Five-star reviews. Customer opinion surveys. Testimonials. Net Promoter Scores. We all want to know how much someone likes our brand, product, service, experience, us. ???? Most any organization with a marketing person wants to know how good — or lacking — their customer satisfaction level is. Did the customer’s experience live up to the expectation? And if not, why not?
The world of customer experience is fraught with challenges so in this second part of our six-part series, we’ll delve into the disturbing reality that most organizations think their customer experience is significantly better than what their customers actually think. Years ago, research from Bain revealed the startling truth:
80% of organizations believed they delivered a “superior experience” to their customers; however, only 8% of customers felt the same way.
That is one troublesome perception chasm. But how can this be? In an era with unprecedented capabilities to measure sentiment, response times, ratings and reviews, and all manner of customer touchpoint opinion, why do marketers think their CX is better than it really is?
Five Fatal Flaws Leading to the Perception Chasm
Since we’re being honest with ourselves here, there are more than five fatal flaws. But for the purposes of brevity, we’ll start with these — any one of which can be wholly responsible for your lack of awareness into what your customers really think.
1. Ignorance — We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know
Ignorance is bliss, right? The ostrich’s head in the sand feels very safe and secure, but we know it is not. Neglecting to continually monitor, measure, and improve the customer’s experience is a plan for eventual failure. There are two primary reasons for this:
1. You have no baseline, no point from which to begin process improvement. Without process awareness, then improvement, you will never know how good or bad the customer experience is. Getting some compliments and some complaints is meaningless. Gathering the real data and having a plan to act upon it is essential.
2. Business is fluid. Your competition is working on improvement. Your customer’s expectations are ever-changing, increasing. Every other industry’s improvement in customer experience will affect yours, even if unrelated. How long is too long to wait on hold? The customer’s experience time on hold should be zero. That’s why companies — maybe not yours yet — implement automatic call-you-back features to eliminate that friction for the customer.
If you don’t have the resources or experience internally, consider amping up the budget, head-count, training, or advisors who can help solve it. You may think your CX is better than it really is, but you need awareness, data, and a process for improvement. The reality is sub-optimal customer experience is far more expensive than most people realize.
2. Information Gaps — We Don’t Ask the Right Questions at the Right Time
If your organization doesn’t know, with precision, and have a plan for input from each interaction in the customer journey, you’re doing it wrong. Those interactions, touchpoints, all of them are an opportunity to meet or botch the customer’s expectation.
You may have a detailed plan for each of those touch points, but what about the customer’s actual journey. What if they don’t follow your well-designed journey map? Expect they won’t.
When the customer encounters a touchpoint at a different time or place from your desired journey, your plan must adapt. This is of course, different for every company and organization so you have to take charge of building it out for your particular scenarios. Each product, each service line, each dealer or reseller, needs a plan that is specific to your business model. The ability to monitor the customer experience before, during and after the transaction is essential.
3. Denial — We Don’t Like the Answers
On a scale almost as bad as not asking, failing to accept the criticism is equally paralyzing.
Is the culture in your organization one that is open and transparent with respect to bad news? Or does someone cherry-pick the good stats and burry the bad ones? You’ve heard the first step in solving a problem is to acknowledge it. So, accept the news. Call it current state and work toward future-state.
My first job in high school was at a burger joint where I quickly rocketed to the position of shift manager. My supervisor would surprise visit me from time to time and ask a pointed question like, “Why aren’t all these stock supplies moved onto the shelves in the stock room?” I’d begin to explain the reason, “Because Ron called in sick and I don’t have an extra person to pull off the line…” And he’d yell:
“Don’t give me an excuse!”
My supervisor was kind of a jerk, but what I learned was there is a very thin line separating reasons and excuses. There was a reason why something wasn’t right, but that’s not an excuse. You must have an answer for how the issue will be resolved or prevented in the future.
4. Alignment — The Promise is Not Aligned with the Expectation
A customer’s expectation is not entirely in our control. And it is ever-changing. One of the reasons we recommend a Brand Promise Audit is to allow everyone to see what is being promised at each point of interaction, vs. what is actually occurring. If your brand promise includes, “Our customer service is the best,” is it?
Thoughtful messaging is essential to help influence the customer’s expectations, but not 100% effective. Still, it is MUCH better to set expectations of the things you can control and inform about those you cannot (e.g., bad weather may delay shipping arrival time).
Encourage and facilitate dialog with your customers throughout the customer journey. Learn what they expect or expected — regardless of it was reasonable or not — to guide how your messaging can improve and evolve.
5. Avoidance — Customer’s Don’t Bother
We’ve all heard the old adage, “One disappointed customer will tell 10 others”. That is probably still true unless they post it on social media. In that case, 10 might need an exponent on it.
The core message is truer than ever. The problem is, disappointed customers are telling the wrong audience. The person, or people, within an organization that could actually learn from a poor customer experience are not on the recipient list.
Brands must take the position of embracing criticisms, and really message this:
If you’re happy with our service, please tell us.
If you’re NOT happy with our service, REALLY, REALLY tell us!
We’ve got thick skin; we can take it! We don’t improve from compliments; we improve from critique! The less satisfied you are, the more we need to hear from you!
Plaster that type messaging at every touchpoint from which your customer might be less than delighted with that stage in the customer experience. You must make it as painless, frictionless, and easy for customers to critique you as possible Failing that, they just silently slip away and you’ll never know it, or why it happened.
Take a close look at your organization and ask if any of these five fatal flaws might be contributing to the disparity of why your brand probably believes your CX is better than it really is. If you don’t know, find out. This is a sure-fire case of the solution being less expensive than the problem.