Why Do Senior Leaders and Customers Differ in Assessing Customer Experience?


In today’s competitive business landscape, delivering a superior customer experience has become a top priority for organizations across industries. However, a perplexing disconnect exists between how senior leaders perceive their organizations’ customer experience and how customers themselves perceive it. Surprising research indicates that while 80% of senior leaders believe they provide exceptional customer experiences, only 8% of customers agree. This glaring perception gap warrants exploration and understanding to identify the reasons behind it and uncover effective strategies to bridge the divide.

Reasons for the Perception Gap:

  1. Internal Focus: Senior leaders, consumed by internal metrics and operational priorities, may become detached from the reality of customer experiences. Their primary focus on financial indicators, efficiency, and internal processes can lead to a lack of understanding regarding customer needs, desires, and pain points. This inward focus can cloud their perception of what customers truly value.
  2. Lack of Customer-Centric Culture: Organizations that fail to foster a customer-centric culture are more likely to experience a perception gap. When customer experience is not embedded within an organization’s core values and embraced by all employees, it becomes challenging to consistently deliver a superior experience. Misaligned values and behaviors can result in a disconnect between leaders’ perceptions and the actual experiences customers encounter.
  3. Limited Customer Feedback Loops: Effective feedback loops are vital for bridging the perception gap. Unfortunately, some organizations lack comprehensive mechanisms to collect and analyze customer feedback. Senior leaders may rely on outdated or incomplete feedback systems that fail to capture the true sentiment of their customers. Without accurate and timely feedback, leaders struggle to align their perceptions with customer expectations.
  4. Incomplete Understanding of Customer Journey: Senior leaders may have a fragmented understanding of the end-to-end customer journey. Their limited exposure to specific touchpoints or reliance on aggregated data may paint an incomplete picture of the overall customer experience. Failing to grasp the nuances of each interaction and failing to identify pain points along the journey can contribute to the perception gap.

Recommendations for Closing the Gap:

  1. Develop a Customer-Centric Mindset: Senior leaders must champion a customer-centric mindset throughout the organization. This involves instilling a deep understanding of customer needs, aspirations, and pain points. By actively engaging with customers, leaders can empathize with their experiences and shape strategies that prioritize customer satisfaction.
  2. Implement Robust Feedback Mechanisms: Organizations should establish comprehensive feedback mechanisms to gather real-time insights from customers. Utilizing multiple channels, such as surveys, focus groups, and social media monitoring, helps capture diverse perspectives. Regularly analyzing and acting upon customer feedback enables leaders to make informed decisions and bridge the perception gap.
  3. Map and Optimize the Customer Journey: Senior leaders should invest in mapping the end-to-end customer journey, including all touchpoints and interactions. This holistic view allows leaders to identify critical moments that significantly impact customer satisfaction. By optimizing these touchpoints, organizations can align their internal processes and strategies to meet customer expectations.
  4. Empower Employees: Creating a customer-centric culture requires empowering employees at all levels. Leaders must communicate the importance of exceptional customer experiences and provide the necessary tools and training for employees to deliver on that promise. Encouraging frontline staff to take ownership and resolve customer issues helps bridge the gap between perceptions and reality.
  5. Monitor Relevant Metrics: While financial metrics are crucial, organizations should also track and measure customer-centric metrics. Metrics such as Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Effort Score (CES), and Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) provide valuable insights into customers’ perceptions. Monitoring these metrics allows leaders to identify areas of improvement and gauge the success of customer-centric initiatives.
  6. Foster Collaboration and Accountability: To bridge the perception gap, senior leaders must foster collaboration and accountability across all departments. Breaking down silos and encouraging cross-functional teams enables an integrated approach to deliver exceptional customer experiences. Creating clear ownership and responsibilities ensures that customer-centric initiatives are a shared organizational goal.


Closing the perception gap between senior leaders and customers is crucial for organizations aiming to provide superior customer experiences. By acknowledging the reasons behind this disconnect and implementing the recommended strategies, leaders can bridge the gap and align their perceptions with customer expectations. Cultivating a customer-centric culture, actively seeking and acting on customer feedback, and optimizing the end-to-end customer journey are essential steps in narrowing the divide. Organizations that successfully bridge this gap will gain a competitive edge, foster customer loyalty, and drive sustainable growth.

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Karl Sharicz – Founder, CEO – HorizonCX | June 2023

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