In seeking a point of differentiation, the creation of a Wow! moment in the customer experience is an admirable strategy. But whatever makes us say “Wow!”, what is more likely to be the differentiator is all the basics being done well and consistently.
The reasons why we as consumers switch between companies is rarely because of the absence of anything that “delights and surprises” us. It’s much more likely to be because of smaller things, the cumulative impact of niggles and gripes that we expect to be done right.
It’s easy to see why organisations are seduced into the idea of creating powerful emotional connections; ones that that drive memories to keep customers coming back, spending more and telling everyone they know to do the same. However, Wow! moments are not an automatic ticket to differentiation.
For example, when travelling through an airport, my research shows that people simply want them to be clean, friendly, easy and calm. Only then will we start to worry about self-drop baggage check-ins and architectural aesthestics. Travelling by train, I just want somewhere to park my car, somewhere to park my backside and some wi-fi. Pouring billions of pounds into taking 10 minutes off the journey can wait.
So one – or even several – Wow! moments doth not a customer experience make. Especially, when focusing on the emotive aspects comes at the cost of being functional or easy. Often it’s because companies use technology for technology’s sake; there are personal agendas at work or there is an obsession with process efficacy and metrics. The telecoms company I’m with recently provided a perfect example.
I’ve been a customer of theirs for years. I really like them and their people. They create “fans”, sponsor major events and have an edgy but professional brand. It works and so I rarely have anything contact with them. Except in the last two days, where I had two different experiences, both of which made me say “Wow!” but for the wrong reasons, based on a lack of the basics.
Firstly, out of contract I wanted to see what my options were before I look around for a new handset and tariff. On their website, in the phones and tariffs page there is – hidden, well down the page – a “How to buy” number. In the IVR I’m asked for my number and whether or not I’m an existing customer wanting to upgrade. I am, so assume I’m through to the right place. Nope. When I’m connected the agent fumbles around and has to pass me to the “new sales” team.
All I then hear is the noise of a busy office – people chatting loudly to customers and to each other. Eventually, I hear a timid “Hello?”. I make my presence known and the agent launches into the prepared script as if that was a perfectly normal way to start. I go through the request again and ask what the tariffs are for a particular handset. There’s a long pause, the sound of keyboards being tapped and then I get a confusing deluge of text, megabite and minute options. I ask the difference between two different handsets. More clicking and rambling answers.
I’m asked if my account with them really is out of contract. I thought if anyone should know, they should. To be certain, he gives me a number to text a keyword to. We wait with baited breath for a message to come back. “You ain’t got nuthin’ yet? Oh, you need to write the keyword in capitals, sorry”. I try again and again I get nothing back. We struggle on but when he asks if I can call back in 15 minutes my patience runs out.
I know this particular company can do better, a lot better. We rate customer experiences on three dimensions; how easy was it, did it do what I set out to achieve and how did it make me feel. On none of those levels did the company score well at all, the effort amplified by the fact that it should have been so easy.
The next day, coincidentally or not, I received an invitation from them to become part of a customer panel. “Help define our future, we want your thoughts on how we can work better for you” and so on. It’s nice to be asked, so I clicked the email link to join. I get taken to a pre-qualification web page. Am I male/female? Date of birth? Which region/postcode do I live in? All of which they know already, surely. Then I’m asked my household income and nature of my business. Having gone through all that I then get a message pop up to say they already have too many people like me so they don’t need my views:
What a waste of everyone’s time, it didn’t make me feel particularly warm to the brand and I’m curious as to why they would push away someone who is happy to help them. Such is life.
I wish those in the board room who sign-off the high-cost Wow! investments that few are asking for could experience the customer journey of the low-cost, invaluable basics being done badly for so many. These are basic expectations, the bar of which is rising faster than the bar of Wow! expectations. The irony is that a customer experience with all the basics in place, done well time after time creates more differentiation, more loyalty and itself becomes the “Wow!”.
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