Tuesday Morning CX Thoughts – Are Your Customers Overworked?

Oversights Can Happen

Like many people, I turn on auto-pay for just about everything I can. I don’t want to forget to pay for the big items – like a car payment – and the little things that we use every day such as utilities. I took a little extra effort to set up those ACH withdrawals so I’d never miss a payment.  Even so, I tend to take a look at everything about once a month just to confirm.  

It is not quite a routine, but I am usually pretty good about it, except when something else disrupts my routine – like a vacation.  Imagine my surprise when I suddenly get a message from the water utility telling me that I didn’t make my payment last month.  A bill that is usually under $25, certainly there was sufficient funds which I confirmed first (I did have someone attempt to fraudulently drain my checking account earlier this year).  Once I confirmed, I set aside some time to call the utility to solve this past due payment and determine what may have changed or went wrong that the payment did not clear.

Don’t Make Me Beg To Be Your Customer

I figured a simple call would solve the issue – I was wrong.  It started simple enough, the agent stated that I have a past due balance and I would need to resolve that immediately and also resolve my current balance – which is what I had intended to do on this call.  When I asked why my automatic payment did not go through, I simply got a response that “the payment was declined and I should try a different payment type”.  When I asked to submit the payment there on the phone, I was informed that they would not accept payment over the phone and that I had to submit the payment online – which she then assured me was secure (and given all my payments had previously been submitted automatically online, I’m not sure why she doubted that).

Attempt number one: “Payment declined due to outstanding balance, try another payment method”. Attempt number two with an alternate form of payment: “Payment declined due to outstanding balance, try another payment method”.  Attempt number three with yet another form of payment:  “Payment declined due to outstanding balance, try another payment method”.

Now it was back to the phone again and interestingly enough I got the same agent after a quarter-hour jumping through automated response systems and being put on hold.  When I stated my approach, she quite bluntly cut me off and stated that I had to pay the past due balance first before I could pay the remaining balance. Though I think she intended for me to feel stupid that I had to ask, I’m fairly certain she could have been a little more clear in the initial explanation. I asked if she could tell me how much my past due balance was and she informed me that I would have to refer to my billing statement and sent me back on my way – a little more skeptical that I was going to have success and entering hour number two of attempting to solve this problem.  

Finding my old statement, I found I had missed a payment of $8.92.  With the new knowledge supplied by the contact center agent and my firm knowledge of the amount of my past due balance, I confidently went back online to submit my payment.  Attempt number one: “Payment declined, try another payment method – Error Code Unknown”.  Attempt number two with an alternate form of payment:  “Payment declined, try another payment method – Error Code Unknown”.  Attempt number three with yet another form of payment:  “Payment declined, try another payment method – Error Code Unknown”.

Back to the automated phone system and another hold.  At this point, I’m guessing that they only staff the contact center with only one agent because I got the same agent yet again.  When I stated that I received the “Error Code Unknown”, she asked me how much I was attempting to pay.  As the amount $8.92 rolled off my tongue she quickly interrupted me and stated that the online system does not accept payments for less than $9.00 – which is why my auto-payment did not go through and my attempts online would not go through.  I asked if that was stated anywhere online or in the terms and conditions of my auto-payment and was met with the derisive response of “I’m sure it is”.  When I asked how I can resolve this if it won’t accept anything more than the past due balance online, she then proceeded to state that she could process my entire payment over the phone – both past due balance and my current balance.   

Why wasn’t this an option earlier?  Why did I have to spend almost three hours researching this problem myself? Why is the minimum payment amount $9.00 and not a round number? Why isn’t this stated anywhere? (Yes, I checked the T&C and online payment system) Why is sandwich meat round when bread is square?

Understand Your Customers’ Experiences

If there ever was a list of cases for the Customer Effort Score, this certainly would sit near the top of the list. In this case, the entire customer experience with this organization would have been influenced by this one-and-only interaction that I had with them since I set up my account.  However, there are others that have similar pain points for customers, for example, there is a major hotel chain that requires guests to log in twice to confirm a reservation – once to view loyalty member prices, the second to confirm the reservation. Other examples do exist.  

As you build your customer experience strategy keep in mind that it isn’t just about raising scores, it is about building operational efficiencies for both the customers and the employees that have to serve them. Your customer experience management platform should help you to understand customers’ experiences, but tools like the customer feedback loop should consider both tactical response as well as strategic response. 

As we introduced NPS+ last year, we recognized the opportunity to use that root cause analysis to build a strategic outer loop tool.  Our platform will soon allow for the planning of operational changes and tracking the results specifically to root causes identified within the program. Perhaps we will have a day when an organization or a brand won’t have us begging them to let us do business with them.