The “I just do what I’m told” experience

Empathy. Accountability. Ownership. Three things that are absolutely crucial for the delivery of great customer experiences. More than that, they should be core to every relationship and everything we do in life. Still, most so-called “Customer Service” people (from senior leadership to front-line agents) gets it wrong.

I bought a flat, in Portugal, and had to contact the utilities company, EDP – Electricity of Portugal, to change the account details (from the previous owner to my name).

The agent I spoke with was really nice and attentive. Told me I had to provide them with document A, and followed up on the call with an email explaining what that document was and where I should send it to.

A few days later I got a call from EDP. An agent told me someone needed to come by to do a (paid) service, due to the lack of documentation. I explained that I had sent it a couple days earlier, via email following instructions provided by her colleague. She wasn’t aware “I’m in a different department and just do what the system tells me to do”.

The day after next, I got another call from EDP. An agent told me someone needed to come by to do a (paid) service, due to the lack of documentation. I explained the same thing. He told me that actually I needed to send document B as well. I wasn’t aware, and asked why wasn’t I informed earlier. “I cannot take responsibility for my colleagues actions. I’m just doing what I have to do”.

The agent also told me that until the process was complete, the system would “flag” every other day and someone would call me, regardless of the case being in progress. “Ok”, I said, “that doesn’t make much sense, but it will only force me to repeat myself to every agent that calls”. I guess that didn’t bother them much.

A couple of days later, after I had sent document B, I got another call from EDP. An agent told me someone needed to come by to do a (paid) service, due to the lack of documentation. I explained the same thing. She told me that actually I needed to send document C as well. I wasn’t aware and said it would be appreciated if they could ask for all documentation at once. “I’m not responsible for what others told you. We are in different teams. I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do”.

I was out, and asked her if she could send me an email explaining in layman’s terms what document C was – as her language was too technical on the phone. The agent replied that she could not send me an email. I asked why. “Not my department”, she said.

I asked her if she could please send an internal note asking for the relevant department to send me an email. “I can give you their phone number, and you can call to ask them to send you an email”. I was flabbergasted. Asked her if she thought that made sense. “It’s not my responsibility, I just do what I’m told”, she said.

At this point I started telling the agent that, from a customer experience point of view, this wasn’t good, and that… she interrupted me “I’m sorry sir, that is not relevant. Consider yourself warned, on this call, that we called you to ask for document C. Is there anything else I can do for you today?”

That’s all”, I said, “I don’t think you can help me with anything else. At least not today. Maybe one day”.

Guest Post, by Stephanie Thum, CCXP

Back Up Your CX Leadership Strategies with Data from These Five Academic Studies

“Expert” opinions from blogs, books, and podcasts are great. But there is just something about being able to build on what you believe to be true by leaning on data from published academic research. In the customer experience profession, we now have the benefit of hundreds of published academic studies that apply to our world. I recently began integrating more scholarly readings on customer experience into my work. Here are my top five favorites from recent months. Side benefit: they are all free to access! See if you think they might be worth putting on your reading list.

  1. A Phenomenological Study of Customer Disvalue

If good experiences equal customer value, then how do we start to understand negative customer experiences and the reverse phenomenon—customer disvalue? Disvalue is a separate, deeper phenomenon than customer dissatisfaction. Disvalue is about the lasting impressions customers have of doing business with a company that just really lets them down. This study describes disvalue phenomena and hints at how customers might deal with the situation, including protests, revenge, and telling others about their experience. (Free.)

Source: The Iranian Journal of Management Studies, Volume 13, No. 3, Summer 2020, pages 367-390.

  1. Narcissism, interactivity, community, and online revenge behavior: The moderating role of social presence among Jordanian consumers

This study is a good companion read to study on customer disvalue mentioned above. Researchers found that customers’ personal levels of narcissism and their social media participation and presence increased their intentions and desire to enact revenge on a brand after a bad experience. The key takeaway: customers can get pretty cranky no matter how hard you try. Companies need to be aware of and prepared for the pitfalls of perceived poor customer experiences. (Free.)

