Friday, February 27, 2015

The 7 Deadly Sins of Customer Experience

Is your company committing the 7 Deadly Sins of customer experience?

Recently, my kids asked me about the 7 Deadly Sins; I don't remember how the topic came up, but when they ask, I answer. Of course, as I ran down the list and explained them (in a PG kind of way), I pondered sins of the customer experience.

I guess that put me on a 7 Deadly Sins kick. I just hosted a webinar about the 7 Deadly Sins of Journey Mapping. I'll take a broader stroke in this post and look at customer experience management overall.

The 7 Deadly Sins are mortal sins (as opposed to minor sins) and are considered to be the root of all other sins. If you commit these sins, failure is certain. Are there more than seven sins in customer experience? Yes, probably. But I think these are the most egregious; if you are guilty of these, you won't successfully transform the customer experience for the better.

So, without further ado, the 7 Sins are, in no particular order (although #1 is probably #1)...

1. No executive commitment
Probably the biggest Sin to commit is to think you can transform anything without executive buy-in. If company leadership isn't on board with focusing on the customer, then forget it; it won't happen. Oh sure, you might have localized or departmentalized efforts, but those will be silo'd efforts that translate to silo'd experiences for the customer. Without executive commitment, you'll never get resources - human, capital, or other - to execute on your customer experience strategy.

Some posts I've written related to this Sin include:

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

2. Lack of CX vision and strategy
Following up to my last statement regarding executive commitment, you must, of course, have a customer experience vision and strategy. CX Strategy refers to your approach to delivering a great customer experience. It's your plan or direction. Your strategy outlines how you're going to achieve the goal of delivering a great customer experience.

Without a vision and a strategy, you can't achieve your goals, and your employees can't deliver a great experience. Without knowing what you're delivering, it's really hard to execute! If leaders don't define the vision, communicate the brand promise, and outline what success looks like, employees can't be expected to deliver on it.

A post I wrote related to this Sin:

Is Your Customer Experience Suffering from Short-Sightedness

3. Failing to outline a governance structure
Without a governance structure in place, we perpetuate silo thinking and fail to achieve cross-functional alignment, involvement, and commitment. Why? Because a governance structure outlines people, roles, and responsibilities when it comes to your customer experience strategy. 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.

You'll need to have clearly-defined rules and guidelines for how the customer experience management strategy will be executed. Who will drive the efforts and how? How will you transform to a customer-centric culture? How will organizational buy-in be achieved? How do you continue to motivate employees to focus on the customer? How will you 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 you measure success? How does it all tie in to our desired business outcomes?

A post I wrote related to this Sin:

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

4. Not understanding - and listening to - your customers
You can't transform something you don't understand. Included in that "understanding" is not only the current state of the experience but also (especially) the customer himself. Who is he?

Do you know - really know - who your customers are? They might be partners, resellers, and/or end customers/users. 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? And how do they feel about how you are performing or how you are meeting their needs? I'm talking about personas, journey mapping, and voice of the customer.

Some posts I've written related to this Sin include:

What's the Cost of Listening to Customers?
Does It Pay to Listen to the Voice of the Customer?
Do You Know Who Your Customers Are?
Customer-Driven Transformation via Walking in Customers’ Shoes

5. Not acting on what your customers tell you
This one is simple: You can't listen to your customers and then not act on what they're telling you. How disappointing! It's wrong on so many levels!

Are you making improvements based on customers' feedback? Are you letting customers know what you've done as a result of their feedback? You must! And if you don't, then you're missing a huge opportunity, for a variety of reasons.

Some posts I've written related to this Sin include:

Tips to Help You Close the Loop with Your Customers
Transforming the Customer Experience with Big Data

6. Making the employee experience an afterthought
... or not thinking about it at all.

Why? Because we know that the employee experience drives the customer experience. It's called the spillover effect, or “the tendency of one person’s emotions to affect how other people around him feel.”

