3 Ironic Ways to Boost Your Customer Experience — Tuesday CX Thoughts

Last weekend I had a really bad experience at a restaurant. The kind that had me looking for any place to provide my thoughts on their customer experience software platform before taking the next step of leaving a social media review, which I hate to do because of all the bad reviews that are submitted for smaller issues. 

In this case, food came out for everyone except one person in our party. When we finally got someone’s attention to point this out, they just asked the question “are you sure?”.  Well, yes, I was. Four of us had plates in front of us, while the fifth person did not. 

After some subtle convincing, we were told it would be out in just a few minutes.  The individual missing their food asked us to start dining so our food did not get cold.  

Reaching out our maximum dining time

Fast forward another thirty minutes, our plates were cleared and despite several inquiries, we were not getting any luck in acquiring the meal for the last person in the party.  Instead, at one point, the server brought out the still frozen version of the dinner along with a sarcastic quip of “is this how you want it?”  After a little while more, we just asked for the check, and to our surprise, the meal we never received was listed on there. 

We said we never received it; therefore we shouldn’t be charged, which prompted a visit from the manager saying we could either wait for the meal (as long as we left our table within the next 20 minutes so they could seat another party as we were reaching our “maximum dining time”) or leave without it, but we’d still have to pay for it as their company policy penalized them for voiding meals off of a ticket.  

Clearly, they were more concerned with company operational processes and metrics than the customer experience

Eventually, it was settled without the charge for the meal we didn’t receive, but we had a member of our party that was still moderately hungry for lunch. 

Three extraordinary ways to improve your customer experience

The experience following this one got me thinking about the ways some companies approach customer service. So here are three ironic ways to enhance your customer experience: 

1. Offer mediocre experiences

Following the debacle at this restaurant, we went to another fast food restaurant to get something quick for the person that missed out on their lunch. It was a traditional fast food restaurant customer journey. Yet relative to what we had experienced before then, I provided great feedback on their CX Enterprise Software measurement. 

Not really because of anything special, but rather that we simply accomplished our goal – had the minimum standards met with a mediocre experience.  We all know some industries that operate like that, most of us probably immediately thought about ISPs or mobile carriers. 

They don’t try to be great, instead they just try to be a little bit better than everyone else. It won’t make them the shining star way above the highest mountain, but they will still be pebbles on top of a fire-ant hill.

If every company could get their customers to go through an awful experience before visiting their brand, the scores on those second visits would likely be great.

In many ways, it would make the better brand the benefactor when viewed in the wallet allocation rule approach. Still, it relies on the idea that your competition is inherently bad and that there will be no disruptors in the industry.  

2. Under, then over-deliver

If I ever went back to that restaurant, I’d almost certainly expect the same level of service unless there was an overhaul of the staff and management.  Even if that server left, the standards for the next hire might be the same and the customer experience strategy hasn’t changed. 

You might be surprised, though. Perhaps you get the best server on staff and suddenly see the service can be exceptional, so my individual experience (and KPI) increases. 

However, if you can’t maintain that level of service, the score will go right back to where it was. By alternating good and bad reporting periods, the location could always be getting the quarterly “most improved” CSAT benchmark score in their customer experience touchpoint measurements – though for all the wrong reasons. 

It would also take considerable coordination and effort to make all the teams work together to accomplish this fluctuation – it almost seems like it would be easier to try to maintain consistently high standards for the customer.  

3. Respond only to complaints

This happens with some of the Voice-of-the-Customer programs proposed today. The entire principle is simply to complete the customer feedback loop with detractors because “responding to detractors in a satisfactory manner will increase customer loyalty by xx%.” 

If that were the case, we wouldn’t need to worry about building a customer journey map from a customer journey template, understanding sentiment analysis or even a financial linkage analysis.

If this was the “operational experience management” approach, then you could just provide substandard customer service and let your contact center make them happy again. 

On the other hand, recognize employees when the customer provides positive feedback and offer to close the loop in a good way with a review.

On second thought…

I hope you understand that the word “ironic” in the title was succinct. None of these are promising approaches. 

However, there are some brands that – knowingly or unknowingly – operate with the expectation that these approaches could help. There are even some CX software providers that, instead of advocating for superior customer experience performance – simply measure and respond. 

We introduced QuestionPro NPS+ so you could not only understand the root cause for any problem before reaching out to the customer, but that you could also use those root cause analytics to close the Outer Loop and strategically maintain an ongoing track record of improvement. 

The customer experience has to be about consistently maintaining performance against expectations and remaining as an example in your industry. Otherwise, you will just be a pebble on an anthill until a disruptor comes along. 

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