System problems and policy problems

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I’ve been thinking lately about what causes CX to go south.  Well, okay, I do that a lot anyway.

Naturally, considering my Framework, I concentrate a lot of my efforts on identifying processes and systems that are causing misalignment with a Brand Promise.  After all, as I’ve written previously, CX is really just an excuse to do Process Engineering, right?

In a ton of instances, the problems your Customers are having with you are a result of bad (or poorly executed, or both) processes.  But then again, no process is fool-proof and guaranteed always to work properly.  And that’s not even to mention what happens when people get involved.  So, sometimes, it’s genuinely a process that’s ill-conceived, and other times it’s a process that’s simply not adhered to (and if it were, perhaps the problem would be solved…if not, see the previous issue of the process being bad itself).

But there’s another potential issue:  What happens outside the processes?  That’s when we get into the problems with your policies.

Sometimes, process foul-ups aren’t even in your control…think of a delivery failure or a failure of a partner of yours that negatively impacts your Customer.  While you can address some of those things strategically (i.e., get a better partner, or ship with a different logistics company, etc.), in that moment, there isn’t anything you can do to make it right.  In these instances, do your policies also let your Customers down?

Keeping in mind that, often it’s the recovery that makes or breaks a Customer experience, it’s important to recognize that even the tightest, and most well-developed processes fail…but it’s how you handle that—how you take care of your Customers when the chips are down—that really makes the experience.

It’s often said that our true character comes through when we’re under pressure or when things go awry.  If you never face adversity, it’s easy to always be magnanimous or friendly.  Well, what works personally goes double for your brand.

Many organizations really add insult to injury when, processes having failed, they don’t come through via policy for their Customers.  As I’ve recently mentioned, falling back on your policies and washing your hands of bad experiences your Customers may have is definitely the wrong way:  It puts your Customers in an awkward position, and it makes you look bad.

But, if your policies allow your team members to do whatever they can (obviously within reason) to try to at least make things up to your Customers when you can’t make them right, that really moves the ball on that good recovery experience.  There’s nothing that can be done, for example, to get the package there yesterday when that didn’t happen.  But if you empower your front line to empathize and then follow through on that empathy with a goodwill gesture to go along with their bent ear, that means a lot.

Better yet, if you have a way that allows your team to simply get it done, that can actually save the day.  Imagine an instance where your Customer is (I’m not sure why this is the common theme here, but go with me) tracking the delivery of an online purchase from your website.  Based on what is showing, there’s physically no way it’ll be delivered on time.  It’s not your fault, the shipper you sent it through is letting you (and your Customer!) down.  But does your Customer Care representative have the authority right then and there to issue a second widget to be sent immediately on same-day or next-day delivery?  That may sound wasteful (I know of some brands who do have this policy and they even go so far as to say, keep ’em both, for your trouble.), but boy have you come through!

I went to a Starbucks once (I may have written about this already), and they put whip on my latte.  It wasn’t a big deal, but when I went to pick it up and mentioned it to the barrister, she snatched it off the counter before I could even reach for it and dumped it, built me a brand new one in record time, and sent me on my way.  As I stood in stunned silence, she simply pointed to a sign behind her that said something to the effect of, If it’s not right, we’ll make it right.  That’s policy in action.

Policies that prevent your team members from making things right (or at least trying to make up for it when your processes don’t work) compound an already bad experience.  Nothing’s going to go right 100% of the time.  But whatever percent that it doesn’t should be completely covered by an empowered team and policies that allow them to consider—in the real world, apart from what’s written down in your manuals—what makes sense to try to do for your Customer in that moment.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Nicholas Zeisler, CCXP, LSSBB
I’m a Customer Experience executive, certified Process Improvement professional, Agile Scrum Master, dynamic educator, change management strategist, and in-demand business and leadership coach. I've worked from the inside and from the outside; in organizations large and small; public sector and private; from oil and gas to technology to non-profit (with lots in between too). I've seen a lot, but I haven't seen it all.

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