Improving Citizens Experience

This week, the White House announced that the Biden-Harris administration is going to sign an Executive Order with the aim of improving the experience of Americans when dealing with the Government – Citizen Experience – Putting the Public First: Improving Customer Experience and Service Delivery for the American People

Today, the President is taking decisive action to promote fiscal stewardship by improving the Government’s service delivery to its customers, the American people.

The President will sign an Executive Order, Transforming Federal Customer Experience and Service Delivery to Rebuild Trust in Government, directing that Government leaders account for the experiences of the public in seeking Government services.

The President is making sure we’re building accountability and transparency into everything we do and that we’re good stewards of taxpayer dollars. As the President has said: “We have to prove democracy still works, that our government still works and can deliver for our people.”

The Executive Order directs Federal agencies to put people at the center of everything the Government does. Specifically, the Executive Order includes 36 customer experience (CX) improvement commitments across 17 Federal agencies, all of which aim to improve people’s lives and the delivery of Government services.

The Executive Order also creates a sustained, cross-government service delivery process that aligns to the moments that matter most in people’s lives – like turning 65, having a child, or applying for a small business loan.

As part of this framework, the Administration will work to identify and define critical services that meet customers’ needs and expectations, assess performance delivery and report it publicly, incorporate customer feedback during each interaction, and ultimately ensure services deliver a better experience to the public.

Every interaction between the Government and the public, whether it involves filing taxes or renewing a passport, is an opportunity to deliver the value, service, and efficiency that the public expects and deserves.

Bridging the Gap Between eCommerce and Real-World Experience

It was with great pleasure that I contributed to an “Expert Panel” organised by CX Buzz to answer this interesting question…

What could companies do to bridge the gap between eCommerce and Real-World Experience

Here is my take on it…

When customers go to a brick-and-mortar store, they expect 3 main things:
1) A clean and uncluttered space;
2) Easy-to-find products;
3) Staff at arms-length.

They expect the exact same when they go to an online store. However, most eCommerce sites have:
1) too much information (promotions, disclaimers, alerts, pop-ups, etc.) cluttering what are increasingly small screens (as customers use mobile devices more than desk or laptops);
2) poor search capabilities, forcing customers into a lot of clicking and scrolling, or digging into badly designed and structured menus;
3) hide, or make it hard to find, ways of getting in touch with customer services (to deflect contacts), and even when they make virtual assistants available, they are often unhelpful.

So, to bridge the gap between real-world and eCommerce experience, companies need to surface customers’ needs, understand their expectations, and design experiences that are based on those, rather than their own view of the world and business interests. And then use technology to enable it.

CCXP Renewed by the CXPA

Just got my CCXP renewed by the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA)

I’m very proud to be part of a restrict group of certified CX practitioners

I want to thank again to those who inspired and supported me in the process, back in 2017, and from whom I continue to learn

Jeanne Bliss, Ian Golding, Bruce Temkin, Stephanie Thum, Michael G. Bartlett, Kerry Bodine among others.

What is the core of customer-driven growth?

Twenty one years into the 21st Century, many companies still hold on to the same dogma. Marketing attracts prospects; Sales acquires customers; Service is a necessary evil.

When the going gets tough, the first thing those companies think of, is cutting costs in customer service, because that department is not perceived as direct contributor to revenue and profit.

That is a mistake. It is well researched, studied, demonstrated and documented, that…

  1. Good customer service is crucial for Retention, Renewal, Repeat business;
  2. Poor customer service impacts customer Experience, Satisfaction, Loyalty.

According to Forbes, poor customer service is costing businesses more than $75 billion a year. So, it sounds like weakening customer services might not be the right strategy.

It’s well researched, studied, demonstrated and documented that acquiring new customers is more expensive than keeping existing customers.

With that in mind, it feels like companies going through hard times should rather…

  1. support and reinforce customer service;
  2. prioritise retention, without neglecting acquisition.

Investing in Customer Experience (as a business discipline) and Technology (as an enabler) is, in my opinion, the best strategy. 

It’s well researched, studied, demonstrated and documented that the return on investment of having a good CX program is not just massive, but also lasting.

