Did the title of this article surprise you?

Well, it should. There are far too many people out there who believe that it’s a true statement, that the customer experience is only impacted and only happens (or is formed) at/with your frontline employees.

This is simply not true.

What is Customer Experience?

Let’s start with a refresher on exactly what customer experience is:

Customer experience is: the sum of all the interactions (including with product and price!) that a customer has with an organization over the life of the “relationship” with that company… and, more importantly, the feelings, emotions, and perceptions the customer has about those interactions.

While frontline employees, such as customer service agents and sales associates, play a crucial role in shaping the customer experience, they alone do not shape or influence the experience. This is a common misconception and a dangerous fallacy that perpetuates a sort of “laziness” in other areas of the organization because there’s this notion that customers are “not my job” or “not my problem.”

Why Is This A Misconception?

Here are a few reasons that customer experience only happening at the frontline is a misconception.

  • Cross-functional impact: Customer experience is influenced by work that happens in various departments, including marketing, product development, operations, finance, and more. These folks may not interact face to face with customers, but their work impacts the customer in other ways.
  • Pre-purchase and post-purchase interactions: Customer experience encompasses the entire customer journey, from initial awareness and consideration to purchase and post-purchase. While frontline employees may handle direct interactions during the purchase process, other departments contribute to pre-purchase activities such as product, marketing, and sales, as well as post-purchase activities such as customer service, billing, and product support.
  • Systems and processes: Customer experience is also influenced by the systems, processes, policies, and technologies that support customer interactions. These back-end operations are often managed by departments such as IT, operations, and customer experience management teams. Streamlining processes, improving technology infrastructure, and ensuring consistency across touchpoints are essential for delivering a seamless customer experience.
  • Organizational culture and leadership: The culture and, hence, the values of an organization, as well as the leadership’s commitment to customer-centricity, also play a significant role in shaping the customer experience. Companies that prioritize customer satisfaction and empower employees to prioritize customer needs tend to deliver better experiences overall.
How Can We Overcome This?

Customer experience leaders can take several steps to demonstrate that customer experience is influenced by more than just the frontline:

  • Educate the organization: Start by educating employees across the organization about the importance of customer experience and how it is shaped by interactions with various departments, processes, and systems. Help them understand that every role within the company has an impact on the overall customer experience. Journey maps and service blueprints are great tools for this education.
  • Promote cross-functional collaboration: Encourage collaboration and communication between different departments to ensure alignment on customer experience goals and initiatives. Facilitate cross-functional workshops, meetings, and projects where teams can work together to improve the end-to-end customer journey.
  • Involve stakeholders from all levels: Engage leaders and employees from all levels of the organization in CX initiatives to demonstrate that customer experience is a priority for everyone, not just frontline staff. Secure commitment from executives and department heads to ensure that resources and efforts are allocated to CX improvement efforts.
  • Measure and share data: Listen to customers and gather data and metrics related to customer experience from various touchpoints and interactions across the organization. Share this data with employees to illustrate how different departments contribute to the overall customer experience and to identify areas for improvement.
  • Highlight success stories: Showcase examples of how different departments have positively impacted the customer experience through their efforts. Share success stories and case studies that demonstrate the value of cross-functional collaboration and the impact of back-office roles on customer satisfaction and loyalty.
  • Create a customer-centric culture: Foster a culture of customer-centricity within the organization by promoting core values and behaviors that prioritize the needs and preferences of customers. Empower employees at all levels to make decisions and take actions that enhance the customer experience.
  • Provide training and resources: Offer training and resources to employees across the organization to help them understand their role in delivering a great customer experience. Provide guidance on how they can contribute to CX improvement efforts within their respective areas of expertise.
In Closing

When I first start working with clients, I interview the leadership team, a sampling of employees, and a sampling of customers. During the leadership and employee interviews, I’ll ask for their perception of the customer experience. If I hear, “I don’t interact with customers, so I don’t know about the experience,” I can rest assured that the company is not customer-centric. The customer voice is not being brought into discussions, decisions, and designs across the organization. If it was, everyone would know about the customer, the customer experience, and how they impact it.

Customer experience is the result of interactions across multiple touchpoints and interactions with a company, involving various departments and stakeholders. If you’re not directly interacting with customers, you are supporting someone who is. So, yes, they are “your problem.”

By recognizing that customer experience is impacted by multiple departments and stakeholders beyond the frontline, organizations can take a more holistic approach to CX strategy and ensure that all aspects of the business are aligned to deliver exceptional experiences to customers.

Companies are recognizing that really anything the customer does to interact with any aspect of the company is an opportunity for them to form an impression. That’s what the experience is. End to end, it’s everything. ~ Shep Hyken


Annette Franz is an internationally recognized customer experience thought leader, coach, speaker, and author. In 2019, she published her first book, Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the “Customer” in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business); it’s available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. In 2022, she published her second book, Built to Win: Designing a Customer-Centric Culture That Drives Value for Your Business [Advantage|ForbesBooks], which is available to purchase on Amazon, Books A Million!, Target, Barnes & Noble, and thousands of other outlets around the world! Sign up for our newsletter for updates, insights, and other great content that you can use to up your EX and CX game.

Image courtesy of Pixabay.