“From a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your experience at our branch?” That’s the question I got via email after spending one hour standing in line at a bank. My answer was: a 4. The next day, I received a phone call from someone at the branch — someone who had evidently taken an interest in my poor experience and low score. “We’re calling up all detractors to find out what happened,” the person told me. I then asked myself: do most people even understand what being a “detractor” means in the context of customer experience? If not, how will they respond to being called up like this? Won’t a random phone call just make everything worse? But my bad experience didn’t end there.
Over the phone, I explained that I shouldn’t have had to wait an hour in line when there were only two other people in front of me. The bank rep then asked me at what time I had been at the branch, why I had gone there, who had taken my request — all information the bank should’ve already known. But one question in particular exhausted my patience: “Was our computer system down?” Well, no one told me it was or wasn’t, so why would I know? “We’re gonna check if the system was operational at the time and call you back. These kinds of issues can happen,” the rep said.
This is a prime example of customer experience being dependent on a supposedly infallible system. A system that knows nothing of needs or opportunities. A system that cannot understand people, impact, or resources, nor see the benefits of a people-centered service. Fact is, systems can fail but experiences should not. The reason is simple: experiences are built by people and shaped by how we relate to others and give value to our clients.
The answers we need
The question we should ask ourselves, within our organizations, is the following: how many opportunities do we have to revert a bad experience? (That’s what the bank rep supposedly tried to do over the phone.) And the brutally honest answer to that is: one chance. If we design these moments of customer or client outreach incorrectly — looking to excuse ourselves rather than trying to understand what happened — then we will fail. The main goal of these moments should, in fact, be quite simple: to just listen.
Nevertheless, when organizations reach out to customers or clients, they often ask pointless questions. They use off-putting technical language, offer excuses, or blame others. They come across as impersonal and aloof, reducing human experience to cold numbers, indicators, metrics, or surveys (i.e. Net Promoter Scores, Customer Satisfaction Scores, Customer Effort Scores, etc.) Or they call up customers or clients at any time, from an unknown number, without letting them know who they’re speaking with — without even asking if it’s a good time to talk.
Generating good experiences means designing moments that affect people’s emotions, that move or persuade them. It’s these emotions that will later determine how people remember our brand or organization, and will predispose them to choose or — better yet — recommend us. We should make an effort to be memorable from the start. Systems can’t do this for us. And you know what else doesn’t work? Making customers or clients feel guilty. That’s what the bank rep tried to pull on me: “Your low score impacts negatively on our branch’s overall score,” he let me know before hanging up. When he said that, I thought: “It’s not my fault. It’s not even the system’s fault. It’s yours.”
By Mariana Socorros, Director of Innovation and People Centricity at OLIVIA