It’s also well researched, studied, demonstrated and documented that technology is not just one of the quickest, but also most cost-effective ways to enable good customer service.

A technology platform, built from the ground up with a focus on customer experience and aligned with a good CX strategy, allows companies to…

  1. Be where customers are – making conversations easy and convenient;
  2. Give customers what they want – making interactions effortless and consistent;
  3. Collect customers feedback – keeping the finger on the pulse of the experience;
  4. Understand customers behaviour – informing the improvement of experiences;
  5. Orchestrate customers journey – increasing personalisation and efficiency;
  6. Analyse and gather actionable insight – prioritising fixes and development areas.

Remember… it is very well researched, studied, demonstrated and documented that word-of-mouth is the cheapest way of Marketing and the most effective way of Selling.

Jeanne Bliss (the mother of CX) says you need to “earn the right to have customers tell your story” – customers that tell their friends, families and followers about your brand and products.

That is the making of a Customer-Driven Growth strategy, and Customer Service is at the core.

Promises you can’t keep, Scores you don’t deserve

Promise-making and score-begging is something we see more often than we would like to, particularly from companies who only pay lip-service to Customer Experience. Let me tell you about an experience I had recently, which is somewhat funny…

My car was due for service, so I googled the nearest Renault franchise. Landing in their page the “Service” section was prominent, and the online booking was recommended. Lovely! – I booked for the following Thursday 9:00 and requested the “pick-up & drop-off at home” option.

Thursday came. It was 30 mins past 9:00 and no one showed up, so I decided to call. The person who picked up the phone asked me if I had received a confirmation call. I said I wasn’t even aware I should expect one. But surely expected they called if they could not accept my booking.

She laughed at me when I said I used online booking and requested pick-up/drop-off at home…

📞 Yeah you know, too many online requests and the person dealing with them is too busy. You should always call. As for pick-up/drop-off service, we can’t really do that.

Hum… I see. But your website recommends online booking, and has the option for pick-up/drop-off“, I said.

📞 Yeah… I know nothing about internet. Do you want to book the service with me?

Of course I did, and asked what was the next available slot / day.

📞 “Next Tuesday 9:00… can you please give me your name, email, phone, address, car maker, model, registration, chassis number…”

I knew this was going to happen. It was so obvious!… “But I provided all that info in the online webform

📞 “Sir, as I said, I know nothing about internet. Do you want to book the service or not?

I was a bit annoyed by the tone, but I needed the service, so I provided all the details again, and booked it.

Tuesday came and I was there at 10 mins to 9:00 AM (had a conference call at 9:30 AM, so wanted to drop it off quickly and go back home).

It took me 40 mins (!!) to drop the car. Mostly because I had to provide all the information again to the front desk person: name, email, phone, address, car maker, model, registration, chassis number…

Whilst I was waiting for him to type everything into his computer, I looked around and saw the below 😮

The Renault network promises to

1 – Reply to your online booking in less than 24 hours

And on the other end of the counter was the below 🤔

Your opinion counts! You will receive a CSAT survey… please give us a 9 or 10

As I said initially, Renault is paying lip-service to Customer Experience. Making promises they cannot (or even make no effort to) keep, and begging for scores they don’t deserve.

Truth is whoever is creating these initiatives seldom understands that they actually have the opposite outcome. They think this way:

  • By showing we are customer focused…
  • And asking for good feedback…
  • Customers will give us a high score…
  • Others will see it, and come as well.

But in reality, this is what happens:

  • Customers see promises you’re not interested in keeping…
  • And go through high-effort & below-par experiences;
  • Realise you only care about appearances…
  • And resent your cheekiness of asking a high score…
  • Giving you a bad score, not coming back, and telling their friends

In the meantime, Renault lost a great opportunity to understand what their gaps are and either fix issues or improve experiences. For example:

  • Does Renault know the person dealing with online bookings is overwhelmed?
  • Does Renault know there isn’t enough staff to provide pick-up / drop-off?
  • Does Renault know employees are duplicating customer information in different systems?
  • Does Renault know customers are being hassled into providing their information over and over?

