Focus on bad customer experience

  • Posted on March 17, 2020
  • Estimated reading time 3 minutes
focus on bad customer experience

This article was originally written by Avanade alumn Ken Ramoutar.

Okay… now that you’re somewhat intrigued, what is this all about? Many companies, including my own employer, Avanade, spend quite a bit of time focusing on how to deliver great customer experiences. And rightly so. Much has been proven about the positive impact of great customer experience (CX) on loyalty, revenue and costs to serve.

What I’m advocating is that bad customer experiences have a greater impact on your business than good ones. If you don’t work to minimize the bad experiences, it will outweigh your efforts to create good experiences.

Bad news travels fast
Think about the customer stories you remember. Do you remember the ones where a company delivered exceptional experience, or do you remember the ones where there was a gross mistreatment of a customer? 

A story that became famous in the media is when Amazon charged a customer over $7,000 for a two-day delivery of $88 dollars’ worth of toilet paper. After the customer became frustrated with repeated attempts to resolve the issue with Amazon’s customer service – including appeals to the CEO Jeff Bezos – the story went public on a local Atlanta, GA television station. In the end, Amazon made it right. But not before the public shaming ran its course.

ABC news did a piece a few years back calling out poor customer service at the IRS, featuring snippets from actual customer phone calls. The news piece prompted a public response and apology from the then, IRS Chief. That same news story also called out Comcast putting their call center practices in the public eye.

The learning here is this: Don’t expect your great CX stories to go viral. That’s rare. The bad ones, even just one bad one, can have a big price tag. What should you do?

Get to the root causes of bad experiences
Virtually all CX root causes, bad or good, come down to the interaction of people and policy. Often, service representatives are caught up in policy when trying to do the right thing. Consider these ideas:
  • Spend the time to do forensic analysis on bad customer experiences. Treat them as special cases.
  • Go the extra mile and get the customer’s direct feedback with a phone call or deeper dive interview.
  •  Use tools like a fishbone (also known as Ishikawa) diagram or Five Whys interrogative technique to look for patterns and identify their root causes. 

By systematically working on root cause improvements, the number of bad customer experiences will surely decrease.

Establish measures that enforce consistency
There is an unintended tendency in CX programs to implement measures that assess how good of a customer experience your company is providing, that is, weighting goodness over consistency. For example, Net Promoter Score does this. It essentially weighs promoters and detractors equally, even though detractors have bigger impact. By the way, consistency doesn’t have to equal mediocre. It can mean consistently great. Looking at things like the distribution pattern and variance analysis in feedback scores tell you a lot about consistency. Implementing measures that focus on experience consistency will help reduce the frequency of bad experiences over time.

Recovery from a bad experience takes a long time – give it special attention
Imagine the chaos that erupted in the Public Relations and Customer Service departments when the Comcast and Amazon stories went public. Each of those bad customer experiences required quite a bit of resource and internal management time to resolve. Aside from the internal gyrations, these stories remain on social media channels for many years. 

Repairing your company’s reputation will take an overwhelming set of positive experiences to counteract the few bad ones. Be sure you’re taking action to learn from and prevent the bad experiences from occurring again. And when they do happen, give them special attention with the right level of executive leadership support. 

Read more about customer experience on Avanade Insights.

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