisions that have already been made. Why is this happening? Let’s take a look at some questions you might want to ask yourself.

Are You Beating a Dead Snake?
There’s no time to constantly go back and revisit the decision or to insist that the problem isn’t resolved; are you doing that? If you don’t agree with the decision – and you won’t always agree – let it go and move on. Choose your battles; this wasn’t the one to fight.

But How Do We Know We Killed the Right Snake?
How do I get over it? How can I move on, knowing that we did the right thing, even if I don’t think we did? Unfortunately, we don’t always do the right thing or kill the right snake, but sometimes we just have to keep moving forward. To ensure the right snake is killed, always do your homework. Conduct a root cause analysis; this will guarantee the problem, not just a symptom, was eradicated.

Was It a Pet Snake or a Venomous One?
This might be a reason some people can’t move on. Is the snake that’s been killed something that you glommed onto, a process you designed, a policy you felt was necessary or stood behind? Or was it something more than that? Something that just really made the workplace toxic and made everyone unproductive? Look at the big picture. Even if it was a pet snake to begin with, maybe you found out later it was actually venomous.

Why Can’t I Beat a Dead Snake?
Once it’s dead, you just can’t bring a snake back to life. So why waste your time? You may want to revive interest in the topic, issue, process, etc. But then what happens? We lose focus and/or focus on the wrong thing. It’s unproductive, and we waste too much time and energy on that misplaced focus. Don’t make getting rid of the snake – or continuously beating the dead snake – a bigger issue than the snake itself.

Don’t lose focus by constantly going back to it or trying to resuscitate it – stay focused on what matters most. Jim Barksdale also said: The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. Placing our focus on things that no longer matter keeps us away from the main thing.

What are your company's snakes? And what rules does your company have in place to kill them? Or do you just step around them to avoid their bite?

Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things. -Peter Drucker

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Metrics to Map Your Customer Experience Success

Image courtesy of Pixabay
What are your customer experience success metrics? And how do they differ from your VoC metrics?

Last Tuesday, we celebrated the second annual CX Day, a day to celebrate both customers and the professionals who work tirelessly to improve the customer experience.

I hosted two Google Hangouts for CX Day, the first of which I blogged about last week. In today's post, I share the second Hangout, with content equally as insightful as the first.

Panelists for this Hangout included Erich Dietz (VP of Business Development, InMoment), Tabitha Dunn (Group Director, Customer Insights, Citrix), and Lynn Hunsaker (Head of Customer Experience Optimization, ClearAction). Unfortunately, we lost Lynn early on due to technical issues, but Erich and Tabitha did a great job of discussing the topic at hand: Metrics to Map Your Customer Experience Success. A little background on the topic, from the CX Day site:

Ability to drive executive support and engagement in customer experience metrics and results can be challenging. It requires thoughtful selection and testing of leading and lagging indicators, and translation of data into clear communication of results, progress, and actions. In this Hangout we'll discuss how to approach customer experience metrics in a manner similar to other business problems: find root causes, create full solutions, test, and learn.

The format of the discussion was again to cover some "starter" topics for those who are early in the stages of their customer experience journey and needed some basic "how-tos" to get started,  followed by some more advanced questions for those who are well underway and might want to energize their current efforts. The questions I posed were:

Starting Out in CX Progress Metrics
What's the difference between voice-of-the-customer metrics and measuring your organization's impact on VoC?
What kinds of metrics are typical for each?
How can a manager get started in identifying meaningful metrics to manage CX progress?
How can you test different metrics and survey questions to find the right ones for your industry and customers?

Energizing Your CX Progress Metrics
How can it make a difference to have a plan-to-act before asking customers a question?
How can you get your stakeholders involved in identifying and acting on the root cause of CX issues?
What are some ways to pull together other metrics besides customer effort, VoC, and retention to build the full picture of CX progress?
What are some ways to tie financial results to CX metrics and CX management metrics?

While the Hangout lasted 30 minutes, we probably could've talked for at least another 30 minutes. Erich and Tabitha were able to answer most of the questions before we ran out of time.

I think this is an important discussion, i.e., understanding the difference between VoC metrics and success metrics - and identifying those that are right for your business. The importance of tying VoC metrics to business outcomes cannot be expressed strongly enough, which likely means your success metrics will be a result of that linkage.

Measure what is measurable and make measurable what is not so. -Galileo

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Linking CX Strategy to Corporate Strategy & Brand Values

Image courtesy of Pixabay
How do you link your customer experience strategy with your corporate strategy?

