Enough with All the “X’s”. It’s Time to Act!


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CX. PX. UX. EX. XM. SX. How many different “X’s” can you name to describe the experience you want for your customers? We seem to have gone overboard in our efforts to include every type of experience ever thought of in modern times. Aren’t we all, customers? Aren’t we buying products or requesting services or asking for assistance? Tagging the type of experience as an acronym seems to minimize the true importance of what we are trying to accomplish, namely better experiences. Experience professionals like us, started this desire to “name it”, but that’s only a small part of what we are expected to accomplish. Enough with all the “X’s”. It’s time to act.

I’ve said it once. I’ll say it now. And unfortunately, I’ll probably keep saying it for a very long time. You don’t need complicated strategy documents, journey maps, expensive surveys, and months of tying up human and financial resources to understand your customers’ experience. You already know what’s wrong with the experience, otherwise you wouldn’t be doing all the things I just mentioned. So why not simply act. Fix what is causing customer frustration. Two groups of stakeholders can tell exactly what’s wrong and what to do about it – your employees and your customers (in that order). Why not take some time to talk with both groups to help confirm what you already suspected was negatively impacting your desired customer experience?

Things like:
• Cumbersome websites
• Promotions that confuse rather than promote
• Long service times for calls and emails
• Bots that frustrate customers with circular logic
• Inaccurate inventories
• Broken mobile applications
• Late shipments
• Lack of or incorrect customer communications
• Overcharges, billing mistakes, excessive shipping charges

None of these things should be happening when your customers interact with your brand. Yet, they continue to happen every hour of every day. Why? The latest answers are labor shortages, supply chain woes, and of course, the pandemic. The problem is bad experiences in some organizations were happening BEFORE this latest round of crises. If your experience was broken, thisand future crises will only make it go from bad to worse. And of course, now those same organizations with broken experiences, claim they don’t have time to fix it because they are managing through the pandemic. Unfortunately, this isn’t an either/or situation. If your experience is broken, you must do both. You must change the tires on a car going 65 miles per hour down the highway and not miss a turn or lower your speed. You don’t get to stop on the side of the road and repair a flat. Your customers aren’t going to wait for you to get your act together. They will move on to your competitor and any remaining loyalty you may have had will be gone for good. As Isaac Newton said, “Objects in motion tend to stay in motion”. If your customers are moving to your competitors, it’s hard to stop them once they’ve started. But it’s also a way to start improving your experiences – once you move in that direction, it’s hard to stop. It becomes easier to overcome the roadblocks and speed bumps.

Fixing the core is what needs to be done. Getting to the root cause of what’s causing customer friction points. Creating a sustainable experience is the goal. Mistakes will happen but how well we recover from them and fix the problem once and for all is the key. Customers will understand “a” mistake – they just don’t understand the same mistakes being made repeatedly. We want customers who are not only satisfied with our products and services but are loyal to our brand and tell others about their experiences.

Sometimes organizations need “burning platforms” to get them to move towards action instead of discussion. Burning platforms such as: new product innovations, market share loss, competitive threats, and disruptive technologies to name a few. Organizations who need a burning platform may not survive their quest to improve. Employees know what’s wrong. Customers are telling you what’s wrong. Why aren’t you listening?

I know what I’m suggesting is easier said than done. I understand as experience professionals that we operate in complex organizations filled with naysayers and doubters. I recognize that sometimes profits override reality in organizations determined to meet analysts’ quarterly expectations. If not us, then who? Who will advocate for our customers? Who will strive for better processes and improved customer interactions? Who will keep the brand promise of delivering better experiences?

It’s our responsibility to move beyond the “X’s” and act. What’s your next move?


  1. I sense your frustration with “navel gazing” instead of just “gittin it done” to quote comedian Larry the Cable Guy. And, there are plenty of examples of paralysis from analysis. It clearly takes no investment to name stuff. I worked with a CEO who refused to let anyone use X to mean “experience.” Sort of like turning Christmas into Xmas, he thought associates should always say the word to “stay focused on customers and not on X.” However agreeing on nomenclature is an early step in the establishment of any profession. Look how much time a new organization spends on logos and brand features rather than just “getting out their and selling stuff!” However, we live in a time when organizations have diverse customers with conflicting demands,. A ready-fire-aim approach might feel better, but it could run counter to the nuances of what customers want and expect. Consistent execution is also a challenge when you are dealing with hundreds of thousands of humans all trying to figure out what their employer wants of them. The late Truet Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A often reminded his leaders of the challenges of keeping a mom and pop philosophy in a mega sized organization. Like you, I get frustrated with watching leaders wading in the weeds and getting mired in the minutia. I also know that thoughtful study and careful planning as a preamble to execution can prevent grave errors due to missing the market. In the words of Apple founder Steve Jobs, “Let’s be patient as we get out right.”

