Gas Prices are High. So are Customer Expectations.

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Rising gas prices impacts us all. Digital signs at every corner reminding us of a price we can’t fathom. Commuters fed up and empty, now fill up with necessity. Fleets of vehicles transporting nearly every Amazon/Wal-Mart contraption we can dream of are bracing for the next price spike that trickles down the chain. Even the tension you feel right now turns your face to a scowl as you whisper expletives under your breath. And while the world around us seeks to place blame on politicians or wars or an industry, the only single truth is consumer expectations for everything are also at an all-time high. If I pay more, I demand more. If you charge me this, I deserve that!

The American Petroleum Institute recently posted a blog called the “Five Facts About U.S. Gasoline Prices” and in this post I’m going to attempt to correlate their findings to the heightened set of customer expectations that is also sweeping our nation.

Supply & Demand

Uncertainty in supply and demand create havoc. Just like instability in the oil industry, factors like a pandemic, war, inflation, and the great resignation are heightening the expectation of consumers yet remain excuses for most customer service-based companies. “Due to recent covid-19 factors, your wait may be longer than expected.” “Due to high call volume, we recommend you visit our website.” In reality, these messages should read, “Because we still haven’t figured out work-from-home, don’t pay well, and don’t fully know how to maximize self-service technology, expect to leave this interaction feeling hopeless.”

It is time to lean-in to the challenges that have intensified demands and step-away from excuses. If your internal resources aren’t moving fast enough, ask for help. If your technology and hiring strategy isn’t getting the job done, think differently. Just more technology and more money won’t solve bad experiences and employee churn – ask for help that thinks outside the realm of “what everybody else is doing”, revise your service levels, and make your organization different. In the end, create a place where everyone wants to work, not just a place that some people do.

Choices Matter

Policy choices in the oil and gas industry are just as complicated as the rules your organization have created to serve customers. And in customer service, these choices nearly 100% of the time means shifting customer journeys from the most expensive channel to the least. In the past decade our industry has done everything possible to move away from the phone channel. And guess what? This behavior has created some of the best self-service alternatives to “speak to an agent” imaginable. But its also created a horrible back draft of voice interactions that, let me be clear:

“If a loyal customer regularly uses your app and bot and FAQ and website and IVR and social media to accomplish tasks with your organization and now they’re calling – they’re calling because they have to, not because they choose to!”

In the past week I was asked to wait over 4 hours for my airline (weekly app user), wait for 2 hours to speak to my bank (weekly web and app user), and 8 hours to speak to the company holding my retirement. Each of these companies used the word “unexpected” repeatedly. If the word your company chooses to start a customer interaction is “unexpected”, then your company has made wrong choices.

Improving Supply

The article I mentioned before also states, “focus on policies that increase U.S. supply to help mitigate the situation rather than political grandstanding that contributes to a difficult investment environment at a time when investments are needed the most.” I’m not here for a political debate over gas prices, but customer expectations with increased supply is just the same. Perhaps now, post-pandemic, is your organization’s time to stop grandstanding on specific issues and hit the policy reset button.

#1 – Look beyond simple improvements to your website and look toward seamless experiences that cross channel barriers.

#2 – Look beyond minor changes in your self-service IVR that might impact call volume and look toward innovative workforce strategies that make your employees happier.

#3 – Look beyond researching 10 more “intents” for your bot and look toward the 10 rare reasons WHY it might be better to speak to a customer.

#4 – Look beyond increasing wages to attract more of the same talent you have now and look toward ways to improving supervisor/agent engagement and coaching.

Overall, high prices do mean that customers will demand more. Now is not the time to lean back, settle for single-digit revenue growth, and ride out the storm. Now is the time for action that is bigger than any technology stack or cloud-based whatever or excused-based fiasco you find yourself in today. Customers deserve it.

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