Don’t Bury Amazing Customer Experience Under a Mountain of Customer Effort



Back when I was a kid, we used to get prizes inside cereal boxes, and getting to those prizes was a bit of a ritual.  Arriving home after the Friday night round of weekly grocery shopping, my brother, sister, and I would open the box of Shreddies we brought home and spend the next fifteen minutes or hard at work.  Our first step was to peer inside the box hoping the glint of plastic would catch our eye.  If that didn’t yield results, we’d reach in and see if we could find the prize through touch (touching every, single Shreddie in the process).  If that didn’t work, we’d dump the entire box into a big bowl and sift through it until we got the prize.  Looking back, I see how much effort we invested to get them.

I share that with you because of my recent experience with the company that makes my blender.  They buried their prize, which was a stellar call centre experience, beneath a mountain of effort to get there.  A closer examination of my experience provides an excellent case study on how great recruiting (the customer service agent I finally spoke with was superlative), training, and an obvious customer-first culture was buried beneath heaps of inattentive social media, a poor IVR, and a website that made finding their toll-free number more difficult than it needed to be.  So, let’s get to it.  I broke my blender, and here’s what happened next:

Step 1:  Twitter

Upon discovering my blender had become non-functional, I hit their website on my phone and found that they’re on Twitter.  Awesome.  A look at their Twitter handle showed some customer service related engagement (the standard, “Sorry to hear that.  Please DM us your details and we’ll get back to you.”).  I Tweeted my issue and expected a reply.  After 24 hours, nothing.  I Tweeted again: More silence.  The result of this was a sense that my blender company had little concern for customer satisfaction.  Turns out that perception was far from accurate, but I wouldn’t have known that from my experience with them on Twitter.

Step 2:  Phone Call Attempt #1

Going back to their website, I managed to find the “contact us” button at the bottom of their site in very small text.  Clicking on that, I scanned the page, found their toll-free number, and dialed.  After listening to their automated greeting and being given 4 options (none were for what I was calling about), I hit “0,” was greeted in French (not sure why), told the call would be recorded, and then after a moment the recording advised me that the office was currently closed.  Argh.

Step 3:  Phone Call Attempt #2

The next day I called,  hit “0,” got French, pressed “1” for my language preference (English), seemed to get more French, then an English call-recording notification, then silence.  And more silence (one usually hears music, or….something).  Unsure of whether I had been disconnected, I hung up and re-dialed.

Step 4:  Phone Call Attempt #4

I repeated Step(s) 3, but this time instead of silence I was connect to a truly fabulous customer service agent.  Alice took the time to express sympathy for my situation, carefully made sure she understood what the issue was with my blender (she even got the same model blender I had, so we could walk through my issue together), and she made careful notes.  At the end of the call, she took my address and promised a new blender would be sent within 10 days.  And voila, 4 days later, I have a new blender.

Keeping the Prize Well Hidden

What’s fascinating about this is that based on my experience with Alice I’m convinced that my blender company is 100% dedicated to their customers’ satisfaction.  Having said that, the focus of their efforts has evidently been on the contact centre touch-point, potentially at the neglect of other touch-points that come earlier in the customer journey.  The onus was on me to sift through the pile of negative experience (including the fact that the blender had broken), until I finally got to the prize, which was a brilliant customer service professional and a new blender that arrived earlier than expected.  Had I not done the equivalent of dumping the box of Shreddies into a bowl and gone sifting, all of the effort that had gone into the phone experience would have remained hidden, and I would have a new blender from a different company.

What We Can Learn

Many organizations invest significantly on training and technology designed to deliver great customer service at the contact centre level.  But if your customers need to exert unreasonable effort to experience that service, you may be investing in something that many of your customers never get to.  Indeed, they may have given up earlier in the process and taken their business elsewhere.  Providing great customer experience through the contact centre is awesome.   Be careful not to hide it under a mountain of customer effort to get there.



5 Essential Reads for the New Year

I was just on, and entered “Customer Experience” into the search bar, and got 507 hits.   While that may seem like a lot, some of the most influential customer experience books didn’t show up in the search.

To simplify things a bit, below is a very short list of essential customer experience reading.   While I assure you this list is not exhaustive, each of the below will both inspire you and instruct you.  And if you have any you’d like to recommend, please post it in the comments.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

1. Delivering Happiness:  A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose.

Author:  Tony Hsieh

There’s a chance that you don’t know about this book, and there’s also a chance that you haven’t heard of Tony Hsieh, but both of those chances are pretty slim.   Tony has taken his passion for people, and for creating remarkable experiences, and operationalized it into the phenomenon that is  Absolutely number one on my list.  Here’s a link of you’d like to purchase it:

2. “I Love You More Than My Dog”:  Five Decisions That Drive Extreme Customer Loyalty in Good Times and Bad.

Author:  Jeanne Bliss

This is an incredible little book by one of America’s leading authorities on how corporations large and small can deliver a consistently outstanding customer experience.  Chalk full of case studies about the simple choices companies make that allow them to consistently delight their customers, this wonderfully readable book will inspire you by the passion companies bring to their business.  Highly recommended.

3. Consumer Republic:  Using Brands to Get What You Want, Make Corporations Behave, and Maybe Even Save the World


 Author:  Bruce Philp

Bruce Philp is one of the brand industry’s leading thinkers, and in this book (yet to be released, but you can pre-order it if you click on the book cover), Bruce devotes his considerable insight into how consumers can make collective choices that will compel brands to do good, and avoid evil.   Why is this important?  Because brands that keep their promises survive and thrive, and brands that don’t, don’t.  This will be one of the more interesting brand / customer experience reads of 2011.  Guaranteed.

4. Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit:  The Secrets of Building a Five-Star Customer Service Organization.

Authors:  Leonard Inqhilleri, Micah Solomon

After getting inspired by the case studies Jeanne Bliss provides, this book will tell you how to build customer loyalty into the fabric of your business.  Primarily designed for the small to medium sized business, Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit provides a practical, point-by-point methodology for improving your company’s customer experience.

5. Human Sigma:  Managing the Employee-Customer Encounter

Authors:  John H. Flemming, and Jim Asplund

Applying the discipline of Six Sigma to the variability of human interactions, this important book explores the crucial connection between customer-facing employees and customers, and explores ways these connections can be measured, managed, and strengthened.  Taking the approach that it’s impossible to separate the employee experience from the customer experience, Human Sigma is an absolute must-read for any organization that is serious about driving consistently first-rate customer experiences.

What are your recommended reads for the new year?