Customer Experience News & Trends

6 horrible management blunders that kill the customer experience

Better ways to manage your customer experience

You can put all kinds of money, resources and effort into creating a great customer experience, and a bonehead leader can ruin it in a flash – just by doing what he always does. These bad habits are killing the customer experience:

1. Over-thinking

Often times, it’s best to act on impulse based on knowledge, training and experience. But many leaders make the mistake of over-thinking every decision, which often results in delayed decisions (that upset customers) and vanilla answers and ideas (that fail to wow customers).

Yes, decisions that affect customers should involve some thought based on feedback, internal data, personal experiences and interactions – plus account history. Thoughtful managers and well-trained customer-facing employees should have that information at hand or stocked away in their mental library.

Kelly Azevedo, founder of She’s Got Systems, used to turn to her trusted group of colleagues, friends and even family to help her make decisions, until she realized that she might be casting the net too wide too often, sometimes putting decisions in the hands of people who don’t have a vested interest in her pursuits. So she focused on making more quick decisions based on what was best for her business and its customers.

At the front-line level, Square Trade makes sure reps and customer-facing employees are equipped to make fast decisions with intense new and recurring training. Director of Customer Service Linda Souva and her team puts new reps through cultural training where they learn about products, processes and the company. The reps then take tests before graduating from the training. For weeks, veterans shadow new reps, sitting by them and coaching them through calls. From there, it’s weekly mentoring and training to keep them sharp and following the Square Trade service attitude to “err to the side of the customer.”

2. Micro-managing

Before we get into how micro-managing can ruin the customer experience, let’s give the bad habit its due. There are some benefits: Employees get work done — and customers get what they want — on time because the boss is constantly overseeing progress to make sure deadlines and expectations are met. Work gets done just as the boss wants it, so the boss is usually pleased in the end.

That’s about where the benefits stop. Micro-managing prevents great experiences in major ways. Front-line employees who work for micro-mangers never feel comfortable enough to work outside the box and be creative for customers. Instead, they follow processes to the T, toe the line to avoid reprimand and do nothing beyond the established guidelines.

Great customer experiences are built on bending the rules and doing what’s right for customers and the company. Like any good relationship, there must be compromise, and front-line employees who are micro-managed can’t compromise — so they can’t deliver a great experience.

It’s something that Scott Ferreira, CEO of MySocialCloud had to overcome. When he realized he micro-managed too much because of his strides for perfection, he decided to let go and let employees do their jobs and mess up from time to time. Then he explained how they messed up and had them do it again, guiding them on getting it right. Turned out, people learned more that way.

Employees at Southwest Airlines never hesitate to go above and beyond for customers, be a little zany or do the right thing at the right time. That’s because the airline, an annual fixture in MSN Money’s Customer Service Hall of Fame, executives back the decisions of front-line employees — by training and empowering them to do just about anything to make things right with customers. They also make habit if broadcasting outstanding service moments across the organization so all employees can hear great ideas they can try, too.

3. Under-communicating

Although customer experience managers are advocates of customers, they sometimes don’t spread the word. They gather feedback, make some changes in the areas where employees have direct connections with customers and move on to the next project. The epic failure: The entire organization isn’t made part of the customer experience improvement process because employees don’t even know it’s taking place.

That’s why it’s important that leaders communicate what they know about the customer experience and how everyone can be involved in making it better. If initiatives to improve, enhance or change the customer experience come from the top-down and are championed throughout the company, all employees in all departments will perform to please customers.

John Berkowitz, VP of national sales at Yodle, committed himself to clearly and consistently communicating across the board all customer activity and what could and should be done in response to it. That way, no one would work in a vacuum, or worse, fill voids of information with assumptions and gossip.

To keep a constant flow of communication at PepsiCo, chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi, writes a letter to employees every two weeks updating them on the company and thanking them for their contributions. She also sends personal letters to loved ones of employees who’ve added considerable value to the company. And she endorses “Random Getaways” – when managers and their direct reports take a day or a few hours to share news and ideas.

4. Relying too much on technology

Big data. Up-to-the-minute sales, satisfaction and financial reports. Smartphones. Apps. They’re all effective tech tools that help people and companies do business. And they can be a huge distraction from the actual art of doing business and creating outstanding customer experiences.

Don’t get us wrong. Technology plays an important role in creating, gathering, disseminating and sharing important information. And good leaders leverage its benefits to do things quickly and conveniently — and enhance the customer experience.

But technology has a dark side: allowing people to spend more time with gadgets than other human beings. This takes a toll on the customer experience. After all, most great customer experiences involve a face-to-face transaction or relationship. Computers, kiosks and smartphones can’t replace what a personal touch can do.

That’s one of the reasons Liam Martin, CMO at, gave up his cell phone for a few years. Without it, he re-established relationships with colleagues, tapping their great ideas through more face-to-face interactions.

You may not be willing to give up technology such as smartphones that you’ve grown to rely on. But this idea from Cigna might be a good start at returning to more personalized customer experiences: Rather than throw unresolved customer issues into a queue where they’ll be handled when demand is low, Eric Galvin, VP of call operations, changed the process so front-line agents own customer issues from start to end. They make calls on behalf of customers and follow up directly and personally with customers. That small, non-tech approach improved satisfaction within 90 days of implementation.

5. Relying on what you know

Most great leaders get to the top because they’re smart and decisive. And they have the ego to back up all that.

How can an ego — even when the person with the ego has the goods to justify it — hurt the customer experience? Because egos often get in the way of progress and creativity. Egotistical leaders sometimes believe their ideas are the only way and their knowledge trumps all others’.

Heidi Allstop, CEO of Spill, Inc., dumped her ego a while ago to help the customer experience and company thrive. By listening more and talking less, she found herself more receptive to what managers and front-line employees had to say and suggest. That helped her make more rational, customer-focused decisions.

Getting input from all people in an organization — especially those in Service and Sales who talk to customers every day– is a great first step in leaving an ego at the door, then making decisions based mostly on customer needs. Galvin and his team of leaders at Cigna go straight to the front-line to uncover customers’ biggest needs and wants — the kinds of things customers don’t tend to mention in surveys. They ask agents in Town Hall Meetings to share what they’ve realized about customers’ likes and dislikes — and for suggestions on ideas to meet or exceed those needs.

6. Training too much

In a pursuit to become the best in the industry and at delivering the customer experience, some managers actually put too much emphasis on training for themselves and their employees. Yes, you can train too much.

You see, spending too much time in the classroom, at conferences or with online courses, takes front-line professionals and leaders away from the real-world experiences that are invaluable for making customer-focused decisions.

Elizabeth Saunders, CEO of Real Life E, changed her way of thinking when it came to training, and it has helped employees take action toward better customer experiences. While she used to have employees listen to webinars, she now picks a few initiatives and encourages them to increase knowledge in those areas and act on what they learn.

Managers Erin Pallesen and Casey Searles teamed up to create just the right training balance at Groupon. They put the biggest emphasis on initial training that includes tours, policies, protocols, software and skills taught through shadowing, lectures and role-playing. Then employees participate in Continuing Studies sessions, which are one-hour lunch sessions on subjects such as working faster, having difficult conversations and internal work flow. At any time, employees can access an online training encyclopedia with course materials, updated guides and task tips on every facet of their jobs.

6 bad management habits that kill the customer experience

You can put all kinds of money, resources and effort into creating a great customer experience, and a bonehead leader can ruin it in a flash - just by doing what he always does. These bad habits are killing the customer experience.

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