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Helping you put the customer at the heart of every decision.

Category: Employee Engagement

Leslie Pagel

The Headstrong and Heartfelt of CX

I've been known to write about my two passions – customer experience (CX) and fitness. There are so many similarities between the two and I've found the comparison helps me build a deeper understanding of each.

I have been training for a half marathon and during a training run I realized that I have a heart problem – not a physical heart problem, but an emotional heart problem. I know that training for a race isn't just about running. Sure, you have to put in the miles, but it's more than that.

It's about being headstrong and heartfelt.

Heart and Head

For the past three years, I've had a goal of running a half marathon in less than 2 hours and 10 minutes. And, for the past three years, despite my training, I haven't accomplished this goal. "Why?" I ask myself. 

I always thought I wasn't headstrong. I thought I lacked mental toughness. So, I added running drills for mental toughness and still nothing. 

Recently, during a long run, I found myself studying the situation…my body feels strong, my mind is in the zone, why can't I break 2:10? And, then it hit me…

…My heart isn't in it.

When push comes to shove, my heart gives up. It says, "it's OK. It doesn't matter. You did your best. You're not going to win anyway." So, I give up. My head wants it, but my heart could care less.

Like running, when it comes to CX we must be headstrong AND heartfelt.

  • Headstrong is about the process – showing up every day and putting in the miles, being focused (or perhaps obsessed) with a goal, not letting short-term obstacles get in the way, and creating habits.
  • Heartfelt is about being vulnerable – taking the risk; being open to failure or criticism; putting ourselves out there. I don't know about you, but this scares the crap out of me.

As you think about your professional goals and the objectives of your customer experience strategy, consider how you can become headstrong and heartfelt. Don't let your head or heart get in the way of creating extraordinary experiences for your customers.

Re-centering on customer centricity

There is a lot of talk, and even more writing, about the importance of being a "customer centric" or "customer focused" company (quite a lot of it on this blog alone!) This idea of customer centricity has been around since the 1950s but has really come to the center of business strategy in the last 10-15 years.

Whenever an idea becomes a hot topic in the corporate world, you can guarantee it will get written about A LOT and talked about even more. When this happens, I like to go back to earlier, foundational research on the topic and re-center myself. I recently did that by re-reading an article by a host of eminent marketing professors (see reference below). The article is titled "The Path to Customer Centricity" and was published in 2006, which shows how much this field has grown in the past few years.

Here are some of the things that struck me as I re-read this article:

There are 5 trends reinforcing the need for companies to become more customer centric:

  1. Intensifying pressures to improve marketing productivity: E.g., the continual drive toward cost-effective "one-to-one" marketing.
  2. Increasing market diversity: You can’t treat all customers or potential customers the same. Customer segments are becoming more numerous and more specialized in what they demand.
  3. Intensifying competition: The barriers of entry are quite low in many markets and the ability to create vastly differentiated products is becoming harder.
  4. Well-informed, demanding customers: Just look at how you shop for consumer electronics now versus 10 years ago.
  5. Advances in technology: I believe this trend is actually increasing the importance of each of the previous trends. 

So, how do companies become more customer centric? The authors give a few good suggestions:

  1. Change the culture. Create a culture where and all employees are "customer advocates" and believe true success comes from knowing the customer and gaining customers’ loyalty. Anyone who has tried to change a culture knows how difficult this can be. So here are a few practical tips:
    1. Remember that cultural change follows from behavioral change
    2. Get senior management commitment to do things differently, not just a verbal commitment to the concept. Seeing senior management spending time with customers is a powerful signal to the company.
    3. Be persistent. The change won’t happen over night. Don’t let the initiative fall by the wayside as another corporate fad.
    4. Communicate intensely to overcome initial skepticism.
  2. Create a horizontal organizational structure organized around customers instead of products. An initial step involves restructuring core functions like marketing, strategy, and human resources but should quickly move into key or strategic account management functions to have a more noticeable impact on customers.
  3. Create a centralized repository for customer intelligence.
  4. Focus processes on sustaining customer relationships instead of just efficient execution of transactions. This was a big learning for many companies when they begin moving customer support centers off-shore.
  5. Include at least two or three key customer metrics in your corporate KPIs. I believe each of these metrics should either be stated in financial terms (like customer lifetime value) or have proven financial implications. These metrics are harder to get but are necessary to a customer-focused company.
  6. Focus on continuous learning and improvement. Having a forum for sharing customer insights and success stories will continuously fuel your company’s efforts to become more customer focused.

I think it is interesting that creating a Customer Experience Competency Center can help an organization accomplish nearly all of these strategies, and it definitely signals senior leaders’ commitment to the transformation.

I hope this review has helped center some of you on this topic. There have been interesting new thoughts on these topics in recent years – like balanced centricity – and I hope to bring some of them to this forum in the near future.

Troy Powell, Ph.D.
VP, Statistical Solutions

Reference: Shah, Rust, Parasuraman, Staelin, and Day (2006). "The Path to Customer Centricity," Journal of Service Research. 9(2):113-124.
List of all posts in this series:

  1. Re-centering on customer centricity
  2. A broader orientation for being customer-focused
  3. Characteristics of a customer-focused company
  4. The focus of customer-focused companies
  5. The moderation of customer focus
Patrick Gibbons

Paul Revere must have been a pretty engaging guy!

Let’s say you have two divisions of a business with relatively similar customer bases. Both divisions have well developed customer listening strategies and customer retention programs. They gather good customer insights and deliver them to all the right people. And yet, one program prompts action and gets results while the other program languishes. Why? What’s the missing ingredient?

Let’s look to history for a lesson.

You know the tale of Paul Revere – he rode on horseback through colonial communities warning them of a morning attack by the British. With this early warning, the surprise attack was thwarted and the British army was soundly defeated by the colonial militia. All this set the stage for the American Revolution. 

