What’s Holding You Back from Creating Better Experiences?


Share on LinkedIn

“We have seen the enemy and he is us.”

This statement came to mind as I talked with a colleague who was challenged with the lack of progress at convincing his organization to get on the customer experience bandwagon. Interestingly, this statement was paraphrased by comic strip writer Walter Kelly from the original declaration of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry during the war of 1812, “We have met the enemy and they are ours”. This phrase exemplifies the inter-departmental challenges of improving the customer experience. How often have you thought something like this or worse yet, realized it was the situation within your company?

Many factors may contribute to this feeling of helplessness, defeatism, and downright frustration when it comes to making headway towards a better experience. But rather than dwelling on the negative of what inhibits our ability to make change, let’s focus on the positive things we can do to facilitate true CX transformation within our organizations.

First Idea. Friends versus Enemies. Since I used one cliche, I’ll use another, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” Enemies may be too strong a word, so I’ll call them adversaries. Have you identified who in your organization is supportive of the transformation and who is working against it? Who’s an early adopter of your efforts and shares your passion? Who has the attitude, “this too shall pass?” It’s important to identify both groups of individuals so you can gain momentum with your supporters and work to win over the naysayers. The best way to win over your adversaries is to understand their motivation for what’s causing their resistance. Is it financial? Is it concern over the impact of the transformation on their role? Once you uncover the core reason for their resistance you can work to address and overcome it.

Second Idea. Facts versus emotions. For those of us who are passionate about CX, it is sometimes easy to exclaim “How can anyone NOT be for improving CX?” Emotions and perceptions play a part in CX. However, if we’re trying to convince someone who doesn’t share our passion, then facts take priority over emotions. Facts can include data like VOC information, loyalty scores, revenue trends and error ratios. Coupling these with data to demonstrate what the lack of action could do to sales, profit and retention can build an effective case to address concerns from those less passionate than you.

Third Idea. Results versus Probabilities. Once you’ve collected the facts in step 2, it’s important to demonstrate what improvements have already been done and the impact they are having on the organization. Even if you’re just getting started, seek out small successes that caused you to believe this needs to be a transformation across every function of the organization. Did a team in customer service identify pain points and eliminate those within their control? Did distribution collaborate with marketing to identify upcoming promotions? Is there a shining star that is delivering an exceptional customer experience despite the barriers?

Fourth Idea. Benchmarking versus Speculating. Seek strength in numbers. What are other companies in your industry doing? Are your competitors exploiting your weaknesses? Are you ripe for a market disruptor to create a new product or service? There are plenty of resources available to help you understand what’s happening in your marketplace. Seek these resources out and include this with your findings in step 2 to build the case for CX.

Fifth Idea. Execution versus Procrastination. You can lament the naysayers or celebrate the supporters. Which will it be? The best way to demonstrate how CX can revolutionize an organization’s performance is to make something positive happen! Enlist your supporters to help create a momentum within your organization that can’t be stopped. Celebrate your successes and learn from your failures. Don’t overlook how important small steps can be in making your CX efforts a success.

I am continually amazed that leaders at every level and across multiple functions doubt the positive impacts that effective experience strategies can have on an organization’s performance. It is for many CX professionals a reality that we need to address and solve.

These five ideas aren’t intended to be all inclusive. They represent a framework for how to manage the realities we know exist in experience management. If we address the “elephants in the room,” we can begin making real progress that our customers will appreciate.

Finally, knowing that we are creating better experiences for our customers, can be the motivating factor in continuing to forge ahead and ignore the naysayers. Ultimately, better experiences mean higher customer loyalty and more profit for the organization. That’s a fact, proven time and time again. So be confident in knowing that the work you’re doing will ultimately payoff for you, your customers and the organization.


  1. Bob, I have written about what holds back creating value and customer value.
    Consultants teach how to reach delight and great experience. They ignore the small probkems created by companies in handling customers, in designing systems, in their website. For example having the wrong information like a store location (which has changed). Or not getting refunds in a timely fashion, or waiting for calls and repeating oneself to several agents.
    No attention is paid to achieving zero defects and zero complaints. This endeavour alone would make our experiences better

  2. And here I was thinking I was the only person alive who would actually remember Walt Kelly’s words. Brilliant!

    Well said, Bob. My experience has been that the most common barrier to organizations getting on the CX bandwagon is a fundamental lack of understanding of exactly what CX is. To address that, I would add two more things to your list: Education and Expectation.

    CX isn’t a departmental responsibility, it it is a component of a company’s culture – to which every individual contributes. Being a naysayer to CX is like being a naysayer to employee empowerment or fiscal responsibility. The people who are against it most often don’t understand what it is or the role they play. That’s where education comes in (Friends v. Enemies being part of it.)

    At some point, however, continually trying to win over the few who aren’t in, is a poor strategy. In Steve Job’s days, innovation was at the core of Apple. Everyone understood what was meant by the term, and everyone embraced it as part of the culture. It was an expectation of employment. Those who pushed back were simply removed.

    Harsh? Perhaps. But many naysayers who were removed were publicly branding the culture as ‘cult-like.’ One has to wonder if Apple would have become what it did had those people remained in the company.

  3. Bob, thank you for your thoughts. I would also add to your fifth idea that you go after some low-hanging fruit. Gather up some quick and positive results. This will quiet down the naysayers and rally the troops. I have also focused on using “go-to members” of the team to accomplish this. The balance of the team is often looking to them to set the course.

  4. Pogo always got it right. CX (and EX) leaders are often their own worst enemies, for all the reasons you’ve identified and because they too often have insufficient insight, focus, and discipline. Over 2,500 years ago, in his classic book on military strategy, “The Art of War”, Sun Tzu advised leaders to know where the battleground will be tomorrow, not just today. He recognized that effectiveness depends on information, timing and nimbleness, and that flexibility is required because situations are constantly changing.

    When CX and EX leaders fail to see the reality of stakeholder behavior trends, and rely on plans and strategies based on yesterday’s thinking and results, then in combination with everything you’ve stated, it’s pretty much impossible to reach XI (experience improvement).

  5. Great comments. Gautham – sometimes the basics are what we should focus on – to your point – achieving zero defects – I remember when that was our organization’s mantra! Agree Dennis – you need to gain momentum and low hanging fruit is a way to do that. Shaun – the lack of understanding is definitely an issue. Frankly I think we are spending too much time on journey maps and reading the latest “how to” book and not enough time on doing. In other words, less thinking more doing. I’m just as guilty so I’m comfortable in saying it!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here