The One Customer Experience Resolution For 2012

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It’s the time of year where we are re-dedicating ourselves to betterment. We want what’s new, fresh and better!

If there is one way to create a better customer experience, it’s this: Advocate.

The term advocate is used a lot when referring to kids in the court system, patients in hospitals, and others who can’t necessarily stand up for themselves. Caretakers are encouraged to advocate for their loved ones – ask questions, probe deeper, be sure you understand the necessary steps to treatment.

But who is advocating for your customers? In 2011, we had some unreal examples of when companies did the opposite of advocating. They became antagonists to the very customers they are supposed to serve. It’s easy to think of these big brands as nameless, faceless corporations. But anyone who has worked within the walls of such an organization understands these companies are made up of people, just like anywhere else. So how does stuff like this happen?

1. Netflix, once a darling of their customers, decided to recreate their business model without warning or consideration of the impact of these changes on their customers. Once loyal customers quickly became detractors – posting and shouting about the poor decisions to anyone who would listen. Netflix quickly had to back off the changes and apologize.

2. Bank of America, not necessarily known as a “warm, fuzzy” company to begin with, solidified their position as the poster-child big, bad company by introducing a fee for customers to use their very own debit cards to access their very own money. Quickly, customers not only took to social media but also to the streets to protest. BOA, like Netflix, had to back off this change and attempt to apologize. It seems a little too late – customers are leaving big banks in droves to avoid the feeling of schmuckery that comes with being a customer.

3. And, most recently, Verizon Wireless felt the sting of bad decisions when they, too, had to back off from a new customer fee they proposed.

What happens inside those walls? I can only imagine the conversations – something along the line of this:

CEO: “We need more money! Money, money, money….grumble…”

Chief Fee Officer: “How about another fee? We can just RENAME the service we’re already providing, tack on a fee, and then watch the money roll in!”

CEO: “Yes! Call in those marketers. Come up with a snazzy name just in case someone actually reads the statement!”

Then the marketers lock themselves in a room, create a fantastically-inaccurate title like “Customer Choice Selection Investment,” then carry on with their lives.

I don’t think people who work in these companies are really awful or simple-minded AT ALL. I believe they are smart people who are asked to do simple-minded things.

And they are never asked to advocate for the customer. They are never asked to step back, think of what actions like this would REALLY do to the customer relationship, or the consequences of those actions. It is never part of the job description.

If someone in the room would ask those questions, we’d live in a better world.

Shame on them. Shame on the financial types who never “work the numbers” for what scores of canceled subscriptions, bad PR, and completely negative word-of-mouth could do to the company. Shame on the marketers who never stand up and say “this is BS.” Shame on the C-level for assuming customers aren’t paying attention.

Customers, FINALLY, have a voice. And we’re not afraid to use it. It’s time to advocate inside your company’s walls FIRST. Don’t end up on the list of bad moves.

Photo Credits: tray via Creative Commons

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jeannie Walters, CCXP
Jeannie Walters is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a globally recognized speaker, a LinkedIn Learning and Lynda.com instructor, and a Tedx speaker. She’s a very active writer and blogger, contributing to leading publications from Forbes to Pearson college textbooks. Her mission is “To Create Fewer Ruined Days for Customers.”

6 COMMENTS

  1. Jeannie –

    In your excellent post, you’ve given some prime examples of what I define as corporate “inside-out advocacy” failures. As you note, this is often a breakdown, or insufficiency, of customer centricity culture, systems and processes, resulting in an inability to understand what impact their customer-related actions might have. When the companies are well-known, such as Netflix, Bank of America, and Verizon Wireless. their branded customer experiences and corporate reputations can be at risk.

    The increasing power of b2b and b2c consumers is in evidence on the Internet’s ‘long tail’ of positive and negative word-of-mouth, such as the YouTube-ization of United Airlines (‘United Breaks Guitars’), the sleeping Comcast technician, and most recently, the FedEx delivery guy dumping a computer monitor over a fence (over 8 million YouTube views!, plus endless coverage by late night talk show hosts).

    I’ve addressed the positive and negative aspects of customer advocacy behavior, resulting from how customer centric, or not, organizations are in my latest CustomerThink article (http://www.customerthink.com/article/inside_out_advocacy_creating_and_sustaining_customer_centricity_and_loyalty)
    and also in previous articles covering related issues (http://www.customerthink.com/user/michael_lowenstein)

    Again, great post!!

    Michael Lowenstein
    Executive Vice President
    Market Probe (www.marketprobe.com)

  2. That Netflix fiasco really showed that they did not understand their customer at all. Customers have come to expect those stupid fees and whatnot from big banks, but I think one of the reasons people were so loyal to Netflix was because we felt that they were “different.” When they tried that ridiculous Qwikster thing *and* jacked up prices at the same time, customers felt betrayed–that Netflix wasn’t who we thought they were.

  3. Thank you, Michael. I totally agree that the “inside-out” mentality is what causes the lack of customer-centricity. Companies of all sizes need to shake off the cubicle dust and take a look from the outside to really understand the customer’s experience.

  4. Julie,
    Great point about the whole “bait and switch” idea. When we, as customers, think there is something great about a company because they are different, it feels like a major betrayal when they remove the mask and are just like the other guys. Excellent point – thanks for adding to this discussion.
    Jeannie

  5. Jeannie –

    There really is a ‘line of sight’ to the kinds of qualitative and quantitative customer information companies gather, how they internalize and act on these analytics for process improvement, staff training, communication, culture modification, defining or redfining shared values, etc. and the resulting impact on customer behavior. Too often, as you note, they either don’t get the right insights from customers in the first place, or the information they do generate isn’t actionable enough to make a difference in their decision-making re. customer value.

    If a company is so inwardly focused, or so certain of how customers will react to a value change, that the bright sunshine of real-world information never makes it into the corporate core, the negative results you reported become an inevitability.

    Michael

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