Can't get no satisfaction? Here's why

I was prompted to pen these thoughts by a question on a linked in discussion board. It asked what did organisations have in place to achieve good customer satisfaction. And was it the "little things", the "extra mile" that made all the difference.?How do you handle ever rising expectations? Here are my thoughts:

There's often talk of consumer "expectations" growing, but what is really meant by that? If you respond to a customer within 15 seconds in a call centre, are we saying next week they will want a response in 14?

I think the core principles of customers' expectations actually remain pretty constant: responsiveness/timeliness; courtesy/respect; a perception of value (both in the product/service delivered and also of the customer themselves); the ability to help creatively when something has gone wrong. And you can make their day by making the experience very personal and engaging.

I do not believe that people keep simply turning up the "pass" level of these things; what I do believe is that they are constantly let down on them in their multitude of daily experiences and so for those organisation that are failing customers, it always seems those customers are wanting more. Not really; customers just want organisations to achieve the right standard. And of course, the right standard is totally dependent on every individual circumstance (e.g. the business you are operating AND the individual customer).

However, what does constantly change is that perception of value - because as organisaitons try to differentiate and then competitors follow suit, the bar keeps being reset. This is self-inflicted by organisations constantly chasing each other, rather than chasing the customer. A lesson in focus there.

What I have found from direct personal experience with customers buying products (for example) is the biggest thing that has an impact on satisfaction is the response to problems. There is absolutely no question that this is a moment of truth - with the potential to completely turn a customer round into a loyal supporter who, despite encountering an initial 'probelm', is actually *grateful* for having chosen to do business with *you*.

User-Led Innovation Can't Create Breakthroughs; Just Ask Apple and Ikea

The user is king. It’s a phrase that’s repeated over and over again as a mantra: Companies must become user-centric. But there’s a problem: It doesn’t work. Here’s the truth: Great brands lead users, not the other way around.

The Apple and IKEA way

Take Apple. One evening, well into the night, we asked some of our friends on the Apple design team about their view of user-centric design. Their answer? “It’s all bullshit and hot air created to sell consulting projects and to give insecure managers a false sense of security. At Apple, we don’t waste our time asking users, we build our brand through creating great products we believe people will love."

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You really should probe me more...

I recently had cause to contact my corporate credit card provider due to a late charge I incurred. No names mentioned, but they're pretty big in the corporate card business.

I won't even begin to go into how the late charge occurred as that was to do with a whole load of crazy processes for claiming back expenses - I'll save that piece of analysis for another day.

What surprised me about this particular interaction was that there were no questions asked (by the agent). Within 10 seconds the representative had cancelled the objectionable charge. Brilliant!

If there was any complaint to be levelled, it was that he didn't really explain the implications (if any) of doing so - for example, I had been told earlier that you had an allowance of once for this goodwill gesture. I.e. don't make a habit of incurring late charges. (I don't intend to. Whether the expenses claim process will live up to this is another matter.)

What pleased me even more was the customer survey form that came through afterwards.

It contained the usual stuff about how I rated the transaction. That of course is the bit that is least useful for driving out any failure in the organisation. If you just ask how the transaction with the agent went, then what you find out is they are very good at handling failure, but you never find out why the failure is occuring.

So, I was even more pleased to see that the survey also asked me how many attempts it had taken to get my enquiry resolved. This is a good start, because the organisation at least has the chance of learning a few new things:

1) That this agent actually finally SOLVED the problem for me, it having been unsolved previously. He deserves special credit for that. Solve-rate is a really key concept for organisations, especially contact centres, for understanding customer experience, failure modes and performance. Few measure it.

2) By understanding that this call was part of a sequence of interactions, the organisation can see that failure occurred somewhere else in the process previously. They can begin to look at the root causes of that failure and start to address it.

However, where this survey fell down and really missed a trick, was in asking me about that sequence of events. My last call occurred, not because the previous call was unsatisfactory or didn't resolve my problem - indeed, to all intents and purposes, the original call did solve my problem. So, on the surface it looks like I have two completely satisfactory calls with the organisation. How, then, can there be any sense of failure? Surely if we look at this chain of interaction, it will come out as first class?

The reason is, that the first call made a promise about something that would happen and then it didn't happen. The first call apparently resolved the problem, but then something broke and it never followed through.

Sadly, said organisation are going to struggle to decode this because they haven't asked whether the failure was in the ability of the representative to solve my problem, or with a behind-the-scenes process issue. That one single question could tell them whether their efforts need to go into improving the performance of their individual agents, or whether they need to look at system and process failings.

This again is another classic case of "you get what you measure". (I.e. The world takes on the shape of the window you view it through.) Because they are measuring my interaction in terms of the experience with the representative, my survey response is going to imply that the first representative did not perform satisfactorily. This is in fact untrue, the first agent was superb too. It was something unseen in the background that went wrong.

So, sadly, by questioning me in the way they have done, they've set themselves off in the wrong direction, looking at agent performance, rather than systemic and process failure. Shame, it could have been so easy.

Let that be a lesson to all who design customer surveys.