How to (never) create great customer experiences

Last week I spent a couple of hours late one evening, writing an email to my cellular provider, well actually a ‘Customer Experience Outsourcing’ company, my provider has recently begun using.

If you’re not familiar with these businesses, in the world where NPS is king, they are the mercenaries paid by BigCo to delight us and win our hearts and minds. This to me seems like a broken and fundamentally wrong concept. Stepping back briefly, to where this story begins, I had recently endured the online ordering process for a new phone. In their wisdom, my provider has decided to make receiving a new phone, no longer something that they just send in the mail.

Now, to get your gleaming new phone, you must go to a store or receive a home installation visit. To be clear the visit was attended on time and by a professional polite person.

But when I received the customary chirpy followup email a few days later “hoping everything went well…”

I couldn’t hold back the urge to respond: [The names of the businesses have been removed – as diminishing them is not point of this article] ” Thanks [removed the name for privacy], I appreciate your professionalism, however I still wish I hadn’t met you – but NOT for anything you personally did wrong; In my opinion it’s a customer experience #FAIL to require an install visit for something as simple as receiving and activating a new phone, even if you show up on time, are polite, knowledgeable and professional (as in your case).

My point is that a “White-glove” service is NEVER the way businesses should go for customer experiences that need to be both scalable and delightful. Customers want frictionless experiences that just work. So to start with, your type of service should only be for those who request it.

But the problem goes much further and much deeper; The issues with ordering, provisioning, billing and other basic [removed ] customer experiences are not fixed by having a talented cool guy with an iPad show up at your door. Having to stop my day and be home is obviously frustrating to start with but then watching as you navigated the maze of provisioning screens and attempted to allocate the correct provisioning code that will make the tax correct on my bill, or asking for basic information that is already on my account, or asking me for information like an IMEI number, or taking pictures of my driving license to post in your SLACK channel, and – well the list goes on and on-

These are not experiences that customers want or care about. I know the clusterTel that is [removed] and it’s back office hodgepodge, grafted together from one acquisition after another isn’t the fault of you or the company you work for, but adding your service to the mix isn’t the answer.

The fact is I’m reluctant to start listing the hundreds of small and large fails that pertain to just this one experience. From the online ordering process that is a WebOps disaster of countless re-directs and long pauses to the forced install visit, if I provided a list of everything that is broken would be seen as just that – a list of things to fix.

“What’s wrong with that?” you may say. Simple: Delightful Experiences aren’t fixed – they are created.

Why is this? (Warning: Indiscriminate use of metaphors to make a point, alert)

1. The Immaculate Sequence – Let’s just say, that it is theoretically possible to come up with a definitive list of absolutely everything wrong with this experience. To start with, trying to reverse fix an experience from a list of everything you know is wrong with it, would be impossible.

The reason is sequencing. A solution applied to one problem will influence many other decisions about how to fix the other items on your list. If you find 100 things to correct, the chances that you sequence the fixes in the right order are the same as holding 100 jigsaw pieces in your hand, throwing it on the floor and expecting it to all come together perfectly. Fixes are sequenced (Prioritized) by importance or impact – this is not the right approach to create delightful experiences.

This is like fixing a window because it’s letting rain in, on a house whose foundations are broken.

2. Average isn’t enough – I accept that if you fixed everyone of the items on a this impossible list you may end up with something that works. If you listened to everything I didn’t like about a cheeseburger and somehow changed or replaced perfectly each thing I said I didn’t like, there is a chance that you made it edible. Edible, isn’t delightful, it’s average. Fixing inevitably creates average.

3. The fixers mindset – When enough of the list is “fixed” it makes sense to those who own delivering the experience that they should pass these on to the customer. Bringing back my burger proudly saying “Look, I know you don’t like the undercooked meat, but I’ve replaced the Bun and cheese you didn’t like!” generates more annoyance, not less! It also reveals the journey will only end in average.

Finally, adding a white-glove to a bad experience may hide some of the problems some of the time. I can even accept, for some people who like to schedule home installation visits and meet new people, this may be better. But ultimately the experience won’t scale and it will add cost to the consumer. [Please don’t tell me it’s free, [removed] pay for the service – ultimately they have an EBITDA (margin) goal and this is worked into a cost of goods sold].

You may say I’m just griping at [removed] and not the company you work for. You may even point me to countless customer testimonials or an NPS super score – but you would be missing the point. In a way you would be right, you didn’t create the problem and you actually help some people deal with it, but you’re not fixing it and so really you should consider your service being part of the problem.

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