Remove the Seven Inhibitors of Your Customer Experience Success


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To make sure your customer experience work stays on track, you need to constantly manage these seven inhibitors of customer experience success:

Inhibitor 1:  Starting with a Mantra, Not an Action Plan  
Often companies decide that they want to get some early traction by telling everyone to “focus on customer experience”  What happens next is that people realize this is a big corporate priority and begin making plans, creating new scoreboards and taking action.

This advances the silo based approach to actions that is contrary to the discipline of experience development and management.  A lot of action occurs, executives get a “false positive” that action is occurring and traction is happening, but it eventually stalls out because the actions don’t aggregate up to improve complete end-to-end customer experiences.

Work to Remove the Inhibitor:  Have a specific three month, six month and twelve month plan ready to go when you launch.
Explicitly identify the process for collaboration and roles.  Every month, just like the map in the shopping centers, send an update showing “we are here” – pointing to progress made.  Continue to communicate the plan as it progresses and adjusts.

Inhibitor 2: Not Defining the Customer Experience and Gaining Alignment on the Path of Actions
This is similar to the first point, but I’m stressing it separately because not defining the experience consistently and gaining alignment on the path of actions has major downstream implications.

Without creating this defined customer experience framework first, the risk is the same failure that happened after (most) corporations around the world rolled out CRM. They automated current processes without rethinking the business.

Work to Remove the Inhibitor: Within the first 60-90 days when mapping your customer experience, gain agreement on stages, touchpoints and the top 15 priority moments of truth.

A few reasons why it’s important to agree on the stages of the experience and the definitions of success:

  • Gives leaders a new language set for which to ask and drive the business
  • Establishes the critical cross-functional metrics for the development of key KPIs for priority touch points
  • Aligns database management (since the stages of the experience interrelate to one another)

Inhibitor 3: Not Breaking the Work into Actionable Pieces and Understand What “Success” Is
Instead of building (and celebrating) the new competencies and infrastructure that are critical to long-term sustainability – success gets defaulted to a score. “We will be successful when our satisfaction rates are x” or “we will be successful when our net promoter score is y.”

Work to Remove the Inhibitor:  Take a few good first steps to enable infrastructure.

  • Align databases to manage customer data – and knowing the value of the customer asset
  • Engage leaders to connect with customers by personally calling them
  • Teach the organization how to work together across the silos to solve and improving one (or two) customer experiences end-to-end
  • Change the communication from leaders to enable and drive customer experience accountability

Inhibitor 4: Attaching Metrics to Outcome Metrics rather than Operational Metrics People Can Impact
It’s very enticing to jump to the outcome metrics such as survey scores. The challenge is that the outcome of a survey score is impacted by numerous factors, not all of which can be impacted by areas of the organization who are given the outcome metrics as their performance score.

Work to Remove the Inhibitor: Identify operational metrics that people can impact – such as operational KPIs (instead of getting attached to early outcome survey scores).
If the outcome metrics are added too early, before the underlying processes, culture change, coaching and development are put into place – people WILL want to achieve great scores – but they will rely on involving the customer in helping them to achieve a better score. (Follow up – any reason you can’t give me a ten?)  They will also focus on actions so minute that it might move the needle a little on the score, but the overall approach to sustaining that skill or even building that skill is compromised. It’s very hard to sustain the “go get a good score” approach.

Inhibitor 5: Not Having Executives Engaged in the Effort
Often executives will say that they want to focus on the customer experience – but they hand off the tasks to a department or area to work on it.

This work is not like a typical project. Setting up a great project plan and executing on tactics and actions will get the infrastructure built (such as VOC systems) but it won’t drive the change in culture and the development of cross-silo competencies.

Work to Remove the Inhibitor: Engage the leaders in the process of the work.
It is hard to sustain this work without executive involvement driving the new prioritization, removing actions that are in the way, and giving people permission to work together.  Here are impactful actions to get executives in the game:

1. Connect experience to ROI by showing a simple metric of the growth or loss of your customer base
2. Call lost customers and map their issues for defection across your customer life cycle
3. Show the incremental growth that would have occurred if you had not lost customers
4. Have executives call five lost customers a month personally

Inhibitor 6:  Not Having Clear Communication to the Organization that Walks People Constantly through the Roadmap, and Actions, and Behaviors to Model 
It’s not enough to do the work behind the scenes; the organization must be kept up to speed on actions, what it means to them and successes.

