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.

6 ways to better setup IVR, the phone villain

IVR (Interactive Voice Response) is probably the acronyms that annoys us, customers, the most. I have had countless experiences where it frustrated me to the point that I stopped doing business with companies.

Recently, one of my parcels was delayed. I had been promised a 3-day delivery and 8 days had passed. I called the company from which I bought the product, and they told me to contact the courier.

This in itself is a very good example of bad customer experience – as they should call the courier they work with (not me!) and get me an update – but that is not the point of this post.

It was a nightmare to find a phone number. It took me several minutes digging into the courier’s website. Another example of bad customer experience – but, again, that is not the point of this post.

It was a Spanish courier. I was greeted by a Spanish-speaking IVR (lucky I’m Portuguese, so I’m able to understand) that asked 3 questions (department, reason, parcel number) before asking for a post-code.

I entered my post-code. The IVR said “Sorry, this is not a valid 5-digit Spanish post-code” and hung up. I was shocked and furious. Three things were wrong with this IVR setup:

  1. The company delivers abroad (in Europe) and only accepts Spanish post-codes
  2. The call is dropped without giving another chance to get post-code right
  3. There is no option to skip post-code and talk to a live agent

Having been around for a while and knowing how these systems work, I called again, gone through the first 3 questions, and when I got to the post-code question I entered “12345” (yes, I know… smart ass).

Any guesses?… of course, it accepted and got me through to the live agent, who quickly clarified why the parcel was delayed.

It doesn’t need to be like this. IVR doesn’t need to be the villain of the phone channel. IVR is a great technology that can enable great customer experiences, while making companies much more efficient.

IVR allows customers to interact via keypad or speech recognition. It can provide quick (pre-recorded) answers to our questions, avoiding wait. It can also put us through to the right agent / department, avoiding hand-offs.

From my point of view, the problem with most IVR we experience is twofold:

  1. IVR menus are often designed with a focus on the internal process and workflow. It makes things easier for the agent who picks up the phone, at the expense of customer effort – which is a massive driver of dissatisfaction and disloyalty.
  2. IVR menus are often poorly configured with an over-engineered setup. It uses complex features, that try to cover all possible scenarios, but makes it very painful and frustrating for the customer to navigate, oftentimes becoming a labyrinth without an exit.

So, in order to use this technology right my advice is:

  1. Design IVR trees with a customer-centric approach, and use layman’s terms and language;
  2. Keep IVR menus as short and simple as possible, with a maximum of 5 options (ideally 3), even if that requires agents asking additional questions – believe me, when it comes to the phone channel, that is much better than leaving customers lost in an IVR maze.
  3. Do not squeeze into the IVR menus irrelevant information or marketing messages (special offers, campaigns, etc.) – customers called you because they need help, not for you to try and shove another product down their throats.
  4. Monitor the IVR carefully and frequently, to check how customers are navigating through it, and if they are landing where they are actually going to be helped most. Check IVR route versus reason for calling.
  5. Allow customers to either correct their answer (if it is deemed invalid) or to go back and amend the previous answer.
  6. Always provide a shortcut to a live agent, even if that means compromising routing or personalisation. Customers who select this option will know they cannot expect agents to guess who they are and why they’re calling about.

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”.

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“.

VoC: 3 dos and 3 don’ts

Recently I went to a Pearson test centre to do an exam. The experience was positive and smooth. More importantly, I passed the exam.

Coming out of the exam I was given a paper, that among exam details had a QR code and asked to provide feedback. I used it to access the survey and provided my feedback.

‪A couple of days later, I got an email asking for my feedback again. Given that I had already submitted the earlier survey, I thought it was an “honest mistake” and ignored it.

One ‪week later, I got another email asking for my feedback. ‬This time I could not avoid a feeling of hassle, and thinking I was being spammed – when I had already (gladly) submitted my feedback.

Looking into the survey invitation emails in more detail, I realised that first one came from the address customerservice@pearson.com while the second one came from marketing@ocrm2.pearson.com.

But there was more. Looking into the survey links, I realised the departments were also using different systems. One of the links was feedback.pearsonvue.com while the other one was surveymonkey.com

Leveraging my experience in this area, of helping companies use technology to enable their CX and VoC programs, allow me to make 6 comments.

