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Why is it so hard to create a great customer experience?

August 20th, 2010 by Jane Markham Weinstein
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“What were they thinking?!”

Mark Hurst used these four words to capture his “love-to-hate” feelings for poorly designed web site experiences.  Although Mr. Hurst focused on web experiences, poor customer experiences happen everywhere.

Why is it so hard to create a great customer experience?

Part of it has to do with the end-to-end nature of the experience, which requires not just one department in a company, but the coordinated actions of many.  Even in a simple trip to the grocery store, customers touch multiple functional areas—all organized around  a variety of policies, procedures, and systems.  Done well, the customer never realizes just how many groups create their experience; great experiences are seamless to the customer.  But creating and delivering that seamless experience consistently requires the alignment and orchestration of the organization around it.  And this is where it can get difficult.

It’s kind of like the parable of the blind men and an elephant.  In this case, the elephant is the customer experience and the blind men represent the major functional areas—Marketing, HR, Operations, etc.  Each man thinks he is describing what an elephant is, but in reality he has described just one aspect of it—it is a rope (the tail), it is a tree branch (the trunk), etc.  Similarly, functional leaders working in silos believe the customer interactions they have primary responsibility for deliver the full force of the experience, when in fact they have delivered only a fraction of it.  In the place of a seamless delivery—the “elephant”—the experience becomes inconsistent.  Sure the customer gets all the elephant parts—the trunk, the tail, the leg, and so forth—but too frequently the parts are not connected in a way to make a complete, attractive elephant.  The various company departments, wearing the blinders of their functional silos, have stitched together something that the customer experiences as disconnected and unappealing.

Companies wondering why they have not realized the full benefit of their investment in the customer experience may want to consider how they are—or are not—organized around the customer experience.  Do their customers experience an appealing elephant or something else?  Are their employees able to see through the eyes of their customers, or is their sight impaired by their functional silo?

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3 Responses to “Why is it so hard to create a great customer experience?”

  1. Daryl Choy says:

    Because most firms focus on the wrong direction. They don’t understand the power of touchpoint experience, and are never really customer centric.

  2. Jane Weinstein says:

    Great point, Daryl.

  3. […] recently described a cause of a weak customer experience; poorly integrated functional excellence. But that’s not the only cause. Sometimes, people simply […]

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