Recently I had the pleasure of making a trip out to Hawaii for a wedding. We began the planning and booking process well in advance. Like any avid traveler- we hunted for the best deals online and booked flights directly through an airlines website. The whole process was seamless and I even used the Airline’s chatbot to help with answering some basic luggage allowance questions. Overall, a piece of cake, but that’s where the happy customer experience ends. We embark on our journey only to find that the technology at the check-in counter was stuck in the 1970s and the airline staff was just there to do their 8-5 job and get out as soon as they can. Plagued with having to deal with old equipment and staff that are either too inexperienced or lack troubleshooting skills to make a horrific customer experience even slightly better. It took me over 60 minutes just get bag tags, which was followed by another 40 minutes of going through security check in – with the most relaxed and chill airport security staff in the world (and that rant I will save for another day, but hopefully you get my drift).
As I’m sure you’ve guessed it by now- I missed my flight. I tried explaining to the gate agent as the door slowly closed that their kiosks downstairs weren’t working and the staff only had 2 computers to help so many people. She just looked at me and with a stern voice said, “It’s not my fault you got here so late”. I dropped my bags and nearly lost my shit. I explained to her again the situation at check in and she looked at me and said, “Someone down there needs to say something to us.” She begins to enter the code and officially lock the gate.
Why am I telling you all this? Very simple- businesses are forgetting about the end to end customer experience. When I say end to end- I mean from Facebook ad to website to online chat agent to the in-store experience, which includes everything from branding to the staff. I feel like the disconnect between digital to brick and mortar is even more common as organizations get bigger and bigger. The expectation of having the best experience is probably higher from the small business owner because their end to end experience is way more humanized than an entity that’s 10,000+ strong. Yet you find the mid to enterprise businesses to either act small or take some attributes of being a small company and build that in their DNA. And of course, there are those that just don’t care either because they have the money not to care or there isn’t really anyone out there to take the business so they can do as they please.
I call bullshit on all fronts and ask for reform regardless of what size you are or want to be. I also acknowledge that no system is perfect and everything is subject to human error. In my opinion, it is that human error factor that needs the most work. We should strive to be better and acknowledge that employees are a key factor in making a change. You know that saying, ‘be the change you want to see’- well that works even for businesses of ALL sizes. It takes more than a customer service department to make amends and it isn’t fair to make them carry the burden of the recklessness of others. Every stakeholder has to take accountability and leadership has to
- Put their ego to the side and admit there’s a problem
- Identify all parties that are part of the experience
- Empower the team by making them feel accountable and have the ability to make change
- Consider what to do with those that oppose
- Take action and constantly follow up
Here are just some ideas on how you can ensure that your customer experience is consistent on all fronts:
- Training: one-time employee training is a thing of the past and so is the video of exec leadership explaining the company’s motto. Quarterly training, rewards program, company picnics, community service, the list goes on and on. Select department advocates/leaders to help drive customer service initiatives across the board. Get creative and have fun with it.
- Customer Advisory Board: Don’t pick your bestie- pick your foe. They are more likely, to be honest when you need it the most. But also acknowledge that some just like to complain for the sake of it- so if you don’t see their input changing or at least mentioning improvement- you might need to seek a replacement.
- Internal Customer Champions / Committee: have representatives from various departments meet on a regular basis to discuss challenges that they see impacting the customer and collaborate on finding a solution
- Leverage the Social Web: You can’t just rely on customer support team to get your information. Traditional ways of contacting support or getting help are circumvented by things like community forums, Twitter, Yelp, etc. There are so many conversations that are happening there are so many easy, cost friendly tools out there that you can use to listen in on relevant conversations that your customers, prospects and overall community are having.
It’s time businesses that say they are customer-centric or are wanting to put customers first- really take it seriously and walk the walk. Don’t try to tackle all the problems but pick one or two that you know you will have the most immediate and positive impact on the overall experience. Short wins help with the long-term strategy- notice I didn’t say battle. That’s because it shouldn’t be a battle. Providing service the way you would want to be treated is common sense that is ingrained in us since we were little. Treat others as you would want to be treated. Think that’s a common mantra we already know and now it’s all about taking action. What will you do to make a difference and bring a smile to your customer’s face in the most challenging of times? Sometimes a simple phone call is all it takes. Would you make that call?