Experiencing the Customer Experience

Many industry researchers, analysts and influencers have been at pains to rightly promote the paramount importance of getting the customer experience, (CX), right.  But what does that actually mean?

Attending a recent enjoyable and informative Gartner Local Briefing session, focused my mind on my own customer experiences.  Gartner, amongst other industry leaders, have promoted the initiative to “Sell to your customer, not your user”, whilst Agile and Lean proponents tout likewise similar mantras.

We all know that CX is cited as a top priority that will drive customer loyalty, retention and increased business, so no prizes for getting that; however, I believe the finer point that is being made in this, the digital era, is that customers and users are not the same thing, and therefore the ways that business interacts with both are neither the same, nor, at first glance, obvious.

Indeed, do our ultimate customers actually adopt, and even change roles, during the lifetime in which we interact with them?  Some readers may at this point be jumping up and down with “What an absurd question…”, yet let’s consider this for a moment with a real world example.

Up until last year, and in one of my more impulsive moments, I bought a very nice and rather quick kit car.  Obviously I thought it prudent to insure the said car, and used a well-known specialist insurer. For several years my wife and I barrelled around the Cheshire countryside from one idyllic gastro-pub to another, generally enjoying the new boy’s toy.  Alas, all good things come to an end, and we decided to sell the car.

From past experiences, (and in any normal world!), I would cancel the insurance and get a refund on the balance.  If I bought another kit car I’d go back and become a repeat customer – and here lies the nub of the story.

At the start of my customer experience with the insurance company I had been able to go online, get quotes and even buy the insurance policy (Customer mode).  Then I had been able to logon and do all my ongoing insurance admin via the obligatory “portal” (User mode?).  All worked well until the day for cancellation came, when I found there was no way to cancel the policy online.  OK, back to the old fashioned analogue portal, the telephone, and after explaining that as I no longer had the car a re-quote wasn’t required, my policy was cancelled – fine.

Not great, but OK.

Fast-forward just under 12 months, and arriving in my Email Inbox is a message from the insurance broker, which as a former customer and user, I assumed (incorrectly) to be marketing and ignored.  Unfortunately it was a renewal.  Furthermore, the premium would be taken automatically from my previously supplied credit card.  (Let’s not get into the issues that raises).  I responded with a return email re-confirming that I sold the car 12 months previously.  I also logon to the portal – to find a “send us an email” button (helpful) or call us (really?).

At this point I am a former customer, and user, and not a very happy one in either mode.  The tools I’m provided as a user don’t differentiate over those I had to begin with before I even logged on to the portal, and as a customer I can’t resolve my issue without resorting to the phone – they may as well have just had a website with “Call us” on it.

I Call.

Finally, I receive four responses via email.  The first says, thank you for signing up – I assume the portal had a blip.  The second, thank you for contacting them; the third says thank you for cancelling, and the fourth warns me that not having insurance on my car is a criminal offence – nice, thank you.

One month later a second tranche of those same emails arrive, and again warn me that I need to have insurance following the renewal date, or else…. That’ll be for the car I no longer have. Weary thoughts pass through my mind, “Do I need to call them again? They will have definitely cancelled the card payment, won’t they?”

So, after a long story, back to the point:

I operated in User and Customer mode with the same company.  As a customer my experience was poor.  As a user, I wasn’t given the tools I needed to touch every point of interaction I have with the supplier, only some, and at the culmination of the relationship the cessation experience was terrible.  I was left with the feeling that here was an organisation that was using digital to make life easier and more efficient for themselves, both in terms of resources and time, yet not led by customers’ needs.

It isn’t just at signup and renewal our clients need us – it’s all the way throughout the relationship – it’s ongoing, and how we terminate is equally as important as how we engage and sustain that relationship.

To echo Gartner and others – as a user I was disappointed, but not really affected too much – as a customer I was frustrated and angry; as a returning customer prospect, I was destroyed.

Mapping ALL the customer interactions / touch points is essential both internally and externally to your organisation – and remember we do not always remain in the same mode, or adopt the same function throughout the relationship; time does not stand still, nor do our customers, and nor should we.  Success will likely be recognised by the organisations that are not just CX aware, but CX led.