Tag Archives: Customer service

10 crazy things companies say and do that sabotage great customer experiences

17 Jan

Now, sabotage may be a strong word – after all, no one sets out to screw things up for customers – but the interesting thing about these 10 classic behaviours is that they are all pretty much insidious, they take their time, and they all serve to eat away at corporate best intentions. As the classic phrase has it, ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’, so check out my top 10 crazies:   

  1. Yes but….: the curse of ‘smart talk’. Why is it that the more senior you get, the more you feel compelled to critique, query, call for more evidence, ask for more opinions and generally put off saying yes or no? Everything seems to be stacked against just saying, ‘OK, yes, let’s try it”.   
  2. Show me the money now: does anyone seriously believe that all that financial modelling and forecasting years into the future is how it will all play out?  Yes, the connections between customer experience and financial outcomes are there to be proven, but it takes time and it’s not an exact science. So, start with leadership, faith and belief, all just as important as the Excel comfort blanket.
  3. ‘Customer Value Maximisation’: if all that the customer represents to the business is a number or a red/amber/green rating on a dashboard, then pretty soon there’ll be a project called something like this customer value maximisation, which is shorthand for ……how can we get more money out of our customers? Please don’t forget that customers are people too, just like you and me.
  4. You’re not from round here are you? : “I hate to tell you this, but we’re not Apple, John Lewis, Starbucks, Zappos or any of those other customer experience poster children I hear a lot about”. In other words, let’s find ways to patronise you and your idea because you don’t really ‘get’ our business.     
  5. We hear what you say, but …: your feedback (which is valuable to us) will be aggregated with all the other feedback, then prioritised and assessed, and then we might be able to fix the problem. Which is fine, in a way. But of course, let’s not forget that real customers have problems one by one, and they need to be sorted there and then, not just collated for the future. 
  6. Pet Project-itis: Ok, this big old project may not be working out as planned, but we’ve invested far too much in it to pull the plug now. And the further the train is from the station, and the faster it’s going, the harder to reach for the emergency stop button.
  7. You’ve come through to the wrong department: if people go quiet and assume a puzzled faraway look when asked how their job contributes to getting and keeping customers and improving the customer experience, then you may be working in a dysfunctional company. The reality is, it only works when it all works, when the whole organisation works together, to design and then orchestrate the delivery of the experience.
  8. Multi-cultures, multi-companies: ‘culture’ is a difficult thing to pin down. While businesses like to talk about corporate culture and values, the idea of one common shared culture may be over-simplistic, when in reality, bosses and department heads set ‘culture’ day by day, whether consciously or not, through their behaviour. And the more silo’d the business to begin with, the less interaction between departments, the more you’ll find a multitude of cultures. And, one team’s tight-knit, supportive, and progressive culture is another one’s source of amusement, disbelief, scorn and even ridicule. So, work hard to understand the grey shading between teams, departments, countries even, whilst also being clear on what is non-negotiable at the very heart of the corporate culture.       
  9. Messengers don’t like being shot at: when calling out a problem doesn’t make for a pleasant  day at the office – when it risks wrath, humiliation, displeasure or worse  – it becomes so much easier to move that borderline red flag to green, and carry on as normal. As in SNAFU.
  10. A company is known by the people it keeps. Or doesn’t: the reality is, the cast is constantly changing, maybe as much as the customer base, maybe more so. Every business, ultimately, is a people business. If consistency of service and treatment is important, or rather its opposite is very frustrating and unsettling, why not recognise the role that good reliable people play in delivering the ‘promise’. After all, the alternative, treating people as a cost and yet expecting them to go the extra mile for customers is just well… crazy. 

What do we want? When do we want it? Five real-world customer pleas from the heart

9 Jan

While companies love to talk about customer ‘relationship’ and engagement and so on, I often think this is presuming too much too soon. To get to these lofty aspirations takes time, there are no short cuts. Hence my five pleas to remind us all what customers really want.begging for chance - business woman


Firstly, just get the basics right, please. Make it easy and painless to deal with you, and do it consistently too. SO, just do what you say you’re going to do. I really don’t want you to get this wrong. That’s not too much to ask for is it?  Get all of that right, and OK, I might do more with you, but there’s no short-cut. Get the basics right first.  