Source: Computers in Human Behavior, Volume 104, March 2020.

3. Virtual team leader communication: Employee perception and organizational reality

In this study, virtual teams that thought their leaders were excellent communicators believed their teams were performing well. But when researchers compared the teams’ subjective perceptions of their performance to objective data on an organizational balanced scorecard, virtual teams were not performing as well as they thought. The takeaway: leaders need to use great tools and speak with clarity regarding performance avoid being misinterpreted. (Free.)

Source: International Journal of Business Communication, Volume 57, No. 4, October 2020, 452-473.

4. Design for Service Inclusion: Creating Inclusive Service Systems by 2050

Despite recent efforts by the business world to be inclusive of customers with disabilities, exclusion and discrimination are still problems. Service exclusion exists in cultures where employees treat vulnerable customers in discriminatory ways, instead of with empathy or proactive service. This article explains the ins and outs of service exclusion. It calls attention to barriers to change, like the reality that the cost of lawsuits is still oftentimes less than the cost of change. It offers success strategies for improving experiences for all customers. (Free.)

Source: Journal of Service Management, Volume 29, No. 5, July 2018, pages 834-858

5. Do you respond sincerely? How sellers’ responses to online reviews affect customer
relationship and repurchase intention

Customers get annoyed when you respond to their online reviews with shameless self- promotion and a plug for your next sale. To them, it comes across as indulging in your own self- interest, rather than accepting their feedback. This study found that when that happens, relationship quality and customer repurchase intentions decrease. Read this to understand how you should you respond so that customers feel valued and ready to buy again. (Free.)

Source: Frontiers in Business Research in China, Volume 14, No. 1, December 2020, 367-390.

Hundreds of academic articles have been published in just the past 15 years alone that apply to our work in customer experience leadership. There is room for more, so keep watching for the best, most applicable studies that carry with them the rigors of peer reviewed, scientific evaluation. Google Scholar is a great starting resource!

Feel free to comment with some of the most helpful academic resources you have written, contributed to, or found helpful.

Stephanie Thum is the Founding Principal at Practical CX, LLC, having served as one of the first agency-level heads of customer experience in the U.S. federal government. During that time Stephanie advised President Obama’s interagency task force on customer experience. She also served as Chief Advisor for Federal CX at Qualtrics, and CX Influencer for SAP.

Stephanie is also a founding member of the CXPA, where she helped build the Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP) certification process and the global customer experience professional community.

Follow Stephanie on LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter.

4 principles for modern VoC collection

pic from

In this week’s The Modern Customer Podcast host Blake Morgan had an interesting chat with Tom Hale, the president of SurveyMonkey. One of the topics they discussed was around creating the perfect survey experience, and what metrics to use.

This is something I believe many companies struggle with, and CX professionals try to get right, amidst the various interests and requests of the different stakeholders and forces within their organisations.

From my point of view, when it comes to setting up a modern framework and system to collect voice-of-customer, there are 4 simple principles to follow:

  1. Customer-centric design – gather feedback when it most matters to the customer. Tom’s example in the podcast is a good one. He received a treadmill, and while struggling to assemble it he was already being peppered with surveys to gather feedback on the delivery – when the company should have been focusing on ensuring he was alright setting things up and making it work.
  2. X-data effortless collection – gather feedback in a way that makes it easier for the customer. Survey questions need to be simple to read, easy to understand, bring back the experience in question, and have answers that are easily associated with the customers’ judgement. Stephanie Thum‘s example in this tweet illustrates it well – the question was: “If needed, would you use this service in the future?“, response was “Very Satisfied” to “Very Dissatisfied“. Makes no sense, right?
  3. Embed in the experience – gather feedback where it’s more convenient to the customer. Wherever possible, but only if it doesn’t disrupt things (!), ask for feedback in or during the experience. Rather than diverting customers somewhere else straight after the experience, which can seem a hassle, or sending them an email / message a few hours or days later – by then, they may have already lost the excitement or memory of what happened.
  4. Focus on actionable insight – gather feedback that induce change and drive improvement. It’s important to collect a global indicator of the outcome of the experience, and whether it was effective (e.g. CSAT question). And it’s also very important to ask for the detail, and understand the “why” (e.g. open text question). But these are the customer’s perceptions, which you cannot change. Hence, it’s even more important to ensure you understand what impacted the customer’s perception. The things or areas for which you can identify owners within the company, and push for change (e.g. drivers question).

