If I am asked my opinion of the state of Customer Experience around the world, I make a number of rather bold statements. For example, I believe that whilst most organisations are now capturing and measuring Voice of the Customer in some way, the vast majority are measuring it incorrectly or badly. A bold statement indeed – and one that I have addressed in another blog post. In this post, I want to make a statement that is equally as bold. I believe that approximately 95% of companies in the world are delivering ‘random or unintentional’ customer experiences. This simple fact is the reason why we, as consumers, are still having so many experiences today that fail to meet our expectations.
Let me explain what I mean by ‘random or unintentional’ customer experiences. If you think about any business you transact with on a regular basis – your bank; or energy company; or telecoms provider – whilst much of the time they are able to meet your basic expectations, very often they will not. In other words, interacting with most companies remains a little bit of a lottery – sometimes it works; sometimes it does not. This lack of consistency defines the ‘typical’ customer experience being delivered today.
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We have to ask ourselves ‘why’ this is the case. The characteristics of an organisation that delivers ‘random or unintentional’ experiences are as follows:
- They tend to be very process task or product focused
- They are not very good at measuring what they do from the customer perspective
- They think that correcting things going wrong is ‘normal’ without recognising that they should not be going wrong in the first place
- They have a higher proportion of disengaged employees
- They carry a huge amount of unnecessary cost as a result of continual corrections and rework
Any of this sound familiar? I believe that these five characteristics are still present in most businesses around the world. I experience random experiences every single week – usually with airlines. As a frequent flyer, knowing that my luggage is going to arrive at my destination is a constant battle and the epitome of the customer ‘lottery’. How airlines deal with my luggage going missing is as unintentional as the luggage going missing itself!
Yet to bring the concept of the ‘random and unintentional’ customer experience to life, I want to use an example from another industry – an industry that every single one of us has to interact with on a daily basis. The telecoms industry is one that is as essential to a human as water and electricity. In fact, our ability to connect to Wi-Fi is possibly seen by some as even more important than water these days!!
A good friend of mine has been struggling with the randomness of the experience he has been having with the UK telecoms giant, BT – not an uncommon experience I am told . What he has allowed me to share with you is a timeline of his recent experience – it brings to life perfectly what I am describing – it is as random and unintentional as an experience can be:
- 6th August 2016 – Ordered unlimited BT Infinity 1 + Calls and TV. Activation date set for 22 August 2016 with a cost of £37.00 per month. Order included set up costs of £49.99 plus broadband extenders £20.00. Order also includes BT Sport at no additional cost
- 17th August 2016 – Confirmation of delivery date of ‘Youview’ box, modem and extenders
- 22nd August 2016 – Installation date – phone line and broadband disconnected. No Service
- 23rd August 2016 – Complaint 1 – Phone line and broadband not working. Agent confirms error, Openreach did not connect as requested. Will be restored tomorrow – One hour calling customer services by mobile
- 24th August 2016 – Phone service restored – 2 minute call received to confirm restoration
- 24th August 2016 – Complaint 2 – Internet service not available. Neither is BT Sport – One hour plus calling customer services. Told that BT infinity order has been cancelled and because I got through after 9pm the order team are unavailable and I need to call back in the morning. 3 phone calls. One cut-off in queue. Had to hang up after 25 minutes. Final call got through after 9pm.
- 25th August 2016 – Complaint 3 – No broadband – Called at 8AM explained problem – call cut off between technical team and order team. 20 minutes on the phone
- 25th August 2016 – Complaint 4- No broadband. Called at 11AM explained problem. Agent promised to investigate and call-back. No return call received. 30 minutes on the phone
- 26th August 2016 – Complaint 5 – No broadband. BT Agent confirmed order Infinity cancelled and new order placed. Delivery date 19 September, but will try to expedite. No call received from BT Agent. Called BT again at 6pm. 50 minutes on the phone
- 1st September 2016 – Broadband service restored
- 1st September 2016 – Complaint 6 – Broadband speed very slow. Experienced 18-20 MB under TalkTalk. Service currently 1-4 MB. Router self-test confirms a problem in BT network and refers issue to BT. Minimum guaranteed speed is 35 MB. 30 minutes to disconnect equipment and run self-diagnoses test.
- 2nd September 2016 – Update from BT Agent at 3pm – has my problem been solved? Broadband working, but slow. Informed that engineers may not look at this until 7th September. No access to BT Player service or BT Sport. 5 minutes on the phone.
- 2nd September 2016 – Broadband Speed Test – 180 ms 3.79 Mb/s upload 9.36 Mb/s download. 2 outages this evening
- 3rd September 2016 – BT Sport and BT Player – called BT to report that neither were working despite broadband available (albeit slow). BT agent confirmed that data issue meant that the account was not linked between two systems and therefore BT sport packages were not available. Reported to ‘data’ team and fix will be available in 48 hours – possibly 6thSeptember. 23 minutes on the phone
- 3rd September 2016 – Speed test 5.6 MB download speed.
- 7th September 2016 – Speed test 4 MB download 0.4 MB upload. BT sport and player channels still not working on TV. Complaint raised via email to BT (15 minutes)
- 3rd October 2016 – Bill generated at double the expected amount of £33 PM. Rang to query what happened. First operator said that they couldn’t resolve and transferred me to a second billing team. UK operator agreed that the account had been set up wrongly and agreed to adjust notes on my file. That operator couldn’t process the refund or update the account therefore I had to be transferred to a third operator. Explained the entire situation to the third operator and referred him to the notes on file, added by the second operator. Operator placed me on hold while he went to query the matter with his supervisor. Line cut off while on hold. Too busy to ring back. 40 minutes on the phone
- 3rd October 2016 – Speed still very slow in the evenings. Possibly due to connection, but nothing like the ‘guaranteed’ 32mb, nor the 17mb I used to get from TalkTalk all the time. BT want to send engineer around (I am at risk of call-out charge). Explained that broadband was fixed by Openreach in April. No change since between BT running at 2mb and TalkTalk running at 17mb.
- 26th October 2016 – Second bill £77 when BT Infinity plus evening and weekend calls and BT TV/Sport should have been £35. Operator to calculate refund for September and October – credit to appear on November invoice. £60 refund. Bill £33.84. Queried why I cannot claim BT Reward Card of £125 due to fault on my line with Broadband speed. Operator – promised to refer matter to separate team who will investigate and dispatch card within 30 days. 30 minutes on the phone
Painful. Embarrassing. Frustrating. Annoying. There are many words you could use to describe this ultimate random and unintentional experience. Reading something like this makes me wonder why and how business are able to exist when they interact with customers in such a way. What makes experiences like this all the more incredible is that not only are they significantly damaging customer perception, they are also costing organisations like BT millions in unnecessary cost.
The saddest thing of all, is that this experience is not unusual. It may be worse than some; and maybe not as bad as others. There may be customers having great experiences with BT at the same time – but that is the point. Whilst organisations like BT continue to deliver ‘random and unintentional’ customer experiences, their customers and others all around the world are going to continue taking their business elsewhere. Businesses need to work harder to deliver experiences that WANT us to have – ones that leave us feeling secure and content. From the looks of it, BT have a long way to go before that happens!
What ‘random and unintentional’ experiences are you having with organisations? If you want to share your pain, please feel free to do so here!!