Customer Experience, known in its short form as CX, is everywhere. Many private sector, public sector, and third sector organisations have embarked on CX initiatives to transform services, empower employees, and optimise their operation.

It’s easy to see why. Accenture interactive calls CX the new battleground for today’s organisations. An oftquoted Forrester Research report  1 states that a 1% increase in CX scores can translate up to $100 million in annual revenue.

Despite the appeal, CX initiatives are failing in a big way. It’s not hard to find various studies reporting failure. To take one example, Microsoft recently commissioned a study of CX projects in Australian financial services2. In their findings, they stated:

More than four out of five (81 per cent) of financial organisations have had failed customer experience projects. Forty per cent of them say that 20-40 per cent of such projects fail.

These are big numbers. Especially when you take into account the large investments senior executives make on their CX initiatives.

If you look for advice to avoid CX failure, the typical advice given is:

  • Create a dedicated customer-driven CX team
  • Focus on delighting your customers
  • Continually listen to your customers to obtain insights
  • Prioritise work on customer value from a backlog of ideas
  • Replace outdated traditional budgeting and funding models
  • Ensure you map the end-to-end customer journey and remove pain points
  • Break down silos across the organisation
  • Create small cross-functional empowered and autonomous teams
  • Create a psychologically safe to fail culture
  • Measure customer value and link back to business value
  • Be outcome driven
  • Ensure single ownership of the CX initiative at the executive level
  • Be clear on your CX strategy and communicate clearly through a roadmap
  • Instil a CX culture, starting at the top; encourage executives to spend time in the frontline

This is all great advice. However, what is required is more than words. Attempting the above through a rational (‘do it to people’) approach to change is destined to end in resistance, failure and lament. Why? Because initiatives which threaten current organisational beliefs and mindsets are typically resisted to extinction.

The paradox here is that CX and change professionals do not have what is required within them to execute a CX strategy, or to put it another way, they too are subject to their entrapped thinking. Applying a design thinking, human-centred, lean-agile approach, by using service design and experience design experts in an organisation based upon outdated paradigms about work, customer value, organisation and leadership, will hit a ceiling in what can be achieved.

This isn’t to say that CX professionals attempting change are to blame. Failure because of social inertia is simply due to not having effective theory and method to help change the organisation mentality to adopt better CX paradigms required for the digital age.

To unlock the profound benefits of improved customer and employee experience requires helping people to reconceive the way in which work is designed, organised and led. Through the application of a different philosophy, high-value work is defined that sets the context for improvement, people are organised and enabled to do that work more effectively, productive leadership practices are embedded, and the resulting positive behaviour and culture will be sustained.

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  1. Forrester’s Customer Experience Index Online Survey, US Consumers Q1 2015 

  2. Microsoft urges financial services firms to tackle data blindspots to reduce risk of costly failed CX projects