As many of you know, earlier this week we celebrated the second annual CX Day, a day to celebrate both customers and the professionals who work tirelessly to improve the customer experience.

I helped kick off the celebrations by hosting a panel of customer experience experts in the first Google Hangout of the day for Australia. Panelists included Cyrus Allen (Partner, Strativity Group), Brian Andrews (consultant and formerly with Intuit), and Karyn Furstmann (VP of Customer Experience, Safeco Insurance).

The discussion was focused on linking customer experience strategy to corporate strategy and brand values, and there are some great nuggets in this Hangout that I thought would be valuable to share here, in case you missed it.

First, a little background on the topic, CX Strategy, which is one of the six pillars of customer experience, as defined by CXPA. From the CXDay site:

A critical component of business success is the development of a customer experience strategy that articulates a clear vision of the experience that a company seeks to create in support of the company's brand values, including its direct linkage to CX activities, resources, and investments.

With that, the format of the discussion was to cover some "starter" topics for those who are early in the stages of their customer experience journey and needed some basic "how-tos" to get started,  followed by some more advanced questions for those who are well underway and might want to energize their current efforts. The questions I posed were:

Starting Out with Your CX Strategy
How do you develop a customer experience strategy?
What are the components of a solid strategy?
Who defines the intended customer experience?
How do we ensure that it supports and aligns with the brand values?

Energizing Your CX Strategy
How do we get the organization to support the strategy?
What does success look like? How do we measure it?
What does that direct linkage entail? To which activities, resources, and investments?

 I hope you enjoyed the discussion. Share your thoughts in the comments below.

However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results. -Winston Churchill

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Listen to Learn, Listen to Earn

Image courtesy of Unsplash
Designing a VoC program can be daunting. Where do you begin?

If you're new to designing and implementing a VoC program, you're probably scratching your head and wondering where to begin. There are a lot of components to consider as you dive in, from executive buy-in to organizational alignment to governance and more.

However, I'm going to focus on some very important basics in today's post; this is certainly an ongoing conversation that covers so much more than what I'll address today. This post is about three key exercises to lay the foundation for beginning any customer listening efforts. If you are still struggling with getting executive buy-in, which is critical to VoC success, check out one of these posts:

Help! My Execs Don't Get It!
Kicking the #CX Can Down the Road

But in a nutshell, why is it important to listen to customers? Well, as Harvey Mackay says: You learn when you listen. You earn when you listen - not just money, but respect. Can't argue with that. If we don't understand who our customers are, what jobs they are trying to do/achieve, and how well that's going, then we reap none of the benefits of having raving fans - probably because we won't have (m)any. So, what do you think? Does it pay to listen?

Let's get started. Clearly, you cannot begin a voice of the customer initiative without first understanding who your customers are.

Understand the Customer 
Who are your customers? They might be partners and/or end customers/users, so keep that in mind. Why do they buy products and services from you? What are their needs? What problems are they trying to solve? What are they trying to achieve?

Have you defined your customer personas? This is an important place to start. Personas are fictional characters created to describe your ideal prospect or actual customer. They are derived through primary research - research that can then also be used for your customer journey maps. Ah, but I'm getting ahead of myself. They are specific to your business, not to the industry. The descriptions include vivid narratives, images, and other items that help companies understand the needs of the customer (contextual insights) and outline feelings, motivations, goals, behaviors, challenges, likes, dislikes, objections, and interests that drive buying (or other) decisions. And let's not forget that each persona includes a human face and name. Used properly, personas keep the customer alive and front and center by the entire organization. They tie in nicely to your journey maps and are necessary to begin that exercise.

Outline the Customer Lifecycle
What are the stages of the customer's relationship with your brand, from Need to Awareness through Departure? The lifecycle map shows the phases of the customer's relationship with your company. It's high level and is good for understanding the overall relationship the customer has with the organization, from before he's even considered a customer through when he is no longer a customer. It typically includes these stages: Need, Awareness, Consideration, Selection/Purchase, Experience, Loyalty, Advocacy, Engagement, Raving Fans. And, unfortunately, Exit. It's not necessarily linear and often circles back on itself.

It's great to understand this high level before moving on to the next step. Lifecycle maps, while important to nurturing the overall customer relationship, are a natural first step to identifying listening needs along the lifecycle; however, to get to the heart of the matter, to really understand when and where to listen and to really design a better customer experience, you must dive deeper into the lifecycle stages, inventory the touchpoints, and map the customer journey.