You seem to forget about me. In fact the only time you remember me is when you want to sell me more. That won’t make me like you any more, or help build that ‘relationship’ (odd word, by the way!) you talk about. So, if you can help me get a better deal for no extra cost, then I expect you to tell me. If you don’t, I’ll be angry. And, I do like little freebies where you give me something for nothing. I think that’s a nice gesture, and I won’t forget it.

In fact, I will happily tell my friends about something great you’ve done for me, as it makes me look good too, because it shows I chose well in choosing you! 


I’m not an idiot – I know that advertising is propaganda. So, please don’t promise me the earth, because, well, chances are you‘ll under deliver and then disappoint me. How about if you treat me like a grown up? Honesty trumps perfection, because the latter is impossible. 

And, I realise mistakes can happen every now and then; after all we’re all human. But, it’s how you deal with it that’s important to me. So, again, I want you to be honest with me, own up to the mistake, and, because you have made a mistake, go the extra mile to get me back on your side and not ruing the day I chose you.  

Finally, don’t pressure me. If I do choose to buy something from you and give you more of my business,  I want to do it when I decide and when it’s convenient for me, not when you contact me with one of your unmissable offers I’d be an idiot to ignore.


You’re impossible to talk to. You have no idea how much effort it takes to contact you, and the hoops you make me jump through, before I finally get to talk to someone about what I want to talk about. My time is incredibly valuable to me, and yet it feels like you couldn’t care less.

And why is it that when I finally get through to someone, they often can’t help me? Why all these rules, policies, processes, systems and protocols? Why is it that the first person I speak to can’t help me? Why does such a simple request become a Kafka-esque nightmare?

Plus, you don’t seem to listen to me. When you do ask for feedback, and I take my time to give it to you, you don’t ever seem to do anything with it. Or, if you do, you certainly don’t tell me. What exactly do you do with my feedback?


I’m not naive. I know you have to make money, and that’s fine, but it’s how you do this that interests me. If you make a lot of money by penalising me – if I make a mistake, or forget, or don’t understand something or lose something – then that feels more like exploitation than a ‘relationship’.  I don’t want you to con me – it would be great if I could feel that you were trustworthy and on my side and gave me the benefit of the doubt from time to time. After all, I am a customer of yours, I’ve chosen to give you my money, so it’s not too much to ask for is it? 

How to lose customers. A handy checklist.

6 Dec

Great piece from Jeff Haden in Inc on how to lose your best customers, and what to do about it, short of fencing them in with barbed wire, that is.


It’s al good thought-provoking stuff, but there are two types of no-no’s listed in the article that I find really interesting. Firstly, what you might call ‘strategic’ mistakes driven by the relentless hunger for profit from customers, and secondly, those to do with failing to recognise the critical role played by the firm’s own people.

So, in the first category you’d have to put focussing on price (“good luck maintaining that advantage”), pushing too hard to grow revenue, and the classic trap of exploiting-existing-customers-and-hoping-they-don’t-notice! (See also my earlier piece on the Penny Dreadful customer experience, a tale of seduction ending in betrayal).

It is this kind of corporate world-view that leads to blood-chilling statements like ‘our customers are our greatest assets’ where the unvoiced part of this sentence feels like it ought to be…“…so let’s make sure we sweat those assets hard while we can”.

Personally, when I choose to place my business with a company, I don’t consider that I’ve somehow acquiesced in becoming an asset to be henceforth ‘owned’ by the company. Or, ‘prey’ to be targeted and hunted down.

In the second group of mistakes, we have those to do with the ‘people’ side of the business (or… ‘human capital’, a phrase I heard yesterday at a conference). So, yes, madness does lie in the direction of the seventh mistake : asking for one behaviour – let’s respect and love our customers – but rewarding a different behaviour, selling, for example.

But it’s the first and fifth points that are particularly important, I think. It’s a useful reality check to be reminded that “It’s tempting to assume long-term customers love your brand. More often than not they love your employees”, which is why high turnover – especially in the front line – is such a challenge to the business.

There’s a load of research out there that constantly reinforces the importance of consistency – plain boring reliability – as the cornerstone of a successful customer experience strategy. And, the more often the cast changes, the more inconsistent and unpredictable the experience. Which is why, for example, I sometimes find it hard to fill in Net Promoter surveys; while I might be willing to recommend the person I just dealt with, and I consider them a great ambassador for company X, how confident am I that I, or my friends, would have the same experience tomorrow, with a different person?

