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Note: This resource is part of our Moving the Bar in Your Career and Your Life, a unique approach to professional development series: Building Enviable Customer Relationships. Click here to see the entire series.

Nancy complains, "Why can’t they get their act together? This is so frustrating. The first person I talked to wasn’t nice. The second person was nicer but couldn’t make a decision. I got sent to a technician and then got lost in their phone system. It turns out they don’t even have the fix I need. Then, when I try to return what I bought, it sounds like the person in accounting doesn’t even know what to do to give me a credit."

Has this ever happened to you? Not a pleasant customer experience.

Each organization’s moments of truth occur when it touches a customer. Is the customer experience delightful, positive and successful? Or is it strained, stressful and unfulfilling?


The sole reason for all of the company’s efforts around strategizing, structuring, systematizing, training, employment practices, service/product creation, and marketing and sales efforts should be to get that customer to buy…and to buy multiple times. Most of us have heard that it takes 5 times as much money to get a new customer as to retain an existing one. We also know that raising customer loyalty by 5% can increase a company’s profitability anywhere from 25 to 100%. So creating that positive customer experience (the first time and every time) should be the focus of everything we do when we build a business. Whether or not we’re thinking about the "total customer experience," the customer is always thinking: Am I liking this? Will I buy? Will I come back? Is the product/service good? Is it worth the hassle if other parts of the experience are not good? Will I tell other people about my experience (good or bad)?

So, if your organization’s efforts are not leading to great customer experiences, you are missing out and leaving money on the table.

What goes into the Total Customer Experience?

Let’s look at Nancy’s complaint, the "moments of truth" that are revealed, and what it would mean for the company to truly get their act together.

Emotional Connection – The first person wasn’t even nice to Nancy. People buy from people they know, like and trust. If your employees aren’t personable, caring and relating to customers as unique human beings, your company isn’t even getting to first base.

Empowered Decision Making – It was unfortunate that Nancy got passed around.  It’s frustrating to get passed from person to person until there is finally (hopefully) someone who has the authority to address your issue. Companies who are recognized for their superior customer experiences empower the person who answers the phone to make as many decisions as possible. In order to make this happen, they recruit wisely and they invest in developing their people to make good decisions, to buy into the company’s values and vision, to understand the customer’s needs, and to gather feedback. 

Infrastructure – Items such as the phone system, the staff’s capabilities using technology, the availability of customer information, the existence of a reliable knowledge database, and the technology to track trouble tickets or complaints allow the staff to do a better job. It allows for quicker troubleshooting and the availability of information on a broader basis for more empowered decision making. This infrastructure would have enabled Nancy to find out sooner that "the fix" she needed wasn’t available. But, even better, it would collect information about how many customers were having the same issue so the company could create a solution sooner and resolve the issue permanently.

Systems – If the accounting team had a documented system for handling returns and credits, and each person was well-trained, then Nancy’s experience would have been improved. In fact, if the process was completely systematized and the infrastructure was in place, the person who initially took the call could have addressed Nancy’s issue without delay.

These are just a few of the items on which companies who manage the total customer experience focus. Of course, it all starts with leadership. Leaders who recognize the importance of the customer experience give it as much attention as they do to strategic planning, sales, finance, operations, etc. That is what Nancy’s "getting their act together" comment is really all about.

If you have a story about a really great customer experience, please share it here along with your thoughts about what created that delightful experience for you.