Janus, Zeus and customer experience


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Why CX people need to ditch Janus and start worshipping Zeus

In Roman mythology, Janus – the god of beginnings and endings – had two faces. One faced forwards, the other backwards. Janus could easily be the god of Customer Experience.

Which one is the god of CX?
Which one is the god of CX?

Time to worship Zeus

Customer Experience people are, after all, a bit like Janus. They have to face the customer and their own organisation simultaneously. I’m going to suggest, though, that it’s time to forsake Janus and worship Zeus instead.


Because Homer called Zeus “the god of strangers.” And that’s precisely what customer experience people need to be – strangers.

Be a stranger

Everyone talks about being ‘customer facing’ or ‘customer centric’. It sounds fair enough, but it fails to take perspective into account. If you’re facing the customer, that means you’re standing inside your organisation, looking out. Your perspective will always be that of an insider. To transform customer experience, you need to be outside, looking in with the perspective of the customer – because it’s only then that you spot the real problems, the real touchpoint failures, the real experience gulfs and pain points.

I had two letters this morning, one from First Direct, the other from Virgin Money. They illustrated perfectly why Zeus beats Janus every day of the week.

Both letters did nearly everything good, Janus-worshipping customer experience is supposed to. Both were – pretty much – in plain English. Both signposted where I could find more information. Both were signed by a named contact. You get the idea. But one reinforced my relationship with the organisation that sent it. The other nearly had me reaching for the phone to cancel.

The little things matter

First Direct wrote about a credit card I’d almost forgotten I had, with a few pounds still owing on it. I’d set up my account just to make the minimum repayments. They suggested I could be paying more interest this way and that I should think about upping my direct debit. Fantastic. They’ll make a few quid less on interest, but will I be telling everyone I know how great they are? You bet. Up goes their NPS.

Virgin Money wrote too, telling me about some new terms and conditions. There was a slightly weaselly letter and an 8-page booklet of Ts and Cs, all set in 8pt font. Yes, it was in plainish English – but that didn’t matter. The whole thing was incomprehensible in a practical sense. Yes, there were changes to Ts and Cs, but what were they? Which ones had changed? How would they affect me? Were things worse than before or better? No-one had sat on the outside of the process – been a stranger – and thought about how the customer would understand the pack.

Which way were they facing?

I tweeted about it and got a reply. Virgin said “we can make a copy available in an alternative format if you’d prefer” thus showing they’d completely missed the point. They were inside, facing out, worshipping Janus.

It’s only when you stand outside your organisation, in the place of the customer, that you can get any sense of how a customer feels. How do your processes feel? Do they frustrate or are they so smooth you don’t even see them? How do your callcentre teams make people feel? How easy are they to deal with on everyday, basic customer requests?

You need to be a stranger. And that takes a strategic perspective on your CX.

How to get outside your organisation

That’s hard to find time to do. But when was the last time you walked through something as simple as your complaints process? When was the last time you trialled a piece of customer-facing communication on someone who’d never seen it before? When was the last time you meaningfully sought out and listened to a customer’s views on, say, your sign-up and welcome processes?

Being an outsider takes guts. It’ll often put you at variance with your organisation. But, when you do, it’ll transform the way you communicate with your customers. And that, in turn, transforms your business.

Adapted from an original article on the Rubuss blog.

Mark McArthur-Christie
Mark works in customer experience, helping organisations humanise the way they interact with customers. He helps clients develop and implement customer strategy, improve process and train customer-facing teams. He runs customer experience consultancy Rubuss and works with clients both in the UK and internationally. Before starting Rubuss, he headed customer communications departments at two major UK financial services businesses. He is also a published Oxford University Press author.


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