Despite what industry experts may profess, customer experiences aren’t getting any better. While customers expect immediate answers to their inquiries, efficient order processing and fast shipping, there’s no indication that fulfilling these expectations is improving customer service. What research do I have to prove my point, you may ask? None. But I do have my own experiences and if anything, they have gotten worse rather than better since the pandemic began last year.
Ask yourself how many times one of these aggravating experiences has happened to you in the last month:
1. You visited a website which still has a banner indicating delays in service due to the pandemic?
2. You encountered a message from an organization stating due to higher-than-expected call volumes, your wait times will be longer than usual (and who knows what ‘usual’ means!)?
3. You experienced back orders, lack of inventory, lost orders, or shipping delays?
4. You waited longer than a few minutes for an answer to a simple question?
5. You encountered a chat bot that was clueless about what you were inquiring about and couldn’t refer you to a “live person” because they weren’t available?
6. You visited a service establishment that curtailed hours due to lack of staff?
Shall I go on? For the past 15 months we’ve been told that the reason an organization can’t deliver a better experience was due to the pandemic. Now as we emerge from the pandemic (at least in the US), we’re told as consumers that our experiences aren’t improving because of labor shortages or the lingering effects of the pandemic or supply chain disruptions. Excuses. Excuses. Excuses. And as consumers, we certainly seem to have accepted this new normal – aka – bad customer service.
As the pandemic began, I wrote a blog urging organizations that now is the time to invest in your customer experiences. Instead, organizations reduced customer service staffing, tabled technology investments, and battened down the hatches in the hopes of surviving the downturn. I stated that companies who instead decided to up their game for customers during the pandemic, walk together with their clients through the crisis and take the long view of the situation would reap the benefits of customer loyalty when this was all over. I still believe that’s true. Another one of my blogs talked about why great customer experiences are so elusive for so many companies. I’m beginning to think I know why.
There is no magic bullet to a better experience. All the journey mapping, webinars, ROI discussions, surveys and strategies won’t instantaneously create a better experience for your customers. As stated earlier, customer expectations are changing dramatically and will continue to do so forever. We want it in stock. We want it priced competitively. We want it shipped fast. We want it to be right when we receive it. We want effortless guarantees. We want free return shipping. We want it billed correctly. Wait a minute. How exactly have customer expectations changed, then? Don’t these sound exactly like what we as consumers have always wanted? So, there it is. In a few sentences, I’ve given you the CX strategy for your organization and a roadmap to achieve it. Free. No consultants. No conferences. No books to buy. Just one simple formula – understand customer expectations and deliver. Consistently. Effortlessly. Accurately. Sustainably. Responsibly. Always.
It’s time to get serious about improving your customer experience. And it’s time to do something about it. Here are some suggestions that don’t require you to spend lots of your organization’s money:
1. Be easy to do business with. Look for bottlenecks; pain points; customer complaints and improve them. One, Two, maybe Three. Don’t try to solve world hunger – just find a few ways to improve your processes that customers will notice.
2. Work together. Eliminate the silos. Look for like-minded passionate employees in your organization across different functions and work together to improve your experiences.
3. Get your hands dirty. Forget the white boards and the post it notes. Get into the plant. Jump on a customer service call. Ship some products. Wait on a table or two. Talk to customers. What you’ll learn in a day will outweigh anything you could learn from a webinar or attending a conference.
4. Admit there are problems. Don’t sugar coat your organization’s blemishes. Put them out in the open and let them be seen by everyone in your organization. It’s the first step with every problem, right – admitting there is one?
5. Engage your customers by talking with them not surveying them. Ask them how you could do better? Know where the failures are in your processes. Use their experiences to guide your improvements.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Every organization has a wealth of knowledge embedded in its DNA. Seek out the experts and engage them in your quest for better experiences.
As consumers, we can’t wait much longer. There’s a sense of hope and momentum beginning to take shape as we emerge from the pandemic. Harnessing this energy can help us move in the direction of better experiences for our customers and employees. First, we need to stop making excuses and start meeting customer expectations – that honestly – really haven’t changed that much over time.
It’s then and only then, that we can deliver better experiences to our customers each day. Don’t wait another minute – harness the energy of normalcy and go for it!