Behind the Handlebars Part 4: Avoiding Obstacle Fixation

Behind the Handlebars

Object awareness and avoidance are critical to a safe motorcycle ride. Imagine cruising along at 50 miles per hour through "the twisties", the sun beating down, fence posts rushing by, the smell of warm young grass in a field filling your nose. You shift into your highest gear and relish in the road gliding under both tires. Suddenly, your eyes pick up the presence of something in the road. Your brain wants to know what it is, to investigate.

Motorcycle riders know "your bike goes where your eyes go." To safely avoid the object in the road, a rider needs to override the tendency to focus on the road hazard allowing her to focus on a safe path around the object. In seconds, a rider needs to pick a course away from and around the hazard, resisting the pitfall of being hypnotized by the obstacle to the point where she rides right into it. Do I see obstacle fixation happen in customer experience? All the time.

Lessons for Customer Experience

As members of a relatively new discipline, CX practitioners are no strangers to hazards on the roadway to customer experience bliss. I’ve watched VoC and CX initiatives squeeze the brakes, grind to a stop and crash by obsessing over the obstacles in their way instead of focusing on the path to their goals. Valuable time is lost cleaning up the mess of the latest drama and critical momentum is lost. Consider these scenarios:

The database administrator is a week behind on your request to pull customer records for your quarterly relationship assessment survey, delaying deployment of this critical measurement tool.

Customer Care doesn’t have the bandwidth to respond to transactional survey alerts this week due to a product recall, leaving action alerts to pile up un-answered.

Marketing won't lend a resource to amp up the internal CX evangelization, leaving that carefully crafted communication plan gathering dust.

It’s tempting to focus on the latest hazard, derailing resources and energy to obsess over the problem, until you and your entire team crash right into the very issue you need to avoid. I encourage CX practitioners to take their eyes off the problem and focus instead on a safe passage around the issue.

Instead of cursing the DBA, can your team focus this week on another initiative and then launch the relationship survey next week, instead?

Beating up the customer care team for bandwidth that doesn’t exist won’t do much good. Will disabling alerts and hiding trigger questions for two weeks buy Customer Care time to recover their workflow?

Marketing isn’t going to budge on sharing a few hours of effort. Who else can pitch in on some internal CX communication design this quarter until a non-contingent resource can be secured for this purpose?

Point your eyes past the obstruction and maneuver around it to safely. Look where you want to go, gently change course and move on. Resist customer experience problem hypnosis that can sap your energy and ultimately lead to a nasty crash for your team.


Sarah Simon
By Sarah Simon

With over 20 years’ experience in customer experience, Sarah’s passion lies in operationalizing the Voice of Customer to drive outstanding customer experiences. Her specialties include VoC architecture, developing linkages to business performance, reduction of customer defection and analyzing customer feedback to tell the customer’s story. Her expertise in VoC survey design has combined with omni-channel customer listening to structure sophisticated, customer-friendly VoC programs. 

Currently, she serves as VoC Consulting Director at Confirmit, where she combines her industry thought-leadership with customized needs-analysis to architect new feedback initiatives and corresponding customer experience strategies. She also runs diagnostics on existing programs to optimize structure and function to yield significant business insights from mature programs.

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