Got it: Horse before Cart and Culture before CX


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Life can be so simple. You put the horse BEFORE the cart. You know this! Unfortunately, you are probably engaged with messing it up by adding systems, software and incentives. Why? It’s because that’s what you have been brainwashed to do.

YOU MUST HAVE that million dollar thingy that does that whatchacallit stuff that makes those things to do that magicalness. Why? Because that absolutely stupidendeous marketing campaign sucked you into thinking so (at least the free benchmarking report was cool, right?). Or your trying to incent others to do what you want because money, recognition and achievement is the key. Or (yikes) you punish the non-compliant.

Don’t be ashamed, I’ve been there too. We all have.

Prevent brainwashing: horse BEFORE cart

You need to make it a constant reminder to not be fooled into ever thinking that putting the cart before the horse will ever allow you to get much of any place at all. Just picture putting the cart before the horse. What does the horse need to do in order to get that cart to move? Head-butt!

Come on. You know you have been head-butting your way to improve the customer experience in your organization. Matter of fact, I think I can see the marks on your forehead.

Hey, I have scars too. I spent five grueling years with one organization banging my head, not against a cart, it was more like a cargo ship. I think I lost consciousness several times during my tenure.

Despite the dainbramage, I am the wiser.

Regretfully, it took me five years to finally realize that I had made all of the forward movement I was going to make and that I needed to move on. I was young and ignorant. But I do not regret anything because I remind myself that I need to fail because that is how I learn best (it’s the same for all of us).

One important thing I learned, was that the customer experience is the company culture coming through. Once I left and was able to reflect, I realized that if I was to make an impact on the customer experience I must do it through improving the company culture.

“Customer experience is the company culture coming through.” Click to Tweet

Doing it the wrong way

The company I worked for thought they had put the customer first through their culture and had the horse before the cart. But the customer experience was primarily generated by coercion. There was a lot of pressure put upon folks and fear mongering to drive more than just customer experience performance. “Do this or your future/pay was in jeopardy,“ was more than just the unspoken word. It was spoken and it was spoken often. Usually with a sinister chuckle.

While the elements may have been present to build a positive culture to drive customer experience performance, the folks responsible for deploying the methods, used command and control tactics and made life very stressful for a lot of people.

The result was that employees did not stay long. For this organization, that was a problem because it took a long time for employees to become skilled in their jobs. And skilled employees were able to deliver a higher customer experience because of their skill and knowledge.

Crushing your high-performers

Because of the skilled employee churn problem there was a tremendous strain put on the skilled and knowledgably that remained. You can see how this happens. You lose skilled people and replace them with the unskilled. The unskilled now lean on the remaining skilled people to help them get up to speed while customers bypass the newbies to be served by the knowledgeable employees.

The deadly “triple burden”

This compounds the problem as these employees now fear the “triple burden”. I have to help the new people, I have to help customers, and I fear for my job. How is it possible to deliver a great customer experience when this burden lays so heavy on your mind? So as you see, it just adds to the employee turnover problem and low morale.

What kind of customer experience do you think will come out of this culture? As a customer experience professional, what do you think the return and impact will be on all of your non-culture CX work?

More than a mere catalyst

By head-butting your cart (company) you will have some movement. But if you have a strong culture that is positive and not coerced or contrived you have so much more. Culture by coercion is quicksand for CX. And much like not being brainwashed into thinking you need the latest and greatest technology or system approach, company culture is more than a catalyst for the customer experience. It is synergistic.

“Culture by coercion is quicksand for CX.” –Click to Tweet

When you combine a positive company culture with customer experience improvement practices the combined elements produce a total effect that is greater than the sum of the individual elements and contributions.

So what do you do?

You already know. You put the horse BEFORE the cart. You evangelize about the culture and the synergistic nature of culture and CX. You firstly focus on improving organizational emotional intelligence and put CX intelligence building next…Culture before CX.

There are numerous examples of Culture before CX

I do not need to name names of the organizations that are renowned for delivering excellent customer experiences. We all know them. But what fuels their success? Is it better technology, systems, or products? Is it location, location, location? It is a faster horse or bigger cart?

You know exactly what it is. They put culture before CX. So do it, and stop head-butting!

This post is part of the Customer Experience Professionals Association’s Blog Carnival “Celebrating Customer Experience.” It is part of a broader celebration of Customer Experience Day. Check out posts from other bloggers at the blog carnival. – Learn more about CX Day at:

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jim Rembach
Jim Rembach is recognized as a Top 50 Thought Leader and CX Influencer. He's a certified Emotional Intelligence practitioner and host of the Fast Leader Show podcast and president of Call Center Coach, the world's only virtual blended learning academy for contact center supervisors and emerging supervisors. He’s a founding member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association’s CX Expert Panel, Advisory Board Member for Customer Value Creation International (CVCI), and Advisory Board Member for CX University.


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