The Leaky Pipe


I felt the water droplet on my head as I entered my flat late on Friday evening.

I looked up.

To my horror, the ceiling in my hallway was dripping.

It wasn’t exactly a pitter-patter, just a ‘plop’ – every few seconds.

I called the building maintenance and realised that I was speaking with an out of hours help line.

‘Unfortunately, I have no instructions regarding escape of water’, the advisor replied promptly.

He agreed to check with his manager in the morning and suggested that I tell the neighbours in the flat above mine to turn off their main water supply. So I did just that.

The leak continued through the night.

That brings me into the next service provider – the plumber.

The plumber came by on Saturday morning and he too suggested that it had to be the flat above mine. But the neighbours were signed up with another service provider which meant that my plumber could do nothing except request them to call in their plumber.

From one service to the next, the saga continued throughout the weekend until finally on Monday afternoon, they cut open my ceiling and fixed the leak. And as I write this, the soft humming of the dehumidifier in the hallway signals the next set of services that will need to restore a huge 3 ft. long hole in my ceiling.

So my question to you is this.

Do you see my experience as a broken customer journey or just a set of broken processes?

I ask because several businesses focus on either one and often see the two at odds. Those of us who are customers obsessed can sometimes undermine the value of strong processes beneath that experience while those of us who are passionate about process sometimes disregard the value of the end-to-end journey. Even when dealing with life in general, we sometimes try to fix the symptom rather than the issue itself.

But in making a choice we forget that glossy journeys don’t deliver themselves and often no one service can do the job alone. The two go hand-in-hand and there is no choice to be made.

This brings me onto my next point.

How then do you fix a problem – do you think customer or process?

This is where it gets really interesting. To me, this is like asking whether you would fix the symptom or the cause.

Proverbially and literally, we need to cut open the ceiling because the answers lie in the pipework. No amount of buckets in my hallway or paint on the ceiling would have fixed that leak in the pipe. So cause it is. 

The only way to fix a customer’s journey is to get into the guts of the process. If customer delight is the destination, the process is the road – and there are no shortcuts to be taken… 

I’m conscious that this requires a subtle yet significant shift in mindset so here below are some quick points to summarise or share with your teams. 

1. One to many:

Often a journey is only a collection of well knit processes that are sometimes provided by several people. Whether you look at my journey through the leak or a simple Amazon delivery, there are many people and processes that come together to make

one seamless journey.

Often what appears to be an impeccable production at the end is nothing but an immaculately curated collection of steps refined to perfection.

2. To fix the journey, you need to focus on the process

Customer obsession is a great thing. Yet, it is only the effect. To make sure that the customer has a great experience, you have to keep your eyes on the process (the cause) and its connections. It’s like fitness. Staring at a mirror for hours might work but doing some squats will get you better results.

Think of customer experience as a relay race where each sprint is a process and the customer is the baton. Each sprint matters & the baton must not be dropped.

3. Think Smart

While process fixes might seem tedious, they are in fact the simpler solution because this is the only solution that needs fixed once. All else are deferred solutions at best.

4. The chain is only as strong as the weakest link

If you ever feel like a process is too small to matter, think of the relay. It only takes one broken link to derail an entire journey.

So going back to where we started, process passion is not at odds with customer obsession and is in fact the path to getting good outcomes.

If we want happy customers, we need to plug the leaks.

Professional Speaking Association


EMCC – Senior Practitioner Coach

Accredited Coach



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