How the Know-Nothing Ninja Kills Customer Experience

By Roy Barnes, Bob Kelleher

This killer quietly appears when an organization can’t step into its customers’ lives and understand their real needs — to walk a mile in their shoes, so to speak. The truth is, many companies suffer from the inability to get out of their own heads and put themselves in the customers’ mindset.

Too often, like ships passing in the night, what companies think is important to their customers isn’t. So, while you should have two entities (customer and company) that understand each other perfectly, in many cases both parties are making incorrect assumptions about each other. Several years ago, a client’s quality of service survey brought this sad reality to light. The survey asked customers to choose which attributes of this particular company were most important to them: responsiveness, product and service expertise, or personalization.

The customers’ answer? Responsiveness — that is, they wanted the company to respond quickly and appropriately to their needs. But when the leaders of the same company were asked what attribute their customers would pick, their overwhelming response was product and service expertise. This company and its customers were on paths that didn’t intersect.

All customers in every industry wouldn’t necessarily choose responsiveness as their favorite attribute. For some industries, timeliness or personalization might be more important. The point is that too many companies don’t dig deep enough to recognize what their customers want most from them, resulting in an experience miss. And that missed opportunity represents an experience killer.

It’s easier said than done, but with practice, understanding your customers’ needs can become second nature. As a first step, imagine that you are the customer, and you’re interacting with the company at its various touchpoints. Become the customer. Do what he does, see what he sees, and hear what he hears.

Before you start, determine the following:

  • As the customer, what is your issue?

  • What are you trying to accomplish?

  • As the customer, what is your emotional state of mind/your mood?

Then interact with each of your company’s touchpoints, one by one. This may include visiting your company’s website, stopping by one of its brick-and-mortar sites, and contacting its call center.