By Jeremy Watkin and the CX Accelerator Community
I’ve got a big trip coming up, and in preparation, I needed to check my flight itinerary so I could book a rental car and long-term airport parking. It’s at that point I realized that I never received an email from the airline after booking my flight. Nearing full-on panic, I was relieved to see that they had charged my credit card. Surely customer support could help me sort this out.
When I called the airline, I explained to them that I didn’t have my booking code — and apparently my name, credit card number, location, and approximate time of the flight were not enough to find my reservation. The representative on the phone went so far as to tell me that I should try calling my credit card company to see if they had any information about my flights. Huh?
After demanding a supervisor, the representative said, “I am your highest point of contact of contact in this office. You can try calling back and perhaps another office will have a supervisor.” Again, huh? After pushing a bit more for a supervisor, I was left with no choice but to hang up and try again.
So I called a second time and within two minutes, the new representative was able to provide me with my booking code. For some reason, I still did not receive the email confirmation they sent. I sent the airline a direct message on X (formerly Twitter) and within an hour they were able to resend to an alternate email address.
I was probably closer to a panic attack than was necessary — but we’ve been planning and saving for this trip for a long time. It was incredibly distressing to encounter a customer service representative who clearly couldn’t care less if I ever left my house again.
A company might not be customer-centric if they…
As I reflected on this experience, I realized that there were a number of indicators that this company might not be customer-centric. So when I finish the sentence “A company might not be customer-centric if they…” here are a couple that immediately come to mind based on my recent airline experience:
Have employees who are willing to leave a paying customer up a creek with no paddle.
Give inconsistent or incorrect answers to customers.
Are easy to reach on certain customer service channels (like social media) but not so easy on others.
With this in mind, I asked a few of my friends on the Customer Experience Question of the Day (#CXQOTD) on X to complete this sentence. Read each of these as a completion of this sentence:
A company might not be customer-centric if they… Here’s what my friends came up with:
Luke Soon, focusing on the big picture says:
4) think short-term versus long-term.
5) put profits before purpose.
6) do not invest in the human experience.
Ben Motteram, reminding us that we must act on our voice of customer data adds:
7) monitor their NPS (Net Promoter Score) on dashboards but do nothing to try to improve it.
Luke Jamieson, thinking about how we engage with our customers and employees says:
8) have high employee attrition (or turnover).
9) value process higher than their people.
10) shut down customer support channels for cost rather than customer choice.
11) have zero channels for customer feedback.
Stephanie Thum, encouraging us to not operate in silos says:
12) tout customer ease and simplicity in their marketing while behind the scenes they create sludgy, confusing customer processes and policies.
Aileen Day, imploring us to be proactive instead of reactive states:
13) don’t monitor customer experience KPI’s at the executive level.
14) have a scapegoat culture.
15) have a PR team that spends more than 5% of their time in crisis mode.
16) have a legal team that spends more than 1% of their time battling ex-employees.
Tanuj Diwan, advising that we listen to all customers with an open mind says:
17) get offended by customer complaints, feedback, and do nothing about them. Culture comes from the top. If leaders listen to customer feedback and take action, culture gets automatically created.
Dr. Debra Bentson, prioritizing truthfulness and promise-keeping adds:
18) break their promises to customers, employees, or others. I had a business (not my job) break their promise to me. They offered me something in exchange for my help. I agreed, they were happy with what I provided, then decided not to deliver on their part. Not ok.
Randy Nanjad, reminding us to take an outside-in approach says:
19) interpret “Ease of doing business” as how-easy it-is-for-us-to-do business, rather than focusing on “how easy is it to do business with us?”
Eric Engwall, also pushing us to really listen to our customers states:
20) design their customer feedback strategy around their own plants rather than their critical customers.
Schulbert Koleka, reminds us that it should be easy for customers to give feedback saying:
21) cannot make it possible for me to lodge a complaint, and then learn from it to create a better experience for me and other customers in future.
Rod Mitchell, resetting one of our greatest priorities says:
22) fail to put the employee first.
Neal Woodson, directly addressing company culture says:
23) don’t create and maintain a culture of service where management serves employees who serve customers with the best interests of those customers at the center.
Eric Ullman, reminding us that customers are essential to our business says:
24) don’t make customers the heroes in their stories.
Sean Hawkins, rightly pointing out the customer-centricity starts at the top says:
25) if the CEO isn't (customer-centric)
Tom Connole, pointing out that equipping employees and customers with the right tools matters says:
26) don't also set up their organisation with practical tools and techniques to demonstrate customer-centric behaviour.
Sandip Gupta, focusing on the importance of listening to employees and customers says:
27) don’t want accept mistakes and make change.
28) can’t be empathetic.
29) can't find ways to solve problems.
30) can't focus on employees and their well-being.
31) can't keep their promises.
32) can’t take complaints constructively.
Marc Zaragozas, encouraging us not to lose sight of our customers amid all of the metrics adds:
33) if they prioritize internal processes and metrics over customer satisfaction and needs.
Bill Quiseng reminds us what happens when we don’t care for our people:
34) don't care for their people first. When leaders CARE for their people, their people will do the same for customers and they will earn the loyalty of both. Think RELATIONSHIPS or Go Broke. Literally.
Finally, Nate Brown challenges us to stop talking and start doing:
35) the organization loves to give lip service to customer-centricity, but there is zero meaningful investment or action behind it.
As I conclude, there are a whole bunch of common themes here around caring for and listening to both your employees and customers — and I suspect that many of these were in play in the experience I shared at the beginning of this article. While I did a lot of finger-pointing, there are a number of items on this list that also serve as important reminders for my work in customer experience.
Are there any more indicators you would add to this list when you reflect on companies that lack customer centricity? Do any of this especially hit home for you in your current role? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.
Jeremy Watkin is the Chief Engagement Advisor for CX Accelerator. He is a proven visionary leader, seasoned manager, and lifelong learner experienced in building both customer service teams and customer experience programs. Jeremy is capable of creating a customer service operation from scratch...and technically savvy enough to scale it with a rapidly growing business.