Good Marketing Can’t Overcome Poor Customer Experience

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I am very proud to be part of the CustomerThink.com family, as an adviser and columnist for the past few years.  And while my network knows me as a B2B marketing and revenue growth specialist, I like to write about and practice strategies that make the marketing department a key part of the customer experience (CX) equation.

The old mantra of customer experience professionals is to “Ensure that customers achieve their desired outcomes while using our products and services.” However, this is very limiting and leaves a lot of goodwill (and profit) on the table.  This is why the CX definition needs to be expanded to: “Ensure that our customers achieve their desired outcomes, starting when they become aware of us, and extending through the buying, delivery and usage process.

With this expansive and hopeful definition in mind, imagine my disappointment (hopefully yours as well) when I read an article like, Your call is important to us’: Not really, University of Minnesota study shows. “If you think customer service has gone to the dogs, guess what? Many companies don’t care. Research from the University of Minnesota posits that many businesses intentionally make it hard for consumers to complain — and it works. “There may be profitable advantages for the firm to induce customer hassles,” said Yi Zhu, an associate marketing professor at the Carlson School of Management and co-author of a report on customer service frustrations.”

I know this is not a shock to many of us, especially when every time we call a so-called help line, we are told, “Your call is important to us but our call volume is unusually high” – and we get this same message whenever we call. The same is true when the first-level support person can’t solve your problem but is pleased to put you in another seemingly endless queue to speak to a supervisor. For such companies, the goal is not to make you happy, but rather, to make you give up. You may be frustrated, but the company saved money by not issuing a refund or going through the hassle of solving your issue.

Some companies are experimenting with artificial intelligence to manage the CX process.  As article stated, “He said he knows of cases where AI is used to detect the emotions of consumers: They will only transfer you when you are about to explode.” How does it make you feel as a consumer to know that you will only get transferred when you blow your cork? Do you need to feign indignation early, the way you now hit the zero key to bypass the endless auto attendant scripts?

The Marketing and Sales Connection to CX

So, what is the connection of all this to marketing and sales? Simply this. As a CMO, CSO or any member of the marketing or sales teams, you spend a lot of money, time and energy convincing prospects that you care about their needs and desires and have no other goal other than their current and future satisfaction. Despite the prospect’s natural skepticism, you earn the business, get paid, and then assume that the rest of the organization will live up to the lofty promises you made. And you definitely don’t expect the department that is responsible for keeping customers happy to willingly sacrifice customer happiness for short-term financial gain.

Yes, I know that there are customers who take advantage of generous customer service policies and these need to be dealt with. However, the vast majority of support calls from customers that have a legitimate issue that deserves to be addressed. Don’t punish the latter group to protect yourself from the minority that are out to get you. Smart companies learn how to both protect themselves and provide at least reasonable customer service. They also know that:

  1. Depending on the industry, it will cost 5-20 times as much to generate a new customer as to upsell or resell to an existing customer.
  2. As this article about 2020 CX trends shows, there are documented costs of poor customer service and large financial benefits to great CX. Just one example: The Temkin Groupfound that companies that earn $1 billion annually can expect to earn, on average, an additional $700 million within 3 years of investing in customer experience.
  3. Dissatisfied customers have recourse. They will spread the word about ill treatment far and wide through social media and online reviews.
  4. A culture of mediocrity in CX can spread to the rest of the organization. After all, who wants to work hard to find and sell prospects that will be mistreated when they become customers.

The jury is still out on whether deliberately introducing time and performance delays into the CX process has a net financial benefit. However, there is no doubt that there are costs associated with this cynical policy – not to count the fact that it is just plain wrong to treat people one way when you are trying to sell them and another way post-sale.

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