Colin Shaw knows customer experience (CX) — and he doesn't like where it's headed.

Twelve years ago, Shaw co-founded Tampa, Fla.-based Beyond Philosophy, a consultancy and training organization devoted to customer experience (CX). The company specializes in helping organizations to create deliberate, emotionally engaging customer experiences that drive value, reduce costs and build competitive advantage.

In addition to serving as CEO of Beyond Philosophy, he's the author of four books on customer experience and has a new one, "Unlocking the Hidden Customer Experience: Short Stories of Remarkable Practices that Ensure Success," scheduled for release next month. He's also one of LinkedIn's top 150 business influencers worldwide. So he knows of what he speaks when he expresses concerns about the future of CX.

"I'm becoming increasingly concerned that the goal of improving the ‘Customer Experience’ is heading the same way as customer relationship management (CRM) ... into failure," he said.

Time to Change Course?


Shaw said he "see dangers on the horizon" that he thinks CX professionals should try to avoid. "I fear I'm seeing the early signs I saw with CRM and really don’t want to see the customer experience be destroyed in the same way," he said.

Here are seven misconceptions that are causing him concern

"If I buy this IT system it will solve all my problems."

No it won’t! Big IT companies, with their big marketing spend, are trying to persuade organizations that all they have to do is buy an IT system and their customer experience will magically improve, just like they did with CRM. We all know organizations that made huge investments in CRM systems and expected the world to change overnight. It didn’t and this sullied the name of CRM.

"Of course I know what the customer experience is about."

No you don’t! Back in the day, when CRM was on everyone’s lips, I always started a conversation about CRM by asking ‘What do you mean by CRM?’ Everyone had his own view of what it meant and I needed to ensure we were talking about the same thing. The same thing is now happening with customer experience. I'm seeing an increasing number of people who have a superficial knowledge of what a customer experience is really about. As the saying goes "a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing." Customer experience is a wide topic. It cuts across many areas. Customer experience is about human behavior and emotions — and to get the most from CX you need to understand experience psychology. Like anything else, you need to understand what you're doing to make a difference.

"What's the one thing I can do to improve the customer experience?"

To be honest it is naive to think there is one magical solution. I understand people always want a quick fix. It's human nature. But let me assure you there is no silver bullet that will solve your CX problems.

"Everyone else is doing customer experience. So should we."

No, you shouldn’t! I understand you may feel the need to jump on the bandwagon, but that's not the reason to focus on improving your customer experience. You need to make sure you understand where the bandwagon is going and whether you want to go there and you are committed to the journey. Improving the customer experience is hard work. I strongly recommend that unless you are prepared to undertake this hard work, you don’t even start. You’ll do more harm than good.

"I work in customer experience."

Do you really? Or have you just rebadged the job that you’ve been doing for the last 10 years? Rebadging jobs, projects, functions and calling them customer experience doesn’t mean you will magically change things. To change things, you need to do something different. I was chatting to a client who informed me his company was looking for a vice president of customer experience. The company thought it had a lot of people working customer experience but when management delved deeper it found otherwise. The positions weren't really about customer experience, they were just customer facing roles.

"We have mapped our processes to improve the customer experience."

It's customer experience, not customer process. Organizations obsess about processes and fail to see the difference between an experience and a process. A process is internal. It is what you want the customer to do. Allow me to share a secret: Customers do not always do what you want them to do and if you force them to submit to your process, this can cause a poor customer experience.

"Lack of true senior executive engagement."

Sure, most senior executives claim focusing on the customer is the right thing to do. But there is a big difference between actions and words. Too many senior execs are just jumping on a bandwagon, without having any idea what their organization needs to do to change. Too many are looking for a quick fix. Too many fail to lead. Customer experience is a way of life. It requires a cultural change, a commitment from the heart as well as the head. It's not a slogan. 

Title image by Jhayne  (Flickr) via a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.