Work to Remove the Inhibitor:   Use clear communication when you to walk the people through the roadmap, actions and behaviors to model.

Leaders must emerge as constant communicators of why we are taking the actions we are. As new decisions are made that focus on customer experiences – people must be kept apprised of these decisions – and given permission to model this type of decision making. Without this constant communication, “permission setting” and “decision guidance” the organization will view the customer experience work as another in a long string of exercises or programs that will go the way of the others – away.

Inhibitor 7:  Actions Based on What People Think, Not on Understanding What Customers Need
Many companies, especially those long entrenched in their business; believe they know what customers need. Even when they do research, they make the research about “validating” their plans rather than beginning open minded and asking the customer about their lives and what they need.

This approach will compromise the outcome of the new experiences that are built – and in some cases will completely backfire.

Work to Remove the Inhibitor:  Shift the focus from internal listening to customer listening.
Start by trending and tracking the voluntary information your customer gives when they call your call centers, speak to your sales folks, or interact with you on the web.  Work with your executives to make the bias to listen and Customer experience differentiation comes when the experiences are based by truly understanding customers’ needs.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


  1. Jeanne – helpful points. I did get a chuckle out of ‘focus on the customer experience.’ I hear it so often. Well intentioned, but clear as mud. The antidote I recommend for getting consensus is to ask everyone involved to write (or type) privately what that buzz-phrase means to them. Collect the responses, and read them out loud with everyone in the room. That exercise will help people find common ground, and identify opportunities and priorities for action.

    #4 jumped out at me, because I’m knee-deep into that topic for my next article. Output measures work best when it’s understood how hard or intelligently people are working to achieve a goal or result. When incentive pay is involved, compensation tends to be lower because the variables are often more influenced by individual’s control (how many calls handled in a day or week, how many problems considered ‘resolved’, etc.) versus outcome measures such as ‘overall customer satisfaction’ or ‘share of wallet.’

    Outcome measures can be trickier to measure and reward than output measures because the path to achieving the result is often not as well understood. This is why sales personnel are largely compensated for the outcome of revenue production, and less (if at all) on the myriad output activities that theoretically lead to the desired result (meetings held, demos given, “positive” conversations, etc.). Generally, there’s a lot that a person can’t control, so when variable pay is involved, companies must provide a higher incentive for achieving the desired result.

    The nearly ubiquitous recurring problem that I see are faulty constructs – that is, mistaken links between output (e.g. number of service calls handled) and outcome (e.g. customer satisfaction scores). Or in sales, hours spent prospecting (output), and quota attainment (outcome). These output measures are, at best, flawed proxies for the outcomes that companies want. Yet, I see it all the time. ‘You can’t manage what you can’t measure!’ So, companies start measuring away, forgetting that the data they collect has weak, or non-existent, connection to what really matters.

  2. I love your article, Jeanne! No surprise there. This is an excellent list of inhibitors and inhibitor-busters.

    I’ve been doing a lot of thinking over the past year about better ways to start customer experience management, and better ways to inject strategic value into existing efforts. I’m especially keen on making early and heavy use of what customers are already telling the company, as you point out in #7.

  3. Hi Andrew
    Thanks so much for your feedback. I can see why you thought I was doing a “helicopter” hand wave on Customer Experience. But when I coach people, it is really MUCH more specific than that. The idea I meant to say is that aligning around experience means two things:
    1. Uniting on even simply defining the number of journeys there are
    2. Agreeing on the stages – defining them from what the customer is trying to accomplish in each – this small step alone will start culture change
    3. FOCUS – move from boiling the ocean to understanding and focusing on the top touchpoints that have most meaning to customers
    4. Uniting the leadership team to shift language from the silo report out to driving accountability to customers’ lives – by their journey stage.

    There’s much more and I’d love to chat with you about it!


  4. Lynn
    Yes, it is funny. Many of the companies that I have worked with as a CCO and that I work with now in coaching feel that they know what customers want and need. So the company is guided based on personal anecdotes and perceptions. Especially in very product-driven companies, the perspective can sometimes get so inward focused.

    Number seven is such an important element in transformation. When it happens, we see leaders start to message that we need to start with customers’ lives and needs to drive business growth.

    Thanks so much for bringing this up!!



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