Experience the Experience: Walking in the Shoes of Your Customers and Employees 

Ian Golding, CCXP | Jan 26, 2017 377 views 2 Comments

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For my first column of 2017, I continue to explore my tips to create a
customer-centric culture. Experiencing both your employee AND customer
journeys is a vital component that contributes to an organisation
developing and sustaining everyone’s focus on the customer and each other.

Last year, I said the following on this subject (among other things):

“If a business wants to transform its culture, then it is vitally
important that its people at all levels understand how it FEELS to be a
customer and to be an employee. The over used phrase of ‘walking in the
customers’ shoes’ is one that must not just be said – it must be one
that is genuinely and authentically applied.”

Be honest – when was the last time you met and chatted to a customer of
your organisation? If you can honestly answer positively to the question, I
take my hat off to you. As with so many elements of Customer Experience
‘theory’, the very fact that I am asking the question seems almost

Yet, in reality, many business people may well stare
uncomfortably at the floor or ceiling when reading this. I personally have
met countless people who have NEVER met a customer of their company –
NEVER!! Astonishing – or maybe not. In a world where so many are focused on
completing tasks and processes, it is all too easy to lose sight of the
fact that a customer actually exists.

If you never take the time to meet, talk to and listen to customers, it is
very difficult, if not impossible, to have any comprehension of how your
company and the experience it delivers, actually makes the customer feel.
Allow me to give you an example.

An Example of What NOT to Do

I recently visited a very well-known hotel and golf resort in the UK on
business. Invited by a client of mine, they asked me to check in to my room
at 3pm while they continued their meeting to discuss confidential business.
When I asked to check in at reception, I was greeted by an emotionless,
unsmiling lady, who simply barked ‘NO’ at me. I kid you not!! ‘Your group
is not due to check in until 5pm’, she continued to say in flat monotone. I
asked if the room was already vacant and ready for use – the lady repeated
her previous statement – ‘your group is not due to check in until 5pm’.

With my tail between my legs, I had no option to retreat to the safety of
the hotel lounge. I all my years of traveling on business, I have never
experienced anything like it. I guarantee that the management team of this
hotel have not either. At 4:50pm, I tried again — same lady, same brick
wall. Looking at her watch, she asked me to come back in 10 minutes. I was
too amused/appalled to argue. At 5pm on the dot, I was literally handed my
room key. However, this is not the only example of what can happen if
employees do not know what it is like to be a customer of their own
business. In this example, things got even worse.

Having received my key, I went about the simple task of finding my room…..
or what SHOULD have been a simple task. I could not for the life of me
locate it. The hotel was akin to a maze — with awful signage. I wandered
around like a lost sheep for thirty minutes!! Eventually, a member of the
housekeeping staff bumped in to me. She asked if she could help – I begged
her to help me find my room. She laughed and said, ‘Guests get lost around
here all the time!’ – I kid you not!

This kind of customer experience is not uncommon – but it should NEVER
happen. If employees experience exactly what customers are expected to
experience, they would know what it feels like to be unable to find a room.
They would be able to put themselves in their customers’ shoes – literally!

Customer Face Time

One of my clients, an Indian pharmaceutical business, recognised that they
needed to spend more time ‘face to face’ with customers. Selling ‘over the
counter’ products, they realised that they had never actually walked in
their customer’s shoes. The leadership team did not meet customers, nor did
they really understand the actual customer journey.

What they decided to do
is as committed an approach to addressing the issue that I have ever seen.
One day a month, each member of their leadership team spends a day in the
home of one of their customers. One day a month!! They observe what their
customer does in every aspect of their lives. Amazing. Their decision
making is now completely driven by their understanding of what the business
wants AND what their customer wants.

I and many other customer experience commentators also believe that it is
just important for colleagues to experience what it is like to be each
other. So often we live in the little bubble of our function, or job. Failing to understand what our colleagues do in other parts of the customer
journey leads to a lack of appreciation for each other, as well as a lack
of understanding of what the customer is going through across the end to
end journey.

Experience the Experience

To drive a customer centric culture, I strongly encourage the following:

  1. Encourage all employees to experience your products and services as a
    customer would — even if you are in a B2B environment.
  2. Encourage employees to share stories of the good, the bad and the ugly
    things they experience as customers themselves.
  3. Leaders should be speaking to customers at least once a month.
  4. Invite customers to meet senior leaders and describe recent experiences
    throughout the year.
  5. Encourage all leaders to ‘do what their teams do’ throughout the year –
    you need to be prepared to roll your sleeves up!

  6. Encourage teams to talk to and shadow each other – cross functional
    collaboration is key to driving a customer centric culture. Getting teams
    to experience what their colleagues do daily will greatly enable this to
    become a reality.

It is too easy for us to hide behind the walls of our ivory towers and our
computer screens. Doing so will never enable the organisations we work for
to become sustainably customer centric. Get out there and start talking and
listening. It may not be completely comfortable, but it will be the most
rewarding this you have ever done.

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2 Responses to Experience the Experience: Walking in the Shoes of Your Customers and Employees

  1. Michael Lowenstein January 26, 2017 at 5:20 pm (1288 comments) #

    This his an excellent overview, and your suggestions are all perfectly aimed at generating value add for both employee and customer experience; but, I actually think it’s more about stakeholder-centricity than customer centricity. In that spirit, there’s an additional approach which will help employees more accurately see what the customer sees and experience what the customer experiences.

    For a number of reasons, employees often view customer value delivery differently than customers themselves. So, one of my preferred methods of endeavoring to achieve greater stakeholder group alignment is to conduct parallel research with employees. This gives them the opportunity to identify what they think customers will say about aspects of experience design and delivery. As stated in one of my posts: on this subject “When companies are innovative and inclusive with staff, all parties benefit. The company gets more effective employees. Employees like the participation and learning. Customers like the improved processes. Another key advantage of conducting employee ‘mirror’ research, and one not to be overlooked, is that, in all likelihood, competitors don’t have this kind of insight. They’re hearing only from the external constituent group, the customers, but not from the equally important representatives and deliverers of value, company employees.”

    Results of detailed research identifying employee and customer perceived experience performance alignment and gap should be shared regularly with employees. And, in addition, even training protocols and reward/recognition systems can be built around the goal of greater alignment.

  2. Ian Golding January 29, 2017 at 9:28 am (110 comments) #

    Thanks as always for reading and sharing your perspectives Michael – I completely agree with you. Voice of the Employee (VOE) is as critical as Voice of the Customer – in my experience, whilst some are now capturing it, not enough organisations have woken up to the power VOE can provide – especially if it is aligned to VOC!

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