By Joseph Katz
“As for the complex ways of living, I love them not…however much I practice them.”
– Henry David Thoreau
I promised in my last post that I would have more to say about the “emerging” customer touch points and the customer’s desire for simplicity. On the surface, these might seem like contradictory ideas – if the customer truly wants to keep things simple stupid, why bother with all the newfangled contact methods like mobile apps and social media?
Before we attempt to answer this question, let’s talk about the suggested reading from my last post. The purpose of articles like the one published by HBR is to look for a variable (or variables) that strongly correlates with certain business outcomes such as loyalty, willingness to spend more, pay a premium, etc. The authors acknowledge several variables that correlate fairly well, but suggest that the “being easy to do business with” metric outshines all others in terms of predicting positive business results.
Although I haven’t published the dissertation just yet, I actually theorize there are three factors that explain the customer experience: delight, consistency (which I’ll soon suggest includes simplicity), and good faith.
The relationship starts with delight – the customer expects to receive a certain amount of value and if those expectations are met, then it’s a good transaction. If those expectations are exceeded…then the customer is delighted and will come back again. From that point forward, the customer’s expectations have recalibrated and now that same high level of value must be delivered each and every time. Consistency.
The customer is realistic enough to understand that there will be times when things fall short of the mark…and that’s where “good faith” comes into play. The customer expects the provider to genuinely admit that it screwed up, most importantly as an acknowledgment that the product or service has to be better in the future. That’s the good faith part…the company shows that it recognizes it still has an obligation to uphold its end of the bargain. Customer service obviously plays a key role in this component of the model and that’s why when something goes wrong, the last thing a customer wants to hear is an automated system or a scripted apology.
Not so fast my friend
But this is where things get a little more complicated — consistency doesn’t just mean doing the same thing over and over again. It means delivering the same level of value each time. But value is a matter of perception, and changes in customer preferences and competition tend to push the bar higher over the course of time. This is where innovation comes into play. If you aren’t getting better, you’re falling behind…
So it turns out that customer service plays a role in the “consistency” component of the model as well. Primarily this role is to remove the obstacles that stand between the customer and the inherent value that the company has to offer. If that can be done in an automated fashion, then so be it. But that’s not what the customer is concerned about; what the customer is looking for is the path of least resistance. If that path happens to come through a Smartphone app (as an increasing number are beginning to believe), then you can bet that even the Henry Thoreau’s of the world will find their way to this channel.
In case you’re looking for the hat trick…yes, I do believe that customer service can contribute to the initial delight phase as well. But for the Customer Experience folks looking for a call to action, I think there is plenty to focus on in terms of adding in the emerging customer touch points with an eye on simplicity and good faith. Adding new channels certainly brings with it a series of challenges to maintain consistency (there’s that word again!), but hopefully now you have a clearer sense of why we’re innovating in the first place and what we hope to achieve as an end result.