Assailing Customer Experience Assumption Silos


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customer experience assumptionsYou may assume that everyone in your company assumes the same thing about customers. Are you certain that customer-facing staff and non-customer-facing staff have identical viewpoints of customers’ realities? If not, mixed assumptions may be wreaking havoc on customer experience management ROI.

Why? Because what customers buy and experience with your company are the culmination of all the activities going on in your company. Look at it as a continual string of value-building — or value-destructing — from your company’s engineers and suppliers to manufacturing and operations, to your touchpoints and customer-facing staff. Each step along the way is an opportunity to align or mis-align with customers.

Faulty assumptions at any step often require remedial investment. It’s wise to prevent remedial investments and re-channel those precious funds to value creation.

Maybe your execs assume that some functional areas are irrelevant to customer experience. They get a free pass when it comes to being expected to do something with your voice of the customer results. Or maybe your voice of the customer (VoC) program is focused on touchpoints and front-line staff’s effectiveness, so it’s a stretch for VoC to be relevant to everyone in your company. Since everyone has a ripple effect on customers, they really do need to pay attention to customers’ expectations.

Don’t fall into the trap of adding VoC questions that ask customers to evaluate everyone. That’s not a fair request. It’s a tedious customer experience to participate in VoC like that. Always look at things like your customers look at them, and design VoC, CX management, and customer-centered business management accordingly!

As called out in my article “10 Silos Impact Customer Experience“, common culprits of varied assumptions throughout your company are “focus on survey scores rather than customer survey verbatims, journey maps focused on a touch-point, and other common practices obscuring an accurate big picture of the end-to-end customer life cycle. In customers’ minds, this means inconsistent empathy for their plight, and inconsistent experience across their end-to-end journey or life cycle.”

Lose Your Tedious Surveys
A better way to design your VoC questions is to (1) ask about what the customer is trying to achieve and how well you’re contributing to that achievement, and (2) build on what you already know, instead of continually asking about things customers have already told you.

How will this VoC strategy tackle assumption silos? First, you’ll shift from tedium to interesting context that can be translated to meaningful action items for every functional area. An added bonus is that your response rates will increase as you let customers tell you about their goals rather than asking them to evaluate you. Second, you’ll expand new insights that can be useful in making customer experience a determinant of strategies, policies, processes, products, services, and daily decision-making and handoffs throughout your company.

Lose Your Fear of Comments
Customer comments from VoC and any other source are the key to assailing customer experience assumption silos across functional areas. Why? Because they are descriptive and prescriptive. Customer comments reveal context, expectations, “jobs-to-be-done” (ultimate goals for seeking your offerings), what the customer is doing and why.

VoC scores and indexes are valued more highly than customer comments in mainstream practice today, because quantitative VoC is easier to summarize and communicate. Before text analytics and voice analytics software was available, it was really hard to digest customer comments. Comments can be especially daunting in high-volume B2C feedback.

Here’s what you need to do: make use of analytics tools, avoid the temptation to skim over or over-summarize comments, feature different customer comments daily in your Intranet and other employee communications vehicles, get creative in letting customers tell your whole company about their realities in their own words, stream relevant comments to every functional area, conduct cross-functional workshops to focus on a specific theme and allow 45 minutes for customer comment read-throughs and root cause analyses (ask “why” 5 times). These practices can make a world of difference in getting assumptions in-sync internally. Best of all, your collective assumptions will be grounded in truth as your customers see it.

Lose Your Fear of Holistic CX Management
One of the beauties of customer journey mapping is awareness-building within your company of interdependencies among touch-points, departments, policies, processes, etc. It’s very difficult to narrow down customer experience factors to a single product or touch-point. For all these reasons it’s essential to take on a holistic viewpoint of customer experience management (CXM).

Stop CXM efforts that are narrow. Or otherwise, pursue them from a comprehensive viewpoint. From the customer’s viewpoint. Connect the dots between business units, regions/geos, and functional areas. Connect the dots between requesting customer feedback and requesting customer engagement. Take on a holistic view of VoC plus communications from sales and marketing and service and success, plus customer references, loyalty, retention, engagement, and so forth. If you don’t then your assumptions about your CX management are at odds with the reality that customers are experiencing!

Lose Your Fear of Organizational CXM Adoption
When it comes to employee engagement, mainstream practices fall short of what’s needed. Happy employees don’t necessarily translate to happy customers — unless their assumptions are firmly rooted in customers’ realities. Some employee engagement techniques are aimed at brand affinity for employee recruitment purposes. Other employee engagement techniques are aimed at productivity. And some attempt to drive awareness of customer experience management programs. All of these are interesting and helpful in their own right, but do they make a difference for customers?

The best way to build customer-centricity (customer-centered business management) is to plan from the start how you intend to involve every corner of your company in making a difference for customers. We all know that customers’ expectations are a moving target as various forces (competition, technology, social, economic, etc.) evolve. For that reason alone, it’s essential to weave your CXM into the fabric of your company’s rituals (reviews, planning, communications, etc.) and your employees’ day-to-day work. Constant calibration is essential. Therefore, constant assumptions-testing is vital.

Organizational adoption of customer experience management means that your employees company-wide understand their ripple effect on customers. It means that employee engagement is grounded in making a difference for customers. This higher purpose for engaging employees to be happier, more productive, and better brand advocates is a winning formula.

What it boils down to is “doing the whole job” across customers’ needs. It takes all-hands-on-deck to do the whole job. Getting on the same page with assumptions will avoid sinking your CXM ship, and make the difference in tapping into the full value available from customer experience management. Assail customer experience assumption silos to prevent the need for remedial investments, and re-channel funding to mutual value creation.

Images purchased under license from Shutterstock.

This is the 8th article in a 12-part series:

  1. 10 Silos Impact Customer Experience
  2. Silo Detectives for Organizational Collaboration
  3. Customer Experience Boggle Busters for Channel Silos
  4. Solving System Silos for Customer Experience Excellence
  5. Customer Experience Data Silos Demystified
  6. Customer Experience Management Prevents Process Silos
  7. Customer Experience Vision Dictates Value
  8. Assailing Customer Experience Assumption Silos

Lynn Hunsaker

Lynn Hunsaker is 1 of 5 CustomerThink Hall of Fame authors. She built CX maturity via customer experience, strategic planning, quality, and marketing roles at Applied Materials and Sonoco. She was a CXPA board member and SVAMA president, taught 25 college courses, and authored 6 CXM studies and many CXM handbooks and courses. Her specialties are B2B, silos, customer-centric business and marketing, engaging C-Suite and non-customer-facing groups in CX, leading indicators, ROI, maturity. CX leaders in 50+ countries benefit from her self-paced e-consulting: Masterminds, Value Exchange, and more.


  1. Great post Lynn. It’s true that communication is vital for any business, but particularly one that deals with customers. One of the most powerful assumptions I have seen steer companies wrong is denial. So many organizations, especially larger ones, will deny that there is even a customer service issue. They will bury it underneath hirings, firings, and org charts.

  2. Thanks for your observation, Christine. Denial is part of human nature, so I recommend that CX planning builds-in “denial management”. Truth is actually more magnetic than falsehood, but truth has to be presented in a clever way to weave-in to hot-buttons and to be weave-able into existing processes and tasks. When you tap-in to these internal management insights you’ll see a LOT of new doors open up!

    More advice: Customer Experience Planning: Do This, Not That


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