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Evangelism vs. Healing: What Customers Really Need

by Leigh Duncan-Durst  |  
October 11, 2005

I recently sat in on a webinar by a well-known experience evangelist. We reviewed case studies from some popular companies that have done pioneering work in customer experience, including REI, Dell, ING, Coke, and Nike. It was a solid, compelling (albeit simple) presentation, and the author's recommendations were straightforward.

I've read this evangelist's book, and it's great. I think he's got a solid grasp of the fundamentals of good customer experience. After the webinar, however, I couldn't shake some nagging thoughts.

Evangelizing customer experience is easy; in fact, it's almost impossible to argue against doing so. Preaching sermons on how to improve customer experience is also relatively easy. And engaging in case studies and brainstorming with clients about future possibilities is often a compelling experience.

However, the biggest challenge for companies is making innovative, integrated customer experience a reality. Companies today are simply mired in operational ailments, technology integration issues and other disorders that impair their ability to craft and deliver optimal experiences.

The deal is, today's corporations need more than evangelism. They need healing:

  • Healers understand that an individual's quality of internal function will drive external function: Companies (in effect, the patients) must therefore become more operationally efficient and customer-centric to effectively create and support the delivery, management and measurement of positive customer experience.

  • Healers realize that customer-centric change requires an intense "laying on of hands" on a company's operations, process, policies, metrics, strategy, technology and culture.

  • Healers remind us that healing is rarely a miraculous incident, but a process: It begins with a firm dedication from a company to commit to healing and treatment; it takes time; it often requires several rounds of treatment.

  • Healers remain dedicated to addressing disorders rather than treating symptoms—and prescribe treatment that addresses core issues.

  • Healers focus on the best interest of the company rather than serve the interests of an individual, department, agency, software provider or other party.

  • Healers insist on testing as a critical method to evaluate treatment efficacy: They may be encouraged to see improvement in key areas, or a clearing up of symptoms, but evaluating results against pre-established benchmarks is key.

Companies today need evangelists to inspire vision, creativity and motivation. Without healers, however, today's corporations run the risk of becoming customer experience backsliders that are "all talk and no action."

The message? Find yourself some healers and apply some good medicine to your organization.

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Leigh Duncan Durst (leigh at livepath dot net) is a 20-year veteran of marketing, e-commerce, and business and the founder of Live Path (

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