There are many other steps to follow, but I wanted to KISS you (keep it short and simple 😊). If you work on these 4 principles, you are setting yourself up with a good foundation for collecting good quantity and quality of Voice-of-Customer data.

Guest post, by Ben Motteram

Useful CX Metrics You May Not Be Using

There are at least two very good reasons to measure the experience you’re providing customers.

The first is best summarised by the father of management thinking, Peter Drucker, when he said “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”. As CX Managers we need to understand the experience we are currently providing customers in order to transform it.

The second has to do with your CX strategy. Any strategy worth its salt will be comprised of three components:

  1. An understanding of where you are today,
  2. The desired future state, and
  3. A plan for how you’re going to get there. 

And metrics are crucial to building out your understanding of your current position.

If you Google “CX Metrics”, once you get through all the ads for feedback vendors, you’re going to quickly find that most people like to talk about Net Promoter Score, Customer Effort Score (CES) and Customer Satisfaction (CSAT). All three have their pro’s and con’s but when used as part of a system they’re all good. 

But there’s enough posts about them on the internet (hell, I’m guilty of even publishing one or two) so I’m going to look at a few metrics today that you’re probably not using.

Now, the metrics you use to measure your CX are going to differ depending on the type of business you are. An e-business that operates 100% online will need different metrics to a physical store which will need different metrics to a national cable company with a call centre and technicians visiting customers in their homes daily. 

So let’s look at each of those examples in turn:


In this scenario, customers order a product online for it to be delivered so there are two aspects of the experience we can measure: the online experience and the delivery experience. Metrics I’d be looking at for each include:

The online experience

  • Webpage uptime – What was the percentage of time that customers could not access our website? When did those periods occur?
  • Bounce rate – What was the percentage of visitors who came to our site and then left rather than continuing to view other pages on the site?
  • Abandoned carts – What percentage of customers began shopping and then stopped mid-purchase? What page were they on when they stopped? If customers had logged in prior to abandoning their cart, what was the general demographic profile of customers who abandoned their carts?
  • Page load time – How long did it take each page to load causing our customers to wait?
  • How many times was the FAQ guide accessed? This indicates customers weren’t able/didn’t know how to do something.
  • How many times was an online agent requested mid-purchase? Again, this indicates customers weren’t able/didn’t know how to do something.

The delivery experience

  • What was the average time between a customer ordering the product and receiving it for both metropolitan and regional areas?
  • What percentage of deliveries were made after our commitment date?
  • What percentage of returns on the first day were because of damage (which we will assume was caused by delivery)?
  • What percentage of customers were notified that the product was being delivered on the day?
  • How did customers rate the delivery person? How many complaints were received about delivery people?

Physical Store

Owners of a physical store are going to need a completely different set of metrics to measure their CX. I’ll break these down between the store itself and the service provided by employees within the store:

The store

  • The shopping experience begins before the customer enters your store. If they drove, how easy or hard was it for them to find a park?
  • Did we have the product(s) the customer was looking for?
  • How easy/hard were those products to find in our store?
  • How did customers rate the general appearance of the store for cleanliness/tidiness?

The customer service

  • How did customers rate the employee(s) they interacted with whilst on site for appearance, service, courtesy, knowledge, communication and professionalism?

National Cable Company

In this scenario, I’m using a cable company because I’ve worked at a few of them and know them well but it could be any company with a contact centre that sends technicians to customers’ homes or businesses. The two aspects of the experience I’ll focus on here is the contact centre and the technician visit.

