Problem 9: Post-Rationalization Comes Way Too Late

Problem 9: Post-Rationalization
Comes Way Too Late

Managers often prefer their own preconceived ideas to the results of scientific CX research.
It’s a human bias.

CX programs are hard because neither management teams nor employees want to look under rocks.

Let’s start with a fact. The majority of management teams are significantly misaligned with their customers when evaluating the experience that they deliver/receive. See the graphs below.

Source: Bain & Company, Satmetrix.

How does the misalignment come about?

Partly it stems from a historical reliance on human interaction. When your account team visits a customer and asks, “how are we doing?” they get a faulty picture of performance. The fault may be inadvertent, or deliberate. Human interaction, trained in social nicety, has a positive bias. It’s hard to tell someone bad news, especially to their face.

We also confuse the plural of anecdote with data. Speaking to a few people is not a data pattern. We are primed too to avoid bad news; often we won’t ask questions that we think may elicit uncomfortable answers.

All this and several hundred other sources of cognitive and social bias mean trouble. Our near-exclusive dependence on humans for collecting information and forming judgement has a cost. That cost is faulty, perhaps even counter-directional information. We aren’t necessarily cheating – although some do. We humans are just ill-equipped to detect and handle the truth.

“Reasoning is man’s most useful tool for making adaptations
at high levels, whereas rationalizing is man’s most
useful tool for preventing just that.”


Data quality issues

If we are prone to bias, lack of quality data only makes things worse. High quality CX data is such a rarity that management finds it easy to dismiss as unproductive, misleading, or just plain wrong.

And, of course, it’s hard to take bad news. We are in business, people keep buying from us, right? Our customers love us, despite that data of yours!

Miscalibration is also a problem. Management teams persist in the belief that traditional benchmarks for success, such as satisfaction, are meaningful. Satisfaction is both easier to generate, and easier to equate to human feedback. Loyalty and NPS are tough, high standards that seem – to many – to be unattainable goals.

Rather than challenge the performance of the business, it’s more comfortable to fall back on metrics that reassure. NPS is not, usually, reassuring.

Weak data quality, provides the perfect excuse to ignore uncomfortable customer realities

Natural antibodies

All this suggests that there are tendencies within the corporation that don’t see merit in uncovering inconvenient truths about business performance. Many especially don’t want those truths that have repercussions in the future, not the present.

For the sales rep, but often up as far as exec staff members, CX performance data pointing to meaningful shortfalls is not a welcome call to action. It’s a scorecard which is more to be challenged than acted upon. Weak data quality, provides the perfect excuse to ignore uncomfortable customer realities.


Sales teams as the natural customer for CX insights

Sales teams should be the natural consumers of great CX insights. After all, nobody has a bigger financial and emotional stake in developing, retaining, and acquiring customers. Paradoxically, sales teams are usually the least receptive to such insights.

Some of that reluctance is due to a tradition of over-valuing personal judgement. Sales also dislikes scrutiny of what is, after all, a high-risk occupation. And sales is a calling that values charisma over thoughtful, data-driven action.

Failure of the sales team to engage with, be held accountable for, and drive action around CX data is costly. So costly that it is usually the main failure point in B2B companies. Still, few salespeople weep as CX programs get sidelined.

The solution is twofold. First, at the risk of repetition, better quality insight and data is a prerequisite for engagement. Second, organizational and process integration should be a major focus of any CX initiative. Leaders of CX programs often undervalue this point.

Ironically, CEOs are frequently the most committed but the least supported when it comes to adopting CX as a strategy. To get beyond the loneliness of such a position, CX leaders need to build programs that bypass natural organizational antibodies.

Read the next problem Not All Customers Are Equal; Far From It.

Source: Bain & Company, Satmetrix. Average annual real revenue growth (left graph) and net income growth (right) split according to whether their customers believe the company achieves provision of a superior experience (yellow) or not (blue).


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