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Top 10 Reasons Customer Experience Initiatives Fail

By Jake Sorofman | May 21, 2015 | 2 Comments

Last night, as you probably know, was David Letterman’s final show. 33 years of subversive humor—from stupid pet tricks; to random remote junkets to Hello Deli; to celebrations of Dave’s stage manager, Biff Henderson, Dave’s adorable mom, and the delight of living, breathing cartoon characters like Larry “Bud” Melman.

I’ll resist the temptation to bloviate about how important Dave was in my early years (he was) or how he will be missed (he will) or how, despite their own brands of genius, the Jimmies will never be Dave (they won’t).

Instead, I’ll offer an homage that I assure you Dave Letterman wouldn’t appreciate.

I give you the top 10 reasons customer experience initiatives fail:

10. Hallucinated personas—defining personas through the lens of your first-party anecdotal observations rather than actual research—or, worse, drawing them out of thin air.

9. Flat personas—defining personas without temporal and interactive dimensions. These flat personas, like motherhood and apple pie, have virtues nobody will deny nor debate, but they’re not actionable.

8. Inside-out journeys—journey maps that, instead of fulfilling your customers’ needs and goals, become a frightening reflection of the internal madness of how your company gets things done.

7. Magical thinking—beautifully rendered designs—the stuff of dreams, really—that wholly ignore the systems view of how these experiences are implemented and executed at scale.

6. Provincial thinking—customer experience strategies led by a functional leader with a strong bias for their own function and considerably less consideration for the functions outside of their purview.

5. Empire building—customer experience strategies led by a functional leader who attempts to use the initiative as a land grab or simply has an outsized view of their own sphere of control and scope of authority.

4. Failure to measure—forgetting to tie these investments to a hierarchy of metrics that align to the KPIs that matter to the business.

3. Failure to prioritize—forgetting to start with a prioritized beachhead based on some combination of customer value, the moments that matter most and the competitive benchmarks that represent your customers’ next best alternatives.

2. Failure to know your customer—forgetting to create a unified customer profile that informs the basic courtesies of awareness, if not personalization. As Fara Howard, VP of global marketing at Vans, said recently: “I love you and you don’t even know my name.”

And the number one reason customer experience initiatives fail:

1. Forgetting the people part—focusing on automation and digital channels, but failing to address the human aspects with incentives and culture that align and inspire the right front-line behaviors.

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  • Steve Pappas says:

    Even if an organization avoids pitfalls 10 through 2 on your list, the number 1 mistake is a fatal error by itself. “Incentives and culture that align and inspire” customer-facing teams are essential to positive morale. But even if adequate programs are in place to foster buy-in and commitment, benign neglect remains a barrier to meeting customer experience objectives. Too many enterprises unintentionally stop at creation of the customer journey map. Providing front-line employees with guidance and information necessary to successfully implement customer experience initiatives is imperative. The increasing use of digital channels, including self-service, means that live agents get the toughest calls and chats. Prepared employees are confident employees. Confident employees are better able to satisfy customers. When people feel good about their performance – and those accomplishments are reinforced by managers – extraordinary things happen.

    I look forward to reading more of your marketing viewpoints.

  • Personally, I would move number 4 to number 1! You can’t accurately gauge the success of any initiative if you aren’t measuring the results. You need to see if your campaigns match your goals, and if not, take steps to adjust. Not measuring the results makes campaigns an exercise in futility when it comes to customer experience, sales, and marketing.