We sometimes have an officious way of dealing with our Customers, almost as though they’re the problem that we have to deal with.  As Customers ourselves, we witness this all the time, and surely as CX professionals and leaders we’re also more aware of it when we see it.  It’s interesting, then, that it ever happens in the first place, considering the positions we hold and the authority we wield.

For instance, if you wanted to come up with the worst thing you can ever say to your Customer, you’d be hard pressed to beat: “Your ticket has been closed” when the issue hasn’t been resolved.  And yet, don’t we get that all the time?

I recently had a minor issue with a product and went online to submit a question about it.  I receive two emails three days later in rapid succession:

The first email I received stated in toto:  “Our records indicate your support case number [XXX] was recently closed. We hope the support you received was up to your expectations and would love to hear back from you. We hope the support you received met your expectations and we would appreciate your feedback. Please click HERE to complete our customer satisfaction survey.”  The all-caps “HERE” was a link to the survey.  (We’ll not go into the atrocious wording of the email, there are graver errors afoot here.)

The email that followed four minutes later (yes, I received the email announcing the closure of the ticket and the invitation to take the survey before I’d received anything from their service center) made matters worse because it was of basically no use or help in addressing my issue.

Why do we treat our Customers this way?  I have a theory, and it predates even my experiences in the CX field.

When I was just starting out in my Process Engineering practice, I was surprised to find how much waste existed in systems based on people putting more stock in the processes themselves and not enough emphasis on the outcomes…the purpose for those processes in the first place.  (Think, as Simon Sinek might say, we put too much thought into the How and not enough on the Why.)  People would perform tasks in a particular order from a list regardless of the value added by doing so (and in fact, usually not even considering the value added) simply because it was the next box to check in the process.  Oftentimes a step in the process was only there because the tool being used required it, not because it was part of the solution.  In some of the more egregious instances, there were steps left over from legacy tools that weren’t even being used in the process anymore.  My Lean Six Sigma fellow practitioners are nodding along right now, I know.

There’s a similar thing that often occurs in the CX realm.  Customers themselves are actually viewed at times as simply parts of the process, instead of how they should be seen:  The reason we’re doing all this in the first place.  When the Customers aren’t the center of what we’re doing, they tend to become nothing more than another cog in the machine; another task that needs to be accomplished, a box to tick.  And often as a result, they end up getting caught in the gears of that machine.

I’m sure in my experience above that the agent who replied to my inquiry wanted my issue resolved and for me to have a pleasant experience as a Customer.  But he was likely hamstrung by lacking the enablement of proper tools, processes, and systems to help me.  In the culture of this organization, I was seen as just another ticket that had to be cranked through the system that day.  For them, the system was paramount, not the Customer.  He probably did what he was supposed to do (reply to the Customer that there’s really no way to help him, close the ticket, move on to the next) and got his food pellet for having rung the bell, metaphorically.  That the emails got sent out in the wrong order is likely a flaw in the handshake between their various CRM systems.  That flaw simply makes the problem with their approach all the more easy to spot.  It highlights that I, as a Customer, am not important to them.

What’s more, the pretty negative feedback I offered them probably came as quite a bit of a surprise to whomever saw it (if anybody bothered to look) considering it’s likely that, based on the (process) metrics, everything was done properly…all the steps were executed.  That’s because the process is the goal instead of a good Customer experience.  “Quality” to them is defined more by following the process than by delivering a good experience.

Is your organization putting the Customer at the center of your process?  Or is your Customer simply a part of it, providing inputs just like every other element?