The One Pre-Condition You Need In CX


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It’s the New Year and with it there are many prognostications and predictions in the air. Likewise, there are many resolutions and promises that have been made. Whether it’s losing that extra 10 pounds (or more in my case) or finally getting after that [insert big life changing project here] after all those years, we get after it with a renewed sense of urgency.

As a testament to our new commitment we tell our friends and family about our new covenant. We buy a new weight scale, a new sports watch, or that new tool you really needed to do [insert big-life-changing-project here]. Those symbols further embolden us to travel down that trail of change. To do things differently.

But the wheel ruts of inertia can run very deep and its hard to pull out of old habits and much easier to slip into familiar patterns. Only about 9% of people actually end up keeping their new year’s resolution.

It is much the same when it comes to organizations trying to be more customer centric, the difference being is that it is hundreds or thousands of people who are faced with a new resolution rather than just one.

We have been looking at the problem of ‘customer satisfaction’ all wrong for years. We can study customers until we are blue in the face, it doesn’t matter if we aren’t willing or able to change the experience. That experience originates from within the organization and in order for that to change, the organization must first.

Unfortunately organizations, like individuals, do not like change and will continually drift back to their heritage comfort zone, whether that is great supply chain discipline, engineering, sales, R&D, or whatever made it successful in the first page. Change means uncertainty. Uncertainty is scary. Scary is bad.
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You should celebrate and enshrine what has historically made your organization great. It is what made your customers fall in love with your brand in the first place. However, we cannot let that heritage shackle you to a past that is faltering in the present and will cast you into oblivion in the future. The fundamental secret in on getting a payoff on CX centricity lays in an organization’s willingness to do things fundamentally different.

No bones about it; change is painful. Reorganizations, reshuffling of resources, on boarding of new people, and exiting of some of the old. It is a scary, chaotic time, but without this kind of radical change, organizations not willing to invest in it, will sign their own death warrant. You have a choice though; you can choose to change or have it done to you.

How to get started?

First, it starts with the top. Many times it starts with the founder him/herself. Without the unequivocal support of the top, organizational change will fail. It’s that simple. Full stop as my UK friends like to say.

Second, it is a willingness for the organization to accept what they see in the mirror and be ready to make changes. This can rarely be done without an outside perspective. As passenger on airplane once said to me in a more difficult time of my life “you can not see the big picture if you are in it”. It is true. If you are embedded in the culture as a change agent you have two things working against you. First, you do not have the objectivity required to see the big picture and two, you are hopelessly politicized in the organization. Home grown change agents can and do exist, but they need someone on the outside to help them demonstrate and legitimize the fact that not all babies are cute.

Third, start small and with easier wins. There are no ‘easy wins’ but if you can clearly demonstrate the advantage of taking on an experiential lens and demonstrate a ROI you can going to get more people on board…even those folks in finance.

Fourth, your sponsor (i.e., the aforementioned top dog) will need to make some tough calls and create a coalition of support. This may involve dissolving some long standing relations and engaging in new ones. It is not enough to appoint a Chief Customer Officer or Chief Experience Officer and think for a minute that will change anything. This is an endemic cultural issue that needs to be tackled from all angles; people, rewards, process, communication, tools, information, and even products. Those are the tools at your disposal.

Finally, you must tell people where you going, even if it is not completely clear to you. Without a goal, any goal, people will flounder even if they are highly motivated. As the story goes, sometimes any old map will do. You need a finish line, even if that finish will get moved. Never underestimate the power of clear, repeated, communication about where the organization is going and why…and stick with it!

“As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world – that is the myth of the atomic age – as in being able to remake ourselves.” – Gandhi

According to Ken Blanchard up to 70% of organizational change efforts fail today. Yet it can and has been done. Brands left for dead such as Apple, Converse, Old Spice, Lego, Land Rover, and others have picked themselves up and become wildly successful once again, mostly by paying attention to one thing; their customers. And that customer focus starts from within.

Dave Fish, Ph.D.

Dave is the founder of CuriosityCX, an insights and advisory consultancy for Customer Experience. Formerly he was CMO for MaritzCX, now an InMoment company. He has 25+ years of applied experience in understanding consumer behavior consulting with Global 50 companies. Dave has held several executive positions at the Mars Agency, Engine Group, J.D. Power and Associates, Toyota Motor North America, and American Savings Bank. He teaches at the Sam Walton School of Business at the University of Arkansas. He is the author of "The Customer Experience Field Guide" available on Amazon and


  1. “Change means uncertainty. Uncertainty is scary. Scary is bad.” Too, too true. Though unfortunate, this predisposition is where most that is CX related go to die. Even small beta and pilot initiatives are often met with resistance. Inertia, complacency, and risk-aversion do them in.

    On this day, it’s important to repeat these words from Franklin Roosevelt’s first inauguration address: ““Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself” More companies should pay heed to this.

  2. The articles poses a significant truth. It is not easy. Easier to keep doing what you are doing and have been doing as long as you remember: concentrate on the traditional 4Ps of Marketing Mix. Why do more?

    Yet, it is not the same for all industries and arenas. Some have an easier path ahead and, as I see it, those of us who “live” the gaming industry where customers (players, visitors,…) are considered “key from the start”, are one of those who can take advantage of such edge.

    Customer Service, contact, communication and providing answers to “wants and needs” have been our bread and butter forever. Still is. Even for the online line of gaming.

    What is found interesting is that, operations like Harrah’s, Foxwoods, Pechanga and others, have use this edge and have been able to make it a profitable change. Other have tried to follow and the success rate has not been so great. Around 45% of all CX Project and Customer Centric endeavors fail. The main reason: Lack of support for top and mid-management.

    Too much “comfort zone” to change.

  3. On the question of “The One Pre-Condition You Need In CX” I suggest this:
    Make sure your emperors are actually wearing new clothes.
    It relates to the story by Hans Christian Andersen: The Emperor’s New Clothes.

    The reason I say this is that we have seen many companies where the leadership talked big about CX while middle managers only paid lip service to it. Sorry to be practical here, I suggest the first precondition is not only the support of the leadership team but also the conviction and commitment to see it through.

  4. While most people believe that change is necessary, many people believe that others should be doing the changing and not them. I think it is important to set the stage before going to the top dog by listing the businesses in your industry that either went out of business or got acquired.

    If the list is long enough it will help drive away the cobwebs in people’s brains.

  5. Great comments all. Yea, culture, commitment, and demonstrated behavioral and budgetary support are all needed. I have seen it first hand…change is great as long it is not YOU who has do the changing…

    Thanks for reading


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