Raising the Bar (The Wrong Way) – Tuesday CX Thoughts

Customer Experience is all about the Perceived Promise 

A few months ago I was asked to participate in a round of discussions surrounding a new project for one of our clients. As the project was described, the approach seemed simple and the plan seemed pretty straightforward. We had all agreed that we would move forward with it as soon as we got all the paperwork in order.  

Then came the difficult part.

As part of the paperwork, we had to make some additional concessions. These changes would cost us a little extra, but we opted to absorb those costs for the greater good of the relationship. The next iteration of the agreement came back with a few more changes that would cost us additional money. When we pushed back that we would have to charge for this round of scope creep, it was the client’s turn to push back, saying we should absorb these costs as a ‘partner’ in this relationship. We acquiesced to this second set of changes, signed documents, and started on the project. Then the third set of requirements came in that completely altered what we were expecting to accomplish. With the agreement already in place, we were told they wouldn’t be able to do anything about the cost until next year.

The important part of this lesson is that we were still wrong – at least in the eyes of our client – and that is what matters most. While we perceived them to be raising the bar on us, they were under the impression that we kept raising the bar on them. What we define as “scope creep” was not even in the consideration set of our client, so they understood it to be something we were adding on for the sake of padding our top line.    

Communicating the correct offer

This kind of interaction happens thousands – or even hundreds of thousands – of times each day. Not to me or our company specifically, but I would guess it happens regularly with any company that has customers. It is not necessarily down out of any malicious intent by either the customer or the company – rather it is in the communication path.  

Marketing pushes ideas into the marketplace, potential customers see some sort of need that they decide to research more, then hearing more information about the product, feel it is the right product for them. Then the product gets into their hands – and they begin to see the shortcomings versus their expectations.  

Think about the many ways this happens:

  • You purchase a vehicle with a set of features in mind, but you are unable to connect your specific phone to the Bluetooth device the way it was demonstrated during the test drive
  • That specific phone you purchased because you’ll be able to take some of the best pictures, only to find out that you have to purchase some additional software for it
  • Perhaps giving patronage to a food brand because the parent company references “Doctors” in its name, only to discover that it has no relevance to health
  • Seeing the delicious image of food in a commercial and opting for that meal and realizing that the look and taste of what you received does not even come close based on your expectations from the image

If you’re interested in Customer Experience topics, we think you might enjoy reading: Repeating wow!

Discovering a daily (ugly) truth

I think we could all share stories of the reality that didn’t meet our expectations.  If we contemplate on it, we also would find some ways that our customers or clients had been disappointed in the outcome. It is a core reason you could use a customer experience management program to understand the touchpoints in the customer journey. It is not enough just to have a customer experience survey, rather you need to have the tools to find the disconnect between the expectations or the promise and the reality that is delivered to the customer.  

Every day we perceive our customers to be raising the bar on their expectations, and they feel we are doing the same to them. The best way to ensure we don’t lose them in the midst of these exchanges is to understand where we are coming up short in their view. It was a key reason we introduced QuestionPro NPS+ where we can understand the root cause of issues and even tie it back to a churn risk assessment – to close that gap. Even the closed-loop customer feedback can narrow that divide when it goes beyond just responding to detractors.  

The differences between expectations and reality can often be substantial, but they can also be overcome.

⛄️ Happy holidays! ❄️ 

We all deserve a little break occasionally, therefore this will be my last post this year. Wishing you all the best for a Happy Holiday season and a great New Year.  I’ll be back writing on January 11th. 

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