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  • Nick Hague and Paul Hague

CEOs need feedback that will hurt

Feedback is a funny thing. In the world of customer experience it is really important to know what customers think. It is why we carry out surveys. On a personal level and particularly among our friends, feedback can be daunting. Do we really want people to tell us what they think of our hair, or the new clothes we have bought, or our ability to tell a good joke - when we know it isn't good? We react in three phases to feedback, especially if it is negative. Our first reaction is “well, fuck you”. The next is “maybe I suck”. And eventually we might get round to thinking “maybe I should do something about this”.


Recently we flipped the research coin. Instead of asking customers what they think of the businesses that supply them, we asked just short of 100 global corporate companies what they imagine their customers think of them. It’s like asking you what your friends think of you. The results were frightening.


One in four of these corporate companies believe that the customer experience they offer justifies a maximum score of 5 out of 10. Around a half thought that their customers may give them a mediocre score of 6 or 7 out of 10. And only a fifth of companies thought that their customers would grant them a positive score of 8 or more out of 10. Let’s revisit those numbers. 80% of corporates believe that their customers would give them a mediocre or rubbish score in terms of great customer experience.


It could be seen as healthy that people beat themselves up a bit about delivering great customer experience. If they do this you expect that they would make an effort to improve. Indeed, by far the majority of people we interviewed said that the companies they work for are truly committed to delivering great customer experience. The sad thing is it stopped there. They just don’t believe they are any good at fulfilling great customer experience.


This in itself would be shocking. What makes it worse is that only 4% of the companies we interviewed believe that the customer experience they provide is worse than that of the competition. Indeed, 40% are so deluded they believe their customer experience is better than the competition. So even though there is an acceptance that the customer experience they are delivering is poor, they are misled into thinking they are still better than the competition and this means that there is no incentive to improve.


Companies say that they are committed to delivering great customer experience and that the honchos leading their companies truly believe in it. But, we know this isn’t the case. In the hundreds of customer satisfaction surveys we’ve carried out for corporates around the world, we are hard pushed to think of any where the CEO has attended a presentation. This is really frustrating. We know that great customer experience leads to high levels of customer loyalty, lower costs, higher margins and better profits. The leaders of corporates need some honest feedback. The feedback would be bruising and no doubt they would say “fuck you”, but little by little they might say “you have a point” and hopefully they will get around to doing something about it.

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