It’s the experience, not the channel

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Surely I’m late to the game on this but I had always found it curious and interesting to read accounts of peoples’ CX and more specifically support experiences through Twitter.  The concept of pinging a business via their public handle and then getting a resolution seemed pretty cool to me.  It’s mostly anecdotal but I feel the vast majority of those instances were travel-related.  It may be because that’s all I think about these days, what with the world shut down.  But if I remember correctly it usually had to do with people otherwise having issues checking into a hotel or in-the-moment flight cancellations and such.  The scenario usually went somewhat like this:  I had an issue with this airline or hotel chain right there at the gate or in the lobby checking in.  So I pulled out my phone and tweeted them and within a few minutes, I was all squared away thanks to their crack team of tweeters who jumped on my case and resolved it for me right away.  The vision I conjured in my mind was a cadre of little elves flipping switches behind the scenes, unleashed by this great new immediate technology.  Needless to say, I was skeptical but intrigued nonetheless.

Recently, I gave it a shot myself.  I performed an experiment wherein I engaged with a couple of big companies through their Twitter.  I’ll reserve the names because none of them really came through the way I’d anticipated.

First, there was my Internet service provider.  Our service was out inexplicably one afternoon and so I called their service phone line.  The experience was terrible in myriad ways and the upshot was we spent the entire night (Angels and ministers of grace defend us!) without service.  The next morning, still receiving no information about what was going on, I tweeted.  I was immediately invited to a link so I could DM with them but nobody in that channel was able to give me any insights either.  I had my appointment with our tech (who was, as usual, a rock star), but even afterwards, the pointless and help-free DM Twitter conversation continued (they clearly hadn’t even been aware of what was going on).  It was simply an extension in a different channel of the miserable experience I had had on the phone.  Same poor service, different tech.

Next was a delivery I was expecting from a well-known shipping company.  We were away for a couple of days and the package was something I did not want to be left on my front porch.  Again, phone was useless.  There was even a point in the call when I entered an inescapable (short of hanging up, which I did) loop that actually included a recording promising to put me through to a person “now”.  When I finally did get through to humanity (here’s a tip…tell the IVR you’re looking to speak with someone about international shipping and you’ll get a person), they were of no help.  So, what the heck…on to Twitter.  Their Twitter DMs were handled, it seemed, by an automated system.  I was invited (in DM, not publicly) to give them all my information…to include entering the arms-long tracking number, after which they weren’t able to do anything other than the un-empowered agent on the phone had been.  We instead relied on our neighbor to pick up the package from our doorstep (which, thanks to Nest, we were able to arrange right after it had been delivered).  Strike two.

Finally, there’s my mobile carrier.  These people are literally in the communications business.  We have horrible cell service in the town where we like to retreat in the mountains outside of Denver.  It’s not the rugged no-running-water sort of mountaintop hamlet or anything…there is cell service.  It’s just that our provider hasn’t made much of an effort to provide service up there.  Anyway, I wanted to ‘unlock’ my phone so I could investigate other potential providers (one of their competitors gets great reviews in that area).  I didn’t even bother calling, I just pinged them straight away on Twitter.  For a communications company, they really don’t do a good job communicating.  I never even heard back from them.  I’ll chalk that one up to this corporation simply not leveraging this particular channel, although, again, it seems odd that a telecom of all companies wouldn’t.

The bottom line here is that, while being everywhere your Customers want you to be in order to service them is a great approach to CX and should, in theory at least, make your Customers’ lives easier, just opening up a channel isn’t enough:  You have to put effort into the experience itself in the first place.  I get the impression from this personal little experiment that plenty of service providers consider the channel to be the feature rather than the service itself.  Perhaps they think that, simply by being in the space, they’ve checked that box and can move on.  Maybe they even pride themselves as being on the ‘bleeding edge’ by offering ‘service’ on multiple platforms and channels.

In reality, though, these three experiences were abysmal.  Not because they didn’t meet me where I am as a Customer, in the channel of my preference, but rather because they didn’t have the fundamentals down for a positive CX from the get-go.  You can’t just take a bad experience, add some flash of technology, and expect that to change the end result.  A bad experience is a bad experience regardless of channel.

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