Whenever we’re trying to get hold of a company, and regardless of the chosen channel, there are five things that define a bad experience:
1. no Consistency. I’d like very much that the same information I read on the website is the one published on the other channels, including the agents’ response. This is especially and sadly true for the public administration, where often the digital channels are not updated and the latest information is not right there, it is instead inherited from agent to agent like a bedtime story.
2. no Context. If I am browsing different channels and finally get to call the customer service, I’d at least expect them to know that I have tried other channels and possibly raise my request’s priority according to the time I am spending on the issue, not the time I am spending in the voice queue.
3. no Content. I passed the voice portal maze, the website and the app, finally got hold of a human being who doesn’t know a fit about me or my problem, or even the company I am supposedly calling, because he/she is probably working for another company in another country altogether.
4. no Care of my problem. once I gave up the self-service way and decided to interact with a human, it makes me cringe to find out how little interest the human I am contacting has towards helping me and solving my problem.
5.unsatisfied Customer. Sometimes the service is really good and the product rocks, but you still have a cranky customer that for no apparent reason will rant endlessly to and about your company.That’s just life!!
1. You don’t (have to) repeat yourself – this is the top annoying issue with every customer care interaction: having to repeat oneself across the channels and even through a simple transfer to a different department.
2. You still want your fix – you are contacting the company and you are mad and frustrated but you still love the product and want it fixed (as opposed to throwing it out of the window at the first 30 seconds’ queue).
3. You end the interaction in awe. Regardless of the outcome of the interaction (i.e. problem fixed or not), you end your interaction in a jaw dropping mood because you truly believed that they cared about you and wanted to make things better for you.
Why would I want to call a number, be harassed by an automated voice and stay in a queue for excruciatingly long minutes if I can do anything by myself on a website or mobile app?
Because somewhere in your self-service or company strategy, a process is broken and the end user cannot find the answers, that’s why!
A few weeks ago I got a package from Amazon that I did not order. I double checked my orders – being a Prime customer, I have quite a few in my backlog 🙂 – and realized I had to tell them that there was no order with that ID, although it was sent to my correct name and address. Of course I checked on the website first, to see if I could do it myself, but nope, no way I could return an item that I did not order in the first place.
In the end I had to call customer care (with an odd callback policy, but they will call you back within seconds from your request, so totally forgivable) and even the agent could not fix the issue, so they sent me an email confirming that I could keep the item as they had no way of having me return it. This is obviously a good example of customer experience: although there was a broken process within the company, they made it as smooth as possible for the end user, but how many companies can claim they can cope with a broken internal process so neatly?
It’s not enough to provide omni-channel customer care with all the latest technology and the coolest strategy, if the internal processes are weak or missing: the customer journey plan begins always with content. It doesn’t matter to plan the “how” if you don’t have the “what” ready.
…I’d refuse to repeat myself across different channels!!!
This is by far one of the most annoying things about any service: you struggle with an ivr, or browse through an authenticated portal, only to find out that the information were inconsistent and wrong and when you finally, angry and frustrated after hours of bad self-service experience, reach a live agent you get the much dreaded question “Can you please tell me your name and address?”.
I was recently in a round table at a marketing event, with an engaging title: “Selling and caring in the age of omni-channel”. My giveaways are two direct questions I got from customers:
- Is social presence really a must and is it worth the effort?
- How can we improve our customer experience to get the best out of the consumers’ value?
The first answer was very easy: in my opinion you have to be out there. Yes, it’s a jungle, it’s hard, and kind of things will go bad at some point because people are always complaining and unsatisfied, and yes you will have to dedicate people answering social posts, but in the end….if you are not out there, your competitors are. And consumers will define your ability and innovation strive based on your presence_or worst, based on your absence.
The second question I still find tricky to answer: even if you are out there and even if you are giving a great customer experience and your product is gold and your customers love you…you still have a need for optimization and improvement that will drive you to the next step of your customer journey map.
And the only way of moving forward is innovation: try new things, ask your customers what would make them even happier, build a community to get them more connected (and let’s be honest, to build your own knowledge base around theirs), offer collateral services that might help them in their daily struggle, think out of the box. They will remember that, and love your company even more for taking the time to understand them. and in the end, they will keep buying from you. Because this is no longer the era of “business as usual”.
I have been working on one of the first “I.V.R.” (Interactive voice response, for those not familiar with the acronyms) back in 1997. It was a huge thing back then, especially as ASR and TTS (the natural language way of speaking with a machine) were really early technology and to say the least, a bit immature. I remember that we randomly called people from all over the country and recorded the calls for the ASR engine to get all the slang and accents.The embryo of today’s voice portal was in my hands and it looked awesome and cool and as an engineer, the potential seemed so high that we imagined these things would replace humans in just a few months!
So after a while we enthusiastically rolled out our first scripts: developed, tested, re-tested, documented and highly appreciated by the techies, only to find out that
…they were a complete disaster once in the hands of the end users.
They lacked some instructions, albeit the intuitive menus, some quick fallback to a nice sweet helping voice, the speech recognition was funny and bizarre and text to speech failed to be comprehensive, but most of all, we assumed that common users did prefer a machine to a human. I am still convinced that some of the errors we made back in the old days are still haunting us because guess what? People remember.
Now things have changed a lot, but again not so much from those years:
- We still develop scripts for the user to play with – sometimes we also provide some sort of independence for the users to develop their own dynamic script during the interaction. This still has lots of potential but is inexorably linked to the target users.
- Adoption rates largely vary according to the service, the target demographic and the goodness of the script. And I am not mentioning here those ivr trees that are specifically developed to confuse and deflect people from calling.
- ASR and TTS are still not widely accepted for many reasons that have nothing to do with the technology, which is even more awesome and amazing than ever (have you tried it?) : namely the end user willingness to accept the use of natural language in their game with an automated response thingy.
- Self-service is still somehow big: people love to find their own answers and browse safely on the web or on any other device that will guarantee some degree of anonymity: similar to the unparalleled satisfaction of mounting our own Ikea piece of furniture (for those of us who don’t end up with a weird library and a bunch of unused screws), we love proving to our self that we can be self-sufficient across different channels and fix our own problems
- A human representative is still the choice of election for those problems that are not in the Q&A, not in the FAQ, not in the knowledge base and not in any automated script and therefore require the human brain to solve it.
How are we doing with this? 18 years and still dealing with ivr scripts? There must be something new in our technological horizon, something that will lift us to the point where users will find 99% of their answers and the 1% will be answered by a super-human agent who is someone like Mr Wolf, only “solves problems”.
For now, I guess we’re far from that target and I really need to call my isp support to fix this upload issue… 😦
There is a great hype today about being recognized and cherished as a customer by any company.
We, in the works, sell it as the next best thing: you contact a company and suddenly you and your history with the company and any private, related information is out there, and the company is very proud of having invested good money in the technology and processes that work together to give you this great customer experience….
…kind of like when you shop around and suddenly google is displaying the very things you were sneaking at, right in your face…
I am not sure this is all good. In fact, I am sure there is a boundary between “knowing me” and “stalking me” and it largely depends on the company, the product, the situation and definitely the individual involved. For me as a consumer, this boundary is very close to the name and maybe the address: any information after that I perceive as invading, not appropriate, not even wanted.
Where’s the boundary?
So I am asking you users out there: where is your boundary? What of your personal information would you give away in exchange for a good customer service?
As a specialist in the digital channels for user experience, I thought what would be the best way to start this, than bragging about it?
Stay tuned, we are all users. 🙂