And, In This Corner……….


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In working with clients around the world on a broad array of CX projects, I’m often left with the impression that enterprises, rather than effectively driving stakeholder-centric strategies and goals, more resemble wrestlers following the drama and dynamics of a WWE Four Corners Match (

In WWE matches, the animosities and threats are fake, and just part of the show narrative for viewers. In CX, they are all too real, and often harmful in their results. These sometimes openly adversarial or abrasive relationships are not only counter-productive from a value delivery perspective, they can also be downright visceral and destructive.

Going around the squared circle, you’ll find Culture/Leadership in one corner, Processes in the second corner, Employees in the third, and Customers in the fourth.

Leadership helps to define and sustain Culture within the enterprise. All too frequently this is done by executive fiat, without considering impact from, or on, the other three corners.

Likewise, Processes frequently seem to be defined by antecedent practice and infrastructure (“It’s the way we’ve always done it, so why should we change?”), often with Culture, Employees, and Customers a minimal influence or consideration.

Employees can come off as negative, disaffected, and even combative pawns on a Leadership-set, Process-mandated and Culture-driven chess board, their job experience and contribution minimized and sidetracked in favor of what has been defined outside of their power to influence or change.

Customers can be taken for granted, handled poorly by Employees, and mistreated as a result of benign, stagnant and misguided Processes and Culture. At the end of the day, it is the Customers who, along with Employees, are likely to be the biggest losers of the CX Four Corners Match.

For a recent, and very public, Four Corners Match example, look no further than Wells Fargo. As noted when commenting on the bank scandal a few months ago, this was the operational and cultural disconnect which existed between senior and middle management, and lower level supervisory and non-managerial employees. There was massive pressure for cross-selling by the rank-and-file Wells Fargo employees, a mirror reflection of a stakeholder-insensitive, process-frozen, values-absent culture.

Per a recent survey done by the London Business School and MIT’s Sloan School of Management, the bad news, as can occur in a large company like Wells Fargo, is that senior management trusts junior management or non-management only about 10% of the time. Junior managers, supervisors and non-managers often can’t identify the organization’s major priorities, leaving a vacuum and lack of clarity. Leadership and Culture are in a different corner than Employees. Process gets priority. Customers are a minimal consideration, seen only as a reservoir of profit. Result for Well Fargo: More direct pressure and close supervision from above, a minimum of non-manager and first line supervisor enablement and empowerment, impaired employee experience, and customers as victims, now angry as the fraudulent bank actions were revealed.

This combination of factors represents, over an extended period of time, what brought Wells Fargo to the resulting unfortunate Four Corners Match position. Since the scandal went viral, Wells Fargo has been trying to ‘make nice’, papering over its culture, quashing anti-stakeholder processes, and endeavoring to reassure both employees and customers of their good intentions. Time will tell how long it takes the remaining employees, and customers, to recover their former levels of trust.

Perhaps the biggest issue with Four Corners Match CX situations is that, unlike the WWE, unless each corner wins, there are no victors. In this scenario, all corners lose.

Michael Lowenstein, PhD CMC
Michael Lowenstein, PhD CMC, specializes in customer and employee experience research/strategy consulting, and brand, customer, and employee commitment and advocacy behavior research, consulting, and training. He has authored seven stakeholder-centric strategy books and 400+ articles, white papers and blogs. In 2018, he was named to CustomerThink's Hall of Fame.


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