Sometimes we get wrapped around too many axles defining and dimensioning customer experience programs. Instead, if we examine these 6 key statements and re-shape processes, energies, and investments behind their definitions, we will see significant opportunities to increase customer experience.
#1: “If you want to be loved, just do it right.”
Over the years working with many clients and addressing corporate and industry conferences, I often ask “Tell me about your worst customer experiences” and “Tell me about your best customer experiences”, and then we explore “Why” the experiences were so memorable. Almost always, it turns out that the worst customer experiences stem from stuff that didn’t work as promised, was confusing, or came from unresponsive support teams; on the other hand, the best customer experiences happened when there were unexpected surprises, reliable performances (especially soon after unreliable ones), or cheery and empathetic support efforts.
The net is “If you want to be loved, just do it right.” This was the title of the 1st book review we got for our 1st book The Best Service is No Service back in March 20081, from Alan Mitchell in the Financial Times2. It’s also the crux of that book title: If you focus your energies and efforts to make sure that stuff works right in the first place, there is very little need for customer support from frustration or confusion. This can be measured by metrics such as Right First Time, First Pass Yield3, or CPX4 and need concerted cross-company attention to sustain progress.
#2: “If you know something that your customers need to know, tell them!”
It’s so frustrating to call a company because your order is late, or your car is sputtering, only to learn that it’s a known problem and they never got around to alert you about the delay or order up a recall. When I recently discussed this statement at a client’s user group off site meeting, one of the customers said to me, “This means ‘getting in front of the problem’”, and that about sums it up. Now you do get delayed flight alerts, shipping notifications, maintenance or recall reports, power restoration notices, and much more. Still, there are many more cases where companies are sitting on known issues without telling customers, preferring to handle these complaints or questions when they are discovered.
However, if you do tell your customers first, not only will they appreciate the heads up but they will say good things on social media, contact you less frequently (see again the metric CPX), and you can dig into the root causes behind any negative alerts so that the underlying product or service continuously improves.
#3: “First, be prepared to listen.”
I’ve written about the need to have many listening posts to detect “what our customers are saying” (WOCAS) and the need to integrate these channels into a Big Data-enabled “integrated voice of the customer” program (I-VOC), but even earlier it’s essential to be prepared to listen (and to act upon what you learn!).
There are some terrific stories about new products or services that can be traced to customers sharing thoughts or suggestions, or simply musing, to customer service agents or other customer-facing staff, like back at Amazon where the company’s supply chain experts “hear” when customers want to return a product because it is inoperative in the automated online returns center, and today once the second customer registers that the product doesn’t work, Amazon removes that item from being available for purchase online, notifies the supplier, and anticipates the products’ return to investigate the root causes. This is essentially the codicil for the 1st statement, maybe stated as “If you find out it’s broken, don’t sell any more!”
Moreover, being prepared to listen can bear fruit – it’s free, too.
#4: “Make it fast + simple”
My UK-based colleague Peter Massey has frequently exhorted companies to “make it fast + simple for our customers”, easier said than done but essential to gain and grow customer trust. Today there’s a hot new metric called Customer Effort Score (CES) that you obtain (a) by asking customers “How hard was it for you to do X?”, where X could be “order your product” or “change your password” or any other “customer journey” step, or thanks to Big Data (b) by collecting customer experiences across all steps, sense if the customer is encountering effort, apply remedies from a recommendations engine, and track post-remedy response with machine learning.
Using either or both tracks, you can begin to understand how easy or hard it is for your customers to navigate your organization. We also covered this in our 2nd book Your Customer Rules!6 with several “Customer Sub-Needs” underneath of “You make it easy for me” (All of the Needs and Sub-Needs are expressed in the customer’s voice, making it easy to mine for these comments or their opposite expressions that we called “Failure” statements.): “You make it easy for me to buy from you” (Kind of obvious, right? Still, it’s amazing the hoops that some companies require prospects or, worse yet, existing customers to buy from them, such as security checks or financial hurdles) … “You don’t make me have to navigate your organization” (As we add in this Sub-Need’s Failure Statement, “I don’t want to know how you’re organized.”) … “You don’t ask me about your effort”.
#5: “Athletes helping athletes”
Nike has a compelling expression that their customer service agents and store employees are “athletes helping athletes”, their customers also being called athletes. This means that customer-facing staff have to be able to relate to prospects and customers without having to resort to voluminous “Knowledge Bases” or having to pull in colleagues to help them understand what the customer wants or needs. It’s still OK to bring in an expert to match a more advanced customer’s queries, but transfers and handoffs are anathema to customers, almost as bad as not getting their question or issue resolved.
