If you'd like to press 3, press 8.
If you'd like to press 8, press 5."
From cartoon of Randy Glasbergen
So I just completed an all too familiar experience (for all of us) of being the proverbial tennis ball being hit back and forth amongst customer service representatives trying to resolve an issue I had. The problem didn't represent big dollars. So why did I invest the time and energy being on the receiving end of the customer smack around?
It's because I was gaining real world experience from the concepts I am learning from The Effortless Experience: Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty by Matthew Dixon (he was the co-author of The Challenger Sale). I always appreciate a book that tears down a conventional "wisdom" and, based on exhaustive research, shows an alternative way. Matthew's premise is that delighting customers with above-and-beyond service feels right and seems to make a great deal of sense, but the reality is that for virtually every company out there, it is not what you want to base your service strategy on. Rather than companies pouring time, energy, and resources on delighting the customer, Matthew writes that companies should be working on making doing business with them an effortless experience.
There's too much in the book to try to distill down in a blog post. One key insight that just hit me was:
We pick companies because of their products, but we often leave them because of their service failures.
Think about it. You probably have one airline that you avoid at all costs because of a service failure (lost bags, missed connection, etc.). Whatever the reason, they delivered an awful customer experience and now have incurred your wrath. Now, what makes you pick the next airline to use? Is it based on the best service reputation? Probably not. You pick based on price and flight availability (a.k.a. their product).
So back to my own customer experience today. Here was my "favorite" interaction with one of the customer service representatives:
Me: I am looking for a refund.
Customer Service: But you made that purchase back in July and our system only shows the last 14 days.
Me: How is what your system does or does not do my problem?
Customer Service: Sir, I can try to do it, but the computer is just going to say that it's beyond the 14 day time window.
I got off the phone and wondered how many times "the system" overrules basic logic and taking care of the customer. HAL versus Human and HAL wins again!
Now, there might be an extremely logical reason for the system to only show the last 14 days of purchases...but that logic is with the company not the customer.
One of the most eye opening experiences we had in my last organization was to act like a new customer who was trying to buy something. We couldn't have made it any harder on them. There were sheets to fill out, pass codes to wait for, and a whole slew of other things that made us awful to do business with.
My suggestion for you as a business leader is to:
- Act like a new customer that wants to do business with your company. Take it all the way through from initial contact to paying the bill for the product you bought.
- Now return that product.
- Determine how much time you do all this on the internet versus having to talk to a customer service rep (people prefer the former, not the latter).
- Assign a "customer advocate" for every meeting. Someone that will always view business decisions with the filter of how this is going to impact the customer experience.
- Consider what my last boss did and create a Customer Service Officer. Someone that leads the non-sales functions that have a heavy influence on customer service so that they are working in coordination and on optimization.
Best of luck. Know that you've succeeded when your Customers say "You made it easy" versus "You exceeded my expectations".