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, nearly everybody says they are in favor of good customer service. It is as desirable as apple pie, family, and free expression, all rolled into one. After all, it is 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 Scam

So, you would think customer service should be getting better. Consider, all 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!

So, 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. 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 though most do not 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

Let us face it, most companies really are not 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 would not 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 is not surprising.  We have the data but cannot 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 does not drive the customer experience.

The Great Customer Experience Scam

Most companies are sold and spend big bucks to keep surveying customers to get more information and customer intelligence. Yet, the data is not share or used to make positive changes.  It is 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 do not 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 must be implemented and used by employees. The problem is who is an afterthought? The employee! The front-line employees are the most neglected and are the butt of the biggest scam. Most are disengaged. 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 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 cannot fulfill product orders on time, your customers will be unhappy.  So, it does not matter how many times you apologize. A website must be user friendly. Otherwise, it does not 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 touchpoints. So, to achieve great service all departments must 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

As a rule, there are three levels of customer experience that we all encounter. The first two the companies are stuck in cultures that reinforce the three customer experience scams.

Expedient

Companies at this level do not 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 is 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 are not fooling anyone. Their actions generate a lack of trust in leadership. Therefore, it is very disappointing and frustrating for employees.

The Great Customer Experience Scam

Superior

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 is not 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 is how they do business, not an added workload. For that reason, superior service is their value proposition. Therefore, they do not do a customer experiences scam, and reap a bottom-line payoff.

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 do not buy it. The proof is in the pudding and in their results.  Their customer experience scam is on them.

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 would not 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.”

Check out these Resources

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

In addition, lead the pack and avoid a customer experience scam? See this complimentary eBook, The 5 Cultural Habits of Customer Driven Companies.

The Great Customer Experience ScamFurthermore, check out our online RealTime Learning and Training.

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

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