The contact centre

Every good contact centre will already be measuring things like FCR, AHT, ASA, and QA (boy there’s a lot of acronyms in the contact centre world!) so let’s look at some other metrics:

  • Average After Call Work Time – A subset of AHT, this is the average amount of time it takes to wrap up a case after the customer has disconnected.
  • Unplanned agent leave days – people not turning up to work when you’d planned for them to be there affects CX.
  • Agent Turnover Rate – What percentage of agents leave each year? Not only will this increased hiring and re-training costs but less experienced agents can’t provide the same level of service to customers that an experienced, knowledgeable agent can.
  • Escalation Rate – What percentage of cases were escalated both from self-service to a live agent, as well as between different tiers of agents and managers. More agent-to-manager or cross-tier escalations may indicate expertise or confidence issues with the service agents, particularly among those agents with the highest rates. A high escalation rate from self-service to live agents could mean current self-service options are not effectively answering customer questions.

The technician visit

  • Right First Time – Did the technician do the job they were originally sent to do or was rework involved?
  • Call On Approach – Did the technician call the customer before arriving to let them know they were coming to ensure the customer would be there?
  • Appointment Window Met – Did the technician arrive within the specified appointment window?
  • How did customers rate the technician they interacted with whilst they were on site for appearance, service, courtesy, knowledge, communication and professionalism?

In all cases mentioned above, I’d also be measuring complaints and the time it took to resolve them. Complaints are a key indicator that your customer experience has broken down and Time To Resolve tells you how long it took to fix. As a CX Manager, your goal should be of course, to get the first metric down to 0 and the second as low as possible.

So there you have it, some of the more uncommon metrics that can be used to measure customer experience. If you’re using any others I’d love to hear about them. Please add them in the comments section of this post.

“Measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually to improvement. If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it. If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it. If you can’t control it, you can’t improve it.” – Dr. H. James Harrington.

[Image courtesy of Patricia Serna on Unsplash]

Ben Motteram is a customer experience consultant with over 20 years’ experience in customer acquisition and retention. Through his company, CXpert, he helps companies become more human in the way they interact with customers and employees to increase loyalty, engagement, and ultimately profits. An avid golfer living in Melbourne, follow Ben on Twitter for insights on CX, customer service and employee engagement or connect with him on Linked In.

Calculate ROI of CX: a simple example

It is true (and recent research shows) that Customer Experience has finally gathered the attention of the executive boards, convincing the C-level that it’s crucial to invest in order to ensure customer-driven growth.

However, CX practitioners are wrong if they think that CEOs will back their initiatives, and CFOs will release resources, because studies say happier customers spend more. They need to know how much they can expect from the investment.

Return on Investment (ROI) of CX programs and initiatives is still something that makes some CX practitioners scratch their heads. But the truth is that calculating the ROI of CX isn’t much different from calculating it for any other investment.

I will share with you, one example that I have learnt, and should be straightforward to apply and use. You will need:

  • Experience Data (X-data) – which you are already gathering from surveys.
  • Operational Data (O-data) – which you have in your CRM or ERP systems.

Let’s use CSAT as a metric of reference (you could use any other, like NPS, CES)

  • From X-data, find Top 20% customers. Get Customer IDs and CSAT score
  • From X-data find Bottom 20% customers. Get Customer IDs and CSAT score
  • From O-data find the Yearly Spend for all those customers. Use Customer IDs

With that data, calculate the average CSAT and and the average yearly spend for the Top and Bottom 20%. Below is an example of the results you could get:

  • Top 20% customers – average CSAT 80 points – average spend $250/year
  • Bottom 20% customers – average CSAT 40 points – average spend $20/year

Next steps are:

  • Calculate CSAT difference in both groups (example above 40 points)
  • Calculate average spend difference in both groups (example above $135/year)
  • Divide one for the other to get result (example above $135 / 40 = $3.375)

Now you can tell the board of executives that: “for each additional CSAT point, we expect to drive an increased value of $3.375 per customer

How to lose a customer without even knowing

Not too long ago I wrote about how non-sense policies – built by banks who do not treat experience management as a discipline – can kill not only customer but also employee experiences. Here it is: Bank Policies – Killers for CX and EX.