Funny thing is, in my humble opinion, most of these are actually easy fixes, that would have a massive impact on customer experience, and consequently on the scores that Renault is begging from customers.

4 Do’s and 5 Dont’s – An experience with UPS

This is the story of an inconsistent customer experience delivered by UPS, that made me go from frustrated to relieved, from pleasantly surprised to annoyed, and back to satisfied but exhausted. Something that I feel could be avoided easily. Below I try to contribute to the fix.

I bought a pair of sneakers online from New Balance, to deliver at my home address. As soon as I submitted the order I got and immediate “Thank you for your order” email, followed by a clear and concise “Your order has been shipped” email 12 hours later.

The hassle started 24 hours later when I received an email from UPS saying they’d missed me and would try again the next day. I wanted to advise I wasn’t home and they should leave it at the concierge office, but…

Improvement opportunity #1 – the email didn’t have a how-to or a direct link to the page where I could “change delivery” or advise where to leave the parcel

I went to the UPS website, navigated to the tracking page, and entered my tracking number. The option to “change delivery” was there, so I clicked on it, but…

Improvement opportunity #2 – I wasn’t allowed to do it without having a My UPS account, so I was required to sign-up, and had to fill in a web-form

I provided all my details, waited for the confirmation email to land in my inbox, clicked on the confirmation link, and was able to login.

Went back to the tracking page, entered my tracking number and clicked “change delivery“, where I had to fill in another web-form in which I had to populate the delivery address.

Improvement opportunity #3 – I would have assumed that if they already had my delivery address then they could have pre-populated it in the web-form, saving me time and effort

The web-form had a mandatory “State” field which listed USA states only. I live in the UK, hence wasn’t able to progress my request to “change delivery” and left it there, hoping that they would figure it out for themselves or contact me.

Improvement opportunity #4 – the pre-population of the address could have avoided this, but there could be situations where customer does want to change delivery address, so the UPS web form needs to be developed and tested to cater for customers worldwide

24 hours later I got another email from UPS saying they’d missed me again, and would try once more the next day. I decided to tweet @UPS_UK

Continue doing #1 – An agent responded to my tweet, publicly, within 1 minute. Asking me to DM tracking and phone numbers

After providing my tracking and phone numbers, I was expecting Alex (the agent) to give me an excuse, justification or explanation, and ask me to go and try again, but…

Continue doing #2 – Alex sorted it out internally (by updating the system advising that they could drop the parcel at the concierge) without asking me to (re)do anything

I was finally re-assure and happy. The next day, first thing in the morning (9:12 AM) I got a call from UPS…

Continue doing #3 – It was a courtesy call, advising the parcel would be delivered at the concierge as per my request, and re-assuring me it would be delivered the next day

But exactly 29 minutes later, I receive an email from UPS saying they’d miss me one more time and they would attempt a final delivery the next day.

Improvement opportunity #5 Any other person could have been confused and attempt to contact UPS again. Having worked in the implementation of technology platforms all my life I knew this was one of those cases where there isn’t a unified platform or process, so the message had not reach the system that automatically sends the notifications

The truth is, the next day I got a call from the UPS driver, advising he was on the delivery address and was going to leave the parcel with the concierge.

Continue doing #4 – This was something the UPS driver didn’t necessarily have to do. If he had delivered, I would have got the notification, but he was kind enough to re-assure me by calling

A few minutes later I got the final email notification from UPS, saying my parcel had been delivered. There, I was happy and relaxed now… even though a bit exhausted from this roller-coaster of emotions and hassle.

Gartner Magic Quadrant “CRM Customer Engagement Centre” (June 2021)

Gartner has recently published it’s Magic Quadrant for the CRM Customer Engagement Center (see here) with some interesting insight on the best technology platforms and software applications for the Customer Service and Support market.

Among the 6 leaders are the stronger players in the market with Salesforce leading the pack by some margin, followed by Pegasystems, Microsoft, ServiceNow, Zendesk, and Oracle.

Some interesting insights or comments from Gartner:

Salesforce Service Cloud

+ The continued investment in verticals by extending industry-specific offering. Be it by developing the product or acquiring other software solutions / companies.