Apparently, it wasn’t quite so simple. In fact there were actually two riders who took different paths to warn the communities of the ensuing arrival of the British Army. Paul Revere was joined by William Dawes. What is very interesting about this fact is those who were on Paul Revere’s path heard the announcement, heeded the warning, and took action. Oddly, William Dawes was not so successful in getting his point across. Citizens in the regions in which Dawes traveled did not participate in the battle in near the numbers as those that heard the message of Paul Revere.

So why did this occur? The same urgent message was delivered to two similar groups. In the book, The Tipping Point, author Malcolm Gladwell believes it came down to differences in the two men.  For whatever reason Paul Revere was known as a credible source and he was able to deliver the message in a manner that convinced people to join forces. In sharp contrast William Dawes didn’t carry the same respect and didn’t deliver the message in convincing fashion.

In our work as customer advocates and strategists we may not be warning people of an ensuing war, but we are trying to rally the troops to make sure they hear our message, understand it, and take action on it. The story of Paul Revere holds a lesson for us – how we get people engaged is often as important as the information we provide.


The Domino Effect

If you’re anything like me, you can probably count on one hand the number of times that you’ve had Domino’s Pizza in the past. In the hierarchy of chain pizza restaurants, Domino’s was always about 34th  on my list of options (even beneath places that I have since found out were no longer in business). But recently I noticed that Domino’s has taken a bold, creative approach to addressing their customer feedback that mirrors the perception I had in my mind whenever Domino’s was mentioned.

If you haven’t seen the commercials (if you’re a football fan, don’t worry, you will soon), Domino’s basically lets us behind the curtain to see and hear the nature of the feedback they’ve heard. Things like ‘the crust tastes like cardboard’, and ‘the sauce tastes like catsup’ were continually mentioned in customer focus groups and on social media vehicles like Twitter ( and Facebook.

However, instead of trying to divert attention to other aspects that don’t matter as much (like they used to do with the "30 minutes or its free" guarantee), they’ve now addressed this feedback head-on, and have totally recreated their pizza, as well as their approach toward customer feedback.

You can learn more in a pretty candid take in the video below, or at


While it remains to be seen how effective this approach will ultimately be (I’ve yet to try their new pizza, but I have to say I’m at least a little intrigued now), I believe that Domino’s should at least be commended for actually listening to what their customers are saying, doing something about it, and crediting their changes to their desire to be customer focused.


Brad Harmon
Vice President, Consulting Services

Chris Woolard

What is the meaning of life?

A new study has been released by The Conference Board showing the lowest levels of employee satisfaction in 20 years.  Less than half of employees surveyed are satisfied with their job. 

Job Sat Graphic

Being a researcher, I want to know why.  There are the obvious reasons, layoffs over the past couple of years, the way companies treat employees, and lack of opportunities so employees may be stuck in jobs or in companies they are not happy with.   I have read several blogs about this study talking about the economy being the cause, or leaders who still don’t understand the need of taking care of their employees.  I get that and I agree with all of that.  However, what I continue to wonder is, is there something bigger going on here?  Has the recession caused people to evaluate the role jobs and our work has in fulfilling our lives?  Are people coming to the conclusion that they are no longer what they do for a living and are struggling with where to find significance from?  I have a friend of mine who quit his job and decided to go to Bible college.  I have another friend who is debating about quitting his job to work at a family camp in Michigan. 

The other thing I am wondering is this drop in satisfaction a byproduct of a loss of passion in general in our lives.  Where did the flame go?  You can say what you want about Obama’s politics, but I personally believe a big reason he won the election is because he lit a flame in people that they so desperately wanted lit.  The past two years have been rough for most, inside and outside of work, people are stressed, tired, and beat down.  The flame is now just a flicker.     

For 2010, maybe we should focus less on what we do but more on who we are?  Less on getting through each day but truly living each day?   Are you living your dreams or going through the motions?  If not, why not?  Don’t tell me there aren’t opportunities available, that is an excuse.  Once you find what you want to do, you will find opportunities. 

Phil Bounsall

Things That Make You Say Wow!

You know that you have witnessed or experienced something remarkable when you say, “Wow!” When you say it aloud when you are the only one in the room, you have experienced something truly special.

This weekend, I saw a story about the latest structure to warrant the moniker of the World’s Tallest Building. The Burj Dubai was just opened in Dubai, The United Arab Emirates. The following chart gives a little perspective to just how tall the Burj Dubai is (follow this link for a list of the tallest buildings in order—The World Trade Center is not on the list, but would have come in at the tenth spot).

The pictures of the building would have made me say, “Wow!” if I were among other people. The chart showing how much taller the Burj Dubai is than other buildings designed to be inhabited made me say it out loud, very loud, when I was alone. By the way, The United Arab Emirates is home to an incredible 13 of the top 100 tallest buildings (33 are in China and 30 are in the USA).

That’s the kind of experience we want to create for our customers. How can we do something or help create an experience for our customers that makes them say, “Wow!” when they are all alone? That’s the kind of experience that creates a commitment that will allow you to power through many challenges and struggles, and achieve many successes together.

There are many things that are simply required in business relationships. And we must do those things really well. But doing the fundamentals flawlessly doesn’t create that moment that really gets your customer’s attention. That requires something else. That requires creating an experience for your customer that they will not forget.

Think about the things that are important to your customers and over-deliver. Surprise them with something that helps them. Do something for them that your competitors would never think of doing. Do something that creates an experience that really sets you apart.

Don’t tell them that you are going to over-deliver, don’t even tell them once you do it. Let them discover it for themselves and experience it. Let them look off in a daze and say to themselves, “Wow.”