Customer Experience

4 reasons why customer experience programs fail (and how to avoid them)

4 reasons why customer experience programs fail (and how to avoid them)

Failing customer experience initiatives are keeping business leaders up at night. According to an Accenture-commissioned study by Forrester Consulting, only seven percent of business leaders think that their company’s shopping experience exceeds customer expectations. Twenty-five percent admit that their company isn’t meeting expectations at all.

CX is a huge business opportunity. According to Forrester, a one percent increase in CX scores can translate up to $100 million in annual revenue. But, as Accenture’s study makes painfully clear, executives aren’t happy with their CX programs today.

So why are CX programs failing, and what can business leaders like yourself do about it? Here are four pitfalls to avoid as you develop and execute a CX program.

1. Failure to listen to customers

Brian Solis, a digital analyst and a renowned keynote speaker, says successful CX programs start with a culture of customer-centricity. In fact, customer needs should come before the demands of shareholders.

Twitter, according to Solis, demonstrates what happens when you ignore customers. User requests to address abuse and harassment problems fell on deaf ears. Instead, in 2016, the company launched live-streaming and “Moments”—features that were low on users’ wish lists. “Twitter lost its way and CX suffered,” says Solis.

Leaders at Twitter may in fact have been focused on user experience, but they may have been prioritizing the wrong experience. Users were telling Twitter that their experiences were driven by other users in the network—but the company was more focused on the experience its software was delivering. 

To be fair, Twitter recently introduced widely requested safety features, including new ways to automatically identify abusive tweets and accounts, so the company might be catching on. But if it wants to reinvigorate user and revenue growth, Twitter must refocus on user experience. For a social network like Twitter, the user experience is the product. It needs to truly understand its user base and listen to complaints in order to drive meaningful change in the experience.

Companies can avoid Twitter’s troubles by listening to customers and users from the start. Ongoing customer engagement needs to be a component of your CX program.

2. Inability to link CX to business value

The call to “improve the customer experience” is a nebulous one. CX programs often fall back on metrics such as Net Promoter Score to track success, without ever linking back to critical metrics such as churn, lifetime value (LTV) and revenue. For CX programs to gain company-wide adoption, people in the company need to see a link between these efforts and business KPIs.

The first step to linking CX programs to meaningful business KPIs is to have a detailed understanding of the historical relationship between customer satisfaction and profitability in your company. The advisory firm McKinsey proposes a sample approach to determining which KPIs are driven by CX improvements: by initiating a customer satisfaction survey, and overlaying customer data such as churn, LTV and share of wallet. Linking CX improvements to specific and tangible business KPIs helps demonstrate the value of CX programs in the business—an important step in getting buy-in and budget for your efforts.

3. Lack of ownership

CX programs require strategy and leadership from the top. Jeanne Bliss, co-founder of the Customer Experience Professionals Association, says a chief customer officer (CCO) needs to lead the charge.

Without a CCO or equivalent driver of a CX program, there can be no unity. According to Bliss, “the CCO is not the owner but the enabler of having one company perspective, uniting the leadership team and embedding competencies.”

Because a robust CX program involves product, development, marketing, sales and customer success, one individual or core team needs to take ownership for driving multiple teams in the same direction. Without clear ownership, mission creep will derail even the most detailed CX program.

4. Failure to break down silos

Customer-centricity, valuable business metrics and a clear CX owner could still yield an ineffective CX program if functional silos hinder the customer journey.

Overcoming silos isn’t just about multi-department collaboration. To remove silos, business leaders need to identify all the teams that interact with the customer. Determining pain points in the path to purchase can also pinpoint areas where the customer journey can be streamlined. For example, any time a customer has to enter the same piece of information twice, it’s a sign that teams need to be sharing relevant customer information with each other.

Providing a seamless customer experience is a team sport. One team alone can’t provide a great end-to-end customer experience. Getting relevant teams to collaborate in a transparent and integrated manner will help your CX program succeed.

Improve the customer journey

Avoiding these four pitfalls are critical to transform the customer experience, but they’re not the whole story. An informed CX strategy will map out the customer journey from end to end, understanding and anticipating customer needs. For more information, download The Enterprise Guide to Customer Experience.

The Enterprise Guide to Customer Experience (CX)



  • Very insightful article. Thanks for sharing, Kelvin. Customer experience, though not new, takes center stage and customers are the rock stars. Building an effective customer experience program is not easy. However, if implemented properly, it will have great impact in the organization’s revenue. With your list, leaders will have a guide on how to get started. Of the list, #1 is the most important, customer experience is about customers; if you fail to establish customer-centric culture, your program is doomed to fail.

    -Brooke Harper, Tenfold

  • Many companies fail because most do not take the time to hire the people fit for the position. Do not hire if you are only looking at the skills or competence. This should be a mixture of both and an aptitude for customer service since this will reflect on how a business responds toward their customers.

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