Customer Orientation … the Worst Customer Experience Mistakes

Peter Drucker once said: Quality in a service or product is not what you put into it. It is what the client or customer gets out of it. He certainly understood the worst customer orientation mistakes, didn’t he?

The end state quality of what the customer received was what counted. Including the experience the customer while he purchased the item. Often that is what was remembered the most. That is especially true for the worst customer experience mistakes.

Check out our thoughts on customer focus.


Related value: Customer Experience Improvements Begin with Understanding Their Value



Let’s start with an understanding of good customer experience:


So what constitutes the best customer experience?

The quality of your company’s customer experience is ultimately determined by the way customers feel after their last interaction. If the customer is unhappy, your company’s customer experience is bad. If the customer doesn’t have a feeling one way or the other, your company’s customer experience is mediocre. If the customer feels good, your company’s customer experience is satisfactory.

But if the customer feels delighted, your company’s customer experience is a substantial competitive advantage. That is the only one that matters to success.


One other thing to consider. One bad customer experience usually negates ten satisfactory and delightful customer experiences. So you need to pay attention to the cardinal sins which create these bad experiences.


Here’s my list of the worst rookie customer orientation and experience mistakes that you can make way too often.

No apology

Refusing to say you’re sorry.

customer orientation
Customer orientation.

Lacking sincerity

Saying you’re sorry in a way that makes it obvious that you aren’t.

No Consistency

As we stated in the introduction, you need to have all good and delighted customer experiences. Satisfactory and bad experiences will negate all the delighted customers talk about, simply because negative results usually get talked about more. Need a lot of focus on consistency of the good and delighted experiences.

Related post: Customer Experience Optimization … 10 Employee Actions that Lower It


No interest in customer feedback

Many customers are itching to tell you how to improve. If they are not given an opportunity, it degrades the experience. Likewise, customers always feel good when they see positive improvements.


Being late, being misleading about timetables, being insensitive to the timing issues and pacing preferences and expectations of your customers.  Remember: a perfect product, delivered late, is a defect.

Poor employee treatment

Treating your employees like dirt and expecting them to treat their customers like gold. You get a lot better results (not to mention karma) by emulating institutions like the Ritz-Carlton with its central operating philosophy of  putting employees and customers first: “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.”

customer orientation strategy
Customer orientation strategy.

Lacking flexibility

Burning your customers (and therefore yourself) because something bad happened once, or even never.  Not taking checks, for instance, because one time someone bounced one.

Disrespectful language

Forgetting it’s not what you do, it’s how you do it, specifically, it’s the language you use.   Language needs to be gentle, kind, and brand appropriate—without sounding stilted. And language includes getting the “words without words” right at your company as well: yielding the right of way to customers, never having your back to a guest, and so on.

Cues for quality

Failing the “cues to quality” test: customers in every setting pick up cues to quality from the darnedest places. Typos in your signs, dirty shoelaces on your nurses—this stuff matters.

Employees don’t care

If you hire people that are not delighted to be social and servicing people, you’ll likely end up with employees that don’t care. Nothing is worse for a customer’s experience.


Customer orientation … limited employee expertise

Putting new employees on the firing line with no or limited training results in employees who have to hand customers off or plead no knowledge. Both are equally bad. Employees that are not motivated to learn rapidly are also a bad situation waiting to happen.

Failing the beginnings and endings

Getting everything right except the beginning and the ending—the two most important moments as far as a customer’s memory is concerned.

Not realizing the beginning starts before the beginning. That means customers are picking up info and implications about you before they ever arrive at your official website or the front door of your establishment.

Lacking quality employees

importance of customer orientation
Importance of customer orientation.

Hiring the wrong people and expecting to be able to give good customer service anyway.

No employee empowerment

Hiring the right people but then failing to give them power: the power to help customers in ways you haven’t thought of, the power to design their tasks differently, the power to do their best for you.

Overpowering personalization

LimitedTrying to be all Dale Carnegie by inserting your customer’s name into every other line of a conversation – but using the wrong pronunciation.  Or, personalize your correspondence with a customer – but misspelling her name.

