Back when I was a customer experience (CX) practitioner, I regularly found myself reminding stakeholders up and down the organization that, just because they may have never experienced something, it did not mean that it wasn’t happening to our customers. It would be followed up with me encouraging them to adopt an outside-in perspective and explain that if we really wanted to meet — or potentially exceed — customer expectations, this shift in mindset was a necessity.

Last summer, I had an awful shopper experience. And throughout the entire experience, I kept wondering this: Has anyone that works for this large home improvement retailer actually gone through the experience of purchasing appliances? Do they actually approach things from an outside-in perspective? I have to say the answer is likely “no” given that, upon viewing social media posts and some ratings and reviews, it was clear that I was not alone in my experience.

The amount of disconnect that was visible to me as a customer included — but was not limited to — the following:

  • Digital experiences were not well connected to the retail stores responsible for the fulfillment of the order.
  • Two stores were responsible for fulfillment of a single order, which was not clear when I placed the order.
  • Three of four appliances were actually never picked up for delivery (one item was left behind at the store, but the store manager could never explain why).
  • Service teams lacked accurate information and provided conflicting information during many calls and texts to service.
  • Four surveys were received from two different customer feedback management (CFM) vendors in a short period of time — both stemmed from the service team, but one was the texting service team while the other was the calling customer service team. Note: To this day, nobody ever closed the loop from either team.
  • The logistics company (a third party) was responsible for delivery, but there was no means of communicating with them directly when they missed the delivery window.
  • The one item that made it onto the truck was never delivered (they claimed to have come 5-plus hours after they were supposed to, but there is no video of them ever being at my residence, which happens to have a 24-hour concierge with cameras everywhere, so they either went to the wrong place or lied).
  • A refund for the one item that did make it on the truck took an eternity to post, and it was not for the right amount. The company had to issue a check for the balance, as it was for the extended warranty that was purchased. And note: This was snail-mailed to an address that I have not lived at for 5-plus years that had zero association with this order.

This awful experience — one that left me applianceless for another 10 days (thank you, Gerhard’s Appliances, for coming to the rescue and offering a better experience overall and actually delivering on what you promised) — still has me talking about it nearly 10 months later. And it makes me think, if one of their leaders had an experience like this, what would they do? I would like to think that they would stop dead in their tracks and acknowledge that it is time to change. Would they do a better job of approaching things in a more consistent and collaborative fashion and not in silos? Would they better empower their employees to get answers rather than to check boxes? Would they close the loop with angry customers? One has to wonder, though — why were they not stepping into the customers’ shoes and understanding this already when many of the warning signs are visible to the public?

Today, Wednesday, July 15, we’re inviting executives from all companies — big and small, B2B and B2C — to participate in our inaugural CX Reality Day. Participating is simple — think about one of your firm’s most important customers and:

  • Complete a few tasks as that customer would. For instance: 1) Become a new customer; 2) resolve a problem with your service or product; and 3) add another service or product to your contract or order. Important ground rule: No cheating! If you run into trouble, use the public customer service number, email, or chat service that your customer would use, not your special executive hotline.
  • Jot down what happened at each step — good or bad — and how it made you feel at that moment. That will capture your own authentic emotions without filtering them through hindsight.
  • When you’re done, ask yourself one critical question: Does my brand promise align with my customer experience?

What should happen after that? My hope is that you will bring together a group of cross-functional leaders and tell them that the time to evolve is now. Even if you are a brand doing a “good enough” job with CX, you cannot rest on your laurels. Don’t be like the example noted above — be accountable and be willing to change. And if you can do that, you are off to a great start!