Who Owns the Customer Experience?

November 7, 2016
Who Owns the Customer Experience | rowing team

Who owns the customer experience?

This question has probably caused more organizational leaders to point fingers and reach for antacids than “why are we failing to meet projections?”

Of course, the easy answer, the consultant answer, is “everyone owns the customer experience.”

Drop the mic. Put the bill in the mail.

The real answer, however, is inherently more nuanced and complex. While everyone must take ownership of the customer experience in general, not everyone can own each part.

Organizations, especially large ones, simply can’t function effectively where employees exist in a vacuum of responsibility, in some amorphous, theoretical world where everyone finds exactly the right time and place to either serve the customer or to step aside for someone else to do so.

As business truisms go, “everyone owns the customer experience” does a good job of reaffirming the notion that every team member, whether on stage or off, has a part in the customer experience. Yet, it’s worse than useless in defining the execution of this principle.

In fact, in execution, it tends to run smack into another (and dare we say more definable) business aphorism: “When everyone is responsible, no one is.”

Who Actually Does Own the Customer Experience?

So, how do we bridge that gap between the theoretical everyone and the more practical someone? How do we define who actually owns the customer experience without devolving into territorial boundaries, disconnected silos, and an epidemic of that’s-not-my-job-itis?

Of course, this is a complex and context-dependent challenge, whose complexity tends to generally track with the size of an organization. Yet, there is a simple process that can be useful to smaller and department-level entities in sorting through this challenge.

  1. Have an open, honest and, if need be, difficult conversation about who in the organization is responsible for what. Suss out what everyone’s current understanding of their own job and their understanding of their colleagues’ roles as well.
  2. Next, identify the grey areas — the areas where customers have fallen through the cracks due to issues surrounding unclear responsibility or an unwillingness to step forward to help — then clarify those areas.
  3. Finally, and most importantly, once the lines are clear, make sure everyone understands that the lines are fluid. Imbue everyone on the team with a “whatever it takes” attitude. Help them absorb the idea that their (big J) Job is whatever is needed at the moment to create a great experience for the customer even if it is not their (little j) job. This mindset is a cultural construct which begins with leadership’s own attitudes and actions.

In the end, culture will answer the question of who owns the customer experience better than any definition of roles ever could. Just remember…

Responsibility follows the job; accountability follows the customer.

While clarity of responsibilities may be where ownership of the customer experience begins, a customer-centric culture that crosses boundaries and puts the customer’s experience above internal divisions is where it ends.

Yes, it’s a murky, grey, and malleable way to view an organization, but in customer experience, rigid organizational lines tend only to increase the comfort of those serving customers while decreasing the satisfaction of the customers themselves.

1 thought on “Who Owns the Customer Experience?”

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