The Human Impact Of Improved Customer Experience

I just added up the time that I spent last week having frustrating interactions with companies as a customer: 1 hour and 10 minutes (roughly). I owe most of that to my wireless carrier, but a few other companies also made generous contributions. In each case, I ended the interaction feeling worse than when I’d started — edgier, tenser, and more negative in general. It’s not as if I could turn those emotions off either. Petty though they were, they lasted awhile. How did this affect my subsequent interactions with co-workers, friends, and family? I don’t know exactly, but I’m sure it made them at least somewhat worse. And the impact rippled out from there.

Not surprisingly, I’m not the only one feeling the social effects of bad customer experience. In a recent poll from the UK’s Universal Channel, Brits reported spending an average of 1 hour and 19 minutes per day feeling angry.* The most frequently cited reason was bad customer service. Actually, many of the top 10 reasons relate to customer experience — some, like the last one, are just funny. Take a look:

I don’t advise organizations to invest in improving customer experience because it’s the right thing to do socially. I advise that they do so because it will drive long-term financial success. But what really helps me sleep at night is the knowledge that improving customers’ experiences is actually improving customers’ lives. It’s creating less irritation and more happiness. No rationalizing required — it’s just true (or else you’re not doing it right).

I encourage you to think about the human impact of your work as well. How will your current project or initiative make the lives of your customers (or employees) better? How will that affect the ripple out into the world? This line of thinking may not help you get funding for your next big idea, but it will help you see the good in what you do. That’s powerful in itself.

*The first article I came across on this UK study was from a clinical psychologist. His recommendation for dealing with little irritants like bad customer service: Don’t try to avoid “sweating the small stuff.” Instead, learn how to complain effectively. Of course, that has implications for customer experience leaders too . . . especially if your customers take the author's advice.

Comments

A friend recently recounted a

A friend recently recounted a terrible customer-service experience. As he described it, it became clear that no one at the company he'd been dealing with was taking a company point of view. Instead, it was a blame game: From the sales clerk - "So-and-so shouldn't have promised you that," from the management - "We've had a very busy day." The fact remained that the company's failure to deliver on its promise had cost my fiend considerable time and inconvenience. He returned the product and the company lost his business.

In recounting the experience, he asked an important question: don't the very people who provide terrible customer service hate it when they receive terrible customer experience? Why is it that sales/service personnel do not think about how much they hate being inconvenienced? Or do they just not care?

Bad customer service seems like a failure on two fronts: Service personnel failing to act as sales people (the two really are inexorably intertwined) - and service people failing to put themselves in the customers' shoes.

How is it that some companies avoid these failures while for most these types of failures are more often than not business as usual?

Customer Service Really Does Drive Long-Term Financial Success

Long after a customer's practical needs have been met, the customer will remember how they felt doing business with the company. In every customer service interaction, the customer has a practical need and an emotional need. The emotional need is where most customer service agents and their training fall short.

What we have found in working with customer service departments is that agents must be trained, coached and measured on meeting the customer's emotional need, since that is precisely where customer loyalty is established and sustained. Companies need to make certain their policies and procedures create a low-effort experience for the customer. So the combination of effectively meeting the customer’s practical need and emotional need and then creating a low-effort experience is what truly drives a great customer interaction. Great customer interactions create customer loyalty, and as the research demonstrates, customer loyalty leads to increased profitability.

The customer service/loyalty program we recently developed is being rolled out for a global 500 company doing business in over 80 countries - we refer to it as the Golden Touchpoint. One of the fascinating aspects of this work is that regardless of the culture or language of the customer, every customer wants their emotional (not just practical) needs met, and they want a low-effort experience. They want the agent and the company to be easy to do business with. When that doesn't happen, customers get frustrated, and when they get frustrated, they tell other people. That hurts the company's financial bottom line.

Maximizing Value For Society

Andrew - your post reminded me of a recent blog post on the HBR Blog Network entitled "CEOs Need a New Set of Beliefs" (http://blogs.hbr.org/hbsfaculty/2011/09/ceos-need-a-new-set-of-beliefs.html).

The new guiding beliefs that the blog post suggests addresses the focus leadership should place on "maximizing value for society" not just shareholders. Focus on the customer experience from the very top leadership levels is a great place to start impacting the value your company can have on making our society better.

Thanks.
Bryan Surface
Andrew Reise Consulting

Third Party Customer Service Validation

I got the point with customer service that I just could not take it anymore

-see- http://www.uvent.com.au

uVent allows users to post a vent – a complaint with satisfaction rating to the website – and companies have the opportunity to respond in order to retain their customers – the interchanges are always private but post resolution, aspects of the interchange can be made public to create transparency and customer advocacy. (if nominated by the company)

If the named company does not respond to Vents, they may be responded to by competitors allowing them to acquire customers who have a high propensity to switch in real time - Opening up the churn market to companies who have a better offer or provide a differentiated level of customer service… and significantly reducing the cost of acquisition for these companies

Improving customer service is

Improving customer service is a virtuous circle – it is a simple truth that keeping your customers happy makes them more loyal, as well as saving money for companies as they don’t have to deal with escalated, multiple complaints. There’s not much customer service can do about Public Displays of Affection though!