Customer Experience – who is responsible for it?
I recently ordered some furniture for our new office from a leading, national office supplies company; let’s call them Paperclips UK. Selecting the products, gaining advice and ordering the goods was a relatively straightforward exercise. In fact, it was a good experience – I felt that I had completed the buying process well (and I hate shopping!), was really happy with my selection and was looking forward to receiving the new equipment on the agreed date.
However, and you can probably guess what comes next, there followed catalogue of Customer Service errors the scale of which I’ve never experienced before. Failure to arrange a delivery window as agreed, failure to deliver all ordered items, cancellation of the whole order in error, out-of-stock items on delivery despite being fully in stock at order capture, discontinued items identified at dispatch (even though the order was accepted). The list goes on but I doubt whether you or I have the energy to keep going. I guess I’ve been lucky up to now. We know it is commonplace and hear of numerous stories of terrible Customer Service, particularly in the Telecoms and Utilities area. But the net result of this incident is that we will not trade with this company again and we’ll share our bad experience. That in itself will not break their business, of course, but it does represent a weakness that if not addressed will start to undermine their proposition over time. We can all list retailers that have disappeared or struggled recently.
In my example, all the people I dealt with were very polite and tried to be helpful, even to the point of absurdity. One of the calls went:
Them: “I’ve got some great news. We’ve spoken to the manufacturer and they’ve agreed to deliver the desks to you on Friday as you requested. Is that OK? Good. I do have to tell you, though, that the connecting units are now discontinued.”
Me: “So the desks won’t actually be fully formed desks? They’ll be two separate pieces of desk. Is that right?
Them: “Er. Yes – We can deliver them on Friday. Shall I book them in? ”
So who is to blame? Surely, no one goes to work with the intention of giving bad service or seeking to ruin the customer experience. Those employees facing the customer often take the blame on behalf of the organisation but, it really has to be the responsibility of the whole business to manage the customer experience and enhance it for customers. In the Paperclips UK instance, it strikes me that effort has been put into getting some elements of the experience right (e.g. polite customer-facing staff), but there has been a complete failure to join up the information flow between departments i.e. order capture, credit control, stock management and deliveries. Any part of a business operating in a sub-optimal way will inevitably have an impact on the customer and a lot of businesses just fail to recognise this simple fact.
I told my Customer Experience story to a bloke (named Alan) down the pub last night and he gave me an example of the opposite approach he had enjoyed courtesy of John Lewis. During the delivery of a recently ordered bed, Alan mentioned to the driver that he had left some muddy footprints on the carpet. Embarrassed and extremely apologetic, the driver immediately made a compensatory offer – a) either to arrange for carpet cleaning at their expense or b) to arrange for an additional retrospective discount on the purchased bed. Alan chose the discount, was credited the next day and he was happy to share the story. Empowering all of your employees to make decisions that enhance the customer experience is a powerful example of a complete customer-focused business. Clearly, the decision taken in that business was to put the customer experience ahead of the need to make full margin on every sale.
Long-term customer loyalty or short-term volume and profit targets? I think we know the answer.Share on LinkedIn