Power to the people (and those companies that embrace this). Ten 2013 consumer trends

29 Nov
Concert Crowd (Osheaga 2009) - 30000 waiting f...

(Photo : Anirudh Koul)

Wacky names, thought-provoking stuff. Here are ten key consumer trends for 2013 from trendwatching,com. Some good insights and signals in here on how the power game between consumer and company might be played out in future.

 ‘ PRESUMERS’ is about people seeking active engagement and participation with the company, getting involved in co-production before launch. Why? Because they connect, they are extreme advocates with a connection (I love this product, I like what this company is about, I want it to succeed and make a difference).

 Hand in hand with this, then, perhaps even a pre-requisite would be ‘FULL FRONTAL’, extreme transparency to you and me. So, what might transparency 2.0 look like? Well, moving from ‘having nothing to hide’, to “pro-actively showing and proving they have nothing to hide”, supplying unambiguous and clear evidence. So, a company will have to be pretty clear then about what it wants to be famous for and it had better be something more attractive to its customers than maximising shareholder value, for example.

 Another manifestation of consumer power is ‘DATA MYNING’ where we consumers begin to trade on our own worth to the company. As the paper says, “to date, the ‘big data’ discussion has focused on the value of customer data to businesses. Now, increasingly savvy consumers will start to reverse the flow”, and seek to benefit from the value of their own data”. 

Making unhappy customers happy : it’s not rocket science. BUPA and Net Promoter.

26 Nov

Bupa (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A great reminder from BUPA International (medical insurer) that Net Promoter should be about much more than simply ‘market research’. It’s about taking action and fixing things for unhappy customers, day in day out, as this short film demonstrates.

It’s interesting too to hear about how this process challenges conventional metrics, and always nice to hear someone say it’s not rocket science. This is a phrase I probably use far too much, but that’s because it’s true. Most of this is just good old fashioned common sense, and yet that doesn’t make it easy to do, and it is especially hard to do consistently, and weave a discipline like this into the rhythm of business as usual. Enjoy the film.


General Motors seeks customer zealotry, with new bonus scheme

26 Nov
English: Logo of General Motors Corporation. S...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This, from Automotive News in June, is another interesting sign of the times. The North America GM president has launched a new compensation structure that connects all staff bonuses to customer loyalty, in other words people coming back and buying more cars. This is a significant change from the days of old; as a dealership owner says in the article:  “Five years ago….if I were to call my zone manager, all he’d try to do is sell me something I didn’t need.”

There are a couple of interesting cultural insights in the article, about the organizational and cultural challenges that feel pretty much par for the course for many large long – established companies.

For example, there’s the dreaded silo’d and functional thinking, which resulted in the ‘everything is green syndrome’ nicely described in the article: “In the past, divisional barriers meant that even if employees in one area were hitting their targets it often did not translate into success for GM. “Everybody had their own metrics, which somehow were all green,” or positive, Reuss says of the old GM. “But, weirdly, when we added it up, it was pretty red.””  

So, the challenge is for people to look beyond the narrow scope of their job descriptions and keep their ultimate focus on the customer, and to recognise that, as far as the customer is concerned, it only works when it all works, hence the new bonus package.



‘Falling down’ meets bad customer service. Great short film.

23 Nov

Remember Michael Douglas in Falling Down?

Well, if his beef had been with a call centre, perhaps it would have gone a little like this. Here is a great short film (very cool production values too!) from Sam Kaplan and Michael Williams on the perils of ‘BCS’, that’s Bad Customer Service, to you and me.

Cover of "Falling Down"

Cover of Falling Down

I’ll let the film-makers’ own intro on their site speak for itself:

“The customer service representative hits us at our most vulnerable.  When we are in need of help, when desperation is upon us, when whatever crucial tool of our modern existence has failed us, that  is the moment when BCS inevitably pounces. And so we determined to make a statement about BCS and broadcast it to one and all”.

And, yes, as they say, there is a serious point behind all this too. The fact is, none of us voluntarily chooses to ring up a call centre. When we do, we need help now, and yes, we are indeed often feeling pretty vulnerable too. If you track the highs and lows of a  typical call centre experience – broken down into its constituent parts; waiting; navigation; human contact – it can indeed be an emotional roller-coaster ride. While doing a Michael Douglas may be a tad extreme, you can at least enjoy this film!

Click here to watch the Please Hold Film – Home.

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