Why most customer experience transformations continue to fail


Why is the delta between customers’ real-world service experience expectations and the service experiences they actually receive widening every day?

10th May 2023

The following article is a piece that I wrote three years ago - but I believe it has subsequently become even more valid! What is striking is how little progress has been made in those three years. What are your thoughts?

Despite the armies of customer experience experts writing article after article, the huge focus on customer experience transformation & the ever increasing number of CX transformation programmes in place, it's clear to me that most 'customer experience' transformations are simply not delivering. So why is this?

The reality is the delta between customers’ real-world service experience expectations and the service experiences they actually receive is widening every day. The opportunity prize for those companies in the future that really do deliver amazing customer service experiences to their customers is now greater than its ever been.

However, right now...

  • We still regularly suffer long periods of waiting in call centre queues, when we didn't actually want to phone at all.
  • We still have web chat experiences that are just torture, when all we wanted to do was help ourselves online, but could not.
  • We still regularly speak to staff that don't have the full picture, have to transfer us, and make us repeat information multiple times that organisations should absolutely already know.

Basically we very, very rarely experience great easy, personalised, intuitive & contextual service experiences. So far from EPIC, it's untrue.

As customers we all still suffer really poor service far too often, and these days most of us will just give up and take our business elsewhere.

The most common customer service we still experience is through badly designed website support; apps that don't allow you to easily find answers or ask questions; call centre queues that are just as painful as they've always been; impersonal & generic service; too much effort required when providing information; conversations with demotivated & disengaged staff; commitments to follow-up not kept; short-sighted restrictive policies, rather than long-term value solutions, etc, etc.

Let's not kid ourselves, most CX 'experts' are advising the same thing : 'Put Customers at the Heart of Everything.....', whilst still our customer service experiences are not improving. So, something significant in the customer experience Transformation world needs to change.

It's definitely not more 'inspiring CX motivational' speeches and keynotes that are needed, and it's also not more CX technology that's needed.

AI, chatbots, virtual assistants, RPA, etc do have their place, but should not be given as much focus as they are receiving now. In fact, the more CX technology that is being applied to our multichannel customer contact journeys, the further away we seem to be getting from delivering the fundamental basics of what most of us as customers really want from our service interactions.

Easy, fast & fair service experiences... how often do we actually get that? Not very often.

My view is the world of customer experience transformation has become so confused that it's getting stuck. We now have this very broad term of 'customer experience' mentioned everywhere, whilst for some unclear reason the term ‘customer service’ has significantly diminished.

The term 'customer experience' is too broad, too confusing, and too inconsistent in definition. 'Customer service' experience, however is crystal clear.

Here's my view on the definition of customer experience v customer service.. It's different to the popular view, but I'm OK with that.

'Customer experience' is the way a customer thinks and feels about a brand, it's product and services, so it should absolutely be a marketing function.

However marketing should absolutely not even try to ‘fix or transform service’.

How customers feel about all of their interactions with a company is captured by insight, journey mapping, analytics, feedback, etc across brand, product & service. These are all very sensible areas for marketing to look after, led by a marketing director, CMO, etc.

However, the job of fixing and improving all of the experience issues that customers raise is clearly not the core job of a marketing function. It's simply not a skillset they have.

For example:

  • Feedback from customers that products are not attractive or useful would be addressed by the product design & innovation teams, not marketing.
  • Feedback that pricing is not competitive would be addressed by commercial & finance teams, not marketing.
  • So feedback that service experience is poor should be addressed by customer service experts, not marketing experts.

So, it is clear that a CUSTOMER SERVICE transformation needs to have complete and absolute focus on delivering the very best levels of service experience whenever a customer wants to get in touch or help themselves.

Every single interaction, across every channel, every time - that's a big challenge, which needs the singular focus of the right customer service people. To succeed in the future, customer service has to provide great customer experiences that cover all types of customer questions and enquiries, across every channel all of the time.

Great customer service should be about the experience delivered every single time a customer wants help with an enquiry, question, support or complaint, about anything. That means pre-sales, sales, order, post order, support, returns, etc etc. So it's incredibly important to get this right.

Let’s be honest, customer service is not great in most places at the moment, even though all research shows the service experiences customers actually receive is one of the top three drivers for their brand loyalty. It is therefore absolutely fundamental to the future success of organisations to get this right, and soon.


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Aki Kalliatakis Photo
By aki.kalliatakis1
19th May 2023 12:31

Of course, Alex, this is completely right. We just love to over-complicate what should be simple. Perhaps we get bored with it all, perhaps it's a case of FOMO in that. "if I don't do the latest fad I may fall behind," and perhaps it's because vendors with a vested interest in promoting their products and/or services just keep pushing too hard. But clearly the more tools and ideas we have, the worse service and "experiences" become for customers, and that shows in all the surveys and indices/

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