Customer Experience Unearthed

A Deep Dive into Real-Life Stories

3 years of CX Therapy, by Julien Rio


Have you ever paused to consider the Customer Experience from the consumer's viewpoint?

It's easy to forget, while ensconced in professional roles, that we are also everyday customers navigating an array of experiences—both delightful and disheartening.
This book invites you on a revelatory journey, seeing the world through the eyes of genuine customers. Eschewing complex journey mapping, we zero in on the authentic human experience.

Featuring 40 powerful stories from the CX Therapy series, this guide uncovers frequent hiccups in customer journeys and arms you with practical solutions. An essential read for anyone committed to elevating simple transactions into memorable experiences.


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CX Therapy


Gain a customer's-eye view of prevalent Customer Experience shortcomings.


Acquire actionable strategies to elevate Customer Experience within your enterprise.


Understand the holistic journey of a customer by connecting the dots between its various steps.



Shep Hyken, Customer service and CX expert and CAO (Chief Amazement Officer) of Shepard Presentations

Great experiences don't happen overnight, and there's no one-size-fits-all strategy. However, there are fundamentals like empathy, customer understanding, and a customer-centric culture that pave the way for those magical moments. CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE UNEARTHED tackles these prerequisites head-on, offering businesses practical ways to elevate their customer journeys based on real-life experiences.

Whether you're a jaded consumer seeking to understand why businesses fail you, a CEO with a desire to shift your company's perspective, or a CX professional looking for fresh ideas, this book is your go-to resource. Julien's CX Therapy is exactly what the doctor ordered for anyone and everyone involved in creating customer experiences.

Shep Hyken, Customer service and CX expert and CAO (Chief Amazement Officer) | Shepard Presentations

Sheila McGee-Smith

The stories that form the basis for Customer Experience Unearthed resonate with us all – bad customer experiences. The magic of Julien Rio's telling of these too-familiar tales is in the tactics each chapter offers on how to correct the core issues that led to customer service failure. Whether you are a customer service manager, a product manager, a contact center agent or a senior executive, this book offers practical advice on how to create the customer happiness that each business strives to deliver.

Sheila McGee-Smith, President & Principal Analyst | McGee-Smith Analytics, LLC

Paolo Fabrizio

We all, as consumers, want to be heard and understood. In fact empathy and proactivity have become key skills when it comes to having digital customer conversations - and they are also pillars of this book. Page after page, Julien provides vivid case examples of major customer experience hiccups and gaps with a constructive goal: showing where most pain points lie to help companies improve and remove them. That's why 'Customer Experience Unearthed' is more than just a book, it's an actionable guide for organizations willing to question themselves to improve.

Paolo Fabrizio, Digital Customer Service - Consultant, Trainer, Speaker, Author

Michael Brandt

This book emerges as a crucial resource for Customer Experience professionals, emphasizing the underutilized force of storytelling. It does not merely preach the utility of storytelling; rather, it embodies it, illustrating its principles through clear, compelling narratives that resonate with professionals in the field. The author's expertise shines through as they offer not only an understanding of storytelling's power but also practical solutions and creative ideas to tackle the complex issues CX professionals face. This book is more than an instructional guide—it is an inspiration, encouraging the integration of storytelling into the CX toolkit to create impactful and memorable customer experiences.

Michael Brandt, Founder, Senior Consultant & Trainer | CX-Excellence

Daniel Ord

Within reading the first couple of pages I said to myself, "What a lovely book." The prose is sparkling, the articulation is clear and there's nuance in Julien's observations that respects the complexity of the CX field.
As he writes early on, "As someone entrenched in the intricate tapestry of customer experience, I can attest that what lies under the hood is a complex machine of moving parts." My favourite part in each of the stories was the list of possible recommendations. A valuable, real-world listing of possible solutions that lifts the book above the realm of 'complain porn' and into one of use & value to the Reader.
I once sat on the CX Therapy couch with Julien and his partner Max and laughed most of the time. So if you have Customers – and have some level of interest in what they think or how they feel when they interact with you – then enjoy this book!

