Mediocrity Dominates

by Paul D'Alessandro on November 24, 2009

Almost every potential client meeting begins in the same way with a focus on a specific problem that needs to be fixed. Of course the translation or the reason they say they brought you in is that they want to engage in a customer experience initiative. However, the conversations inevitably stay fixated on the broken process element. Sometimes it is an Access database that has outgrown its capacity, or an Outlook form that people have grown to use as an application, or even an evolution of the customer onto a non-primary channel. Regardless of the underlying reason, it is always difficult to move the conversation into where it should go if it is really a “customer experience” project, how can we really deliver genius or differentiating experiences to delight our customers.


Forrester annually releases its Customer Experience Index (CxPi).  Not surprisingly, only about 7% of the companies surveyed achieve a rating above 90%.  I would contend that this disappointing result is all about the wrong focus right from the beginning.  Good leadership demands that we look at what is broken as the opportunity to fix the overall experience.  This is the burning platform that gives us the right to enter the building!  Seize the moment.  I like to break this down into a 3 step process:

  1. Focus on the Customer.  Compel your client to stand back and look at the customer.  Think not just about their “needs” but their “must-haves”.
  2. Think in System Terms.  Consider the ecosystem of participants, you must manage their motivations.  Sometimes this takes the form of pure incentive management ($$$) but I would argue that incentives need to be thought of more broadly in terms of things like behavioral psychology or behavioral economics.
  3. Be Proactive with Adoption.  You must also close the loop as a designer of experiences.  Adoption considerations should be taken into account from the beginning.  Think in terms of how you will inform, educate, incent and in some cases mandate the use of a product or service.

Unless you are designing for the developing world and emerging markets, in today’s mature markets environment share of wallet will only grow if you create truly differentiating experiences.  Sometimes this is called genius design.  Real genius design is hard work.

Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.

Thomas A. Edison

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