Map the Customer Journey
I've written a lot about journey mapping. It's important to understand that journey maps are not the same thing as lifecycle maps. A lot of people make that mistake. In simplest terms, journey mapping is a way to walk in your customer's shoes and chart his course as he interacts with your organization (channels, departments, touchpoints, products, etc.) while trying to fulfill some need or do some job within each stage of the lifecycle. It allows you to identify key moments of truth and to ensure that those moments are executed delightfully. The map is created from the customer's viewpoint, not yours. It's not linear either, nor is it static. But it is the backbone of your customer experience management efforts.

This is where the details come into play, though. The journey map looks at each and every step a customer takes in order to achieve some task, i.e., calling support, ordering a product, etc., with the company. It describes what customers are doing, thinking, and feeling at each step in the journey.

Why do you need a customer journey map? Journey maps provide clarity for the entire organization. There are a ton of benefits, but they are integral to customer listening efforts in that they help to identify those key moments of truth at which we need to listen in order to better understand gaps, highlights, breakdowns, and more. They'll be the catalyst for prioritizing when and where to listen.

Start with these three exercises to get your VoC program off to a solid start. And one last thought: it's important to remember that your surveys and listening posts are touchpoints in the customer experience. Take the time to do this right. Make sure you execute well.

The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them. -Ralph Nichols

Happy CX Day!

This post is part of the Customer Experience Professionals Association's Blog Carnival "Celebrating Customer Experience." It is part of a broader celebration of CX Day. Check out posts from other bloggers here.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Is Your Customer Experience a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy?

Image courtesy of Wikipedia
How does the Pygmalion Effect apply to customer experience?

First of all, what is the Pygmalion Effect? According to Wikipedia, it is...

... the phenomenon whereby the greater the expectation placed upon people, the better they perform.  The effect is named after the Greek myth of Pygmalion. Pygmalion was a sculptor who fell in love with a statue he had carved.

The statue then came to life. (Spoiler alert: after a day, it turned back into stone.)

The Pygmalion Effect is most often applied to teachers and their students. As a result, I can see how it also applies to the employee experience, i.e., the greater the expectations we place on people, the better they will perform. I do think, though, that there's a lot that goes into that, like making sure employees are prepared with the tools, resources, knowledge, and encouragement they need to achieve those expectations.

But what about the customer experience? What about the expectations that customers have about their experience with your company. Can those expectations drive a company to perform better?

The Pygmalion Effect is often to referred to as self-fulfilling prophecy, and it follows these four key principles:
  1. We form certain expectations of people or events.
  2. We communicate those expectations with various cues.
  3. People tend to respond to these cues by adjusting their behavior to match them.
  4. The result is that the original expectation becomes true.
In a nutshell, it's learning about an expectation and then acting in a way that is consistent with that expectation. Having the expectation is not enough, though; the expectation has to be the reason or the cause of something happening. A self-fulfilling prophecy does not come true because you expected it to; the expectation is what causes the change in the behavior that makes it come true.

Whether you think you can or whether you think you can't, you're right. –Henry Ford

I found this graphic that outlines the thinking behind the Pygmalion Effect.
Image courtesy of Class Teaching blog
Let's start from the top and apply it to the customer experience, starting with the customer, of course, and replacing "our" and "us" with "customer" and "others'" with "company's."
  1. Customer beliefs about the company influence...
  2. Customer actions toward the company, which impact...
  3. The company's beliefs about itself, causing...
  4. The company's actions toward customers, reinforcing...
  5. Customer beliefs about the company
Makes sense to me.

The parts I'm concerned about are #3 and #4. Companies get lazy. Companies get arrogant. Companies' beliefs about themselves are often out of alignment with customers' beliefs; is that too large a gap to overcome? Companies still don't prioritize the customer experience. Companies still think they are in business to maximize shareholder value.

If we focus on this very important component of the Effect, that the expectation is what causes the change in behavior that makes the expectation come true, then what must companies do? Without a doubt, the first thing they need to do is understand who their customers are, followed immediately by  understanding customers' expectations, including those around the quality, performance, timing, attitudes, interactions, needs, value, and more. They may also have expectations relative to your competitors or to other competing products or services. We cannot meet or exceed expectations we don't know or understand - and we certainly can't change behaviors without that information, either.

And yet, here's another thought. What role do companies have in setting customer expectations?
Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed. -Alexander Pope