CX sabotage

Five ways CX leaders accidentally sabotage their customer experience programmes


Whether it's over-automation of the customer journey or an obsession with short-term gains, there are a number of ways a CX leader can accidentally sabotage their own customer experience.

17th Dec 2021

Sure, you may not intend to, but there are probably ways you, as the leader of your department or organisation, are sabotaging the experience your customers have. 

Today, leaders have more expectations with fewer resources. We’re asked to spend more time reporting on what’s happened than ‘making things happen’. Time is limited and people are pressured.

But if you’re not careful, these steps may sabotage customer experience, leading to more customers complaining and leaving, and in doing so, telling everyone they know why your company (and you) stink!

There are patterns at many organisations that lead to some common pitfalls. Watch out for these sneaky ways typical business methods lead to customer defection.

1. Never dealing with customers

It’s shockingly easy, in today’s business environment, to never actually interact with customers. Websites are designed, invoices are sent, and even customer feedback surveys are requested, but everything is so wonderfully automatic!

Survey results and behavioural analytics only tell you some of the story. Really getting to know your customers can go a lot further.

It’s shockingly easy, in today’s business environment, to never actually interact with customers.

As employees gain experience and move up in the organisation, they often get farther away from customers. It’s a point of friction in some ways, but it is also a necessary part of scaling customer experience.

How can leaders overcome this distance from the actual experience? 

  • Ask your customer success team, account managers, or other customer relationship specialists to include you in one client meeting a month. Be careful to avoid inherent bias here, because they will often pick the easy customer! If you want a more random experience, pick one and ask to attend. Make it clear this isn’t about being there as the leader, it’s about hearing from customers directly. After the meeting, make sure that you debrief with the employee about what you heard, what’s common and what’s not, etc.

  • Visit your contact centre when you feel out of touch. See if you can listen in, talk directly to your contact centre agents, and get a pulse on where customers are seeking support. I once sat for two hours listening to calls and heard a major issue the organisation wasn’t even aware of. The contact centre agents had such major call volumes they were told to categorise many issues the same way. By hearing it multiple times in such a short period of time, we were able to rank the issue much higher in the priority list.

  • Can’t make it to the actual centre? Request a few recordings each week. One leader I know made this a priority and would listen to calls just before her weekly team meeting. She said it helped her stay connected to the real issues their customers were facing, and helped her team understand how their roles were connected to these outcomes.

2. Over-worrying about your competition

I’m a huge proponent of paying attention to the marketplace. After all, your competitors could introduce the very offering which woos your customers away.

86% of Millenials

But when leaders become obsessed with “be better than X company” as the main driving force for innovation, customer experience will suffer. Sometimes it’s ok to be number two, if your legions of customers are raving fans of yours. Don’t worry about the big fish – worry about your pond.

It’s a slippery slope once a leader zeroes in on the competition. It can feel like whatever competitors are doing is what you SHOULD be doing. But humans like different things: they want to align with brands that reflect their values, their ideals, and the experiences they want.

Don’t worry about the big fish – worry about your pond.

In fact, 86% of millennials find it important to have relationships with brands that align with their personal values, according to a report by 5W Public Relations.

It’s healthier for you and your customers to compete against your own goals. Many customer experience efforts are not defined well enough to help your team gauge how it’s going.

Vague customer experience strategies destroy customer experiences because there is no centralised definition of what success looks like. This means employees throughout the organisation are guessing at what efforts to take, and are hoping that they’ll achieve poorly defined goals like “create outstanding service” or “deliver quality every time.” 

The hero of the story always looks inward to achieve their goals. Make sure you are set up for success by having a clear CX Mission Statement, a strategy defined by a specific CX Success Statement, and a way to measure progress.

It is also important not to forget to look to your existing fans. If you have customers who love what you do, ensure you are proactively looking for ways to engage them.

  • Create a customer advocacy program to continuously engage and reward customers who share their feedback and refer others.

  • Look for opportunities to proactively include those customers in special events, behind-the-scenes access, or early product reviews.

  • Encourage feedback and make sure you are closing the loop with those customers who provide it. Raving fans often care enough to tell you when things are going wrong. If they don’t get a resolution or even an acknowledgment, they’re more likely to feel neglected and overlooked.

That competitor you’re so worried about? They are probably already doing these things. It’s time to focus on what you can control and deliver for the customers you have.

3. Encouraging bad behaviour

Customer-centric cultures within an organisation are built from the top and the bottom.

Encouraging employees to do the wrong thing for short-term gains or report half-truths to avoid the wrath of a boss, will inevitably lead to bad behaviour toward customers. If employees think this is the way to get ahead within, they will think nothing of doing the wrong thing for a customer.

