I’ve previously mentioned the tongue-in-cheek observation that our jobs would all be a lot easier without the Customers, right? (Forget that our jobs would not exist without Customers, of course, but that’s part of the joke.) One reason some of our front-line team members feel that way is because they’re usually trying to help Customers navigate our own internal processes when they need help. Forget that, well, it’s our job to do that, and let’s concentrate on what it means from our Customers’ perspective. The reason it may seem like drudgery at times to hand-hold a Customer as they try to wend their way through our online interface or manage a return event is that we’re so used to it. We know how things work, and from that perspective, it makes the work of explaining it over and over again all day long a bit of a grind. I’m sympathetic, believe me.
But if we walk in our Customers’ shoes we’ll find that our processes aren’t as straightforward or simple as we think they are. After all, that’s why they had to contact us for help in the first place. And frankly, they don’t have the time or inclination to concern themselves with our internal processes. This is the heart of the third of the Five Principles of CX: Take on the Stress.
There was a recurring bit on Saturday Night Live years ago called “Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey.” It was a send-up on inspirational quotes, much like the “Demotivators” line of parody posters you’ll still see out there from time to time. One of Jack’s Deep Thoughts that comes to mind is: “If a kid asks where rain comes from, I think a cute thing to tell him is ‘God is crying.’ And if he asks why God is crying, another cute thing to tell him is ‘Probably because of something you did.’” Leaving aside whether you think that’s funny (it takes a certain sense of humor), it reminds me of our processes as they impact our Customers: If someone is calling in needing help, it’s probably because of something we’ve done (or failed to do).
I think I’ve mentioned before a process engineer who used to work for me once marveling at how the main output measure of effort in a project he was working on was actually an internal effort score (how many times did we open a ticket for a certain issue). While if defined correctly (in this case it happened not to be) this can be a good efficiency metric, as a reflection of our actual Customers’ experience, however, it was way off the mark. He said, “boss, we’re measuring an effort score for ourselves, not for our Customers.” And he was right.
The bottom line is that especially in a recovery incident—whether that’s recovery because a Customer needs help with the website or if a Customer has an issue with one of our broken widgets, or needs help figuring out how to operate the widget in the first place—they’ve gotten to a point where they need help. And here, the last thing they need or want is to deal with more of our own processes. You could say, we’ve already failed them (by making our processes complicated enough that they can’t intuitively navigate them, making our products in such a way that they break or don’t work properly, or in some way or another simply making their experience less than smooth). So at that point, we owe it to them to take on the burden of our processes ourselves.
Is it a pain in the neck to open up a trouble ticket? Guess what: We need to do that for the Customer. Does it take a long time for a resolution? Guess what: It’s our obligation to communicate with our Customers, at least just to say that we’re still working on it and haven’t forgotten about them (see Principle 2, Communication). Is the shipping process a mess? We’d better fix it. Our Customer, waiting on a replacement part needs to be made whole. A hurricane between our distribution facility and the Customer’s house is one thing. Deliberately going with the lowest-cost, longest-lead-time carrier is another thing altogether.
Our Customers have chosen to make our brands part of their lives. Those are lives that are rich and complicated, complete with families, jobs, friends, commitments, and other issues to fill up their days. We should be honored that they chose to include us in that at all. What they didn’t sign up for when they invited us in is us, by virtue of having complicated systems that they’re expected to deal with, invading and taking over a large chunk of those lives busied by all the work it takes simply to be our Customers.
Allow your Customers to deal with their own lives. Show some gratitude that they’ve chosen to include us in those lives by making their interactions with us as seamless as possible. And we owe it to them, when they get into trouble, to make that trouble as invisible to them as possible by taking on the stress ourselves. Don’t make being your Customer any more work than it ought to be. They’re not being paid for that, in fact, they’re paying you to make it easier.
In the next installment, I’ll explain why getting it almost right isn’t good enough.