Watch Out! These 5 Customer Experience Blind Spots Can Drag You Down

by Micah Solomon

In your quest to improve your customer experience, watch out for the blind spots that can limit your success–without you even knowing what went wrong. While the following list isn't comprehensive, it does include five frequent offenders that I'd particularly draw to your attention.

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1) Disregarding the innovations and best practices of other industries.

It's easy, particularly for someone well-versed in one particular industry, to neglect the crucial task of benchmarking the best companies and organizations outside of one's own particular niche. But it's absolutely essential to do so, because a business, in a customer's mind, needs to measure up to the best of what that customer has encountered–not just from competitive businesses, but anywhere.

2) Thinking that customers always know, and can articulate, what they want.

A challenge in improving the customer experience is that customers sometimes have a hard time articulating, or even knowing, what is valuable to them that the current experience doesn't provide. The response to this ambiguity of many in the field of customer experience and customer service design is to take action, even precipitous action, based on whatever scraps of data are available, even if these are too incomplete to give an accurate picture of how customers view their experience.

This, obviously, is a dangerous approach. Much better is to be humble about such limitations, avoiding the mistake of putting too much weight on what customers seem to be saying they want, until the truth, slowly but surely, can be unpacked, tested, and ultimately introduced into your revamped customer experience.

3) Focusing on first impressions but neglecting the importance of lasting impressions.

Those first moments are indeed important, because they tend to be weighted heavily in customers' memory–this is the psychological principle called the "primacy effect." Plus, if a business blows it when it comes to first impressions, it may never get a chance to proceed any further with the customer in question.

But the final moments with a customer have also been shown to leave a strong impression on customers. Yet in most industries (outside of the hospitality industry, where great hotels make a point of bidding you farewell and where restaurants universally post someone at the exit to bid you a good night when you leave), little attention is paid to the final moments of a customer's experience. Both human and physical "final impression" gestures (such as invoices and receipts) are likely generic at best, and the end of a customer's time with a company is generally an afterthought, at best, in customer experience design and customer service training.

4) Failing to realize that customer experiences depend as much on subtle, textural impressions as they do on grand gestures.

You'd be surprised at how much the little stuff matters to customers; the customer experience consists of so many small items—impressions—and maintaining those that matter to customers and getting rid of the ones that customers find off-putting needs to be a nuanced process–a process that, frankly, never should end.

5) Assuming that bosses know more than employees.

While it is essential to get buy-in from leadership for any customer service training program or initiative, the employees who know the most in many ways about the customer experience–the experts, in other words–are the frontline, customer-facing employees. Unfortunately, discounting or failing to make use of these employees' deep and intimate knowledge is all too common.

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