I like to quote this 1999 article from Harvard Business School's Working Knowledge that summarizes the work Sears executives did to rebuild the company to focus on customers. The article talks about the new business model and what they discovered: There is a chain of cause and effect running from employee behavior to customer behavior to profits. Imagine: their model is data-based!

Some posts I've written related to this Sin include:

It's Time to Focus on Employee Experience
Putting Employees More First
Does "Employees More First" Disparage Customers?
Define Your Employee-Centric Culture
7. Perpetuating inside-out thinking
Inside-out thinking means your focus is on processes that are designed and implemented based on internal thinking and intuition. The customer's needs and perspectives do not play a part in this type of thinking. You make decisions because you think it's what's best for the business.

On the other hand, outside-in thinking means that you look at your business from the customer's perspective and subsequently design processes and make decisions based on what's best for the customer and what meets the customer's needs. You make decisions because you know it's what's best for your customers.

Some posts I've written related to this Sin include: 

The Problem with Inside-Out Thinking
Are Your Customers Persona Non Grata?
Building a Customer-Centric Culture
Five Key Questions to Ask to Achieve a Customer-Centric Culture

Which of these Sins is your company guilty of?

Everything starts with the customer. -Louis XIV


  1. Hi Annette,
    I think "Are you letting customers know what you've done as a result of their feedback? You must! And if you don't, then you're missing a huge opportunity, for a variety of reasons." merits inclusion as an additional sin in of itself.


    1. You're right, Adrian. Communication is a critical piece and probably a "bonus" 8th sin. :-)

  2. Annette, you nailed it. Underlying many of these are three C's for successful CX: commitment, competency, and culture. Like the three-legged stool with uneven legs, an organization with uneven levels/focus in these areas will be wobbly and ineffective. Organizations need to invest in all three equally, or invest in the weakest/shortest leg until it catches up, to have an effective CX operation.

    1. Thanks, Daniel. You're absolutely right. I can think of two other Cs: communication and one shared by one of my Twitter followers (Adrian Studd), collaboration.

  3. A great piece Annette. I agree with Daniel, you nailed it! Your message spans across many verticals and CX functions And all 7 sins are common.

  4. Annette, for me the deadliest sin is greed. Management and investor greed leads to short term thinking and a desire to rip off customers at every possible opportunity.

    I can't help but think that greed is at the route of all the customer experience sins you discuss.


    1. Greed is definitely a problem in the corporate world. You summed it up well. How do we rid companies of this evil?

  5. Hi Annette, you have covered almost all important points. I find making the employee experience an afterthought the most important sin. I think even customer obsessed companies ignore their employees and don't pay attention to employee morale.

    1. I can't argue with your point. I've seen it all too often, unfortunately.

  6. These are all great items. Unfortunately many do not realize they are sinning. What they need is an independent party to answer the questions.

    1. I think that's a huge problem - they don't realize they're sinning. There are still a lot of companies/executives out there who fail to see the significance of focusing on the employee experience and the customer experience for business success.

  7. Found this really insightful. I think it is when a company starts to focus on one aspect and loses track of the others, do things go bad. All the points and aspects you have mentioned in this post (employees, customer insight and overall governance structure and executive vision)need to be focused upon in order to become truly customer centric.

    1. I agree, insightful article!

      So many moving pieces to running a business. Its funny (in a bad way) how easily the customer gets forgotten.

    2. Faryal and Darren, absolutely. Lots of moving parts... they all need to move together.

  8. Great Atticle Annette! I think there actually may be more than 7. You give very valid explanations. I just stumbled across your blog today. I too, write a blog, am a speaker, author etc. Maybe an opportunity to cross promote each other? Seems you've been doing this for a while. I'm sure I could learn a lot from you.

    Thanks for the work you do!!
    Christoff J. Weihman Las Vegas

  9. Ah...yes...the 7 deadly sins.
    Completely recognizable to recovering Catholics and dysfunctional organizations alike. ;-)

    Where to go for Penance?

    1. Exactly! I fall into the former bucket. :-P Will give some thought as to where they need to go!