You can measure this statement with a variety of post-interaction metrics led by (a) How much more did this customer buy from us vs. a control group? and (b) Did they say good things about us on social media, as well as the older methods including (c) c-sat or NPS or CES surveys (but be very careful about projecting from low response rates!
#6: “We know what it means to serve”
One of the perennial leaders in customer experience is USAA, the San Antonio, Texas-based financial service provider for current or former military officers and senior enlisted personnel. Full disclosure: I’ve been a satisfied USAA “member” (now doesn’t that sound better than “customer”?) for more than 30 years, and USAA customer service reps usually tell me “Lieutenant Price, thank you for your service.”
At USAA and other customer experience leaders, employees need to go through training to know what their customers go through in their lives so that they need the company’s services or products. It helps that USAA often hires former military in its contact centers, but there are many other ways to fulfill “We know what it means to serve” including eating MREs (meals, ready-to-eat) in training and learning from colleagues who have “served”. This harkens back also to the popular BBC TV show “Back to the Floor”7 that is called “Business Training for Top Bosses”, copied in the States as “Undercover Boss”. When management and staff get a direct feel what it’s like to be a customer, everyone benefits – complex procedures and processes implode, there’s recognition how tough it is on the front line to serve and help customers, and VOC is clearly shared and more widely embraced.
So there you have it. If you follow these six key statements you will propel your customer experience program, but only if they become deeply embedded across the entire company: top down, across all teams, and including all of your partners, too.8
- “If you want to be loved, just do it right.”
- “If you know something that your customers need to know, tell them!”
- “First, be prepared to listen.”
- “Make it fast + simple”
- “Athletes helping athletes”
- “We know what it means to serve”
1The Best Service is No Service: Liberating Your Customers from Customer Service, Keep Them Happy, and Control Costs, Bill Price & David Jaffe (Wiley 2008).
2 Reprinted in http://www.jsk-solutions.com/downloads/If%20you%20want%20to%20be%20loved.pdf, accessed 16 November 2017.
3 “First Time Yield Or First “Pass” Yield Is A Tool For Measuring The Amount Of Rework In A Given Process. It Is An Excellent Cost Of Quality Metric.” From https://www.isixsigma.com/dictionary/first-time-yield-fty/ accessed 16 November 2017.
4 I’ve been using CPX as a key health check metric for contact center operations for many years now. Here’s the definition in The Best Service is No Service: “CPX, contacts per X. The number of customer-initiated, agent-handled contacts over time (for example, per week or per year) that are driven by X, with X being orders, transactions, new installations, and so on; Amazon’s early CPX was CPO, contacts per orders placed (for example: 2.50 = for every customer (“X”), there are 2.5 contacts. The lower the CPX, the simpler and more effective the processes.)”
5 See my earlier columns in CustomerThink: “Using Big Data to Build an Integrated Voice of the Customer Program: A 6-Step Guide”, March 2017 http://customerthink.com/using-big-data-to-build-an-integrated-voice-of-the-customer-program-a-6-step-guide/; “3 Tips for Customer Experience Analytics”, November 2016 http://customerthink.com/3-tips-for-customer-experience-analytics/; “Don’t Ask, Know! What Are Your Customers Not Saying? Not Doing?”, November 2016 http://customerthink.com/dont-ask-know-what-are-your-customers-not-saying-not-doing/; and “Premier Support Programs: All Customers Aren’t Equal”, October 2006 http://customerthink.com/20/
6Your Customer Rules! Delivering the Me2B Experiences That Today’s Customers Demand, Bill Price & David Jaffe (Wiley 2015). Based on original research into 12 recognized CX leaders there are the 7 Customer Needs that produce a winning “Me2B” culture, with a total of 39 sub-needs:
- “You know me, you remember me”
- “You give me choices”
- “You make it easy for me”
- “You value me”
- “You trust me”
- “You surprise me with stuff that I can’t imagine”
7 Good synopsis here: http://www.bbcactive.com/BBCActiveIdeasandResources/BacktotheFloorBusinessTrainingforBosses.aspx, accessed 16 November 2017.
8 These are the three elements in the 1st of 4 “Foundations” that we proposed in Your Customer Rules! This 1st Foundation is “Customer-Oriented Culture”, and the other three Foundations are Streamlined Processes, Integrated Channels, and Energized Workforce”.
How about Rick Barrera’s experience optimization guidance: “Underpromise and overdeliver.”?
Good one, Michael. Let’s collect a bunch of ’em!
Great article. I like the idea of turning the concepts into statements. I can envision a manager talking to his/her team and using one of these statements as a conversation starter for a daily huddle.
Agreed, Shep. Soon after I shared these statements at an offsite meeting, one of the attendees told me that he immediately called his store manager to call into the shop all customers who had ordered a defective item, despite the fact that it wasn’t under a formal recall.