Metrics are often used to punish employees. They know this and start gaming the system to ensure that doesn’t happen.

This is why we as customers get chased down with the comment card and told “if there’s any reason NOT to rate this experience a 5, tell me now!” And it’s why focusing solely on efficiency metrics like “time on-call” in contact centres can encourage the wrong behaviours.

Focusing solely on efficiency metrics like ‘time on-call’ in contact centres can encourage the wrong behaviours.

Mythology within your organisation can often play a role here. That’s why communicating often and positively about the behaviour you WANT is so important.

You have superstars among you. Make it a habit to highlight those employees who made the right choices and delivered on your customer experience mission.When things go wrong and the metrics reflect that, treat it as a coaching opportunity instead of a punishment for all.

Use operational and experiential data to tell your customer’s story. For example, time on-call or waiting time are important measurements to track. These operational metrics can inform how customers are moving through their journey. But they don’t represent the actual customer experience. 

Combining metrics like that along with their experiential feedback, like a customer satisfaction rating after resolving an issue, paints a more realistic picture of their experience. Helping employees understand these metrics can empower them to make the right decisions for your customers.

4. Keeping customer praise to yourself

Hearing positive feedback about our behaviour is a pretty critical part of being a human being. We thrive on praise, and positive feedback helps reinforce the behaviours we want to see.

Some leaders take any positive feedback and own it for themselves. The best leaders seek out the teams and individuals who truly earned the praise and share it generously. It’s difficult to know what went right if all you’re hearing about is what went wrong.

There are some wonderful ways to do this, and it doesn’t just have to be within the context of your team: 

  • Reserve a place on the dashboard to highlight a customer quote. Reading a customer’s real words helps everyone in the organisation connect with what customers appreciate.

  • Follow up directly with customers who have praise for the organisation. Let them know what you’ll be doing to reward the employees who made it great for them. Customers love to know their feedback matters in this way, too!

  • Make it a point to share praise with your product development team, the digital team, or your property managers. Praise is often kept to the customer-facing groups, but the positive feedback sometimes is about these points on the journey. Tell the product development team, for example, that not only have service calls decreased but a customer raved about an improvement. This helps them know what customers like as they continue designing for the future, and it builds cross-functional awareness of the customers’ journey.

5. Defining what you aren’t more than what you are

Similarly to worrying about the competition, this one comes up more than you’d think. A critical part of any customer journey mapping process is understanding what the promise is for customers.

When I ask this question, I often hear what they think they’re not: “We’re not like the others in our industry.” But when asked what they ARE, there are blank stares. Understanding who you are and what you want to offer is just as important as knowing what you aren’t.

Understanding who you are and what you want to offer is just as important as knowing what you aren’t.

There are not enough processes or procedures to protect you from every customer situation. This is why knowing who you are, especially around your core values, is so critical. Your employees can rely on these values to guide them and create a unified, consistent customer experience.

And this comes back to your promise. What is the promise, exactly, that your brand makes to customers? If this isn’t well-articulated and, even more importantly, internalised, then customers won’t be able to trust the experience.

  • Do your employees all say the same thing when asked about the brand promise, customer experience mission, and company values? If not, it’s time to communicate and educate.

  • What does it mean to be “not like others in the industry”? Get specific about who you are.

  • What is it your products and services actually do for customers? Employees need to connect with the why. It’s not about the widgets you sell. It’s about what those widgets do to improve your customers’ lives.

This customer experience work is not for the faint of heart.

It’s touchy and nuanced and always a little challenging. There won’t ever be a magic bullet because customers, and the people who work for them, are humans. Humans are unpredictable and emotional beings. Getting to know them can lead to amazing results, however.

There are natural friction points between organisational goals like profit and efficiency, and the customer experience. It’s important to honour both what your business must achieve to succeed and what your customers expect from you. 

Make sure to keep an eye out for these subtle sabotaging ways. 



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Aki Kalliatakis Photo
By aki.kalliatakis1
20th Dec 2021 10:18

What a marvellous summary for this time of the year, Jeannie! You have made some incredibly important points. These behaviours are very symbolic, and people carefully watch what managers do, and know precisely what's going on in their minds. For the manager it may be a small, insignificant, forgettable and subtle act, but for the staff it's a sign of exactly what is expected.

I've seen so many CX initiatives launched almost evangelically, with bands and balloons and launch events, and, of course, tons of training, but they fail six to twelve months down the line. In their book "The Human Element," (which I highly recommend,) Nordgren and Schontal make a beautiful analogy: we all think that a bullet moves so fast because of the power (gunpowder,) behind it, but if the bullet is not aerodynamically shaped, friction will stop it from being effective. This friction is self-created by the executives and managers, not the staff.

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