What can Neil Armstrong teach us about customer experience? I took some liberties with his most-popular quotes and applied them to our world.

Having just recently visited the NASA exhibit at the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland, the early days of the space program were fresh in my mind when the news of Neil Armstrong’s passing hit us last week. (And I’ll refrain from dating myself and not state where I was when he made that spacewalk that is forever etched in our memories.) He was one of several astronauts from my home state of Ohio, but he was one of the more humble and private astronauts, despite his historical mission to, and walk on, the moon that could have easily caused an inflated ego. Many consider him a hero.

I thought I’d take his most-famous quotes and apply them to the world of customer and employee experience. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments below.

“That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Without a doubt, this is his most famous quote. In an article about the lunar landing, I read that the quote happened as follows, after he had thought a long time about what he was going to say when he made that historical step. “‘That’s one small step for a man.’ I paused, and for a split second, I thought about how many people had worked their entire lives to make this possible. Moreover, how lucky I was to be here. ‘One giant leap for mankind.'”

Yea, that’s how the customer experience works, too. The customer experience is created as a result of the work of a lot of people, all working together for a common cause or purpose.

“We had hundreds of thousands of people all dedicated to doing the perfect job, and I think they did about as well as anyone could ever have expected.”

It takes the entire organization – not just the frontline but the executive team and everyone behind the scenes. Every single employee, whether he or she knows it or not, impacts the customer experience. Customer service (and the customer experience) is not a department, it’s everyone – it’s your culture, your  way of doing business. I think it also takes a wise leader to recognize and acknowledge this.

“I think if there was anything I learned from our skipper was that it’s not how you look; it’s how you perform.”

Performance is critical in the customer experience, whether it’s how the product performs or how your people perform when they are servicing your customers.  Make sure your people have the right training, tools, and culture to perform at their peak.

“Start at the end and work back.”

This is classic. Think about your objectives, your outcomes, and work backward to figure out what you need to do to achieve them.

“Pilots take no special joy in walking. Pilots like flying.”

Know your customers. Simple as that. Understand who they are and what their preferences are. Experiences or products may need to be adapted to different customer types or needs.

“It was the lowest-paying job that I was offered coming out of college, but I think, in retrospect, it was the right one.”

When you’re happy doing what you’re doing, it’s not like work after all. When you’re passionate about what you do, it makes all the difference in the world. And passionate employees, who are aligned with the mission or the purpose of an organization, tend to be more productive, more focused (on what they do and on the success of the business), want the business to succeed, and will do anything to ensure it does.

“Geologists have a saying – rocks remember.”

Customer experience professionals have a saying – customers remember.

“Machines are getting better and better, but fortunately, there’s still a place for us homo sapiens, some reason for us to continue to exist.”

Look no further than the recent post by Bob Thompson of CustomerThink asking the question, “Can technology create customer delight?” When you read the post, you’ll find my thoughts, as well as those from other CX professionals, on the subject. In a nutshell, people buy from people, and technology can facilitate the experience being delivered.

“Research is creating new knowledge.”

Research is used for product or service innovation and to learn more about your customers. Without it, we’re  stabbing in the dark. Knowledge is an important part of delivering an excellent customer experience.

“In much of society, research means to investigate something you do not know or understand.”

Conduct research to not only better understand your customers but also those who aren’t your customers. Why don’t they buy? What problems are they trying to solve that we can’t? How could we meet their needs?

“Well, I think we tried very hard not to be overconfident, because when you get overconfident, that’s when something snaps up and bites you.”

Keep a straight head on your shoulders and stay focused on the mission at hand. Being the leader of the pack in your industry is a great place to be, but always be humble and always strive to improve. There’s always someone else out there either catching up or figuring out how to overtake your position.

“I guess we all like to be recognized not for one piece of fireworks, but for the ledger of our daily work.”

Don’t forget to appreciate, praise, and recognize your employees. Don’t just celebrate them at monthly or quarterly meetings, appreciate them every day. Use a tool like Kudos and change the world and your culture one thank you at a time.

“I fully expected that, by the end of the century, we would have achieved substantially more than we actually did.”

I think many of us expected that we’d be further along and have better customer experiences by now, but unfortunately, the metrics and the stories prove otherwise. There’s still a large gap in what executives perceive their companies are delivering and what customers are experiencing.

“The important achievement of Apollo was demonstrating that humanity is not forever chained to this planet and our visions go rather further than that and our opportunities are unlimited.”

OK, maybe a stretch but a good reminder that customers are not chained to your brands. One bad experience or a string of bad experiences can cause them to look elsewhere. And when innovation and marketing create stories that compel customers to consider other brands, opportunities are unlimited.

“Shoot for the stars but if you happen to miss shoot for the moon instead.”

If there’s a problem, apologize, ask for forgiveness, and do your best to fix the issue. A swift and strong recovery is critical. Always strive to deliver the ultimate customer experience. It’s a journey, not a destination.
“Houston, Tranquillity Base here. The Eagle has landed.” R.I.P Neil Armstrong