  1. It is really good that Pearson is reaching out to their customers, keen to hear about their experiences;
  2. It is really good that Pearson is doing it at different touch-points, particularly after the Moment of Truth – the exam;
  3. It is really good that Pearson is offering different entry points (e.g. QR code, email), making it convenient for the customer;
  4. It would be advisable for Pearson to have a holistic Voice-of-Customer program, that brings together all departments, avoiding silos;
  5. It would be advisable for Pearson to use a single technology platform for collecting and analysing customer feedback, providing clearer insight and avoiding overhead;
  6. It would be advisable for Pearson to create frequency and recency workflow rules, to avoid over-surveying and hassling customers;

Apathy. Policy. Churn

Back in December 2019 I decided to buy, as a Christmas present, two tickets to see Guns N’ Roses (a band from our youth in 80s and 90s) at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, on the 30th May 2020.

With the Covid-19 pandemic striking the UK early March, it was obvious that the concert was not going to happen, but I waited for Viagogo to contact. Two weeks before the concert date Viagogo sent an email informing that the concert had “been postponed” and that they would contact “as soon as the new event date” got announced.

A few weeks later, and given the pandemic developments, everyone knew that the concert was not going to happen in the foreseeable future, so I contacted Viagogo. An agent told me that “no refunds could take place until the event organiser cancelled the concert“, and as far as they were concerned, it was going to be rescheduled.

It’s been 3 months since the concert date. It’s clear that no Government will allow thousands of people into a stadium any time soon in 2020, and most likely not even in 2021 – unless a miracle brings a vaccine and the capacity to provide it to millions of people in a matter of weeks.

So I contacted Viagogo again, asking for a refund. The agent told me that “the event organiser has not cancelled the concert, and until then Viagogo cannot provide refunds“.

I said that surely Viagogo and the even organiser knew that concerts were not going to happen anytime soon, to which she replied “as I said sir, the event organiser has not cancelled the concert, and until then Viagogo cannot provide refunds.

I then asked for how long could the event organiser have the event pending, to which she replied “that is outside of our control. The event organiser has not cancelled the concert, and until then Viagogo cannot provide refunds, it’s on our Terms & Conditions.

I tried to reason with her and said that customers (who are going through difficult times – some even financially, and to whom £375 would make a huge difference) would surely appreciate if Viagogo showed some empathy and refunded them for a product they bought but could not enjoy, to which she replied “I understand, but the event organiser has not cancelled the concert, and until then Viagogo cannot provide refunds“.

At that point I was finding it amazing how she kept repeating the same thing over and over again, without any regard for our conversation – it was like talking to a machine. I decided to empathise with her, and said that even though I appreciated she had her hands tied by a policy, a script and a system, I would welcome a route to talk to somebody that could help me.

For about 5 minutes (and yes, it was starting to become uncomfortable for both of us), she kept disregarding my plea, referring to the T&Cs, saying she could not do a thing, and repeating “the event organiser has not cancelled the concert, and until then Viagogo cannot provide refunds.

I had to insist and make an effort for her to stay on the phone (at this point she was clearly trying to end the call), but finally, reluctantly, and almost in whispering tone she said I could “complaint via email to customerservice@orders.viagogo.com“.

I wonder if the founder and CEO of Viagogo, Eric H. Baker, who studied business at Harvard University and Stanford University, was taught to treat customers like this. Maybe the UK authorities were right (and I should have listened to them) when they said…

  • May 2018, BBC News reported that the UK Government’s digital minister advised that consumers should not use Viagogo;
  • August 2018, UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) took Viagogo to the High Court for breaking the law;
  • January 2019, UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said Eric Baker risked jail over failure to properly protect customers.

It is in situations of crisis that we see which are the companies, and who are the executives, that really value and look after their customers. I’m sure that coming out of this situation, many customers (including me) will never go back and do business with Viagogo.

Gestures that turn customers into advocates

This week I received an email from the company where I have my car insurance – Admiral – and the subject was “Important information about your Admiral policy”.

Past experience tells customers that an email with this subject rarely brings good news. It usually is to inform that premiums went up, or something of that nature.

But the content of the email was rather surprising. Admiral was telling me that due to COVID-19, and the lock-down measures, there was less cars on the road.

This obviously resulted in fewer claims. So Admiral decided to pro-actively issue premium refunds to their customers. How cool is that?!

admiral

There are a lot of great things about this gesture of goodwill, as well as the way it was communicated, delivering an outstanding Customer Experience.

