Is Poor Customer Experience Person-Related or Policy-Related? Odds are, it's a bit of both, but there are ways to change course.

By Phil Geldart

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Richard Drury | Getty Images

When thinking about customer experience, many organizations fall into the pattern of believing that if they just hire friendly people and provide customer-service training, they've got it covered. But a poor customer experience comes from failing to meet evolving customer expectations, and that failure can come from anywhere in the organization —customer-facing or not.

In a customer-centric organization, the customer experience is not left to chance. It is deliberately designed by examining the entire customer journey and removing all points of friction along the way. To accomplish this, organizations need to examine both people and company policies in order to generate alignment between them.

When Poor Customer Experience Is Policy-Related

Outdated policies can put an organization at risk of falling behind or becoming irrelevant in the eyes of the customer. From cumbersome sales processes and overly complex return policies to a lack of authority at the front line, these are all policy-related problems that negatively impact the customer experience. Consider the last time you had a poor experience with a company as a customer but clearly knew it was no fault of the person trying to help you. That experience may have been so poor that you never returned.

As a company, policies like this might still be in place because they are comfortable to employees, historical or just difficult to change. Regardless of the rationale, the bottom line is that outdated policies are actively impacting customer satisfaction, customer retention, financial growth and even employee engagement.

Related: Customer Experience Is How You Can Differentiate Your Brand

However, with the help of great leadership and management best practices, you can begin making real change quickly. As you set out to solve your policy-related customer-experience challenges, remember the policies that work in the best interests of your customers and are supported by customer-centric processes. These will drive a positive, seamless journey throughout the various departments in your organization. To achieve this, you must map the customer journey and use cross-functional teams to create improved processes. Consider:

  • The transition points to different departments throughout the journey.
  • Reducing possible friction points in the customer journey and experience.
  • Knowledge management and a "central point of truth" regarding the customer where all information is tracked.
  • Understanding communication channels to ensure that every touchpoint with the customer is aligned across the organization.

Once policies and processes have been updated to allow employees in all roles and departments to act in the best interest of their customer, you will also need to consider the tools in place. In other words, do the digital tools (customer relationship management systems, computers, payment terminals, etc.) currently used by employees enable them to execute policies and processes consistently, reliably and efficiently? If the answer is no, it will not be enough to successfully update outdated policies; you will need to invest in the proper tools.

Also, remember that the best tools and policies can only do so much good if employees are not using them effectively. You must have the correct behaviors and skills developed in your employees to capture and utilize the data, as well as processes that are followed to ensure that the information is used in the right way, at the right time, to create a great customer experience.

When Poor Customer Experience Is People-Related

The reality for some organizations is that their poor customer experience is a result of people-related problems. While there are countless reasons for this, some of the most prevalent include employees's lack of knowledge, conviction and support. Here's what each means:

Lack of Knowledge. If the phrase, "But we've always done it this way" is used often by your employees, it means they are lacking knowledge that there may be a better way to act, behave and make decisions. To overcome this and begin improving the customer experience, provide training and development opportunities that educate employees of the part they play, whether they realized it or not.

Lack of Conviction. It is hard to care about something you do not understand. And yet, employees are often ushered into a new initiative with little to no explanation of why it is happening. If you want your employees to care about providing a great customer experience, you must provide them with the rationale and roadmap forward. Equipped with that, along with training and support from leaders, employees will have the conviction to do things differently going forward.

Lack of Support. Employees look to their leaders for direction and validation of what is important and expected of them. As such, your leaders must be committed to the charted course forward and show that commitment through their actions, behaviors and decisions. In other words, they need to walk the walk. It will be the organizations whose leaders provide in-the-moment coaching, empathy and understanding that will see their people-related customer-experience challenges dissipate.

Related: 5 Small Businesses That Get Customer Experience Right

Very rarely is a poor customer experience exclusively policy- or people-related. Customer experience is heavily influenced by both, and as such, any initiative that seeks to improve it must consider both areas and act accordingly. By doing so, you can not only solve policy or people-related challenges, but you can create a customer experience that becomes your competitive advantage.

Wavy Line
Phil Geldart

Founder and Chief Executive Officer

Phil Geldart, founder and CEO at Eagle’s Flight, is a recognized authority in the areas of transforming organizational culture and leadership development. He is an author of seven books and has another set to publish in early 2020 on Customer Centricity.

Editor's Pick

'Catastrophic': Here's What You Should Know About the Debt Ceiling Crisis — And How a Default Could Impact Your Business
I Helped Grow 4 Unicorns Over 10 Years That Generated $18 Billion in Online Revenues. Here's What I've Learned.
Want to Break Bad Habits and Supercharge Your Business? Use This Technique.
Don't Have Any Clients But Need Customer Testimonials? Follow These 3 Tricks To Boost Your Rep.
Why Are Some Wines More Expensive Than Others? A Top Winemaker Gives a Full-Bodied Explanation.

Related Topics


The Real Reason Why The Return to Office Movement is Failing is Revealed in New Study

There is a vivid sign of the disconnect between employees and their workplace, a glaring indication that companies need to revise their scripts to improve their hybrid and remote work policies.

Money & Finance

3 Ways to Create Multiple (Big) Streams of Income

Here are three ways to create multiple streams of income. These strategies require effort and resources but offer significant financial potential.


'That '70s Show' Star Convicted on Two Counts of Rape. He 'Drugged' His Victims.

Danny Masterson was accused of forcibly raping three women at different times between 2001 and 2003. The jury reached a verdict on two counts but was deadlocked on the third.

Business News

7 of the 10 Most Expensive Cities to Live in the U.S. Are in One State

A new report by U.S. News found that San Diego is the most expensive city to live in for 2023-2024, followed by Los Angeles. New York City didn't even rank in the top 10.

Business News

Raccoon Adorably Orders A Donut From Dunkin' Drive Thru: 'Little Gentleman'

The hilarious clip has garnered over 21.3 million views on TikTok.


12 Good Reasons to Explain Why You Left a Job During an Interview

Not sure what to say when asked why you left your last job? Check out these reasons so that you have a great answer on your next interview.