Is customer experience just another management fad?


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It all started with a call from my mother on Wednesday at about 5.00 pm; wanting me to contact our cable service provider as the service was disrupted.

I had opted for this service provider, as it represented absolute values, ideas, and mindsets, and I tie this with an exceptional experience. But, the recent experience to get cable working at home, makes me wonder – Is customer experience just another management fad?

“And a question for the management is: “If you were your own customer would you be happy with the service?

How the service provider managed to annoy the customer (i.e. me)

Nothing is more frustrating than not having a way to reach out to your service provider and have an assurance that they care enough to help you. Let me share the chronology of the events, which took place over the next four days:

Day 1 – I promptly tried calling the customer care and after navigating through the automated IVR I was put on hold for more than 20 minutes to speak to the client service representative. The call dropped and further attempts to reach out did not yield any results.

Reasons for Getting Annoyed – You are not reachable. You are wasting my time.

Day 2 – My mom promptly reminded me that the cable was still not working. Finally, I got through around 1 pm. I got informed by the IVR that this was a planned upgrade to a better technology, and the problem would be resolved automatically. I was also assured via a system alert, that my problem will be addressed within the next 2 hours.

Reasons for Getting Annoyed – Why was I not informed of the planned upgrade? I have not received any call/ status update and its past midnight.

Day 3 – The woes did not end as the wait continued. The irony: their billing team called me to inform that my annual subscription was due for renewal next week.

Reasons for Getting Annoyed – You have all the time in the world, to call and remind me for renewal. But what about the promised service call? Hey, you are charging me when I am not being provided the service?

Day 4 – Finally after calling the call center multiple times, by evening the service was reinstated.

Reasons for Getting Annoyed – You continue to waste my time. I had to cancel few of my weekend appointments.

Day 5 – I continued to receive calls from multiple technicians, to come and fix the problem.

Also, I had to fight for overbilling and getting an extension of the service for the days it was interrupted.

Reasons for Getting Annoyed – Looks like there is lack coordination within the department.

To Continue or Not To Continue

Feeling cheated and let down, the thought of changing the service provider did come to my mind. I did a quick Google search and realized that their competitors had some interesting offers. But the switching cost is high, not to mention wasting time has stalled the decision. But a repeat fiasco, the decision will be different.

“Most big brands promise is to provide an outstanding customer service, but this recent experience made me realize that only a few  achieve it. The question is: Why?

The underlying cause for such poor service

The customer experience has been completely ignored and handled in a disorganized way, with brand communication detached from customer service (amongst other divisions). It seems as if ‘what the brand promised’ and the ‘experience of the consumer’ are two different realities.

Three basic things what you as the brand could have done (and should take care in the future)

1. Better Planning – As it was a planned upgrade, the customers could have been informed well in advance. A note explaining how he or she will benefit, by when will it get completed, plus what he or she can expect?

2. Be Reachable and Proactive – “Just like a hotel usually calls a guest shortly after their arrival to make sure everything is OK with the room.” You too could have reached out via your extensive multi-channel network (SMS/ Phone/ Email) to check if there were any issues, post the upgrade and get customer feedback. This channel is not meant only for cross-selling and upselling your products and services or sending payment reminders.

3. Better co-ordination between departments – You don’t call an irate and annoyed customer about payment reminders. Especially, when they are waiting  you to resolve their problem. By automating your systems to update call tickets would have avoided the unnecessary calls field force made to customers whose problem was already solved.  They could be diverted to reach out to the other unfortunate clients who were still waiting for your call.

Be Sorry

But talking of a post-mortem is not going to help douse the anger and frustration of the customer that may damage your brand.

So acknowledge that you made a mistake, whether it’s not communicating about the planned upgrade or for charging while the service was disrupted. Sometimes as customers we merely want to hear two little words:

“We’re sorry, and this will not occur in the future .”

It’s all about relationships. Know your customer. Provide them with the services you would want for yourself.

Article was first posted in Marketers Touchpoint

Vidya Priya Rao
Vidya Priya Rao (PhD), is the Founder and Director of Innovatus Marketers Touchpoint LLP, a customer experience, design thinking and marketing consulting firm based in Mumbai, India. She is a design thinking/service design thinking decoder and promotes a proven approach to build a design-led innovation culture. She is also a visiting faculty at leading B-Schools in India. She is an Executive, Marketing & Sales Coach, Trainer, and Keynote Speaker.


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