Good customer service, customer experience and customer experience management are all about technology and its right use. This is what many of the articles that one could read on various platforms can make one think.
Just that it isn’t.
I guess I contributed my share to this misconception, too. My excuse is that I am a techie by trade and at heart.
Sure, technology is a part of delivering a good customer experience but there is much more to it. Technology enables the digital presence of a business and helps its employees delivering better experiences – if available and used.
But delivering a good customer experience first and foremost involves people, then policy and process. Technology is the last priority contributing, it is an enabler, a means to an end – not the end itself.
On the other hand there are reports over reports saying that customers stop doing business with a company after bad experiences, sometimes even after a single bad experience, e.g. shocking 89 per cent according the 2011 Rightnow Customer Experience Report, or 62 per cent according to the 2015 Parature Global Customer Service Report. The 2016 Institute of Customer Service UK Customer Satisfaction Index finds that most UK customers want a balance of price and service, given there is a minimum service level. And the list goes on and on.
While all these statistics likely have some grain of truth there are also numerous examples of poor customer experience not having a detrimental impact on a company. This is probably in part due to who asked the question, how the question was asked; this often relates to who paid for the survey.
Astonishingly, there are plenty of incidents where companies get away with poor customer service or a poor attitude to customer experiences. This stretches across industries and it indicates that customers do not routinely dump a company because of a single poor experience.
Let me give you some examples out of the automobile, telco, banking, and airline industries – with different outcomes.
A Carmaker’s Royal Screw-up
By now everyone has heard of their ‘Dieselgate’, so there is no need to go into the ‘what happened’ part of the story. There is no doubt that in case of a car a lot of the experience lies in driving it and the car’s quality, but there is also some in the purchasing process. And there is a brand promise. Many customers bought their diesel VW because of the promise of low emissions. They didn’t what they bargained for. Now, while in the US customers get a sizable refund VW still deems it right to reject all claims of wrongdoing in Europe. Legally, they may even be right, but this is beside the point. The point is that VW apparently prefers a policy of covering up and waiting out to the, admittedly more difficult and probably expensive, one of offensively and credibly driving clean engines.
Still, VW has become the biggest car manufacturer in 2016 with a year-over-year growth of almost 4 percent.
Another Banking Tale
My wife and I share a credit card account that is linked to our airline loyalty membership. This comes pretty handy. Now the airline points that are calculated from the card usage go against one account – mine, because I used to fly more. This changed, so we ventured to linking the cards to my wife’s account.
The only way out would be going for new cards, with new card numbers and all the associated hassles of changing card numbers that we stored as method of payment at some vendors.
The reason? The bank’s company policy. Asked what the purpose of the policy is there was no reply …
We didn’t change cards.
Telcos are always good for a Custserv Story
On Sunday, January 29, 2017, Spark New Zealand suffered a major mobile and broadband outage. Despite being reported as fixed by the company it essentially lasted the rest of the day, services being stable again only in the late afternoon. Of course people asked for some compensation for services that weren’t delivered – on Facebook and Twitter, and likely also on the phone. I myself asked on Twitter with no reply on Monday (and till now, for what it is worth).
— Thomas Wieberneit (@twieberneit) January 29, 2017
On Facebook people got told that this is a technology issue, and that Spark apologizes for inconveniences, but that technology is not fully reliable and hence there is no need for any compensation. Just to be sure: There are also business customers, who were affected.
I am still with Spark as a provider. And I doubt that they received many cancellations.
The Joy of Flying
No list on poor experiences can do without an airline tale. This one is about Australian budget carrier JetStar. JetStar has a policy of closing the check-in counters half an hour before departure. Closing means exactly that – even if personnel happens to be still at the counter – there is no more check in, even for passengers without checked luggage. They also have a way of sending the boarding pass via text message. Just that this doesn’t always work – and if it doesn’t work there is no way of resending it. Imagine an early morning flight where every minute of sleep counts. On this one I had a fiery discussion with their call center with the result: Be early …
Of course the plane was late, too. After all they have a reputation for being late.
I didn’t fly JetStar since.
The Moral of the Story
As these examples indicate, customers by no means are abandoning brands in flocks because of poor experiences, let alone a single one. Add the regularly followed strategy to offer new customers better prices than existing ones and to not reduce their fees correspondingly.
Many products and services are far too sticky for just moving on – it is too much hassle.
So, as a bottom line, companies will continue to follow strategies that are good for them and not for their customers, unless customers follow through with the threat that is implied in reports like the ones I mentioned above.