  2. In all of the X’s cited, from my perspective you missed the most important one – XI, or Experience Improvement. To be sure, debriefing employees and customers, and looking, qualitatively and quantitatively, at what is behind their perceptual differences re. value delivery, i.e. ‘mirroring’, is essential and can offer a great deal of insight and guidance.

    Speed is rarely a sustainable strategy for improving stakeholder experience, especially if there are deep-seated EX or CX issues in the culture, processes, or both Chip and I are in accord that, at minimum, having a consistent and disciplined protocol for XI can minimize the off-target waste of resources in the ‘ready, fire, aim’ seen in too many companies.

  3. Great commentary. What is missing is too many organisations have failed to address the challenges caused by the Iceberg of Ignorance – the disconnect between the frontline and the C-suite. When you do the outcomes are profound. Not only will your customers be delighted but your employees become more engaged through improved empowerment and enablement. Here are just three recent examples from melting the iceberg :
    1.After briefing a team on the future vision we enabled the frontline to design the new retail space which was a radical departure from the past past. Everyone was delighted except the union who were opposed to some of the concepts adopted to improve customer and employee experience and blamed management and and refused permission to open until they were politley told to take it up with their members who owned it!.
    2. Staff viewed the use of instore security guards as inflammatory and suggested better training in conversational intelligence. Management supported that approach and outcome was a 75% reduction in customer aggression incidents
    3. Staff were empowered to review all customer facing forms and processes. The result was an over 60% reduction in the number of customer facing forms , leading to much less customer confusion, reduced customer effort and a massive increase in online adoption
    The results speak for themselves, 94% of customers rating experience as satisfied or highly satisfied, 50% reduction in customer wait times and dramatic reductions in unplanned leave and employee turnover
    So as leaders we need to role up our sleeves, stamp out HIPPO moments ( HIghest Paid Persons Opinion rules) and focus on the inputs not the outcomes

  4. How I wish we can bring this wonderful approach to serving clients/patients in the healthcare industry where quality is currently confused with process indicators. The outcome that matter to clients are hardly measured or communicated, the result rocketing cost and worsening outcome and average to frustrating patient experience.
    I believe better outcomes in healthcare will be realized when we shift from fee-for-service to client outcome based compensation business models, that are informed by clients reported experience and outcomes.
    Finally, I am persuaded that the time for the value based healthcare platform is now, aware that the digital health system allows precision measurement and communication to the masses about the performance of each hospital. Soon the clients will have all the information they need to shop for outcome based health providers at the expense of the profit focused fee-for-service private hospitals.

  5. Steve, are you sure you want to use customer sat as a criteria for success? The research I have seen tells me that 75% of customers who leave an organization for a competitor say they were “satisfied” or “completely satisfied” with the one they abandoned. So, what words would you use if someone asked you, “How was your honeymoon?” “Completely satisfied” might land you on the couch! The goal for customer assessment should be something greater than a word that means “sufficient or adequate.” Just a thought. Think the label came from market research around products and meant the object did exactly what it was designed to do. CX is about an experience, hence the reference to your honeymoon.

  6. Thanks Chip, I am also not a fan of CSat scores but the public sector was obsessed!! My most successful ventures were where we used measures like Cost to Manage (CTM) A lower CTM typically indicates there is less effort requited to manage your customers because you get it right – your systems strategy actually supports your business strategy, your processes are truly designed around your customers and their needs and not your organisation chart, your employees are truly empowered and enabled to assist clients and your channel offerings align to customer needs and expectations. This strategy produces key outcomes including improved priced competitiveness (market share), improved customer loyalty and lower employee turnover. Happy to share case studies if anyone is interested

  7. All good comments, Steve. Metrics are in part metaphors that communicate priority. They are far more symbolic than “what gets measured, gets done.” I worked with a large financial services company that used NPS as their key customer metric. They were very proud of their large number of “promoters.” When I ask the CEO if the goal was to have “more customers who intended to recommend” or “more customers who actually recommended” (intention vs behavior), the answer was obvious. Shifting the question from “Would you recommend?” to “Have you recommended?” opened a whole new world of opportunity to find ways to facilitate customer recommendations…simple steps like giving customers two business cards, one to keep and one to give away to a family member or a friend. What message does CTM send to the frontline ambassador? Is effort a driver of loyalty or is it a mere table stake feature. Do customers adore Starbucks because they are easy to do business with? I wait for thirty minutes to get a table at my favorite restaurant–a tiny boutique with amazing food and extraordinary service. The experience is well worth the effort. I am not arguing for or against effort as a differentiator, just raising the question of whether it truly drives loyalty and what behaviors a CTM metric incents, encourages, or affirms in those who are executing an experience with customers. And, the same test should apply to any feature of the customer’s experience. Safety is the number one feature airline customers want in an airline–clearly a priority. But when it comes to the features that cause a customer to pick one airline over another, safety is way down the list.


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