Daniel Ord, Founder | OmniTouch International

Dave Michels

As a seasoned "therapist," Julien Rio seamlessly translates the profound insights gleaned from CX therapy sessions into a transformative guide. "Customer Experience Unearthed" transcends the conventional best practices by drawing on wisdom accumulated through sessions on the proverbial couch. Rio's ability to distill complex CX concepts into relatable, applicable advice is nothing short of remarkable. The strength of this book lies in its unique approach to turning failures into stepping stones for success.

"Customer Experience Unearthed" is a must-read for CX professionals, managers, and entrepreneurs who have experienced the sting of customer service failures. It provides a comprehensive understanding of common pitfalls and proactively empowers readers to reshape their customer service approach.

David Michels, CEO and Founder | TalkingPointz

About the author

Julien Rio, a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP) and AVP of International Marketing at RingCentral, is a renowned figure in the CX world and marketing. With 15 years of experience across Asia and Europe, he excels in enhancing customer journeys. Julien is also the founder of CX Therapy, a vlog that delves into real-world customer experiences. He authored "The TradeShow Chronicles" and "Customer Experience Unearthed," reflecting his deep expertise in field events management and customer experience.

With a diverse background in B2B, B2C, startups, and large companies, Julien has been recognized widely, including being listed in the Top 20 Unified Communications Influencers 2023 (UCX USA) and as a leading marketing director in France (Culture RP, 2022). A founding member of the European Customer Experience Organization (ECXO), his work continues to blend innovative marketing strategies with a commitment to advancing customer engagement.




Book preview


It was the tumultuous year of 2020, right before the pandemic. My dear comrade Max Ball and I found ourselves digitally clinking our glasses—his in California and mine in the Parisian expanse. As we virtually imbibed and lamented recent, aggravating encounters as customers, a stark realization enveloped us: while there existed a burgeoning discourse around customer experience from the corporate angle, there was an alarming void when it came to the customer's own podium for catharsis. Beyond the intimate confines of friends and family, or perhaps the uninhibited ambiance of a bar where grievances could find a louder voice, a public domain for such venting was conspicuously absent.

This was the genesis of CX Therapy. Max and I conceived it as a sanctuary for our weekly purges. This endeavor was devoid of grand ambitions or expansive blueprints. Neither commercialization nor monetization was on our radar; we had no particular desire to amass a following. We had no wares to hawk. We were not aspiring to consulting roles in the customer experience sector; our sole objective was to establish a sanctuary for no-holds-barred commentary on the woeful customer experiences that have become all too common.

By the dawn of January 2021, the inaugural episode of CX Therapy went live, embarking on an odyssey that would span the subsequent three years. When the first year's curtain fell, we marveled at our own tenacity. Initially, we had harbored reservations about the longevity of our series, suspecting that we might deplete our reservoir of tales within a matter of weeks. To our astonishment, however, the well of stories proved inexhaustible. Week after week, one of us would inevitably encounter a new episode of customer disservice, thus furnishing us with ample material for our ongoing saga. Having toasted to our 100th episode, we find ourselves still passionately engaged in this endeavor, with an archive now boasting over 156 episodes.

In pondering the essence of our vlog series, CX Therapy, it's transparent why the term "therapy" feels so fitting. The weekly sessions on our proverbial couch evolved into a form of cathartic ritual, a release valve through which we exorcized the consumer demons haunting our everyday lives. These minutes became an invaluable refuge, where we not only narrated our own tales of customer service dismay but also delved into the substratum of the "why." (...)

Chapter 1 The Exploration Step

In a world bustling with brands and products, the very first interaction that a potential customer has with a brand is undeniably crucial. This interaction isn't about swiping a credit card or sealing the deal; it's more subtle and nuanced. This phase, aptly named the "exploration phase," revolves around a customer's endeavor to learn about products, understand their intricacies, browse through options, and make essential comparisons.

