The Customer Experience Trap


customer experience

I really do believe there are six essential customer experience questions that must be answered, after all I wrote a post about it.

My friend, Judy Gombita @jgombita was promoting this post and she specifically asked Augie Ray for his opinion. Augie is more than qualified to express an opinion after all he is a former Forrester employee and he works for American Express.


His assessment, what I wrote was a place to start but it is very brand focused.


He went on to say:


Here is a more detailed explanation of the POST methodology. Essentially you start by focusing on the needs and desires of your audience.

Customer experience has to begin with people and not the brand. It’s easy to fall into the trap of viewing the customer experience from a brand perspective.

The six customer experience questions I identified have to be addressed in the context of the customer’s needs. What are their needs and expectations? How do they think and talk about your product or service?

Identifying the Voice of the Customer

I realize that Voice of the Customer has a very specific meaning. It is primarily used as a business or information technology term to describe the in-depth process of collecting a customer’s expectations, preferences and aversions.

This process doesn’t have to be complicated. Start with the most basic and obvious questions. Questions are the fuel of understanding the customer.

For starters do you know who your customers are?

While some may consider this question too simple, recent CMO surveys have indicated that only one third of brands were able to distinguish between customers and prospects.

Do you have more than one target audience?

What are their buying behaviors?

Learning about a customer’s specific preferences and challenges is a process not an event, so don’t overwhelm them with lengthy surveys. Only collect information that will help you improve the experience.

Instead use information that will make it easier for them to do business with you. For example, if a customer is about to reorder think about ways to reduce the steps necessary to place an order. Prefill the form with information they have already given you.

Ask them

Often the best way to learn about your customers is to ask them questions. Take advantage of opportunities to ask questions like:

  • How they feel about the brand experience?
  • What are their preferences for information?
  • How do they use your product or service?
  • How do they consume information?
  • What social channels do they use?

Before you ask a question, think about how you will use the answer to the question. Marketers don’t have difficulty coming up with questions; in fact, we tend to ask a lot of questions. It’s better to ask fewer specific questions that will help shape the customer experience.


Take advantage of frequently asked questions. Customer care or customer service questions can be very helpful. Look for patterns that reveal opportunities to address specific questions or concerns.

For example, you may notice customers aren’t sure how to use a certain feature of your product or service. Creating “how-to” videos might make the experience more useful.

Monitor social media channels for conversations. Pay attention to what is being said about your product or service. It’s a good idea to monitor some of your competition too.

What about relevant communities? Are their social media sites your customers visit? Communities offer invaluable context and insight if used properly. You can learn a great deal just by listening and observing. Brands that successfully participate in communities are typically perceived as helpful participants, not sales staff.

Make it Personal

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges for marketers is tailoring a personal experience for customers. While this is far from an exact science, there are many factors that contribute to a personal experience that is relevant and useful.

The customer is always the final judge of a personal experience. They determine whether the information and insight is helpful or inappropriate.

Personal information has to be information the customer has provided and given permission for you to use. Here is an example. My first name is Joseph; however most everyone calls me Joe. When signing up for a service I’ll always put Joseph as my first name. Sometimes I am given an additional choice of preferred first name. I’ll indicate my preference, Joe. When I receive an email addressing me as Joe, it’s more personal.

I reload my Starbuck’s card with the same amount every time; I can reload my card with one click. This process has clearly been designed from the customer’s perspective.

Think about ways you can make the experience more relevant for your customers. Make sure you involve them in the process, don’t assume you’ll know their preferences.

Tools can help

People want to do business with people. The goal of creating a differentiating customer experience is connecting with customers on a human level. Neal Schaffer has been an advocate of social business for years. Creating engaging and relevant customer experiences takes discipline, collaboration and a process.

Rachel Miller explains how helping is the new selling when she talks about how social CRM can show the human side of a business.

There are a number of tools that can help you focus and personalize the customer experience, if you are interested you can read more here.

If you really want to learn more about tools, Neal and I will be speaking at the Social Tools Summit a unique one-day event in Boston.

Next Steps

Creating a relevant and personal customer experience requires cooperation across functional groups. Be sure to enlist the help of all the functional groups in order to create a complete view of the customer experience.

As a team, work together to understand the needs and expectations of your customers. Listen to the conversation taking place on the appropriate social media platforms.

What are other ways you can personalize the customer experience?

Maximize Social Business