“I Don’t Know” Is Always a Bad Customer Experience

Any company can achieve good customer experience randomly but successful companies have well defined processes with identified touch points that create value for customers.

Orchestration of customer experience also requires understanding the big picture – where process actually starts and where it ends. Online sales process, for instance, doesn’t start when a customer comes to the website, and it doesn’t end when the customer submits their order. It starts way earlier and ends only after the customer has consumed the ordered product – if even then.

Maintain Great Customer Experience Even If the Process Is a Challenge

I use online stores often and I recently had two very different customer experiences from two different online stores. Let’s call them A and B for clarity. What’s interesting is that both actually had at least a decent customer experience on digital channel but the difference of the total customer experience was like night and day.

Both A and B happen to have physical stores located within a convenient distance so I decided to pick up my order from the stores. Picking up my order from the store A was really quick and straightforward experience because they even have a separate drive-in lane for online orders. Even though the digital channel did not stand out, overall experience was quite pleasant mostly due to the smooth pick-up.

“Make the process easy for the customer, not for you.”

The store B, on the other hand, had recently made changes to their process by moving previously easily accessible pick-up point behind a separate door. As a result, I first had to locate the pick-up point and find my way through the store full of people doing their Christmas shopping. After finding the pick-up point at the back of the store, my experience got the final touch. When I asked whether the two items I ordered are combined in the same package, I got the answer “I don’t know”, and had to figure it out by myself.

The Last Touch Point Matters the Most

These two stores are not direct competitors but can still be compared. After all, the expectations for both were the same: easy, quick and reliable way to buy something, which is valuable for me.

It is important to understand that it’s the big picture that matters and the quality of the experience must remain stable from the first touch point until the last. And it’s the last one that matters the most. Smoothly working digital channel is worthless if other parts of the process are always failing. What customers remember best is the end of the process. If it offers a bad experience, the customers won’t return and instead use the competitors’ services next time.

From Customer-centric Processes to Great Customer Experience

What also matters is the design point of view of the process: process can either be made easy for the company, the IT department or the customer. Placing a product pick-up point at the back of the store is probably convenient for the store as they don’t need a sales assistant to walk to another location to hand out packages. Instead, they make the customers walk. There may have also been a hidden agenda to get people to buy something additional while picking up their deliveries. Too bad this fails, at least in my case, because I don’t have any hands left for additional shopping when carrying packages.

“…answering 'I don’t know' will never equal good customer experience.”

Last and most importantly: when customer needs help, answering “I don’t know” will never equal good customer experience. The customer experience would have been better if checking the order together with the customer was included in the package pick-up process, removing the need to ask whether my package contains everything I ordered. And still, there should be a process to answer “let me find that out for you” instead of “I don’t know”.

Here’s to Good Customer Experience

Here are my key takeaways for building processes that systematically aim to ensure good customer experience:

  • Build the process from the customer’s point of view. Make the process easy for the customer, not for you. Make sure that the customer is taken care of in every step of the way. Remember that customers remember the peaks and the end of the shopping experience.

  • Understand what creates value for the customer and remove the parts that don’t. For example, the concept of internal customer, where other departments of the same company are customers, does not bring any value to an actual customer. Instead, it is inefficient, causes loss of focus and wrong kind of sub-optimizing. Same applies to many other internal processes like internal billing.

  • Let the process guide you, not rule you. Customer-oriented process is important but it must be seen as a guide. Strictly followed process doesn’t offer good customer experience to anyone and feels impersonal. People must have a mandate to serve the customers, not the process.

  • Create a culture ensuring good customer service. Pay attention to the expectations of the customers in different channels and acknowledge that there may be deviations – for example, the customer may ask help while picking up a package. Design a process to tackle the most common issues, and have a process for cases where customers ask something you don’t have an answer for so that their issues can be addressed. Processes create habits, habits strengthen the culture, and the culture ensures continuously good customer experience.

Customer-oriented processes make it possible to offer good customer experience systematically and it’s the baseline that has to be in place. The same process can exceed customer’s expectations only a few times because the expectations keep growing. For continuously exceeding expectations there also has to be a customer-oriented culture, a mandate to take care of the customer, but also a way to keep on improving your processes.