Many mistakenly believe that the customer journey truly begins when a product gets added to the cart, or the first transaction is made. But consider this: before every thrilling race from the start to finish line, there's a preparation phase, a warm-up, and a gauging of the ground. This phase might not be flashy, but it's where strategies are formed, strengths gauged, and vital decisions made. Analogously, in the context of the customer journey, the exploration phase is this preparatory stage. It sets the rhythm for the entire race and often has a significant say in its outcome.

Think of potential customers as runners in a race. There are those who've trained extensively, possessing a clear vision of their goal and a roadmap to reach it — these are the highly informed buyers. They stride with confidence, familiar with every twist and turn the path might throw at them. Then there are those who are participating for the sheer experience, unsure of their strategy, yet eager to learn — these individuals represent the less informed, those who might still be piecing together what exactly they're looking for. Whether seasoned or novice, every runner brings their unique style and requirements, making it essential for the race (or the brand) to cater to this varied crowd.

The initial experience a potential customer has with a brand is crucial. If the exploration phase is confusing or lacks clear guidance, customers may quickly lose interest and seek alternatives. On the other hand, a well-structured and clear introduction to the brand can build trust and pave the way for a deeper connection. Ensuring that customers feel understood and supported from the outset can significantly impact their subsequent interactions and decisions regarding the brand.

Furthermore, this phase is the brand's opportunity to play guide, helping the potential customer not just understand the product but also clarify their own needs. It's the brand's chance to showcase its expertise and its dedication to ensuring the customer's requirements are met. A seamless exploration experience, be it offline or online, can translate to a more trusting and confident potential customer. By the conclusion of this phase, they should ideally have zeroed in on a specific product, convinced and ready for the actual purchase. (...)

Making Sense of Product Features: An Overwhelming Undertaking

In today's digital age, product accessibility has grown tenfold. Customers have the option to explore a myriad of items from the comfort of their home. Yet, with this abundance comes the daunting task of sifting through product details, comparisons, and specifications. One major predicament that customers often face is deciphering and prioritizing product features. For potential buyers, particularly those stepping into unfamiliar territories, determining which attributes of a product hold significance and which are merely auxiliary becomes a strenuous task. Brands often emphasize every feature and innovation, even those that might be unnecessary or irrelevant to many users. This throws the buyer into an overload of information, making the task of identifying products tailored to their specific needs all the more complicated.

For customers, this translates to an exacerbated exploration phase. An individual may find themselves lost in a quagmire of details, unable to ascertain what truly aligns with their requirements. This results in wasted time, increased frustration, and a potential loss of trust in the brand's ability to guide them. The impact on businesses is twofold: First, the prospective customer might prematurely abandon the exploration, leading to lost sales. Second, this could tarnish the brand's reputation, diminishing customer loyalty and potentially swaying future prospects away. A prime example of this quandary is captured in the CX Therapy episode titled, "Why do I need a PhD to pick a stroller?" When diving into the abyss of the baby industry, I quickly realized that I was in over my head. The notion of buying a stroller — a seemingly straightforward task — transformed into a labyrinthine odyssey. The moment I began my research, I was hit by a barrage of specifications, safety features, weight limits, and award badges. Yet, none of it made sense to me.

Here's the thing: when you buy a car, you might already have a list of features you care about. Maybe you're looking for fuel efficiency, or perhaps a stellar sound system is non-negotiable for you. But as a new parent, these prior preferences don't exist; you're starting from scratch. Safety is paramount, of course, and you likely have a budget. But what about the other variables? Size? Weight? Special features? What do they even mean? "As a new parent, you're suddenly left to the wild to decide what to buy, find out what you need."

This is where the stress kicked in, spiraling into confusion. Brands did an excellent job of throwing numbers and terms at me. Some boasted about the award-winning safety features, others emphasized the ease of folding, while yet others touted their product's "luxurious" fabric. But no brand could translate these features into what would be genuinely applicable for me or any new parent. "No brand is able to tell you which product is made for you. Give us your top 5 criteria, tell us what you really care about and we will gently walk you through your customer journey to tell you what product is made for you and why" I bemoaned.