Treat customer experience as a competence, not a function
Maurice Duffy

Written by Maurice Duffy

I was recently in Disneyland with my 3 year old son on ‘a Dad and son weekend’ and I was so impressed by the Disneyland ‘experience’ and had forgotten how well they manage client engagements.

We were greeted with smiles and genuine warmth by smiling employees waving giant Mickey Mouse hands as we walked down the Main Street. Disney has, in my opinion, managed to bottle how to create an ‘experience’ mindset in their staff and my ‘experience’ was that every team member knows, studies and understands the behaviours, mannerisms, terms and values that are specific to his or her job. Even my 3 year old was emotionally engaged in the experience!

Now you can argue about the commerciality/Americanism of the ‘Disney experience’ but I would find it very, very difficult to question the commitment that was on show by the staff and the multi-sensory ‘experience’ offered to ensure my son was wowed. ‘Experience’ to me in this context means the intimacy and value you deliver in exceeding the individual desires and needs of the other person. Great customer experiences produce great business results. Look at companies such as Apple, Starbucks, GORE and Disney – completely different industries and different business models. But they have one thing in common — large and growing groups of passionate customer advocates, earned by delivering an experience competitors can’t match.

If you think memorable and positive customer experiences just come together without thought or strategy, think again. The best companies use standard practices and deep client insights to make it happen, every time. Yes customer service is an important component of the customer ‘experience’ but it is only one part. Other parts that these companies need to have done include:

  • Defined a full customer experience strategy
  • Developed deep insights into customers needs and wants
  • Within their organisational DNA drive energy and capability to connect with customers on two levels; at logical left and emotional right brain
  • Deliver a whole ‘experience’ that spans across people, products, all touch points, services and spaces in which customers encounter them, be it in retail locations, on the phone, via websites and mobile apps
  • Have a well developed operating culture with the total focus on the ‘experience’, with associated measures and governance that deliver the ordinary in an extraordinary way
  • Blend innovation and multisensory connectivity to allow the ‘experience’ to flourish


So it is also in Leadership. We must be conscious and cognisant of the ‘experience’ people have with us and with our organisations. No longer can we isolate or insulate ourselves and behave in a way that does not engage and enthuse.

The biggest thing I learnt out of these experiences is that if you want to improve your 'customer experience' keep your customers coming back and have them talk about your business with their friends, then we have to think like our customers and give them what they want. If we want a great customer experience mentality in our business we must have a great employee experience in our leadership approach. Make customer experience a competence, not a function of your leadership. Great and bad experiences are always recounted as stories. Stories come from ‘experiences’ customers and employees have with your business. We need to understand the value of narrative and anecdotal information conveyed in the form of stories. Make sure every employee and customer has a good story to tell about their ‘experience’ with you and your business.