  1. The gesture is not common in the industry; Surprises the customer with good news in a time of crisis; And puts some money in the pockets of some customers in need.
  2. It shows that even in during a crisis, and whilst the company is dealing with enormous challenges, they are still thinking of the customer.
  3. The communication is personalised, direct, simple and to the point; It not only says how much will be refunded, but is transparent re. the calculation done.
  4. To avoid confusion, anxiety or frustration, it also clarifies how it will be done; And when the customer can expect the refund.
  5. For customers who may need further information, a landing page was created admiral.com/stayathome where it is also easy to get in touch.

I have researched a lot when looking for a car insurance, and one of my criteria was Customer Experience – it seems like Admiral is living up to the positive reviews and brand promises.

I am a loyal customer that, on the back of this experience, turned into an advocate.

How COVID-19 will change restaurant experience

rest

The world will definitely not be the same after this COVID-19 pandemic, and many aspects of our daily lives – even those that seem trivial – will be impacted. Some of them changed for good and, I will argue, also for the better.

Recent interactions with a good friend – Miguel Cizeron, an experienced Chef who is opening a new Restaurant in Portugal – made me think of something everyone experiences and will definitely change soon: going out for a meal with friends or family.

Every time we go out for a meal, we are looking for a enjoyable experience. Either we go to McDonald’s with our kids, expecting to see them happy and having fun. Or we go to a fancy restaurant with friends, for a pleasurable and unique experience.

But many times the experience is below par. The food is great (every McDonald’s has tasty burgers and chips, and all fancy restaurants have delicious dishes) but the experience is so much more than food – it’s the the ambiance, the service, the people around us.

More often than desirable, one of those things ruins the overall experience. You wait before getting seated; there’s so much noise that you need to shout for others to hear; people next to you hear your conversation; staff struggles with so many orders.

The social distancing measures that will need to be put in place, due to the pandemic, will most probably change a dinning experience. And, as far as I’m concerned (I hate crowded places), it will change it for the better.

We don’t know yet what governments and policies will enforce, and what the regulations will look like. But surely people will have to make reservations and arrive on time, avoiding queues and people waiting in cramped entrances.

Restaurants will have to reduce capacity, increasing distance between tables. This means customers will be much more comfortable. There won’t be too much noise, people can have private conversations, staff will be more attentive, etc.

My Chef friend asked a good question: “If restaurants reduce capacity, they’ll probably have to increase prices”. My answer, based on public research, is “No problem” – because most people (like me) will gladly pay more for a more enjoyable experience.

 

4 differentiators and 4 reasons to get CX right

ctshirts

Charles Tyrwhitt is a British retailer that specialises in mens clothing, and is famous for its shirts. Founded in 1986 by Nicholas Charles Tyrwhitt Wheeler, it has several stores in UK, US and France, and a flagship store in London’s Jermyn Street (the shirtmakers street).

I tend to be very picky when it comes to clothing. And I have only a handful of brands I usually buy from – a few examples are Mike Davis (Portugal), Massimo Dutti (Spain), Asics (Japan), or Banana Republic (USA).

I have been a customer of CT since I moved to London. My loyalty and advocacy of CT surpasses any other brand I do business with. There are a number of reasons – product quality, reasonable price, etc. – but above them all is the customer experience.

1. The Consistency across the different channels is something I cannot find anywhere else. The shops, the catalogues, or the website provide a similar and seamless experience, making it quick and easy, to browse and buy.

2. The Convenience of the services provided is also outstanding. No matter where, when, what or how I’m buying, CT always has an option for the products to be tailored, paid, packaged or delivered, with as much flexibility and less customer effort as possible.

3. The Communications, from marketing or customer service, are just excellent. Carefully prepared, humoured, measured, and put together. Following what I will start calling the “3S” rule – simple, straight to the point, spamless!

4. The Personalisation is second to none. Especially when CT puts emotion on the interaction – the above picture shows the most recent example of that, in a post card I received today, where CT reminds me of my first buy (7 years ago!), my preferred colour and style.

As far as I’m concerned, Personalisation, is the most important of the 4. But CT gets them all right, and I think the reason they do is because they…

  • Understand the customer’s needs
  • Monitor the customer’s behaviour
  • Listen to the customer’s feedback (see this outstanding example)
  • Analyse the customer’s data (X-data and O-data)

It’s all about the customer, it’s all about the data.