Monthly Archives: January 2010

Who’s Watching Over Customer Experience?

“Everyone,” you say? Then what you’re really saying is “no one.” 

Here’s an interesting exercise to prove the point. Build a simple grid with all customer MOTs  listed vertically in likely order of occurrence. (MOTs or “moments of truth” identify customer interactions with sellers that significantly affect customer experience). Next, horizontally list all the functions interacting with customers either directly or indirectly. Finally, in the grid portion identify which internal functions control process and policy at each MOT. 

What does the grid tell you? In 90% + organizations, you have a range of functions, each largely responsible for its own process and policy―without strong central oversight. Inevitably, each unit will have a somewhat different view of what customers should experience and how much to “give” to please customers. And some will have very different perceptions. A classic example is sales wanting quick shipment of orders to meet customer expectations and Inventory Management cutting stocks to the bone to reduce cost. 

Companies presenting multiple faces and voices to customers in this manner or even more subtle ways rarely create sufficiently positive customer experience to minimize churn―and suffering churn in low-demand economic times just multiplies negative effects. 

Since process design and execution (and process-level policy) create virtually all customer experience, should the task of overseeing process consistency fall to process leaders? And if so, what does marketing have to say?

Should Senior Customer Strategists be Cross-trained?

Acceptance is growing for the need to fuse customer-centric planning with subsequent process design to assure complete alignment. Plus, acceptance is already widespread for the importance of melding process and systems design (both systems architecture and application selection and configuration) to assure seamless process-technology alignment.

 Does this imply that senior customer strategists should be cross-trained in customer as well as technology planning to create complete alignment around customers? I believe it does, and in a very strong way.

If you step back and look at the failure of CRM to become “the road to customer-centricity,” inability to align strategy, process and technology around customers – or disinterest in doing so – was probably the second most important factor, after technology addiction.

Is Best Buy Heading Back to the Rat Hole? (appears lack of competition’s turning BB back to its former self)

I have on many occasions in many places and in many ways complimented Best Buy for its ascendancy from a rat hole electronics seller of ill-repute into a very customer-centric, Outside-In enterprise. But an incident today (extending back over more than a week) has stopped me in my tracks.

My dear wife is a private practice psychologist. She’s responsible for keeping case records, billing, filing insurance stuff, etc. While I leave her to deal with practice software selection and maintenance, I do help with hardware and network issues. So when she bought a new, Windows 7 laptop at Best Buy, a place where we spend way too much money (or have in the past), I said I’d network it and add non-practice software. That’s what I said. But when I started trying to introduce a Windows 7 computer into a network of Windows XP devices, reality set in. What a mess. Since I was extremely busy with my practice and traveling, I punted and suggested she bring in the Best Buy Geek Squad to set up the network, install her practice software and transfer data and install Outlook and Word and bring her Outlook data across the network.

So the geeky guy shows up, and lickety split he’s all done. He hands her his card, tells her to call if she has the slightest problem, reminds her their work is guaranteed for 30 days, hops in his bug and geeks off. Fine. Until she goes to download e-mail on her new machine. Outlook wants to download all 20,000 messages in her in box. Oops, better bring him back. Calls him and leaves a message. Then she goes to do e-mail on her old computer, which now won’t boot. Ookay. Wait for callback. One day, call again. Two days, call again. Three days, call the store.

But, up until now, one rogue employee could have been the source of all this.

So she calls the Geek Squad office number (which I would have done days ago). She gets voice mail. Leaves a message. Wait for callback. You know the rest of this. So she finally calls the store, after more than a week. She gets transferred to home theatre. Well, anyone can hit the wrong key. But it turns out the woman in home theatre deals with computers, too. Multi-talented. Not really. She tells my wife she’ll have to pay for a service call. That’s Best Buy policy. Unless she bought the extra cost warranty offered at the register. But there’s my wife with the Geek Squad contract, including warranty, in her fist. Finally this very offputting woman acknowledges my wife does have a guarantee. So she says she’ll schedule something. First available appointment is in 10 days. Never mind they’re disrupted her practice in the worst way. Anyway, after two escalations, and numerous intonations of “Best Buy policy this” and “Best Buy policy that” – and my wife using language she never uses to describe anyone but me – she gets a next-day appointment with yo-yo geek who screwed up initially but wouldn’t call back. But still no assurance she won’t get charged again. Hey, have to see if she screwed up yo-yo’s work *%&@!!

You know, there was a time when Best Buy was trying to take care of customers. But after hearing about all these “it’s all about us” company policies they threw at my wife, it appears they’re no longer trying. Too bad. It was nice having them to write about while it lasted. At least write good things. Now they’re on my “A” list.

Oh, and guess who’s going to be there waiting for yo-yo between 8:00 and noon tomorrow? :-)

Postscript:

He arrived this morning right at 8:00 and manually deleted the 20M messages from the server, using blocck deletes on webmail. Apparently the original mistake is irreversable. Then he smiled and left., turning off the machine.

