close-up crop of gorilla eyes
PHOTO: crop of original by Rob Tol

The top tasks of organizations are often very different to the top tasks of customers because organizations think and see differently than customers. The top tasks of a digital team, for example, will usually be strongly associated with the particular project they are currently working on. For management, it’s the latest policy or program that they want to push. That is why it’s so vital that the voice of the customer is a constant presence at every meeting, discussion and initiative

Experts are expert in what they are expert in, and often blind to what they are not expert in. The greater the expertise, the greater the blindness. The more people specialize, the greater the general blindness. Today, specialism is essential whether from an educational or career standpoint, and with specialism comes a growing and general blindness often to the most essential things that need to get done.

There is a famous experiment about people being asked to watch a game of basketball and to try and count how many times the ball is passed. During the game, someone in a gorilla outfit walks across the court. Fifty percent of people do not see the gorilla because they are so concentrated on counting the passes.

Radiologists can see things that normal people can’t. Yet, from time to time they miss unusual but important things. Trafton Drew, an attention researcher at Harvard Medical School, superimposed an image of a man in gorilla suit angrily shaking his fist, which was the size of a matchbox, on a series of slides that radiologists typically look at when they're searching for cancer. He then asks a bunch of radiologists to review the slides for cancer nodules. Eighty-three percent did not see the angry gorilla.

Time and time again, I meet talented digital teams that are blind to the customer experience. They work on the website or app every day and they don’t see the confusing menus and links glaring out at them. They don’t see the totally frustrating search results, the excruciatingly long forms full of wholly unnecessary, confusing questions. They ignore top customers tasks that have massive failure rates. Or maybe they do "see" these things but they don’t experience them. They don’t truly feel the pain and frustration, and they certainly rarely feel the need for urgent action to fix the broken experience.

Digital is a black and white world. Digital is a limited world. Digital is the world at dusk on a country road. When it comes to truly seeing and understanding the customer experience, so little is really seen, understood and felt. So much data, so little empathy and true insight. Because the customer isn’t there.

Every digital team should ideally to share the same floor and space as the support team. Then, they would have daily insights into what is actually happening in the real world of the customer. Digital teams require customer champions, people whose specific responsibility is to speak for the customer. (And you can only speak for the customer if you speak with the customer.) Yes, everyone should be a customer champion but when everybody is, nobody is.

The invisible gorilla effect is called "inattentional blindness." The invisible customer effect should be called digital blindness.