What My Dog Can Teach Us About Customer Experience


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Zack - cropped
My dog, Zack, used to dig in the yard. He was destroying my lawn, and the “customer experience” of my backyard, one 12” diameter hole at a time. As a CX expert, I set up a “hot alert” system where anytime one of my family members noticed him starting to dig in the yard, I was alerted to go redirect his behavior. Unfortunately, this proved to be highly inefficient. I was unable to focus on the task at hand because I needed to react quickly to the potential problem. We had to get to the root cause of the digging.

After investigating potential causes with lawn experts, I came to the conclusion my dog was hunting for moles that lived beneath my yard. A ha! I’ll set out traps to catch the moles so my dog doesn’t dig. Unfortunately, my solution was as damaging as my dog – turns out you need to put the traps in the ground for them to be effective. Plus, the moles kept coming. I needed to “dig” a little deeper (pun intended) by asking, “Why are the moles in my yard in the first place?”

Upon further investigation, I learned that moles eat mole crickets (if you’re not familiar with mole crickets, they look like mutated grasshoppers that live underground). I collected representative samples of my lawn and I, apparently, had a lot of mole crickets living in my yard. The good news is they’re not too hard to get rid of. I put treatment around the yard (that didn’t require more digging) and the mole crickets, moles and dog holes went somewhere else. (Let’s just keep this among ourselves and not tell my neighbors.)

I had a lot of ways to treat the symptoms of my poor customer experience – get rid of my dog, yell at my dog, not let my dog out, dig more holes to trap the moles, move, etc., but by finding the root cause of my issues, I was able to efficiently solve all my problems.

Unfortunately, I see a lot of businesses treating only symptoms of their poor customer experiences instead of the root causes. With the proliferation of CX software platforms and their associated hot alert systems, many businesses are able to react quickly to customer problems – and more efficiently than me watching my dog as he wandered through the yard. Leaders can quickly call customers who are having an issue and do their best to resolve the issue while winning back the customer. Even with an efficient monitoring system, though, this only addresses part of the problem.

The key is to address the root cause of the issue. Take a business with a call center for example. After an interaction with our call center rep, our customer fills out a quick survey saying they are dissatisfied and are going to take their business elsewhere. Because they’re an important customer, our CX software immediately routes the complaint to a manager for follow up. We learn from our customer that our product didn’t work as advertised and the call center rep wasn’t able to help. Most companies quickly take action in the following ways:

1) They call the customer to remedy the immediate issue (they stop the dog from digging).
2) They train their call center rep to better handle similar calls (they teach their family how to stop the dog from digging).
3) They create a better IT system to enable the call center rep to have all the information they need to better address the problem (they place traps to grab the moles before they cause more problems.)

What they don’t do, however, is address the root cause of the issue: Why didn’t the product work as advertised?

In order to create a truly positive customer experience, we can’t just treat symptoms – we need to uncover the root causes of our issues. And, often times, the best way to do that is through a combination of qualitative and quantitative approaches.

Customer journey mapping is often a great place to start. How does our customer perceive us from initial awareness all the way through their final interaction with our product or service? This includes qualitative measures like attitudes, emotions, pain and happiness. There are holes in my yard and I’m not happy about it.

We can’t stop there, though. We have to understand more thoroughly why our customer feels this way. We should quantitatively measure when issues happen, where they happen, how often and ultimately, what issues matter most. When, where and why is my dog digging in the yard?

Next, we need to look inside the company. What internal processes are causing these customer issues? Is it people, process, messaging, defective parts, etc. This can start with qualitative that leads to quantitative. How many moles do I have? Do I have mole crickets? Are they in only one part of the yard or all over?

Finally, we need to solve our problems so the customer never feels them again. This takes a clear understanding of the root causes and design thinking. Innovative design is a blog unto itself, but the most important concept here is to design an amazing customer experience – not just fix our current issues. We need to start with the end in mind. What do we want this experience to ultimately be and then what steps – both internal and customer facing – do we need to take to get us there?

Installing a system to alert you about a customer issue is helpful, but can still be inefficient. Even if we react almost immediately, we still end up with a backyard of half-dug holes (and dissatisfied customers). What we really want is a pristine lawn that can only come from identifying the root causes of our poor experiences and addressing them before they become obvious issues for our customers.
Perfect Lawn

Full disclosure: I’m the Vice President of Client Solutions at Pacific Consulting Group and we uncover root causes and design better customer experiences for companies nationwide. We’d be happy to design one for you as well. If you’d rather do it yourself, that’s cool too. At the end of the day, we’re all customers and I want our experiences to be awesome – regardless of who made them that way.

Photo credits:
Mole: http://a-z-animals.com/animals/mole/
Doctor: http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/ear-infection/ss/slideshow-ear-infection-anatomy
Lawn: http://www.brownbook.net/business/40483702/joeys-landscape-and-lawn-care

Brian Doyle
Doyle Team Consulting
Brian has been designing and improving customer experiences for over a decade, Prior to discovering CX, Brian was VP of Marketing at Genworth and a 6 Sigma Master Black Belt at GE Capital. His career began in the US Air Force as a C-17 pilot. Brian has a bachelor's degree in Astrophysics from the US Air Force Academy and a master's degree in Systems Engineering from St. Mary's University.


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