Who Are You Building Your “Customer Experience” For?


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Customer experience is a hot topic. There’s lots of activity with companies building better customer experiences, whether it’s focused on the “buyer’s journey,” the post sales customer experience, or the customer life cycle. With our own company, I’ve seen how suppliers and potential vendors are restructuring things to create a “better customer experience,” or to “deepen our relationship.”

I get calls from our “relationship manager” from lots of companies. They call to introduce themselves, they say they are responsible for our account, and ask how to better serve us. At some point, they attempt to pitch a product. I listen to all of this.

The problem arises when I talk to them about what I want to talk to them about. Recently, I spoke to the relationship manager who handles our benefits and insurance programs (she’s the fourth relationship manager that’s been announced in the past year. I said we needed to change some of the coverages in our account and asked for her help. Her response was, “I can’t do that, you have to call another department.” Confused, I asked, ” “I thought you were responsible for our relationship, why can’t you do this?” Her response, “I can only sell you new things, I can’t help with items on your current accounts. You’ll have to call such and such a department to do what you want.” I sigh, “Well can you connect me with that department?” I was transferred to the main switchboard, had to go through the voice prompts—-press 1 if you, press 2 if you—then sat on hold for 7 minutes.

I got a call from one of the credit card companies we use in our merchant accounts. They wanted me to promote the use of their credit card on our sites. “Why should I do that, why do I care?” I asked. The response was, “We’d like much more of your business.” I respond, “We offer your credit card as a convenience to our customers, but we want them to use whatever card they prefer, I don’t see a reason why we should do this. By the way, I have a question about our last month’s statement….” Our relationship manager expressed his disappointment, thanked me for my time, and transferred me to another department to respond to my query.

The stories go on. I don’t try to be difficult, but when someone tells me they are responsible for managing our relationship, I think they are responsible for managing our relationship. I think they are my go to person for anything I need to accomplish with that company–whether it’s buying new services, getting information, solving a problem.

When I read of these companies doing things to improve the customer experience, I wonder who are they designing it for-me, the customer, or for themselves? Is the customer experience to improve the ability of the customer to connect with the company or to improve the internal efficiency of the company in dealing with the customer?

I thought customer experience was about the customer’s experience…… maybe I ‘m wrong.

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Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


  1. Dave, you make so many excellent points. I get the same type of calls. It’s ridiculous that so many companies waste so much spend time and money on reaching out to customers to try to sell them something, rather than build relationships and make it easier for their customers to do business with them. And, as your mentioned, turnover of these relationship managers is so high that it defeats the entire purpose of trying to build a relationship with a specific individual who can understand the customer’s needs over time. Thanks so much for a great post. Richard Shapiro, The Center For Client Retention

  2. Dave: After reading your blog, Lipstick on a Pig comes to mind. If there’s anyone who wants to sponsor an annual Lipstick award for Sales, Service, and Customer Support please let me know, because there are so many examples. The biggest challenge would be how to vet the finalists.

    In this case, the job titles changed (Great idea, Steve! ‘Relationship Manager’ is so two-dot-oh! Our customers will love it!), but the functional silos are solidly in place.

  3. Richard, Andrew: Thanks for your comments. Andrew–I worry about sponsoring an award, there would be far too many candidates and the choice would be so difficult 😉

    It’s strange, that when most companies are clamoring to get more business–particularly from current customers, that they make is so difficult–bordering on repulsive to do business with, and to ultimately buy more.

    It seems they think of themselves and their processes first, rather than the customer. Somehow, that’s backwards.


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