Over-Engineering The Customer’s Experience


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In Customer Experience Management there is a lot to take into account. Everything a company does as well as a lot that’s happening outside the company impacts  the Customer’s evaluation of the company’s service and offering. In my experience it can be rather overwhelming for people within a company to talk to the Customer Experience experts – inside and outside the company – and as a result they could be turning their backs on us “unrealistic bunch of dreamers“. I’ve come to believe this has a lot to do with a practice of ‘over-engineering the Customer’s Experience‘.

Detailed measurements and analytics reveal how the system works

It all starts with our ambition and practice to measure and report on everything. We measure a plethora of metrics through a ever growing variety of methodologies and frameworks. And we try to create this fine-mazed system of measurements that allows us to pin-point exactly, and preferably in real-time, where what is happening with a Customer and how it effects the Customer’s Experience score, and – last but not least -who’s to blame(!) for it.

Through our measurements we actually get to understand how the dynamics of internal and external drivers influence the Customer’s experience. As a consequence we build a nuanced view of what should be done and how it will effect our strategic objectives. But, wake-up call (!), nuanced views do not really work well with many people, specifically not with those in charge with lots of other stuff to take care of in their daily business lives. “Let’s not get too academic” is a comment many Customer Experience professionals are familiar with I guess.

Sophisticated Customer journey designs visualize the future

The same happens when we’re trying to get from insights to impact, i.e. designing the new (optimal) Customer’s experience. If done thoroughly such designs take into account the entire journey of a Customer getting her job done. All touch-points are designed with the Customer’s goal, minimized effort and desired emotional response – in each stage of the journey – taken into account. These designs are then packaged into stunning visuals that tell us in every possible detail how each step looks, feels and should be experienced. It may even provide a blue-print of the desired organizational (process)design that is capable of delivering.  And then everyone is enthused! Yeah!

[enter squeaky sound of a hard-breaking car on a dirty road]


Too complicated to handle

Nothing happens because we have over-engineered the Customer’s experience. The future state journey is so far off the current offering that everything needs to be re-engineered and dependencies of other projects become too complicated too handle. Desired emotional Customer responses are drawn onto a canvas whilst the organization is still trying to get a grip on process fulfillment. Contextual personalization is designed in for 6 to 8 different persona’s that all have been crafted with the exact same rigor and detail.

As a consequence people are overwhelmed by it and disappointed by the fact that the necessity for and benefit of improvement seems so obvious, yet the reality of actually improving never felt further away. “This will take years” they’ll sigh. I don’t blame them.

Simplify the work, not the insights

We, the Customer experience leaders, consultants, managers, specialists, designers and what have you on your business card-s, we need to put an end to this. We need not loose our nuanced analysis of what is the problem, we need not loose our detailed view on how everything impacts everything and we need not loose our ambition to transform the current offering into an innovated one that drives growth through improved Customer retention, advocacy and an increased share of wallet. We need all that still.

But what we need more is to infuse the transformation with simplicity. Take out the exotics, focus on the true important Customers, value propositions, journey’s and interactions. Triage – together with the business – until you have found the two or three sweet-spots that require minimal to reasonable effort and have maximum impact on the Customer’s experience.

And, instead of focussing on the solutions that should be created, focus on creating the methodology for (continuous) improvement that you can teach the (small and cross-functional) teams to work with – and keep working with. Don’t build programs that feel like an add-on to the daily responsibility, build capabilities that become the daily responsibility. Break down what needs to be done into 10-week projects with clear objectives and celebrate when done.

Evaluate – Rinse – Repeat, over and over..

Where do you think you’ll be in 2 years time?

Republished with author's permission from original post.


  1. Ironic that on the day your post appears we have the Iowa caucus for the U.S. presidency. Pundits and statisticians are showing their polls and polls of polls about who will win tonight. In 2012, the last time Iowa voters caucused, an unpredictable Senator Rick Santorum won for the Republicans. In 2008, an unpredictable Governor Mike Huckabee won for Republicans and a newcomer, Senator Barack Obama won for Democrats by an unexpected wide margin. Why? Because, just like the customer, voters talked in caucus, listened to their neighbors, changed their mind, and ignored what pollsters told them they would do. All the over engineering of scientific predictions was no match for the hearts of citizens.

    To your excellent point, customers make choices with their heart, not just their head. Like Iowa voters, they change their mind and refuse to be stay in their segment, remain consistent with someone’s generalization of them, or act like the predictors say they will. As long as we are dealing with the emotions of human behavior, it is vital we maintain flexibility, simplicity, and empathy with a large helping of wonder!

  2. Agree with the multiple dangers of experience over-engineering. What I’ve observed with many journey mapping initiatives is a consultant-heavy, massive senior and consultant governance program, with high financial, resource and time investment, and scores of potential scenarios, and which include at least several components (CX analysis, design, execution, validation). We believe in identifying the emotional and functional experience drivers of memory and downstream behavior, prioritized for action, quick wins, and sustained improvement.

  3. Wim, wonderfully refreshing. Someone told me that the Customer space was artificial, and that what we do for Customers should come naturally, and be part of the culture. Unfortunately, we have made it a business of Customers, and are losing track of what we originally set out to do.


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