Nine Ways to Accidentally Create Tragic Customer Outcomes

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No executive or CX professional sets out to create a poor experience for their customers or team members. No one wants to make repeated bad impressions, or for customers to leave 1-star reviews, but it happens. In this blog, I’ll explore nine ways companies inadvertently create tragic customer outcomes and how to avoid them.

1. Neglect the culture

In a Vistage article the Vistage UK staff defines company culture as the “personality, atmosphere, and tone of the company” that quickly informs and “impacts how you experience that company,” and guides, directs and shapes how that company impacts others, hires and trains staff, makes decisions, and handles adversity. As the writer notes, “every workplace has one; it’s not an optional extra. That’s why it’s vital to set, shape, and reinforce it. Get it wrong and you can expect an endless sea of challenges – some of which are almost impossible to overcome.” Here’s one more thing about culture, if you neglect to define a culture, the people you hire will define one for you. If you neglect to manage, nurture the culture, the people you’ve hired will set your culture adrift and your customer’s experience will be brutal.

The good news: “Get it right and you can expect increased staff retention, a strong brand identity and a positive corporate image.”

2. Set unrealistic goals

Every organization has goals, and expectations. Generally, goals help teams focus their efforts, use their time wisely, achieve the best results and desired outcomes. When goals are realistic, teams are able to focus and provide the best possible outcomes while achieving them. When goals become unrealistic or unachievable, teams lose motivation, cut corners, manipulate metrics, or worse leave and go elsewhere leaving your company drained of good talent.

The good news: Keep goals specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timebound. It will give your team motivation and prevent burnout.

3. Be inconsistent

Consistent, positive experiences drive healthy customer retention. When customers have repeated positive experiences with your company it enhances the brand and products positive associations. Creating this consistency is a part of culture, process, team building and onboarding and processes. When customers do not know what to expect from your teams, leaders, staff, or company in general they are less likely to stay, less likely to promote, and less likely to purchase. Some ways in which your team can create inconsistency includes:

  1. Doing everything as a one off. Each customer’s experience depends on the agent, the date and time, or some random confluence of factors and circumstances.
  2. Never creating, updating, or revising processes. No process document or script exists to help employees provide a consistent experience to the end user.
  3. Not training employees on the importance of consistency and the processes in place. A process or script is no use if no one knows it exists. Employees must be trained on processes and reminded on a regular basis.
  4. Avoiding a definition of best practices. What are the best practices for customer interactions? This goes beyond just the process and covers the proverbial from “how to wow.” Lacking some guidelines, some customers will encounter Bill and be blown away, others will get Jack (no offense to Jack) and wonder why they weren’t so lucky.

The good news: Consistency is important and can be built by defining the right culture, goals, and team accountability.

4. Take extremes

What happens to the customer when your team takes the extremes? Anything goes? Or only by the book? What happens is your customer experience is damaged, and sometimes irreparably. Taking extremes hurts the customer, whether that extreme is the “customer is always right and anything goes” or its the heavy handed “no exceptions and no deviations.” While you may be consistent in your extremes, this type of consistency can create unnecessary bitterness and reflect negatively on the brand. Some areas to check for extremes in your customer experience

  1. Return policy
  2. License agreements
  3. Pricing
  4. Support policy
  5. Warranty information

The good news: You don’t have to set extremes on either side. A key method for avoiding extremes is as simple as understanding the situation, setting some boundaries, and using those boundaries to drive a conversation instead of a hard fast decision from either polar sides.

5. Never review or revise anything

If you want to really create a poor customer experience, develop the habit of defining but never reviewing or revising anything related to the customer experience. While defining policies, procedures, best practices, and other materials related to delivering a great experience is a good idea, it is also only the start. Processes and policies age out. Tools that were once state of the art, now look and function like they should be a part of a history exhibit. Review every aspect of the customer experience and revise as necessary. Some suggestions for regular review include:

  1. Policies
  2. Procedures
  3. Goals
  4. Metrics, KPIs
  5. Dashboards
  6. CRM tools
  7. Internal tools
  8. KBAs
  9. Culture
  10. Customer Profiles
  11. Products
  12. Sales Motions

The good news: Nothing is written in stone. You can revise the things that once served your team well, but now need to be modified or removed.

