Customer Experience is Not Always About Giving People What They Want


“The customer is always right.”

We’ve all heard this saying countless times before. Maybe we’ve even said it a time or two.

While the original intention may have been to convey that employees should do their best to give customers exceptional service, the customer is NOT always right and that should be acknowledged. In fact, challenging this saying is the beginning of delivering on your customer experience promise by not always giving people what they want.

We’ve heard stories of tech and web based businesses who pride themselves on their exceptional service and support to customers and yet still find themselves in sticky positions. Even Apple has experienced this and has a few customer service horror stories to show for it.

Trying to please every single customer is challenging for many reasons and can hamper the innovation of companies aiming to bringing their product to market or continuing to scale their business.

Rather than trying to please every single customer and giving in to their strong demands, we should focus on the voice of the customer. Their feedback can assist in helping create better products and services and facilitate overall growth of your business.

The motto of “the customer is always right” perhaps could be better said as “listen to your customers and seek to understand the why” We want our customers to be happy and to be loyal. Rather than taking what they are asking for at face value, we should instead seek to understand why. We should try figure out the the root issue of why they are having a difficult experience or what they are trying to solve for.

Listening is key, but how do you make this actionable?

Often times customers don’t really know what they want and their immediate feedback can be limited. So how do you balance the feedback and asks they have with how this should influence your product and customer experience?

Rather than just listening to customers and acting reactively, we should be striving to push the boundaries and redefine what the solution to their problem is.

Henry Ford is a perfect example and to highlight one of his most well-known quotes, he said, “if I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

Henry Ford did not just listen to people and try to breed a faster horse. He understood the “what” of people asking for a faster horse was to address the “why” of people wanting to get from Point A to Point B faster. The faster horse was a means to solve for getting to places faster, but Henry Ford had the vision and innovative spirit to redefine the way the world thought of transportation.

There are now over 1 billion automobiles on the road today thanks in large part to him.

Steve Jobs was another great example of someone who didn’t give customers simply what they asked for and believed that “a lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

When we reflect back on Apple’s success across their product lines, they often weren’t the first to market, but their products ended up being the market leader. Apple wasn’t the first company to create the MP3 player, and yet, they completely dominated the space when the iPod was introduced. Why?

Was it that the product was better? Partially. But that’s not the whole picture.


Apple products have done well because of the experience people have with said products.

The experience of having the first iPod, that amazing ability to have 1,000 songs in your pocket, the touch and feel of it (it was so shiny) was like holding a piece of some futuristic tech.

The first iPhone was the same type of experience.

Underneath all the asks and wants of our customers, we can still give them something better than they would have known to ask for. We can rethink how they engage with the product rather than just iterating on something that exists today as customers often base ideas off of improving something that is known. Their feedback informs our product but our expertise defines and drives our product forward.

Customers Want A Better Experience, They Just Don’t Know It

Today, people don’t just want good customer service, they expect it. But what powers good customer service and what customers are truly looking for is a great experience throughout their journey and in every interaction they have with your business.

The Temkin Group did a study around the connection between customer experience and customer loyalty. In their study they compared the loyalty levels of companies that had a track record of great customer experiences compared to competitors.

The results were that the customers of companies with better customer experiences were

  • More likely to recommend the company,
  • More likely to buy from them again and again, and
  • Less likely to switch

In other words, offering a better experience breeds customer loyalty.

Even with those sentiments floating around in the hearts of our customers, they’re not likely to say, “I want a better experience from you.”

And if they did, asking a follow up question such as, “what does that experience look like to you,” would probably end with them unable to explain it and the conversation dying right then and there.

Therefore, if the hidden desire of all customers is for a better overall experience, we should take it upon ourselves to learn what customer experience means and how to give them a better one.

Customer Experience (CX) Explained

Perhaps one of the best definitions of it is this one outlined by Toma Kulbyte:

“Customer experience is your customers’ perception of how the company treats them. These perceptions affect their behaviors and build memories and feelings and … drive their loyalty.”

Really then, it’s about how your company makes a customer feel—which can be either good or bad.

And your interactions from day one are what builds that perception and shape their opinion of you.

By honing in on providing better interactions with customers at all our various touchpoints with them (sales, customer service, email, marketing, social, etc) and helping them to feel valued and appreciated, we offer them something more than what they would have known to ask us for in the first place:

Customer Experience Isn’t Just Customer Service

Another important thing to note is that the duties of giving a great experience to customers do not fall solely into the hands of the customer service department.

It’s not something only one team or department is fully responsible for implementing.

Instead, a great customer experience comes from a collaborative effort to design what that experience should look and feel like. And then it should have all customer-facing members and those who support them working in lockstep towards that vision.

When a focus on customer experience is reinforced throughout the company, everyone comes together with a common goal mind. With that comes the added benefit of customer-facing employees feeling happier in their roles while supporting an important company initiative.

Getting started with creating a better customer experience can feel like a daunting task, but a great place to start would be taking a step back and asking yourself, “if I came into contact with my business, what would the experience be like for me?”

Remove the rose-colored glasses and consider what your current customer experience is like today and start to create the vision of where you want it to be a year from today and five years into the future.

A method that often helps to create this vision is to look at your business as a person with traits, core values and principles, and a personality. In that mindset, we can often frame our vision even better.

Whether we realize it or not, we already give customers an experience. But by taking time to listen and truly understand, we can design that experience and make sure that it really is one of the best around.

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