A great customer experience is a reflection of a great organisational experience

In today’s world, organisations everywhere recognise the importance of customer experience as a key driver and measure of success. Whether you’re an established business, a start-up, a non-governmental/non-profit organisation, or even a government agency, you all have customers that you’re all trying to keep satisfied, and possibly even happy. And yet, many (dare I say, most) organisations struggle to effectively design, build, and deliver a customer experience that consistently meets customer expectations, let alone exceed them; and then let alone exceed the expectations of the organisation itself.. 

Why do you think that is? I offer a couple of thoughts for consideration.

For starters, the term itself is a little misleading. It seems a no-brainer that the customer should be the focus of customer experience – it says so in the name. So, naturally, organisations focus on product and service innovations as the means to delight their customers. And yet, when it comes to delivery and execution, great ideas are often bogged down by organisational inefficiencies that render them mediocre in the end. 

Designing a great customer experience is one thing – delivering it is another. 

On an organisational level, delivering a great customer experience requires shared goals, system-wide thinking across all departments, flexible design (of processes, procedures, and even structures), incentives that encourage loyalty to superordinate goals (not subordinate ones), healthy cooperation, and strong, customer-centric leadership. And for many organisations, the struggle to deliver a consistently good customer experience is due to the absence of these traits - all of which, mind you, are traits that can be learned and developed. 

In reality, a great customer experience is nothing more than a reflection of a great organisational experience. Of course you have to think about the customer to figure out what to do in terms of products and services; but how you go about delivering that to your customers is 100% internal – and that is the difference between having (just) a satisfied customer and one that is also genuinely happy. It’s also the difference between having (just) a content employee and one that is also genuinely motivated.

So the first thing about customer experience is that while the customer is the explicit key player and beneficiary, the organisation is the implicit one. 

Sustaining a great customer experience depends on more than just a set of predetermined activities.

Furthermore, a well-designed customer experience should force organisations to think in new ways and to challenge how things are currently being done – from processes and procedures, to talent development, to performance metrics, to leadership development, and beyond. It is only by changing how things are done that any real progress can be made on building a great customer experience, from the inside-out.

And yet, many (dare I say, most) organisations embark on customer experience unaware of the internal changes that will be required, and then struggle to execute because new ideas are being hindered by old ways of doing things. In reality, customer experience is more than just a mandated set of activities for an organisation - it is a mindset: one that continuously questions what is valuable to customers; one that accepts there are always better ways of doing things; and one that perseveres to find good solutions/answers.   

However, building such a mindset can only happen over time. Leadership must set an intention for the organisation, and then allow and encourage their teams to develop and practise new habits. In time, a sense of cohesion starts to build across the organisation: teams align behind a shared sense of purpose and priorities; they understand their role within the big picture and calibrate their activities based on organisational priorities; communications keep everyone involved (and invested) in the success of the whole, not just informed. This mindset is the objective of customer experience – it’s the golden chalice. 

So the second thing about customer experience is that by changing nothing, nothing changes. To do something brilliant externally, you have to facilitate something brilliant internally.

Truth is that, when used skilfully, customer experience is a powerful tool that can drive strategic alignment, collaboration, and empowerment across your organisation. Now just think about how much more your organisation could accomplish if you had that.