Experiences after COVID-19

In the CX world, I take a lot of surveys. I could say that I’m supporting my friends and colleagues in the business, but really I like to observe what the competition is doing, both good and bad. Learning and understanding ways to do better is critical to being successful.

Though my standards can be high working in this area, I attempt to focus on the positive as I don’t want my response, even if just neutral, to be used to punish anyone. However, there are times when the experience is completely below most standards. In the same way, I’d want my clients to do with me, when I’m a customer, I want to let them know if there is a failure in the service levels.

I had one of these recently, in picking up an online order, I arrived around the time I was told to pick it up. I could see it was busy and was understanding that it wasn’t ready. However, after 20 minutes, I inquired again. A clearly frustrated employee took the opportunity of me asking to yell out to the customers waiting on orders that everything is running 10 minutes behind, almost like when the flight attendant in an airplane makes a seatbelt announcement because of one person. After 10 more minutes, I inquired again and was scolded with “Didn’t you hear my announcement?”. When I explained that I was at the 30 minutes past the scheduled pick up, she mumbled a few choice words then asked another employee to take care of “these rude customers”.

I finally got my food and enjoyed my dinner, and the second employee apologized for the wait and even explained that my order had mistakenly been given to someone else who was much more upset when they got home. Later, when I was sent a survey (one that was far too long the type of interaction), I gave an overall negative rating, but I was certain to talk about what happened (you can’t fix what you don’t know about), but also taking the time to praise the second employee by name for her candor and calm demeanor under a clearly stressful situation.

A couple of days later, I received a tersely worded email from the store manager. The first sentence seemed to be from a template reading “We received your feedback regarding your experience at our store.” Not mentioning the store location or even the name of the company. What followed is summarized as: you could clearly see we were busy, we had someone call out sick, we normally do better, it was a Saturday night, customers weren’t very understanding of the delays, we had a lot of complaints that “may not be fair” and it wasn’t our fault.
“Interesting apology,” I thought, then I re-read it, and came to the understanding he didn’t actually apologize. He just responded – and made no mention of the details I provided. I came to realize that this store manager was “checking a box” and “closing the loop.” I’m guessing anyone that had responded to the survey that evening probably got the same email that I did. Copy & Paste then mark the closed-loop feedback ticket as closed. I responded because I wanted to make certain I pointed out the positive feedback I had about the helpful employee, but I never heard a response – no acknowledgment. I’m sure as far as he was concerned, the case was closed, and anything further was just a distraction.

This kind of thing happens when the cultural change of a CX program becomes a “culture of numbers”. It can happen in pockets of the organization, or it can happen across the entire organization. It becomes all about getting an “acceptable” score. When that number isn’t achieved, one can point out that the store has “closed” all its cases in the CX system. This culture can come from the top or from the local teams, but the one that gets lost in these cases is the customers. Extremely busy locations have lower customer ratings, and sometimes bad days happen – in those cases, apologize and move one. On a personal level, no response would have been better than the response I received, but the “culture of numbers” dictated a response, even if poorly worded.

It isn’t isolated, I have a colleague that travels frequently and rents cars with the same nationwide company. Similarly, he’s not one to give negative feedback, but once he did and received a $25 coupon for his next rental. To test it out, he continued to give an overall negative rating, then proceeded to praise specific employees as an experiment. Without fail, for each trip, sometimes up to twice a week, he’d get the same form letter from the local station manager with another $25 coupon. No one was taking the time to read the specific feedback, just sending the same coupon and marking the case as closed. As much as he rents from them, I would expect someone to take notice that a very loyal and high-value customer has provided a long string of negative ratings in the survey. It has never happened; the box was checked, and nothing was fixed because nothing is being read.

These are a couple of unique stories, but as you can imagine, I’ve come across many more. If your CX program is a “culture of numbers”, then you aren’t really making a difference for the customers – and you’re missing out on opportunities. Make it more than about the score and checking a box; demonstrate that you want to see more positive. Perhaps give them a “get out of jail free” card for every time you get praise with an employee name mentioned. Give the frontline information about the strategy arising from all this measurement, so they know it isn’t all about a score. Move beyond the tactical at all levels. It can be difficult at times because many have invested in ‘systems’ that operate a certain way, but that is where I’d encourage you to reach out to me or one of my colleagues that work beyond the CX technology (though I’d prefer you reach out to me) and learn ways that you can advance your CX program beyond the reach of the system.