A recent article by McKinsey & Company on how consistency is “The Three Cs of Customer Satisfaction,” makes the case that the customer journey should be measured not by individual incidences or points of contact, but the overall experience. The authors gave a simple, yet elegant, way to understand this assertion. Let’s assume the satisfaction rating for each incident type: i.e., call to inquire about a promotion, call to purchase, call to schedule an installation, is 95%. On its own, each result is impressive. Now if you follow the customer journey through this process, the satisfaction rating after three types of calls decreases to 85%. After six calls, it declines further to 73%!
My recent experience with a cable carrier illustrates this situation. I had three interactions: (1) I called in response to an ad offer and made a purchase; (2) installation; (3) I called to follow about the bill. The first interaction was not so great. They answered all my questions but in their haste to secure a sale, they didn’t qualify me to ensure that I met the criteria until the end of the call (30 minutes or so). But to give them some kudos, they showed some flexibility by making an “on-the-spot” offer. Overall, I would give them an 85% rating.
The second interaction went smoothly. It was longer than I expected but I would give it a 100%. Then came the third interaction. I had to call because I was billed for the activation fee even though that was the “on-the-spot” offer they had made to me! And I had to make two attempts to reach the carrier. Given that I shouldn’t have needed to make this call to start with, I was definitely not happy at this point and my rating dropped to 50%, at best. So, after three interactions, my rating for this operator is at 42.5%! My impression of this company now is they are a sneaky company that does NOT deliver what was promised!
As the authors admitted, delivering a consistently good customer experience – over time – is very difficult. It requires discipline and a laser focus on customers. But, if your organization can do this, it gives you a strong competitive advantage that is difficult to replicate.
The three steps to deliver consistently great customer experience
First and foremost is understanding your customer’s perspective. Some key questions that can help you get started are:
- How do customers find us?
- How do they buy our products or services?
- How do they receive our products and services?
- How do they get help if they need it?
- Is there anything that should be changed? Why?
Another great approach is “to be” your own customer. But the key is to do this purely as an unbiased customer. For example, try calling your customer service number with a real problem and see how your customer service team is able to help you.
The second step is to design and adjust your processes and organizational structure so you can deliver the experience you want your customers to have. Keep in mind that many of these customer journeys will occur over different channels, depending on customers, with some using multiple of the available channels.
I like the suggestions the McKinsey authors made: Pick the top three to five “customer journeys” that are causing issues for your organization and focus on those. It’s the 80-20 rule approach to achieving better customer outcomes.
Finally, provide the system and infrastructure with relevant data to your frontline employees, supporting them and empowering them to make those customer interactions great. Let’s take my experience as an example. When a customer calls in response to a promotional offer, the system should provide that contact center employee with the details of that promotion. Additionally, the system should be able to verify who I am (the customer). Depending on the results of the verification, the system should enable this employee to either quickly take the order – or – to make another relevant offer if I didn’t qualify (as was my case). And once an “exception” offer has been made, the infrastructure should ensure that the billing system knows about this offer and will bill correctly.
Furthermore, I would argue that the system should be able to show my profile to the rep who answered my call. It should not be difficult to show that I have been a customer before and what I have ordered in the past.
Achieving customer satisfaction is a continuous process. Organizations need to measure and listen to their customers either directly via survey, etc., or indirectly by listening to social media conversations. They must continue to refine and adjust their processes and systems, since customer preferences change over time. But if your organization is relentless about pursuing the consistently great customer experience, chances are you will be at the top of your customers’ minds.