...and some lessons you can apply to your business
Ouch! That was painful to read.
I woke up this morning to an article that was rather unflattering written about another service provider in our space. I wouldn’t call them a competitor since we really have different focuses to our business models, but enough of our business overlaps that turning their lesson into one we can learn from internally inspired me to sit down and write this.
First off, before I point out the lessons from this scathing article, I do want to acknowledge that being a technical solutions provider is hard work. There’s always more work than you can get done, and staffing, training and retaining top quality help-desk agents is difficult. Not to mention that with COVID, the scale of understandable absences, the unprecedented refactor of the new work-from-home standard, and the great resignation, have all added up to make this a VERY rough patch for all companies. Effortless has not been immune to these factors either, so as a side-note, I’m incredibly proud of how our company has come together over the last two years, learned, grown and improved during this time. Go team!
So what is customer experience, and why should you be paying attention?
How NOT to do customer experience.
Although I won’t throw shade and refer to them by name, I do encourage you to read the article for context so you can understand what having a focus on customer experience means, and why it is so important. You’ll learn that it wasn’t a single failure or a poor customer service experience. It was a series of sequential failures. Let’s start by clearing up a common misnomer.
While customer service is a part of customer experience, they are not the same. Customer service is a department or stage in your customer’s lifecycle. It is a subset of customer experience. You can have an outstanding customer service department and get raving customer service surveys because that particular agent did their job well and the customer appreciated THAT particular interaction. However, that same customer might be frustrated with your company because they had to call in the first place, or because it was their 5th call in two weeks. In fact, some companies spend a lot of money investing in customer service exactly because their customer experience is so bad. As the example in the article demonstrates, while the customer service might have gone down in quality as new, less experienced agents took over through attrition or were overwhelmed with workload from the lay-off, customer service couldn’t fix the technical issue of not being able to confirm the customer when the account was cancelled, or the bad company policies that caused the situation to escalate in the first place. They certainly had nothing to do with the lost emails, or the inability of the company to admit any fault.
So what is customer experience if it’s not customer service?
Jeoffrey Bean & Sean Van Tyne, two luminaries in the space, wrote the best intro to customer experience I’ve found called, The Customer Experience Revolution. They define the customer experience as the sum of all interactions a person has with a company. It’s how they: first hear about you, engage with sales & marketing, receive support after they’re a customer, and talk about you after being a customer. I encourage you to consider picking up their book and tuning into this new discipline. Your business probably has quite a few low hanging fruit “A-Ha’s” that could lead to significant ROI.
Customer experience can be your greatest marketing tool… or NOT.
The goal of customer experience is to turn happy clients into advocates that do your marketing for you! But as this article so painfully demonstrates, not paying attention to your customer experience can also turn clients into vocal critics. I understand that companies have contracts to enforce relationships — especially if the initial upfront effort of onboarding that client was being recouped over the life of the contract. it’s another thing when you really mess up, don’t take accountability and then hide behind a contract. Remember this was a sequence of events that escalated, so this *could* have been caught along the way and remedied. I’d be willing to bet that the cost of the remainder of that contract is way less than the bad publicity that article will cost them. I mean… do right by your customers, but especially avoid pissing customers off so much that they write an article about you and describe your business as a roach motel. OUCH. Also note that this customer WAS an active advocate that soured into a vocal critic – and one with a pretty big megaphone to boot. Double OUCH!
Customer experience done right can mean so much word-of-mouth referrals that your demand outpaces your capacity and you’re forced to choose which clients you WANT to work with, or raise your prices to balance your demand. Nice problem to have.
Customer experience is about delivering on your promises to earn trust.
Be honest. Mistakes happen. Owning up to them shows that you’re committed to transparency and earns trust. While it may cost you something in the short term, it usually pays dividends in the long run. Its also a cultural thing. If your company isn’t trust-worthy with your clients, then how do your employees interpret that? Will it cause them to question: “Is the company being trustworthy with me?” Or worse… lead to active disengagement where employees do just enough to collect a check and not get fired because you lost THEIR trust too.
You also can’t learn from mistakes you don’t think you have. If nobody wants to step up and admit they messed up and take accountability, then nothing changes. Own it. Learn from it and improve from it.
Great customer experience starts with a great employee experience.
I hear all the time that it’s tough to find quality people these days, but then those same companies just treat their employees like a number; and then wonder why they have such high turn-over! Hire people who care and are passionate about helping people. So many parts of the story in the article could have been solved by someone pausing to say: “Hey, this is an unfortunate circumstance. I’m so sorry about it, and though my policy states XYZ, I’m going to go above and beyond and see to it that this gets resolved.”
In short, customer experience is a practice of feedback and continuous improvement across your customer’s entire lifecycle, and it’s relevant to EVERY business. Done right, it will differentiate your business, lead to organic growth and allow you to command a premium. Done wrong, it can sink a business. Just ask Blockbuster about how valuable customer experience is…
If you want to learn more about our focus on customer experience and how we make IT effortless, stay tuned…
If you want to see it first-hand, give us a shout. We’d love to talk with you about your business.