Customer screw-ups are your fault


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Some of your Customers are idiots.

Hey, full disclosure, that includes me.

In fact, in some circles, I’m known as the “LCD,” or least-common denominator.  As the joke goes, Z is the dimmest bulb in the group, and as such, if I get something, everybody should be able to understand it.

Self-deprecation aside, the much-more-straight-faced point I’m making here is that we as brands need to develop our systems for the lowest-common-denominator Customer.  I don’t mean to treat our Customers like idiots, but…well, kind of to do that, yeah.

As I consider this concept, I’m taken back to a situation I recently wrote about where I had a difference of perspective from a brand I was dealing with.  As per their policy, they characterized what’d happened as my having made an error.  The point of my previous article was:  Even if so; so what?  Forget who’s gotten what wrong…the brand should hold some interest in making sure I’m satisfied as a Customer…that’s what goodwill gestures are all about.

But there’s another side to this; a more transactional perspective.  And it’s something that brands are even more loath to consider (mostly because it takes more work):  By and large, your Customers’ errors are your fault.

I admonish every executive with whom I work to walk in his or her Customers’ shoes.  As I always say, there’s no better education than that of experience, and if you’re sitting in your ELT understanding everything about how to navigate your systems because you know…from inside…how they all work, you’re missing much more than the lion’s share of the picture.

Because here’s the issue:  Sometimes your Customers are idiots.

But guess what:  They’re your Customers, and they pay your bills.

Even if a Customer is the one who (proximally) made a mistake, it’s your responsibility to make sure your (especially Customer-facing!) systems are as fool-proof as possible to (as best you can) avoid those issues in the first place.

How often do you see the same problem with Customers (,say,) ordering the wrong part or level of service from your website?  How often do they misunderstand the expectations on delivery timelines?  Are you constantly taking angry calls in your Contact Center from Customers who think they’re being taken advantage of based on what they thought you meant?

There’s an awesome saying I love to invoke in situations like this:  “If one guy passes you on the right, maybe he’s a jerk.  If everybody is passing you on the right, consider that you’re the jerk.”  Every once in a while, someone’ll get caught up in the gears of your system, or pay too little attention to the thing that you’ve clearly put right there in bold on your website.  Here’s a pro-tip, though:  If a lot of your complaints are of that nature, the problem is you.

In the example I was referencing above, I didn’t agree that I’d gotten it wrong (a rare situation for me to find myself, that’s for sure).  Nevertheless, if I did get it wrong, my self-assurance that it couldn’t have been that I screwed it up should be a red flag that their systems are naturally a little misleading, complicated, or counterintuitive.  The brand in question aren’t a bunch of scheisters or crooks (or even, for that matter, in any real way not Customer-centric to begin with).  They simply need to take a closer look at their systems so that any idiot (Present!) can handle and navigate their systems.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Nicholas Zeisler, CCXP, LSSBB
I’m a Customer Experience executive, certified Process Improvement professional, Agile Scrum Master, dynamic educator, change management strategist, and in-demand business and leadership coach. I've worked from the inside and from the outside; in organizations large and small; public sector and private; from oil and gas to technology to non-profit (with lots in between too). I've seen a lot, but I haven't seen it all.


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