5 Things Not To Do in Your Journey to Customer Experience Excellence


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Raise your hand if you remember the radio or television police drama Dragnet. For the rest of you here’s a link from the History Channel. I reference Dragnet, so that I can borrow one of the many signature lines from the show, “Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.” This blog will honor that name changing tradition as I will come up with a pseudonym for a technology provider who gave me a front-row seat into five lessons on things NOT TO DO in pursuit of customer experience excellence.

Do not oversell

Let’s call the company “One Lane Tech.” After being sold a pricey upgrade to an existing business technology solution as well as a comprehensive support package, we anticipated some challenges implementing our upgrade – even though our sales person tried to suggest that our journey would be filled with bunny rabbits and rainbows. Therein is our first lesson trust is based on truth and effective expectation setting – don’t oversell the best case to the detriment of what is most likely. Our initial and reasonable early challenges would have been far easier to handle if proper expectations had been set.

Do not have customers chase the solution

Help your customers navigate your business silos, integrate solutions, and don’t send your customer on a discovery adventure.

At the onset of our month-long transition juggernaut, we described an integration problem and opened a service ticket. Our first technician was prompt in his response but suggested the problem was “not in his lane” and as such he asked if he could close his ticket and open a ticket with someone who specialized in what he thought our problem might be. Fast forward 29 days later, when our hopping from “lane to lane” saga had us both at the brink of despair and nearing termination of our contract.

Fortunately for “One Lane Tech,” we finally stumbled into the “right lane” and had our problem resolved in five minutes by a knowledgeable and kind technician. Alas, my team invested about 60 hours chasing a 5-minute solution because “One Lane Tech” was hellbent on hyperspecialized departments that opened tickets for other departments without collaborating to find the root cause of the problem.

Do not reward behavior at odds with customer needs

My third lesson relates to business metrics. Transactional metrics must be linked to customer success. Don’t reward behavior that is at odds with the needs of the customers. Along our service journey, “One Lane Tech’s” agents expressed an urgency to close tickets (even though we didn’t have problem resolution). It became apparent that the company was evaluating an agent’s performance based largely on how quickly they could label a case closed.

Do not use scripts to address genuine human emotions

Lesson four is that words without authenticity ring hollow. Don’t use scripts to address genuine human emotions.

We heard a lot of what seemed like scripted verbiage during our extended relationship with “One Lane Tech’s” service agents. Almost daily we heard certain phrases echoed verbatim: “I know this must be difficult.” “Let me assure you…” “I will do everything I can to fix this for you.” Those statements were usually followed by something like, “…but this is not in my area so I will send you to someone else who will get back to you tomorrow. ”

Do not consider any customer problem routine

And lesson five is to act with urgency. Don’t consider any customer problem small or routine just because it is but one of many you will face on any given day. For us, our problem was anything but routine and its impact created a mini-crisis and a huge resource drain!

Ok, there are the “five do nots” born from our recent service experience. They tee-up a bonus lesson, which is, do not expect most customers to change your brand name to protect the guilty when they talk about you to family and friends. My momma told me if I couldn’t say something nice I shouldn’t say anything at all. Clearly, that’s not how social media works!

If you want assistance in avoiding the “don’ts” of customer experience delivery, reach out to me and I will make sure you will get integrated care as all our lanes strive to work together! I look forward to connecting with you soon.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Joseph Michelli, Ph.D.
Joseph Michelli, Ph.D., an organizational consultant and the chief experience officer of The Michelli Experience, authored The New Gold Standard: 5 Leadership Principles for Creating a Legendary Customer Experience Courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company and the best-selling The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary Into Extraordinary.


