Issue 34 | July/August 2020

Next May (2021), I’ll be releasing a new book: Leading the Customer Experience. The final draft is almost done and early reviews have been very positive. I’m excited about it!

But let me make a prediction that may sound odd coming from the author of a new book on the subject: I am convinced the term “customer experience” will fade. I’ve seen so many movements come and go over the past few decades. There was management by objectives (MBO), total quality management (TQM), and business process reengineering (BPR), to name a few. Customer relationship management (CRM), lean, six sigma, customer success, and others remain (for now) part of the mix.

Management movements can quickly become “so last year.” Sometimes, a global event—e.g., 9/11 or the financial crisis of 2008—creates a point of demarcation between the way things were and a new reality. The COVID-19 pandemic is already substantially disruptive.

Here’s my encouragement to you, though. Names and labels may change, but the goals and principles of customer experience will not go away. Bedrock principles work in times of prosperity and struggle. Learn them, implement and practice them, teach them to others, and you’ll be ready to face whatever is ahead.

I hope you enjoy this issue.

Warm Regards,

Brad Cleveland

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Customer experience leadership has never before been more important than it is right now. There are many reasons, but let me mention four that rise above all others—including one that may seem counterintuitive.

Because customer experience is a unique journey.

Finding the right approach is a unique journey for every organization. If you could simply acquire “the answers” on what creates a great customer experience, leadership wouldn’t be important. Truth is, generic or cookie-cutter approaches—the kind many seek through case studies or benchmarking efforts—just don’t work.

In fact, others’ stories can be as discouraging as they are inspiring. It’s great (and important) to know about’s powerful technology platform, the Emirates Group’s exemplary service (limos for first-class flyers), or Zoom’s success in scaling up (admittedly in fits and starts) as much of the world went online earlier this year. But I’ve witnessed too many organizations trying to emulate these successes without the same context or commitment to achieve them. “We want to be the Apple of home appliances,” a manager at one manufacturer told me. Yet, I found little evidence they were taking steps to be more like Apple (assuming that made sense in the first place).

Other leaders throw up their hands in discouragement—“we’ll never get there.” Oh, you can—but not without shaping an approach to customer experience that works for your customers, your organization. You can and should learn from others. But find answers that are right for you—not Amazon, Apple, or Emirates.

Because customer expectations are evolving quickly.

Your customers and their evolving needs are, of course, another reason customer experience leadership is so important. When customers see or experience innovation in products or services with any organization, they begin to expect improvements from others. They now know what’s possible. Effective leadership is critical to ensure your organization stays one step ahead.

As a leader, you have to continually reassess and recalibrate what your customers need and expect. What does it mean to deliver a great customer experience? The answers evolve quickly. And the stakes are high. It’s easy for customers to relay bad experiences to many others. But the connected world is a powerful friend when you consistently deliver great experiences.

Because customer experience has an enormous (existential?) impact on your organization.

The costs of bad customer experiences are staggering. Given a choice, customers will do business elsewhere—and many will tell others. The steep costs include damage to your organization’s brand, the negative impact of employee dissatisfaction, and others. Get customer experience right or you might not survive.

The good news is, there’s a powerful upside. Improvements that lead to better customer experiences don’t just benefit customers—they deliver substantial returns to your organization. Better experiences come with more efficient operations, more engaged employees, and innovation in products and services that keep you viable.

Because the customer experience movement has been so successful.

Wait, what? Yep, it’s ironic, but one of the biggest barriers to improving customer experience is how widespread and pervasive the customer experience movement has become. Most every organization is talking about customer experience. Most every organization believes they are employing its methods and principles. The movement, if measured by recognition, is wildly successful. But actual results can be a very different matter.

As customer experience ideas took the world by storm, hundreds of consultants and researchers flooded the market with books, training programs, and various methodologies. The space became cluttered, and I saw problems emerge. One is fragmented efforts within some organizations. I once discovered three different customer experience initiatives within the same insurance company—each with different methodologies and objectives. As you can imagine, the results were less than optimal.

Another problem is that customer experience initiatives have too often coalesced around teams that do not build broad-based efforts. Complex action plans, specific strategies, and arcane terminology take hold—all of which can have the effect of excluding rather than including others across the organization. That doesn’t work either.

Effective leaders cut through the clutter. They make customer experience understandable and ensure all who are part of an organization know their role in it. They coordinate efforts and prevent initiatives from becoming siloed and exclusionary.

That is my encouragement to you. We need effective customer experience leadership now more than ever. Stay focused, and keep your team focused. Your efforts are essential to positioning your organization for what’s ahead, come what may.

Recent Issues

Companies that excel in customer experience grow revenues 4% to 8% above their market. (Source: Bain & Company)

Great experiences result in up to a 16% price premium on products and services. (Source: PwC)

Only 22% of employees think their company’s leadership team has a clear direction for the company. (source: Gallup)

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*Brad delivers private keynotes, workshops, and executive briefings to organizations and associations. For more information, contact

Brad has devoted his career to maximizing the value of customer-facing services. As a speaker, consultant, entrepreneur, executive, and president/CEO, he has seen change from many perspectives and has a deep understanding of the critical importance of customer service delivery to an organization's success. He has worked across 45 states and in 60 countries, and has been privileged to assist in the evolution of service delivery for clients such as American Express, Apple, Coca-Cola, USAA, and others, as well as for governments across the globe. Brad serves as a senior advisor to the International Customer Management Institute (ICMI), and is an in-demand speaker and consultant.

To inquire about consulting or speaking, connect through any of the channels below.

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