This is how Leaders can Improve the Customer Journey

With overall customer satisfaction in all industries dropping to twenty-year lows, most likely caused by the great resignation, more and more CEOs have decided to literally get on the front lines on a regular basis to better educate themselves on what it is really like to be their customer and customer-facing employees. They are walking through the customer journey just as their customers would.  What about you? Are you spending enough time experiencing your own customer experience?

Business Leaders are Taking Their Own Customer Journeys

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi and Lyft CEO David Risher are spending time shuttling passengers. New Starbucks CEO Laxman Narasimhan is working as a Barista each month. In 2022 DoorDash started requiring that every employee–from engineers to CEO–make food deliveries once a month. Khosrowshahi told the Wall Street Journal that his experience moonlighting as an Uber driver led him to “reevaluate every single assumption that we’ve made.” These leaders discovered that for the greatest understanding of customer expectations–as well as their own customer support teams–there is nothing like their own direct customer interaction. 

The Best Customer Experience Strategy Includes Time in the Trenches

Unnamed 55, The DiJulius GroupAccording to a Pew Research Center survey, low pay, few opportunities for advancement, and disrespect on the job were the top reasons workers cited for quitting. For these reasons alone it is critical that senior leaders as well as anyone who works at corporate headquarters, i.e., those who are removed from the day-to-day operations of the company, spend adequate time working alongside customer-facing employees.

Going this extra mile is the only way to gain the most thorough understanding of both sides of the user experience. It is an incredible learning tool for better understanding what a day in the life of both your customers and employees looks like, and seeing firsthand the frustration, pain points, and bottlenecks both customers and your employees are dealing with. It organically leads to quicker response times in resolving customer issues and ultimately, to higher customer satisfaction scores. A positive customer experience always begins with a positive experience for your customer service agents. But unless you have executive sponsorship (aka buy-in), nothing will change. Having executives working on the frontlines very often leads to changes that improve both the customer and employee experience. And employees who feel fully supported are inspired to keep customers happy.

Fifty-three Percent of Workers Believe Their Leaders Are Out of Touch with What Employees Want

According to a survey from e-learning and HR publishing platform eLearningIndustries the majority of employees feel their bosses are out of touch with what they need and want. Not a shock when you learn that CEOs spend only 6% of their time with frontline employees on average. Who knows better what customers want, a person who spends six percent of their time with the customer or an employee who spends one hundred percent of their time? This is where being close to the customer journey really counts.  Spending time in customer-facing roles as a senior leader is no longer a luxury. It is vital to improving your customer experience and reducing employee turnover. When a CEO is present and willing to be in the trenches with their customer-facing employees, sleeves rolled up, elbow to elbow, it goes a long way with employee engagement and retention. 

*RelatedThe Best Way to Improve Your Company Culture in Challenging Times

Airbnb’s CEO Spent 6 Months Living in His Company’s Rentals—and Found the Core Problem 

“To make a change, you have to touch the product, the policies, the service across all these different touch points,” says Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb. Chesky spent six months as a host and guest of his own business. “Last year, I started living in Airbnbs, and I stayed in like a dozen and a half over the course of six months,” Chesky told Fortune. He continued staying exclusively in Airbnb for a year as the “ultimate guest” and started noticing how much the quality of the homes and experiences varied.

“You always want to work on something new, but when you have a service like ours, and so many people use it, it’s easy to forget what they actually want. You have to have their permission to do new things,” Chesky says. “A good lesson is: Fall back in love with your core business.” His embracing of the “nitty-gritty” meant making improvements while doing the less glamorous work; in his words, “being a glorified customer support agent.”

I Thought I Didn’t Have a Customer

While I was in college, I worked at United Parcel Service (UPS) as a Pre-loader, loading trucks in the middle of the night. I was never told that my Customer was the package driver who drove the truck I loaded and who had to deliver those packages all day. When I didn’t do as good of a job as I could have, I would have drivers come in and share their frustration with me. I just blew them off as jerky co-workers. Then after I graduated from college, I got promoted to a UPS driver and I realized that my daily success was predicated on how well my truck was loaded and organized. Some days it was horrible. I would find packages at 3 p.m. in the back of my truck that I should have delivered at 10 a.m. when I was on the other side of town. Now I had to backtrack, which made it challenging if not impossible to get all my stops in on time, and I would get home late.

UPS missed a golden opportunity to teach loaders who their real Customer was and how we impacted their day. Putting employees through a customer journey could have brought this to light.  As I said earlier, in most businesses, front-line employees have never been their own Customers, don’t know what it is like to be in their Customers’ shoes, and have little empathy and compassion for how/what they do affects their Customers.

Who, Really, is Your Customer?

Improving your team’s empathy does not stop with your customer service team. Your company culture is determined by how everyone is treated, internally and externally. Ask your employees in every department to define their customers and you will get varying answers. The truth is your primary customer is the person you communicate with directly on a day-to-day basis and who is most affected by the work you do. In the business-to-business world, manufacturing, and corporate office settings, the customer/target audience is mostly internal people who work at the same organization. These are positions such as management, administration, IT, HR, marketing, regional sales managers, warehouse, branch managers, legal, and regional directors. Every single company I have ever worked with suffers from people in these positions not truly understanding who their customers–the people/group that is most dependent on their efforts–really are. And having unhappy customers internally does not translate to external customer loyalty but rather, all but guarantees bad customer service leading to negative business outcomes including customer churn.

Your primary customer is whoever you

communicate with and who depend on the work you do

Most businesses’ customer-facing employees have never been their customers, don’t know what it is like to be in their shoes across the entire customer journey, and have little empathy and compassion for how their own actions affect their customers. Yet all of these things are essential to customer relationship management including the gaining and keeping of loyal customers. As a result, today many of The DiJulius Group’s consulting clients not only make a Day-in-the-Life-of-their-Customer Video for their external customers, but they also make a Day-in-the-Life-of-their-Customer Video for their internal customers, to drive home this exact point. This dramatically increases employee engagement. This builds a culture of empathy which, when built into your customer experience training, becomes the foundation of every world-class customer experience.

*RelatedTeach Your Employees to Have Incredible Customer Empathy

*New Customer Experience Executive Academy starting in September ’23

Episode 118 of the CSRev Podcast 


0530, The DiJulius GroupChief Revolution Officer John DiJulius of The DiJulius Group talks with Admiral Thomas Lynch. Admiral Lynch shares what he has learned from a successful football career, 32 years in the U.S. Navy, and decades of working in the private sector as a senior-level executive for multiple large corporations. 

You will learn:

  • What he has learned from football, the Navy, and corporate America
  • What the motto “Ship, Shipmate, Self” means, and how it applies to every business
  • Some characteristics he can spot in people who he believes have a higher probability for long-term success in anything they do



“Demonstrate that no one cares about your client’s business like you do.”



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Unnamed 7, The DiJulius Group

About The Author

John DiJulius

John R. DiJulius is a best-selling author, consultant, keynote speaker and President of The DiJulius Group, the leading Customer experience consulting firm in the nation. He blogs on Customer experience trends and best practices.