  1. Hi Joseph: regarding “Do not use scripts to address genuine human emotions,” I experience the same aggravation, though I understand the business reasons for it. I, too, pick up the subtle semantic dodge that call centers reps commonly use: “I am sorry you are having trouble with our [product/service].” This script is no doubt carefully managed in order not to impugn the vendor. It’s the customer who has the problem. We can thank the corporate General Counsel for that. Companies would expose themselves to legal risks if call center employees did not slightly deflect the blame. Unfortunately, in this regard, there isn’t a lot of wiggle room for different conversational styles.

    Regarding “Do not oversell” – you’ve hit on a massive operational challenge for sales organizations. Authors Chip Heath and Dan Heath eloquently posited a comparison in their book Made to Stick. Quoting from President John Kennedy’s speech in which he said, “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the man and returning him safely to the earth,” they asked readers to consider how this might come across if Kennedy had instead used more bureaucratic lingo. “The US government has given funding to related agencies chartered to develop technology to try to deliver humans to the moon and bring them back.” (I made up the latter quote because I can’t find the exact one they wrote in the book. Theirs was similarly ‘meh,’ though a better ‘meh.’)

    Job #1 for salespeople is customer persuasion. Every day, they walk a fine line between being aspirational, like Kennedy, and patently dishonest. I think do not oversell is too vague a guideline. It also creates goal conflict because the vast majority of salespeople are accountable for revenue production. Blandness might be perceived as safe, but absent counterbalanacing inspiration, I doubt it’s opened the doors to many meetings, or led to handshakes during contract signings.

    To your point, however, written policies for prospect communications are useful. For example, with my clients, I have no issue with “our solution enables your company to achieve increased revenue, profits, and market share” – if, in fact, other clients have achieved that post-implementation. But promising a specific performance outcome should elicit more scrutiny before making the claim.

  2. Andrew, as always your comments are both eloquent and thought provoking. I had the good fortune of presenting on stage with Dan Heath recently. The Heath’s have a way of positioning amazing content. I wonder if inspiring stretch goals and overselling are exactly the same. I guess politicians are always selling and often overselling. The genius of a Martin Luther King “I have a dream” speech or a Kennedy “moonshot” proclamation is they inspire action. Often in a business sales transaction “overselling” only secures commerce. In keeping with your genius, I think I missed the elements of intent and impact. Thanks for helping tighten my thinking. Joseph

  3. Hi Joseph: great question regarding whether stretch goals and overselling are the same. In my mind, they are two sides of the same coin. One reason that I eschew absolutes in business development, as in “marketers must never do [name of thing to not do].” In this context, a buyer that was naive to the point that he or she took a salesperson’s general statement about expected outcomes as fact would not get much sympathy from me if they griped their results didn’t live up to the vendor’s hype. All buyers must expect that vendors (marketers, salespeople, PR professionals) will describe their products in the best light, and it’s incumbent on the buyer to ferret the facts. Plenty of grey area here. What distinguishes a reasonable, albeit inflated, claim from a patent lie isn’t always clear, and this matter is debated in commercial law every day.

    As you point out, intent enters the equation. Is the vendor’s intent to sell, or “close the transaction?” In the majority of instances, it is. I make no judgement on this, and I do not opine the reality. But if the only way for a vendor to achieve that goal is to factually distort information that is a) consequential to the customer and b) difficult or impossible for a prospect to validate prior to purchasing, then in my view, there’s an ethical breakdown, if not a legal violation.

    In the early 1920’s, IBM’s Tom Watson, widely considered an innovative and successful marketer, famously promoted the pitch, “We are furnishing merchants, manufacturers and other businessmen with highly efficient machines which save them money.” A visionary statement, and not every one of IBM’s customers achieved the outcome Watson championed. Was it overselling? Or smart, inspiring marketing? Only IBM’s customers can provide a true, accurate answer. But to me, Watson’s intent wasn’t to deceive or ‘oversell’, but rather to inspire customers about good possibilities.

  4. Smart to warn against absolutes. Conscious overstatement is puffery and not allowed in marketing. It does become a matter of degree and a commitment to live-in to your claims. Thank you again for pushing me to be better. Joseph


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