The Customer Experience – Hell is other people! (Part 1)


Jean-Paul Sartre must be rolling over in his grave!

The original expression of Sartre’s viewpoint on hell is not one of war but of an inner drama exposed through the views that others have of us.

Relating this back to the customer experience, working on your own customer experience without the input of the others will become hell…

One of the biggest challenges that organizations face when trying to implement a customer experience program stems from the fact that it is difficult to view the experience from the customer’s point of view a 100% of the time.

Most organizations have the very natural, but oh so harmful, tendency to “think for the client.” “If this is good for me, then it’s good for them!”

The customer experience can be defined as a set of experiences imprinted in the client’s mind. Each experience is caused by the sum of each interaction he or she had with the brand throughout their buying process. Small, subtle note: these are the experiences felt by clients and not by those who deliver the experience!

The word “experience” can have many different meanings, each describing distinct realities according to the frame of reference of each individual. This is the root cause of the problem: different frames of reference!

In day-to-day interactions, one of the tried and true ways to convince an employee to change their approach and methods of delivering a customer experience is to make them aware of the major differences between their own “I think that” and the customer space.

The customer space is where he or she clearly expresses their needs, preferences, and emotions. Of course, this implies that each customer facing employee has developed (or is working on) the reflexes required to detect these customer signals, which can often be subtle.

It is in our best interests to leave aside our own value judgements; the focus is no longer on us, the observer, but on our clients. The quality of our service is judged by the same client for which our product or service was created for. The customer is the only master of his or her experience.

It’s no coincidence that the fundamental rule of a successful customer experience management (CEM) program consists in bringing together employees around a common vision and work processes that they must adhere to unconditionally. There is no room for individual frames of references. The focus should be towards the convergence of a common frame of reference, the client’s.

No CEM will succeed if this basic rule is broken.

Unless an organization has a clearly defined program, an ongoing sensitization of the benefits of the program, and continuous training, without the constant reminder of the role and of the contribution of each person towards the achievement of the CEM’s vision, mission, and objectives… it will not succeed!

In summary, the golden rules of an optimized customer experience program are:

  • Never “think for the client”, ask for their opinion instead
  • Map the customer journey as closely as possible to reality. At each step, understand what the customer thinks, feels, and what they really need
  • Make your team aware, on an ongoing basis, of the major differences between their own “I think that” and the customer space (their needs, preferences, and emotions)
  • Leave personal judgements aside and focus efforts entirely on the customer voice and the customer experience.