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Planning for 4 Types of Customer Experience



You’ll never be able to write a line of code or a business process rule that requires an employee to deliver a great customer experience; the employee has to want to deliver it.

Sooner or later every company encounters a situation that simply wasn’t anticipated in advance. So when a customer’s experience involves this kind of unforeseen event, especially if it is of great significance or importance to the customer, you want your employees to be willing and able to deal with it, even if it might mean overriding a standard practice, or making a judgment call on their own authority.

One way to visualize the issue is to use a diagram that categorizes the kind of customer experience you’ll be delivering, based on how standardized the business process is for a situation, and how engaged the customer is in it. Based on high and low levels of both process standardization and customer engagement, we can identify four different types of customer experience that must be planned for:

The vast majority of customer experiences with any sizable business will be in the lower right quadrant, “Business as usual.” Here you have a lot of repetitiveness and a high potential for standardization, while the customer considers the transaction or experience to be routine. Buying one more item from an online retailer, for instance, or making a call to your credit card company to check your balance, are business-as-usual customer experiences. And many of these kinds of experiences can be entirely automated, which gives the company the ability to deliver a completely frictionless experience simply by hard-wiring the right customer-centric processes into its computer system. When iTunes reminds you that you already bought an item you’re about to purchase, it’s not because anyone made an on-the-spot decision about how to treat you, but because they anticipated the situation in advance and built appropriate rulesinto their computer system.

In the upper right quadrant, “Predictable customer lifecycle events,” the customer experience is highly significant in the customer’s mind, but it is still predictable, and the delivery of that experience can be standardized, even though customers themselves are likely to be highly interested or engaged in them, and would probably not think of them as routine. One example might be when a customer receives his very first bill from the mobile carrier he just signed up with. He’s likely to be quite interested in understanding why the bill is higher than he had expected, and in many cases he’ll call the carrier to discuss it. But, because all new customers receive a first invoice at some point, and it’s not uncommon for them to call in to inquire about it, the mobile company can prepare for this customer experience in advance. It will likely have a standardized way to deal with these kinds of inquiries.

In the lower left quadrant, “threats to cost efficiency” are many of the kinds of customer experiences that weren’t anticipated and planned for already, including unusual requests or out of the ordinary events, in which the customer isn’t terribly interested or engaged. Your company still has to pay attention to them, however, and manually address these issues one at a time, because they undermine your cost efficiency. An example might be, for instance, when a hotel company’s website can’t automatically consolidate a customer’s duplicate frequent guest accounts because of an overlooked discrepancy in the address field, or some other minor problem. For the most part this is nuisance friction, and you should be logging each such problem as it comes up, in order to continually improve your process standardization and automation capabilities.

It’s in the upper left quadrant, however, where a negative customer experience can be the most threatening to a company’s profitability and reputation. The customer experience in this quadrant is one in which the customer is highly engaged, but the company itself has not prepared in advance to address the issue, and there is no standardized process in place. This might be because the problem was hard to anticipate in advance, or because the company hasn’t been careful enough in mapping out all its customer journeys to begin with. Either way, these “surprises, trials, and tribulations” will test a firm’s corporate culture.

So the question for your company is, when a customer is wronged or ill-served in some way, how easily can the situation be remedied by rank-and-file employees who get involved in the customer’s interaction?

The vast majority of employees-and particularly those in customer service jobs-want to work for a company that can be trustedby its customers. But if you want to be able to handle the kinds of problems encountered in this upper left quadrant effectively, then your employees must be (1) actively engaged with your firm and its mission, and (2) enabled to make the decisions and take action on their own.

Excerpted from: Customer Experience: What, How and Why Now (2106) by Don Peppers

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