6. Reward the wrong thing

Another way to ruin your customer experience is to reward the wrong behaviors. While on the surface, the win at any costs, “just win baby”, and “I’ll ask for forgiveness later” mottos are often rewarded in some spheres. But if you are rewarding bad behavior such as those that ignore corporate values, sacrifice quality, are dishonest or illegal, or violate the company’s mission, vision or brand promise then it won’t be long before your customers and your company suffer. Be sure that rewards and incentives throughout the company promote the positive experiences that customers want, need, value and would come back to you for.

The good news: You get to define what you reward and integrate what you expect and how you will inspect it into your culture and processes.

7. Ignore retention

Retention is an important part of building consistency, culture, best practices, and credibility for the team and company. Ignore employee retention and customer retention and you’ll quickly see the level and quality of your customer experience deteriorate. Similar to rewarding the wrong thing, if your company is only focused on acquisition of talent or customers, the culture will not be equipped or incentivized to retain them. A culture that understands and operates from the “more fish in the sea” approach is less likely to create 5 out of 5 star reviews or approach interactions with a long term relationship in mind.

The good news: Existing customers are “usually” easier and less expensive to keep and keep happy than it is to acquire new customers. Good employees are definitely easier to keep than finding another “superstar”. Consider all the cost of interviews, onboarding, performance management and offboarding before you fail to retain the current start who knows the ins and outs of the business and has great character, and lots of intellect.

8. Add more tools, more tools, and even more tools

Chances are if you need it these days, there is either an app for it, a tool for it, a website that wants to sell it, or a development team that is willing to build it for you. Tools, no matter which type and what purpose, can be helpful additions to the customer experience, but they can also help you create a terrible customer experience. Here are some ways in which too many tools can cause your customers headaches:

  1. Security risks: Every tool with Customer Identifying Data can be an attack surface that can leak valuable customer data
  2. Outdated information: Tools that overlap and intersect can also create pockets where data can become out of sync
  3. Delays: Long tool sets, with complex integrations can create delays between the customer and getting the answers they need.
  4. Data overload: Where does your customer find the data they need? The user portal? The support portal? The company website? The documentation app? Exhausted they either trust a TikTok video or something else
  5. Cost: Too many tools often lead to customers paying an increased price on the products or services.

The good news: Before you add a new tool to the inventory, you can analyze the decision ahead of time. Consider asking a few questions: Why? What problem is it solving? Why is that problem important? What will happen if we solve this problem? Is adding a new tool really the only solution?

9. Avoid accountability

Pop quiz: Who wins when the team or the company plays the blame game? Who wins when your CX executives, managers, or team leads treat accountability like a potato in a game of hot potato? Or some toxic ball to be avoided in a game of accountability dodgeball? As VP of Customer Experience I can’t tell you who wins, but I can tell you who always loses. If you want to send customers to Yelp with nothing good to say, shuck accountability, toss blame on everyone else, and never look in the mirror. But, if you want to improve your odds of winning more customers, creating a winning culture, and improving not just your scores but your customers’ experience be sure to create a culture of accountability, positive confrontation, open communication, acknowledgment, and accountability. As a bonus, remove the bad actors who make blame-shift look like an Olympic sport and dodging responsibilities and accountability look like a scene from the Matrix.

The good news: Accountability is not a dirty word. Shape your culture to expect and embrace accountability by supplying healthy examples from the top, healthy doses of support and encouragement, and the willingness to turn tough moments into teaching moments.

Cassius Rhue
Cassius Rhue leads the Customer Experience team at SIOS Technology responsible for customer success spanning pre-sales, post-sales and professional services engagements. With over 19 years of experience at SIOS and a focus on the customer, his significant skills and deep knowledge in software engineering, development, design and deployment specifically in HA/DR are instrumental in addressing customer issues and driving success.

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