Customer Experience Lessons from the Fiscal Cliff


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Yes. I had to step in this one! Time to share some customer experience learnings from the Fiscal Cliff. Ironically, there are a lot of lessons to take away here. Let’s dive in!

I don’t profess to be an expert on financial policy or even know all the ins and outs of this looming Fiscal Cliff, but based on what I’ve heard and read, there are several simple lessons to pass on.

Fail to plan, plan to fail

Plan ahead and don’t wait for the moment of crisis. Don’t wait for the moment when you’ll be put to the test. Plan. Prepare. Be ready. The point of my post Are You Ready for Black Friday was not specifically about Black Friday but for every day. If you’re doing things right all along, then there’s no pressure.


Government is “of the people, by the people, for the people.” So is your business. You can read more about my views on transparency here.


You’ll get a lot more accomplished if you work together, within your team and/or across departments or business units. It will make for a much better experience for your customers if everyone throughout the organization is on the same page. Break down the silos and work toward a common goal.


In public policy and in customer service, sometimes you have to compromise. Sometimes you’ll need to make some concessions to keep your customers happy.

Sense of urgency

When interacting with customers, work with a sense of urgency. Let them know they are the most important thing on your plate right now.

Don’t kick the can down the road

If there’s an issue, fix it immediately. It won’t go away. No one goes on vacation til the issue is resolved. Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.

Don’t play the blame game

The customer is always right. I know; some folks don’t agree with that. But in the interest of the customer experience, would you rather have your frontline argue with the customer? A classic example is the Nordstrom tire story.

Public opinion matters

Listen to your customers.

Know your customers

Rich, poor, or otherwise – know your customers and understand the impact of your policies and decisions on each. Understand their needs and their unique journeys.

Consumer anxiety is real

When there are issues, whether it’s a product recall or a service interruption, calm the fears and anxiety that this creates for your consumers. Fix the problem quickly, and communicate your progress.


An organization’s leadership must be unified and have a clear vision with shared goals. If they’re not all on the same page, you’ve got a mess. Everyone needs to be marching to the beat of the same drummer. They cannot effect real change if they cannot come to a consensus. Leadership sets the tone for the rest of the company; what they project either instills confidence or kills it.

Data is important to decision making

Use the data you have about your customers, both attitudinal and behavioral, to make wise decisions about product development, service offerings, process improvements, future strategies, etc. Use it to take action, as well.

Failure is an option

Yup, sometimes bad decisions are made. They hurt all of us. We learn from them, and we move on. I can think of a few airlines to draw examples from for this lesson. The important thing is that you’ve learned from it.

Change has to happen

Without a doubt, regardless of the resultant fiscal policy, change will happen. Good, bad, or ugly, it will happen. Earlier this year, I wrote a post that questioned what it will take to make customer experience change happen. Odd as it sounds, even if you do nothing, change will happen; it won’t necessarily be a good change, but things will be change.

Sometimes you can talk an issue to death

And get nowhere.

The legacy you leave

What legacy do you want to leave behind with your organization? As a leader, what do you want your employees to remember most about you? How do you want your customers to think of, and to remember, your brand?

Fix your structural issues

Sometimes a looming Fiscal Cliff is the sign of trouble elsewhere in the organization, too. It’s probably time to take a closer look at all of your processes and policies to make sure they align with your customer-centric culture.

It’s time for process improvements

Assess processes that affect both employees and customers. If they hinder the experience, it’s time to change them.

Bad policies do no good

Bad policies will be the bane of your existence. Review all of your policies; ensure they support your customer-focused approach to business. Get rid of policies that make no sense or that make the customer experience painful. Remove policies that don’t allow employees to do what’s in the best interest of their customers.

Innovation is important

It’s time for some fresh thinking. The old way got us here. And if you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you’re going to keep getting what you’ve been getting. If your customer experience continues to fall short of expectations, time to come up with something new.

Can’t please everyone or be everything to everyone
In the end, whatever the outcome of the Fiscal Cliff, not everyone will be happy with the result. Bill Cosby said, I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” Know your purpose, your focus, and what you’re trying to achieve, i.e., your Why, and let that be your guiding light. Do what you do – always in the best interest of your customers. If you live by that, the rest becomes quite simple.

What other lessons can you think of?

Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don’t interfere as long as the policy you’ve decided upon is being carried out. -Ronald Reagan

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Annette Franz
Annette Franz is founder and Chief Experience Officer of CX Journey Inc. She is an internationally recognized customer experience thought leader, coach, consultant, and speaker. She has 25+ years of experience in helping companies understand their employees and customers in order to identify what makes for a great experience and what drives retention, satisfaction, and engagement. She's sharing this knowledge and experience in her first book, Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the "Customer" in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business).


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