The Great Customer Experience Scam

 In Customer Engagement, customer experience management, Customer Loyalty & Retention, Customer Service & Satisfaction, Customers, Leadership, Rick Conlow
Sadly, the great customer experience scam is on. First of all, nearly everybody says they are in favor of good customer service. It’s as desirable as apple pie, family, and free expression, all rolled into one. After all, it’s the right thing to do, isn’t it? Could you imagine a company saying, “We don’t believe in customer service”. Or, “We are no worse than anyone else.”

The Great Customer Experience ScamSo, you would think customer service should be getting better. Consider, all of the new technology and the service promises made by companies. Plus, the quality service revolution the lasted three decades. Companies spent billions of dollars.

Right? Wrong!

The Customer has the Power

In any one company there may be excellent improvement. Many customer experience professionals are trying hard to get better. As a whole, little progress has been made, in the perception of customers. Some experts say customers are smarter today, and their expectations are higher. At the same time research shows that they want it all–best price, best service, and best products. Even thought most don’t expect to get it. Therefore, the customer has the power today!

Here are three corporate scams that make it difficult for a company to impress their customers. While the word “scam” is harsh, companies need a wake-up call.  But, just about any company can make dramatic strides in results with a few key changes.

The First Customer Experience Scam

The Great Customer Experience ScamLet’s face it, most companies really aren’t committed to improving. You and I both know that as customers. The airlines are perfect examples, except for Southwest or JetBlue. Collectively the airline industry has cut services and added all kinds of fees. Since they are making nice profits you would think they would add more services, right? They, like other organizations:

  • Create conflicting priorities–A large multinational company was convinced by a big six accounting firm to invest millions in Just In Time Inventory.  For that reason, other customer experience initiatives were minimized. At the same time, the company continued to lose sales and  customers. They had to merge with a competitor to survive.
  • Focus on short term profits–The bottom line seems to always trump making service or quality gains. Seems like the goal is to leave a customer angry to make a buck now. This is typified by a CEO I encountered whose #1 question is, “How much money have you made me today?”
  • Establish corporate silos that inhibit collaboration–A large B2B company had four regions and each did things their own way. They talked about great service and being “top dog”. But, they wouldn’t cooperate because they were too competitive with one another.
  • Block adequate resources--A service company’s CEO set a goal to be a customer experience leader. Yet, he never budgeted the resources to do it. His customer loyalty suffered which created high employee turnover.
  • Do the Wall Street dance to look good–A $35B retailer declared for a decade in its annual report that customer service is a top three priority. Industry ratings proved otherwise.

The Second Customer Experience Scam

At an international conference for  CX , the most popular discussion at breakout sessions isn’t surprising.  We have the data but can’t change the results to improve. What do we do? Many of these companies had the ability to drill down in the numbers to the Nth degree. However, few moved the needle for increasing loyalty. While data is important it doesn’t drive the customer experience.

The Great Customer Experience ScamMost companies are sold and spend big bucks to keep surveying customers to get more information and customer intelligence. Yet, the data isn’t share or used to make positive changes.  It’s all a smoke screen. One client we came across had been surveying customers for seven years. No progress. We asked for an action plan to review, there was none. If you don’t use the feedback why solicit and collect it?

Customers are now receiving surveys from nearly everyone. Surveys have become irritating and a negative. Many places, like the restaurant I was at last night, ask you to fill out their questionnaire. With a smile the server added, “We want you completely satisfied.” Some companies solicit perfect ratings. So, what good is the feedback if it is tarnished? Why not seek honest feedback and make a legitimate effort to improve?

Why not survey less, and save the wasted money. Use it to help improve processes and invest in people more. Also, survey quarterly, make positive changes and consistently implement them. Then, survey again.

The Third Customer Experience Scam

Data turns into plans–well, maybe. Plans today often include new CRM tools or other social interaction technology to interface mobile customers. Inevitably these plans and resources have to be implemented and used by employees. The problem is who is an afterthought? The employee! The front-line employee is the most neglected and are the butt of the biggest scam. These employees are asked to deliver the best service but are confronted by:

  • Ambiguous priorities and expectations
  • Inadequate training or coaching
  • Lack of support
  • Antiquated systems or tools
  • Little or no recognition
  • Poor communication
  • Lowest pay

Unfortunately, seldom are departments like marketing, accounting, sales, distribution, and IT included in a customer experience improvement process. Consequently, it is the sole job of customer service  reps. This is the end result of executive leadership’s lack of commitment. So, is it any wonder that employees become dissatisfied?