Customers are showing concerns about high prices and contract inflexibility, as well as over-customisation of the platform.

Pegasystems Pega Customer Service

+ Praise is given to Pegasystems for its partnership and commitment to its customers’ digital transformation projects.

Customers flag that it’s very hard to find Pegasystems specialists, with relevant technical and industry experience, making it difficult to implement, develop and maintain.

Microsoft Dynamics 365

+ Customers highlighted the extensibility using the same codebase as the low-code Power Platform that underpins all Dynamics products and Microsoft-related systems.

Customers feel that they need a lot of training and support if they want to make the most out of the applications features and functionalities.

ServiceNow Customer Service Management

+ Gartner praises ServiceNow for its robust platform and capabilities around IT service management, asset management and real-time monitoring.

Customers complain about the complex and confusing licensing model, as well as the need to contract professional developers to configure and develop the platform.

Oracle Service Cloud

+ The report highlighted the features of OIA (fka Oracle Policy Automation), which enables some very clever self-service capabilities, when integrated with Service Cloud.

Customer’s continue disliking Oracle’s complex licensing model, as well as the time they need to skill-up, in order to develop, support and manage the software.

Zendesk for Service

+ Customers give a lot of praise to Zendesk’s innovation and ease of use, configuration, customisation. As well as for the agility, benefits and time to value.

Gartner states that, compared to some of the competition, Zendesk has limited vertical product strategy, which may hinder companies in certain regulated industries.

When it comes to Experience, Technology is a box-to-box

Technology has been an enabler for great customers and employee experiences for a long time, making it possible for companies to deliver fantastic messages, good services and personalised experiences.

But as Experience is now the biggest differentiator between companies (surpassing Product and Price), Technology is starting to become the biggest differentiator between experiences (many times surpassing Strategy and Delivery).

Truth is, Technology is the number 8 in your football team. In England they call it “box-to-box“. In other countries they call it the “one who carries the piano“. It’s not often the one that stands out, despite being the one that works the hardest for others to shine.

This blog was triggered by a conversation with a friend: “Well, to be honest it’s hard to believe it when you actually don’t see it. So, could you give me an example of how technology works in the background to enable great experiences?

I had just been on a call with a colleague and a customer a few days earlier, talking about a handful of ways they could use the technology stack they have to deliver great experiences. One of them related to the delivery of multi-language support.

Here is a scenario: You are a global company, selling all over the world. You have customers contacting and expecting you to support them in their own language. But your contact centre is in the UK, and your agents can only support in English language.

The easier solution usually requires the agent to perform 9 steps. Copy message; go to Google Translate; paste message; read translation; pray that it makes sense; draft response; copy from Google translate; go to original system; paste message.

To deliver a better customer experience, adding convenience of multi-language support, you end up hurting the employee experience, adding a huge effort to the agent. Alternative? Hire agents with language skills, which will bring additional cost.

Well, this is a very good example where Technology can help. Here is an easy solution – interface your contact centre technology platform with AWS and leverage the power of Amazon Web Services.

  1. Send customer’s message to AWS, via AWS EventBridge
  2. AWS EventBridge will send the message to AWS Lambda
  3. AWS Lambda will in turn send the message to AWS Translate
  4. AWS Translate will translate the message and send it back to AWS Lambda
  5. AWS Lambda will interface and send translated message to your agent

This all happens in real-time, meaning it would only take fractions of a second for your agent to have the translated message available to read, and respond to the customer. Do you have other use cases or want more?

Simple, in step 3 replace AWS Translate for AWS Comprehend and offer agents the sentiment of the customer’s message. Or replace AWS Translate for AWS Lex to read customer’s intent and respond accordingly.

These are just a few examples of how Technology can do some magic in the background. Allowing you to deliver convenient, personalised and outstanding customer experiences. Avoiding impact on agents will also make them feel empowered and offer a much better employee experience.

And you do all that, while managing your operation’s costs, as well as leveraging the power of your technology investments.

Note: Below is an example of one of the solutions, using Zendesk and AWS