To what degree does a person’s job level influence how positive they are about the organization they work for?

Responses from a GetApp survey of over 300 employees, spanning associates to top-level management, indicate business leaders consistently perceive the customer and employee experience their organization offers more positively than lower-level workers.

Key Findings

  • Business leaders consistently hold a more positive view of the customer and employee experience their organization offers than lower-level associates. Compared with associates, leaders are 16% more likely to rate their organization’s customer experience extremely highly and 17% more likely to view employee experience in the same light.
  • Businesses encounter bias when evaluating their own customer experience. Leaders must acknowledge this and work to include outside voices in their decision-making process, or risk not understanding and reacting appropriately to customer perceptions. Forming an accurate impression of the customer experience your business offers is essential to success:
    • Customers who have a negative experience on a company website are 88% less likely to come back to the site.
    • Businesses that offer a consistent, positive customer experience across channels retain 89% of customers on average versus 33% for companies with poor or non-existent omni-channel strategies.
  • Research shows 89% of leaders and 73% of associates feel their organization provides an “overall positive level of customer service,” while just 54% of customers respond the same way—suggesting the perception gap widens further when measuring customer sentiment directly.

What are customer and employee experience?

Customer experience: How customers perceive and feel about businesses after one-off encounters or cumulative interactions over time.
Employee experience: How employees perceive and feel about their employer after one-off encounters or cumulative interactions over time.

Leaders view CX through rose-colored glasses

Employees holding management positions or higher are 16% more likely than those in lower-level associate roles to view their organization’s customer experience extremely positively.

When rating employee experience, the gap grows slightly with leaders 17% more likely than associates to give their organization top marks.

Survey results showing perception of customer experience, based on level in organization

Survey results showing perception of employee experience, based on level in organization

Associates tend to be less upbeat about CX

This disparity is a running theme throughout our survey results, with business leaders consistently holding more extreme positive views of the organization they work for than subordinates. A separate Gartner survey (report available to clients) found that customer experience efforts tend to exceed management’s expectations more than they do customers: Some 22% of workers surveyed stated CX efforts exceeded customer expectations, but a significantly higher 41% said they exceeded management expectations.

Collectively, this data indicates lower-level associates caught in a balancing act between what customers expect and what leadership expects are better judges of customer experience than the managers calling the shots.

Customer experience software may help businesses maintain objectivity

These findings suggest businesses may struggle with impartiality when relying on internal resources to judge the customer experience they create. Additionally, business leaders operating further up in an organizational hierarchy face bias when gauging the employee experience of the workers that they manage.

This situation may benefit in part from technology and helps explain the emerging customer experience software market. As companies increasingly compete on CX, demand for tools that help objectively measure and improve customer experience grows.

However, despite a strong link between employee experience and customer experience, CX software focuses primarily on measuring customer sentiment only. Though pairing CX software with employee engagement tools may provide businesses with a more actionable and holistic perspective, few software vendors provide a single solution for better understanding customers and employees—forcing businesses dedicated to improving on these fronts to purchase and integrate multiple pieces of software.

Business leaders must acknowledge the perception gap

Given that an estimated 50% of customer experience initiatives do not have a technical component, software is unlikely to be a cure-all for biased perceptions. Business leaders should acknowledge the perception gap and be encouraged to consult lower-level employees when making decisions.

Fostering a culture in which workers are unafraid to express doubts and concerns increases the odds that critical issues, for both employees and customers, will be identified and resolved. As businesses fight to remain competitive, leaders relying exclusively on their own perception risk failing to maximize customer and employee experience improvements due to false confidence and biased decision making.

Leaders shouldn’t be overly alarmed that their perception is skewed. We are all susceptible to cognitive bias—it is part of being human and fundamental to how we experience the world. Instead, decision-makers should focus on distributing responsibility to dilute the impact the perception gap has on customers, employee happiness, and the bottom line.

Interested in customer experience software?


In May 2019, GetApp used Amazon Mechanical Turk to survey 346 business leaders and associates. Both groups were required to be employed full-time and reside in the United States. Respondents also had to work in a business with 500 or fewer employees. Over 90% of leaders and associates reported working for businesses earning USD 250 million or less in total annual is part one of a three-part series that attempts to better understand customer and employee experience in the American workplace from the perspective of workers.

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