The most recent survey by Which? of the best and worst brands for customer service in the UK highlights two critical issues for those involved in improving customer experiences.  One, is where squeezing every last penny out of a customer costs so much more in the long-term and two, how the sources of dissatisfaction are not about the lack of “Wow” experiences.P1050040

Let’s look at that aspect first.  In a survey of more than 3,500 consumers, the top 10 grips and niggles were all rooted in a lack of empathy, staff training and the inescapable processes built for the organisation’s convenience:

  • 43% said automated telephone systems were their biggest irritation
  • 37% being passed around
  • 35% annoying on-hold music
  • 34% staff talking to each other
  • 33% rude staff
  • 33% long queues
  • 32% being sold unwanted products
  • 24% lack of product knowledge
  • 24% standard response to problems
  • 21% having to wait for help or a response

None of these would take huge amounts of capital investment or months of business case iterations to fix.  Don’t, for example, under-estimate the issue of on-hold music.  I recently worked with a client who didn’t realise that when an agent places a call on hold to get help from a colleague, there was no on-hold music or message.  There was absolute silence.  No surprise then, that customers would hang-up, redial, wait at the back of the queue and go through the whole thing again.  Over two-thirds of calls into their call-centre was unnecessary re-work caused by such unintended consequences.  And customers will only tolerate that for so long before it becomes the tipping-point to move to a competitor.

Another issue this highlights is that there is no excuse for rude, uninterested and unknowledgeable staff.  Customers – and they’re not an alien force, we’re all consumers in our own world – have their expectations set by other organisations in other markets who do this stuff well.  The reason I find it frustrating that I can’t access wi-fi on a train is because if my local cafe can do it, why can’t a rail operator?  If an online retailer can answer a product question in seconds, why can’t the staff in my local store do the same?  The shiny “Wow” experiences can wait;  for the basics, the bar of expectation is always, relentlessly rising.

Back to the first point, where the greed to grab every possible slice of revenue unwittingly becomes a very expensive cost.  Not an easy conversation to have with a finance director but perfectly illustrated by Which?  They carried out a survey of garages servicing cars to see if basic faults were spotted and rectified.  What’s relevant here is that they included a test of honesty by filling up the windscreen wash bottle with screenwash fluid.  In a staggering 74% of cases, a cost for topping up the bottle was added to the bill.  For added revenue of less than £2, the company is going to lose a customers’ business forever, let alone the cost to brand reputation.

What’s at stake are the hidden and lasting costs of chasing efficiencies and revenue without any customer empathy.  Those are the sort of conversations that we as customer experience professionals should be having with the finance directors – as the Which? survey shows, unfortunately, or helpfully depending on which way you look at it, there are still many case studies from which to learn.