When my wife ducked out between sessions to check e-mail, she booted up, clicked on Outlook, and received a little error message saying “Operation failed.” No Outlook. She was so angry she couldn’t even pick up the phone. I did. I called Geek Squad Central, explained the situation, and was transferred. Stuck on hold for a long time (listening to some recorded message about “outstanding customer service”). Finally someone picked. Once again, the extended warranty department. Can’t even see into Geek Squad records. Another transfer. More interminable hold time.

Finally, a person! Explained everything again, but this time added, “I want it fixed today.” I’ll let you imagine the tone and volume. Anyway, back he came. Still smiling. Fixed whatever was wrong. We hope. And we still don’t know if they’re going to bill us for additional visits.

Froma company supposedly supporting customer-centric business policies, this sucks.

Post-mortem:

Talked to my wife after this was all resolved (hopefully). Actually she talked to me. She believes the “mistaken” transfers to the “extended warranty” department were deliberate and really represented attempts to deny her rights under the Geek Squad warranty. She has lost all respect for Best Buy. And she is very slow to reeact to stuff like this, whereas I have a faster trigger. I support her view. Based on our mutual experience, believe transferring customers with Geek Squad complaints to extended warranty, where they have no rights, is policy. Best Buy not only needs a serious competitor, it deserves some serious viral communication so customers know what to expect. I’ll say it again, “This sucks.”

Which are the “15 Most Hated Companies in America?”

BusinessInsider.com just released this list of abusers – not only of customers but of stakeholders, employees and the general public. While the selection process factored in data from Consumer Reports, JD Power, the MSN/Zogby poll, Vanno, and the University of Michigan American Customer Satisfaction Index plus indexes reflecting public perception, obviously some subjectivity crept in, but the list resonates very strongly with me.

 I’ve included links to this list and two other relevant compilations at the end of the post, but before sending you off I’d like to offer several observations.

  • Customer relations played a key role:  12 of the 15 companies were cited for poor customer relations.
  • So did employee relations:  the same 12 of 15 companies were cited for poor employee relations. While 12 out of 12 is not a bulletproof statistic, the inference is too strong to ignore.
  • Stakeholder approval was on a par:  10 of the 15 were cited for providing poor shareholder returns, but three of the 15 are private companies. What I believe is so important here is that the Ross School’s ACSI has clearly demonstrated that companies with high CSAT numbers perform financially better than competitors with standard or lower scores.

I also cross-referenced this list against MS Money’s “Customer Service Hall of Shame” nominees for 2009. Three companies made both lists, but the “Hall of Shame” list focused heavily on financial services whereas the “15 most hated” included only Citi.

What struck me after reviewing both lists is the 22 separate companies named all operating “inside-out” by putting company interests ahead of company interests. In fact, several of these outfits are frequently cited for showing the futility of trying to operate inside-out in today’s marketplace. In contrast, when I reviewed MS Money’s “10 Companies That Treat You Right” selections, all 10 are commonly cited as examples of how “Outside-In” thinking produces successful customer and business outcomes both. For more information on Outside-In visit: http://tinyurl.com/yd6rrdf

Here are the links:

15 Most Hated Companies:  http://tinyurl.com/yzkn6cm

2009 Customer Service Hall of Shame:   http://tinyurl.com/larogw    

10 Companies That Treat Your Right:  http://tinyurl.com/ml57oj

Four Reasons the Majority Of Customer Experience Management Initiatives Fail

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. So is the road to elevating customer experience. Each day, a whole lot of CEM initiatives large and small go in the tank and are abandoned. Why – especially at a time when improving customer experience is more important then ever?

Unfortunately, for the same reasons so many well-meaning CRM initiatives failed (and I’m not referring to “technology-first” initiatives, which we’re so dumb they never had a chance).  The four primary reasons are:

  • Failing to align process with strategies:  Fine, you develop great sounding new customer strategies. But what converts these thoughts into actions affecting customers? Process. And if you don’t change your process, you get the same old company-centric work you’ve been doing.
  • Failing to align technology with process:  You can’t effectively change process in the front and back office without changing systems architecture and application software (and I’m not just talking about CRM software).  Not redesigning technology leaves you high and dry, with more unfulfilled good intentions.
  • Failing to change organizational design to deliver optimal customer experience:  Having the wrong people do the right job, or having too many people trying to do the same job, degrades customer big time.
  • Believing that marketing, sales & service are responsible for customer experience:  Organizational infrastructure plays as important a role as any of the three. So does process design. So does technology enablement. So does employee empowerment. So does change management. Elevating customer exp0erience takes a concerted, enterprise-wide effort.

I could add “changing customer experience without changing anything else” to the list. However, about no one reading this is still there. But their senior managers may be.