CxP Law #3: Customer Familiarity Breeds Alignment

Not many people wake up in the morning and say “today, I want to make life miserable for our customers.” Yet every day, lots of employees (from front-liners to senior execs) make decisions that end up frustrating, annoying, or downright upsetting their customers. But it’s often not individual actions that cause the problems. Often times, the issues come down to a lack of cooperation or coordination across people and organizations.

Given that most people want their company to better serve customers, a clear view of what customers need, want, and dislike can align decisions and actions. If everyone shared a vivid view of the target customers and had visibility into customer feedback, then there would be less disagreement about what to do for them. While it may be difficult to agree on overall priorities and strategies, it’s much easier to agree on the best way to treat customers.

Here are some implications of this law:

  • Don’t wait for organizational alignment. No organizational structure is perfect; they all have some flaws. And it takes a long time to make major organizational changes. So rather than waiting for a structural change to create alignment, use a clear focus on customer needs as a way to align the decisions and actions of individuals — even if the organizations remain out of alignment. 
  • Broadly share customer insight. While we all know that front-line employees affect customer experience, almost everyone in the company also has some impact on how customers are treated. Think of your company as a large production crew making the stars (front-line employees) shine on stage (during customer interactions). Since many of the decisions that impact customers aren’t debated or discussed, they just happen, it helps for as many people as possible to understand customers. Think of this as a silent alignment process.
  • Talk about customer needs, not personal preferences. Disagreements are somewhat natural when people debate things from their own points of view. Instead of discussing what you like or think, re-frame discussions to be about customers. If you find that you don’t really know enough about customers to solve the disagreement, then stop arguing and go get more information about your customers.

The bottom line: An external focus is an antidote to internal politics.

P.S. Here’s a link to all 6 laws of customer experience.

Written by 

I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey.

Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum.

My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers.

I am also the co-founder and Emeritus Chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

2 thoughts on “CxP Law #3: Customer Familiarity Breeds Alignment”

  1. I would say that I’ve experienced multiple times the power of this law, and especcially what you call the bottom line : “An external focus is an antidote to internal politics”. Bring the customer voice inside the company is key, both to stress and clarify what everyone’s doing to please the customer.

    However, I’m not sure that taking into account what customers want or need is enough. I’ve seen this comment very often taken as “whatever the customer say, we do” … ending up with a disaster for the company.

    I believe that an organised, shared listening of customer voice is a key driver to support alignment, however, a clear and simple company strategy is key to show the way and federate energies.

  2. Excellent point. Blindly listening to the customer is also not a great plan. I often talk about “LIRM” as the key to any voice of the customer program: Listen, Interpret, Respond, Monitor. The interpret step is critical for figuring out whether a piece (or peices) of customer feedback require some action — it may be that they’re asking for something that you shouldn’t be doing anyway. I also agree that a simple strategy (or a compelling brand/culture) can be aligning as well. Thanks for the comment!

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