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Who Are You Building Your “Customer Experience” For?

by David Brock on September 26th, 2011

Customer experience is a hot topic.  There’s lots of activity with companies building better customer experiences, whether it’s focused on the “buyer’s journey,” the post sales customer experience, or the customer life cycle.  With our own company, I’ve seen how suppliers and potential vendors are restructuring things to create a “better customer experience,” or to “deepen our relationship.”

I get calls from our “relationship manager” from lots of companies.  They call to introduce themselves, they say they are responsible for our account, and ask how to better serve us.  At some point, they attempt to pitch a product.  I listen to all of this. 

The problem arises when I talk  to them about what I want to talk to them about.  Recently, I spoke to the relationship manager who handles our benefits and insurance programs (she’s the fourth relationship manager that’s been announced in the past year.  I said we needed to change some of the coverages in our account and asked for her help.  Her response was, “I can’t do that, you have to call another department.”  Confused, I asked, ” “I thought you were responsible for our relationship, why can’t you do this?”  Her response, “I can only sell you new things, I can’t help with items on your current accounts.  You’ll have to call such and such a department to do what you want.”  I sigh, “Well can you connect me with that department?”  I was transferred to the main switchboard, had to go through the voice prompts—-press 1 if you, press 2 if you—then sat on hold for 7 minutes.

I got a call from one of the credit card companies we use in our merchant accounts.  They wanted me to promote the use of their credit card on our sites.  “Why should I do that, why do I care?” I asked.  The response was, “We’d like much more of your business.”  I respond, “We offer your credit card as a convenience to our customers, but we want them to use whatever card they prefer, I don’t see a reason why we should do this.  By the way, I have a question about our last month’s statement….”  Our relationship manager expressed his disappointment, thanked me for my time, and transferred me to another department to respond to my query.

The stories go on.  I don’t try to be difficult, but when someone tells me they are responsible for managing our relationship, I think they are responsible for managing our relationship.  I think they are my go to person for anything I need to accomplish with that company–whether it’s buying new services, getting information, solving a problem.

When I read of these companies doing things to improve the customer experience, I wonder who are they designing it for-me, the customer, or for themselves?  Is the customer experience to improve the ability of the customer to connect with the company or to improve the internal efficiency of the company in dealing with the customer?

I thought customer experience was about the customer’s experience…… maybe I ‘m wrong.

  1. Excellent stuff pal. – A single point of accountability and responsibility along with the authority and willingness to do whatever it takes to enhance the relationship are key characteristics of world class individuals and organizations. – Nice one David.

    • Thanks Dan, good to see you here again, I’ve missed your wisdom!

      We build the customer experience for the customer–too ofent they seem to be built for the company’s convenience instead.

  2. David,

    Interesting post (as always).

    There is a lot of talk these days about sales and marketing “alignment”, but it rarely carries over to the customer relations group.

    True customer intimacy occurs when these folks are part of the revenue strategy that understands that existing (happy) client’s are the richest source of potential revenue we have. But they need to feel genuinely cared for.

    Jeff Bezos (CEO) often says that Amazon is all about the “customer experience” and I believe his company has fairly well mastered the art of caring for the customer.

    Got a letter yesterday from Nissan Motors Finance which was sent to everyone living in a recent flooded area (Central PA and Vermont) saying we could delay a payment for a month without penalty. A huge cash flow hit that they did not need to take, but I really feel good about Nissan (even though I did not need the offer).

    This stuff has to start at the top……

    • Great examples Todd. You are so right, customer experience is about how the whole organization thinks about and acts toward the customer. It has to start at the top. Thanks for the great insights

  3. Well done re this article David. You are 100% correct. There is no doubt that the only customer experience that counts is that perceived by the customer vs. the provider. This applies to all forms of business communication (online and offline).

    • Thanks for the comment Eamonn! It seems that we organize ourselves for our own convenience. If we want to build our business and relationships with customers, it seems that we would organize ourselves around making it easy for customer to get the information and support they need, as well as making it easy to buy.

      Look forward to your future contributions to these discussions.

  4. David,

    I have a simple culture test that I apply to both companies and people.

    1) Phone call to get the email to send some info to an appropriate person. I am not asking for the CEO but the person most responsible.

    2) After I send the email, I expect a simple response. It could be a simple thank you is fine.

    You would be surprised that 90% of the companies and people fail this simple test.

    I think it is simple since I reply when someone sends me a personal email. In fact, I will read it since the person has given some time. But others evidently don’t see it the way I do.

    As I tell people first impressions work both ways. Many companies do not think they also have to make a good first impression to people.

    • Jay, thanks for the comment. I agree in principle. In a sense, this is just the “Golden Rule.” Unfortunately, I think the reality of what sales people do is very far from that. If they haven’t taken the time to research, to understand what I need, and to be genuinely interested in what I’m interested in, then why should I waste my time by being polite in responding. I just use my own inbox as an example. With the last 15 minutes, I’ve deleted (spammed) 5 emails. One was from a recruiter who “recognized I was recruiting dozens of IT people.” Another was from someone who wanted to help my medical device company. I can go on an on.

      These people are just doing badly. When one looks at the number of good emails versus mediocre emails, it’s appalling. Since they don’t care about the impression they are creating, I don’t care to create an impression and if that act creates a bad impression, well I’m delighted. I don’t ever want to hear from them.

      Does this make sense?

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