Forced self-service

Getting excited about your newly-installed self-service channel, and then forcing every customer to use it, whether it suits them or not.


Limited employee authority

No empowerment for employees to do the right things? You might as well build a robot to respond to customers. Nothing worse than having an employee that knows what needs to do, but is empowered to do it.


No personalized engagement

Employees who rarely smile and engage socially at one on one engagement are at a very serious disadvantage in being able to create a delightful customer experience. In the longer term, a business needs to build relationships, particularly with its best customers. Hard to do with no personalized engagement.


Pushy sales techniques

All selling should be off limits in any situation. Hard selling is a definite no-no for any good customer experience. Very little turns off customers much faster than pushy sales techniques.


Poor listeners

Two-way conversations begin with employees listening carefully before responding. Being stuck on transmit mode in a two-way conversation won’t go anywhere fast.


Poor follow through

If a customer is told  X will be done, they should feel that it will happen. Hopefully faster and better than promised. If something unexpected happens, a good experience demands the customer be notified and kept informed.


Here are some things to help prevent these mistakes:


Move your organization’s mindset to customer centered and away from the natural tendency of self-centered (a more difficult task than you would imagine). Don’t sell; help customers make more informed buying decisions.


Get to know your customers on a personal level, particularly your most important customers. Recognize that they are not all alike. Understand and prioritize your customer segments. “Experiences designed for everyone satisfy no one.”


Continuously learn as much as you can about your customers … their wants/needs, likes/dislikes. This is particularly important to do on a continuous basis to reflect the changing nature of customer priorities. Share this information broadly within your organization and get everyone participating.


Reinforce your organization’s customer experience mindset by measuring and incentivizing the objectives that you seek.


Good customer experiences depend on good employee experiences based on their actions, personality, and personal demeanor. Make it easy for them to do the right thing … empower them to act on your behalf.


If you are not convinced of the importance of the customer experience your business creates and its influence on your business and commit to the long-term journey … don’t start.

Related post: 10 Ways to Employ Customer Experience for Influence


Don’t meet expectations

If promises are not kept, expectations by the customer not achieved, negative experiences result. Too negative and your business will lose the customer forever. The absolute last thing you want.



The bottom line


Here’s the thing, social isn’t just a new way of marketing, it’s a new way of running a business. Many businesses certainly have figured this out and are using social marketing and improved customer experience to grow their business rapidly.

What did I leave out?  Do any of these not deserve to be on the list?  Any great examples (tragic examples) of anything on the list? I’d enjoy hearing from experts and civilians alike in the comments below, and I’ll update the article as great ones come up.


Brand marketing
Brand marketing


So what’s the conclusion? The conclusion is there is no conclusion. There is only the next step. And that next step is completely up to you. But believe in the effectiveness of a delightful customer experience. And put it to good use.


It’s up to you to keep improving your creative, social marketing and customer experience efforts. Lessons are all around you. In this case, your competitor may be providing the ideas and or inspiration. But the key is in knowing that it is within you already.


All you get is what you bring to the fight. And that fight gets better every day you learn and apply new lessons.


When things go wrong, what’s most important is your next step.


Try. Learn. Improve. Repeat.


Are you devoting enough energy improving your customer experience?


Do you have a lesson about making your customer experience better you can share with this community? Have any questions or comments to add in the section below?


Mike Schoultz is the founder of Digital Spark Marketing, a digital marketing and customer service agency. With 40 years of business experience, he blogs on topics that relate to improving the performance of your business. Find them on G+Twitter, and LinkedIn.  


Digital Spark Marketing will stretch your thinking and your ability to adapt to change.  We also provide some fun and inspiration along the way. Call us for a free quote today. You will be amazed how reasonable we will be.



More reading on customer experience from our Library:

Client Satisfaction …10 Secrets to Improve Customer Experience

Building a Customer Experience Strategy for Business Success

Random Acts of Kindness for Customer Experience Improvements





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Customer Orientation … the Worst Customer Experience Mistakes