The “reasons” for ignoring climate change as outlined by Art Markman in his article titled “Why People Aren’t Motivated to Address Climate Change” seem quite similar to why customer experience work is so challenging.  Why is this?

  1. A trade-off between short-term and long-term benefits – given the choice to grow a business by adding a salesperson and improving the customer experience, most businesses will choose the former. The math is easier.  Adding 1 revenue-generating salesperson should result in top line growth of X.  In contrast, adding someone focused on the customer experience should yield results, but those results occur in the future and are harder to quantify.
  2. Nonlinear problem – when companies (particularly start-ups) are just getting off the ground, little imperfections in customer experience can be mitigated easily with a little elbow grease and some heroics. As the business scales, however the volume and value of customers increases and those imperfections grow at an increasing rate.  Using the article’s example directly, “a few cigarettes are probably not deadly. Instead, it is the accumulated damage from years of smoking that leads to significant health problems.”  Basically, everything seems good until it isn’t at which point it is very bad.
  3. The effects of poor customer experience are distant from most people – there are people in your company for whom recovering from poor customer experience is particularly painful. Put another way, the compromises made today are likely to impact only a subset of the people in the company, for now.  Ultimately, however, those choices have a way of catching up with us all.
  4. The future is more uncertain than the present – in our context, this means that the long-range investments to bolster a business seem risky compared to near-term work-arounds. Remember the example of adding a salesperson?  When the perceived need is top line growth, it is often difficult to advocate for a resource focused on the existing (and prospective) customers.  After all, poor experiences, like climate change, might not happen, right?

Beyond climate change and the customer experience I suspect Mr. Markman’s article explains much of our self-inflicted human condition such as our underwhelming track record on personal finance, saving, white-collar crimes, etc.  (For more insights from Mr. Markman, listen to his series of short podcasts at Two Guys on Your Head.)

Regardless of your perspective on climate change, the pivot point surrounding investments in superior customer experiences is clear — companies that keep an eye on the “distant” future and make investments in their customers outperform those for whom the customer experience is a distant iceberg emerging from the gloom.

The Similarities between Climate Change and Customer Experience
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