Companies can also kill experiences way before the customer bumps into one of those non-sense policies. They can lose customers before even acquiring them, and without even knowing it. Some times in the most basic of interactions.

That is exactly what happened last week. I was looking around for mortgages and, after some online browsing, I decided to visit three banks – those that not only have a good brand, but are also known for having the best offerings.

The interaction with the first bank was formal and process-oriented. It focused on the information they needed for the “mortgage calculator” and risk assessment – How much is your annual income? How much is the house? How much do you want to borrow?

The interaction with the second bank was very friendly and customer-focused. They wanted to know the purpose of the buy and understand my needs – Is it a house for the family to live in? Are you investing to sell or rent? How urgent is it for you to buy it?

The third bank lost my business without even knowing. Without me having the opportunity to talk to anyone about a mortgage. Funnily enough, it was the bank that (according to reviews) has the best financial offers, with the lowest interest rates.

The story is simple. I went to the branch and rang the door (Covid-19 procedure requires doors closed and one person at a time). There was a man inside, who pretended he didn’t see me. I waited a few seconds, knocked on the door and waved.

Reluctantly he came to the door and shouted from the inside that it was lunch time, and I should come back one hour later. I smiled, walked back to the car, and drove away. Needless to say that I didn’t come back.

Despite the prospect of good financial conditions, I didn’t come back because…

  1. A person that doesn’t ask what my enquiry is about isn’t interested in helping me;
  2. A person that doesn’t open the door to talk to me doesn’t deserve my attention;
  3. A bank that is only open 9AM to 3PM isn’t necessarily thinking about my needs;
  4. A bank that closes at lunchtime is definitely not making it convenient to me.

This bank lost a customer that was looking for a product that would be very lucrative. And they have no idea they lost me, let alone why they lost me. Hence, even if they wanted, they could not do anything about it.

There is a strong chance they will continue losing customers due to this sort of interaction, consequently struggling to acquire new customers, despite efforts in customer acquisition activities (e.g. marketing campaigns, great financial offerings).

They are basically blind. Probably wondering why better products are not attracting new customers. Questioning themselves what can they do or change to grow. Scratching their heads to understand how they are going to deliver results.

To avoid this situation, all they had to do was simply…

  1. Acknowledge my presence, open the door and greet me;
  2. Ask me what I needed, and tell me they would be delighted to help;
  3. Inform that it was lunch time, and apologise for the inconvenience;
  4. Offer to schedule a time that would suit me best (on that or another day).

Post Script – I closed a deal with the second bank. A mortgage is a very important step in one’s life. And on those kinds of situations you want to deal with people that empathise with you, and that you feel will have your best interest at heart and mind.

Not coincidentally, the person in this bank had a card holder in his desk (see picture). For those who don’t know Portuguese, the side that faces the customer has the person’s name and says “You have got all my attention“, while the side that faces the person has two smiley faces meaning: “smile” and “listen“.

Best of CX day (live feed)

Today, 6 October 2020, is CX day and to celebrate it the CX community will be doing lots of online and virtual events.

It’s difficult to follow and attend everything, as many of them overlap, but the good news is that some are recorded or on-demand.

This blog post will be a sort of a live feed, with the talks, webinars, videos and other articles I found interesting and worth watching / reading.

(YouTube video, 1m 47s) VR Vaccine, from Hermes Pardini

(CXPA talk, 9m 36s) Behavioral Science/Behavioral Finance, from Graeme Newell

(YouTube video, 5m 24s) Customer Obsession, from Jeff Bezos

(Article, 10 min read) What is Customer Experience, from GetApp

(Article, 10 min read) 5 Academic Articles For Your CX Professional Development Reading List, from Stephanie Thum

CXPA’s official definition of a CX professional: A CX professional is a catalyst who enhances an organization’s results by understanding, designing, and improving experiences across the entire customer relationship. (from Greg Melia, CXPA’s CEO)