Elevating Customer Experience – Where You Should Start!


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While sitting with a “customer experience” leadership team at an international airline company, we talked about how to prioritize their lengthy list of customer-centric action plans. That discussion helped me appreciate the difficulty some business leaders face when it comes to “where to start” with their customer experience initiatives.

Unlike reading a book, there is often no clearly identified “first page” for the journey of improving the customer experience. Fortunately, there is a body of research that offers insights into where the “low hanging” fruit of customer focused change can be found.

For example, Convergys conducted a study of customer’s asking them what they want most when interfacing with the service side of a business. Participants were asked to prioritize from a lengthy list of possible business service attributes. The results of that study are provided below:

Knowledgeable employees 65%
Addresses my needs on first contact 64%
Treats me like a valued customer 62%
Demonstrates desire to meet my needs 54%
Can quickly access information 49%
Good value for the money 49%
Courteous employees 45%
Is a company/brand I can trust 43%
Treats me fairly 38%
Provides/relevant personalized service 31%

The results of the Convergys study (the fact that customers first and foremost want to encounter “knowledgeable employees”, to have their needs addressed “on first contact” and to be “treated like a valuable customer”) are consistent with the notion that you have to achieve the basics of service before you can aspire to customer experience excellence. In essence if your staff are poorly selected or trained, it overshadows any effort you may make to address lower priority items like the provision of “relevant personalized service.”

The Convergys study also supports the ongoing trend for customers to want to be served across a wider range of channels (e.g on-line, telephone, and mobile device). But more importantly the data indicates that while the phone is the preferred method of support, customers would rather get immediate, effective resolution of a question on their first attempt as opposed to connecting with a human being that fails to resolve their concern. In essence, it is better to have an automated or on-line correct answer available to a customer than a person who is unable to offer a resolution to the customer’s need.

Like most things customer experience design follows a “crawl, walk, run” phenomena. It starts with competent staff selection, intensive training and development, and the creation of multi-channel, accurate, service and support solutions. Once those crawling and walking foundations are set, you can run in the direction of objectives that I write about in business books – principles like “surprise and delight” or “delivering wow” to your customers. It is impossible to consistently deliver “wow” to customers if your core staffing and product knowledge delivery is lacking and the “surprise” your customers often will receive is not the kind you’ll want them to experience!

So is back to the beginning of the book for you or are into the final chapters. Wherever you may find yourself, customer-experience elevation is a never-ending story…

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. Joseph, thanks for another great post; I enjoy your thinking.

    I appreciate the “low hanging fruit’ answer to the ‘where to start’ question on customer experience. Difficult to argue with this approach! But being generally right because “customers in general want these things” could mean missing a potent payoff for finding out what’s exactly right for YOUR organization.

    Another way to start is to identify (or make sure everyone is in alignment about) the essential need your company solves for its customers. If you were in coffee houses and you knew you wanted to be the “third space between work and home” as Howard Shultz has declared many times, that would cause you to choose different service priorities than if you were the “affordable stop” local chain in my home town. Or think about Virgin Airlines vs Delta. This question always reveals a unique set of priorities.

    Your thoughts?

    If you want to test your thinking further on the ‘triggering need’ at the beginning of a customer experience, you might like this: http://www.ceforprofit.com/2009/10/defining-customer-experience-step-1-realizing-the-need/

    Thanks again Joseph for the provocative post.


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