Customer experience has stalled. Over the past 24 months, some of the stars of Forrester’s Customer Experience Index (CX Index™), such as JetBlue and BMW, have shown no improvement in their CX. Other former standouts, like Etsy and USAA Credit, have experiences that are going backwards.


Every customer journey has many “peaks” — experiences that are important to making customers happy. But among those peaks there is a Mount Everest — the one experience that is critical to the customer. If a company doesn’t deliver this experience, it destroys the rest of the journey. It’s the “experience to rule all experiences” — or, in a more updated analogy, the “Iron Throne of experiences.” For our purposes, we can call it Experience One, or X1 for short.

For the airports of Paris, X1 is clean, well-appointed bathrooms. When it achieves this X1, retail sales in its airports rise by 5%. In online retail, it’s fast transactions. Jeff Bezos figured it out; that’s why Amazon rolled out and patented one-click buying over a decade ago. When Delta Air Lines rebuilt its experience seven years ago, it discovered that canceled and delayed flights were the biggest annoyance to its passengers. The company bought an oil refinery, changed its crew scheduling, and forward-positioned parts to deliver its X1: on-time flights.

Challenge One: Identify your company’s X1. Before you jump to conclusions, be like Delta and do the research. Here’s an example of how subtle this question may be:

I am often on the British Airways flight from Boston to London. I’m a creature of habit: I don’t eat dinner; I put my seat flat; I put on eye shades. Then I put the airline-supplied earplugs in my ears, crawl under my blanket, and go to sleep for five and a half hours.

On a flight in October, I went through my routine, but the BA earplugs (in the photo above) were flat, and for all of my efforts I couldn’t unflatten them to get them in my ears. Now I’m in a $40,000 seat on a $200 million plane, surrounded by BA personnel who are getting paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to make my flight comfortable — but a $0.05 pair of atrophied earplugs sabotaged the experience. My X1 on that flight was operative earplugs — and British Airways did not deliver it, making me a less-than-satisfied customer.

My point? Your X1 may not be obvious.

Challenge Two: Move money toward your X1. It doesn’t have to be a big CX shakeup. Start slowly and incrementally improve your X1. Become fanatical as you perfect and enhance. You will:

  • Make customers happy. They will notice and reward you with higher spending.
  • Jump-start and unstick your CX. The effort will get you focused on what’s important.
  • Prove to your executives that you’re upping your CX game and are ready to move to a more sophisticated approach.

British Airways did the work. I flew to London recently and a perfect pair of earplugs, in their own special case, was provided. Someone at BA gets it.

What’s your X1? And what are you doing to improve it?