Customer experience is both far bigger—and much smaller

Customer experience is both far bigger—and much smaller—than many realize. In other words, customer experience is more than the product itself. It’s more than customer service. It’s more than your technology platform. It’s all-encompassing. It’s big.

But it’s also the last interaction a customer had. Despite all of your effort—all of your processes, your work on products—just one interaction can leave customers with an indelible impression of your organization.

I once found a human hair in a roasted chicken dish from what had been a favorite, frequented restaurant. Three decades later, I’ve never returned. In fact, every time I see a commercial, that experience comes to mind.

Jan Carlzon is former CEO of Scandinavian Airways and author of Moments of Truth—a classic book that was a forerunner to many of today’s works on customer experience. He used to remind employees that customers will make inferences on the quality of maintenance based on the cleanliness of fold-down trays. Coffee stain from the last flight? “Geez, I hope they’re giving better attention to the engines.”

If you lead a team or a division but not the organization, don’t think you can’t make a difference. You can, right where you are. If you do lead the whole shootin’ match—say, you’re CEO or chief customer officer (CCO)— don’t think your efforts are the end-all. You’ll need customer experience to play out individual by individual, team to team.

Excerpt from Leading the Customer Experience: How to Chart a Course and Deliver Outstanding Results by Brad Cleveland