Therefore, for a company to reach the full potential in its customer experience, all departments need to be included. Every area impacts the external or internal customer. If accounting gets the invoices wrong, no amount of smiling will make up for it. When a company can’t fulfill product orders on time, your customers will be unhappy.  So, it doesn’t matter how many times you apologize. A website has to be user friendly. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter how good the products are.

Accordingly, too many companies have a narrow view of just what the customer experience is all about. Success requires “corporate cohesion” in all customer touch-points. So, to achieve great service all departments have to be part of the solution and effort.  Finally, a superior customer experience demands excellent employee engagement. (See the post, The Secret Sauce to a Superior Customer Service)

3 Levels of Customer Experience

The Great Customer Experience ScamAs a rule, there are three levels of customer experience that we all encounter.

Expedient–Companies at this level don’t care. They are rip-off artists. There was a car dealer that used this approach in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. His shenanigans eventually caught up with him, and he’s in jail. Similarly, Bernie Madoff fit this category.

Adequate-Most companies land here. [See the American Customer Satisfaction Index’s monthly reports.] Almost all do just enough to get by. They say they deliver “good” service. For example, Sears said and believed this. So, another name for adequate is mediocre. This is the most devious level.

Finally, adequate companies hold annual conferences and extol the importance of the customer experience. Many even have a Chief Customer Officer. Also, customer service training is conducted for some employees.  In addition, some managers see the customer survey reports. These companies aren’t fooling anyone. Their actions generate a lack of trust in leadership. Therefore, it’s very disappointing and frustrating for employees.

The Great Customer Experience ScamSuperior–These are the best of the best: Apple, Amazon, Disney, Zappos, Nordstrom, Starbucks and Wegmans. In contrast, to their competition, they more than satisfy the customer . Their superior service is the result of continuous improvement. Also, they have one other ingredient. Delighting customers is part of their culture. It isn’t a program. Employees are highly valued. Everyone is involved in training. Customer Feedback leads to action plans and significant changes. Likewise, CX managers have the ear of top executives. Customer service heroes are recognized and rewarded. Various teams work on key issues. In addition, compensation and results are connected. It’s how they do business, not an added workload. For that reason, superior service is their value proposition.

Pulling It All Together

In summary, to prevent a customer experience scam a company needs continual innovation through leadership engagement. This accelerates employee engagement. As a result, the customer engagement is brilliant. It takes hard work and steadfast commitment. Hence, most companies and leaders don’t buy it. The proof is in the pudding and in their results.  They are really scamming themselves.

Early in my career, I worked for a corporation that owned six companies and where the President was 100% committed service excellence. I was VP of Customer Satisfaction and Training. He said, “If the numbers go up, you have a job. If they go down, you are out of here.” Yet, he gave me the support I needed. We were the worst in the beginning and ended up the best. We won numerous awards. Certainly, without his support it wouldn’t have worked. Sometimes you need a push to back you up when confronted with organizational obstacles, difficult managers, and budget challenges.

In conclusion, J.D. Power & Associates declares, “Delivering extraordinary customer experiences is becoming more and more important. We know from the data that customers will pay for it.”

The Great Customer Experience ScamDo you need better employee engagement? Check out this complimentary eBook: How to Motivate-No-Inspire Employees.

Want to lead the pack and avoid a customer experience scam? See this eBook, The Customer has the Power.

Want to accelerate your career? Check out one our books in the Superstar Book Series .

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Rick Conlow
Rick Conlow is the CEO & Founder of Rick Conlow International, a consulting, training and coaching firm. He has helped over 200 companies such as Target, Costco, Andersen Windows, Spectrum, Northern Power, Meijer, Carpet King, International Truck, John Deere, Lowes Financial, and Canadian Linen improve customer loyalty, increase sales and add profits. Rick has been a general manager, vice president, training director, program director, and national sales trainer. He has authored 22 books, and regularly speaks at conferences and to audiences of all sizes.
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