When empathy doesn’t matter


Share on LinkedIn

Lilian recently got a brand spanking new Lenovo. But it was a lemon.

After hours trying to fix it, she took it back to the retailer, Paradigit. Jack, the salesman, told her that it was from a bad production batch and that it should have been shipped back to Lenovo. He couldn’t understand how they could have sold it to her. He understood what a major headache this was for Lilian. And he wanted to give her another computer immediately. But the boss said no. So he gave her a loan computer. At the office, it crashed.

“What works” is most important

Why is this story interesting? Because the in-store experience was pleasant, even though Lilian didn’t get what she wanted. Jack had been trained to tune in to a customer’s vibe. He said the right things. In fact, Lilian came back to the office even a bit positive. Until she thought about it.

In the end, Jack’s empathy didn’t matter, because he sold her a dud, a new one would take 3 weeks, and the loan computer was crap. She lost all faith in Paradigit, and even felt cheated that Jack had been so understanding – as if it was a trick to “dupe” her into believing that they care so she would accept a sub-standard solution.

A letter grade reflects “it works”

Paradigit had an empathetic sales person. But what mattered was that none of the computers worked.

This is why the Experience Scan, a diagnostic tool to measure a customer experience, gives a letter grade of A, B, C or F to how well an experience works. It is no accident that the letter grade has visual priority over all other criteria: a person has paid money and expects first and foremost that the service works.

For example, if a woman buys a train ticket to Amsterdam, she wants to get there on time in a seat, score “B”. Does she arrive on time, but have to stand? It’s a “C”. Arrive early, and bumped up to 1st class? Probably an “A”. How the conductor talks to her, and what else she experiences are captured in two extra pluses “+”.

Buy time with work-arounds

Sometimes things don’t work because the company’s systems and procedures were made in a different era, one that didn’t prioritize customer experience. One of our clients has an outdated cash register system that can’t accept web returns or look up client loyalty cards (so the customer can’t get the cash discount unless they have their loyalty card). Yet a company who is customer focused, can think up short term work-arounds, to buy time until the systems can be changed.

In the Paradigit example, there could be work-arounds : for example, the boss could have been given authority in special cases to say “yes” and give Lilian a new computer, the store could have a stash of lightly-used loan computers and make it a sales employee responsibility to check performance once a week and they could implement a manual count of inventory when a manufacturer like Lenovo orders a recall.

But none of these work-arounds seemed to be there. Why not? Probably for the same reason that 4 weeks later Lilian still doesn’t have a working computer. They seem to focus first on sales and margins and second on the customer.

But what about the connection between the two?

photo credit : nelso.com

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Lea Ward
Director at C.Note, a customer experience design & strategy firm based in Amsterdam. Active blogger & author of Trust Equity: How to create products & services that matter. Award winner IxDA 2012.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here