Making Customer Experience (CE) Preventive and Delightful

Shutterstock_149580755In order to create a customer experience that delights your customers, there are two different strategies. One is to make the customer experience anticipatory and proactive, which I've discussed in an earlier blog post. But you can also make it preventative across the end-to-end customer lifecycle. Helping customers prevent problems not only reduces service cost and problems, it shows you care and is one of the most powerful delighters, raising recommend scores by as much as 30 percent. While salespeople hate talking about problems when trying to sell a product, the customers’ reaction is, “you care enough to warn me how to avoid issues.” 

There are four actions that will help you to enhance the CE, prevent problems and maximize the bottom line. These are:

Preventative Actions: 

1. Identify events across the entire customer journey that are prone to unpleasant surprises.

Create a process map of the end-to-end CE and identify areas where problems occur, often not due to your actions but due to third parties or customer errors. For example, Harley Davidson noted that bikes stored outdoors in the winter will suffer from dead batteries and won’t start the first nice Spring day. They warn customers on the website and via emails and offer inexpensive chargers to help customers avoid disappointment.   

2. The marketing and sales departments must be honest in setting customer expectations.

Proactively communicating about possible problems is a best practice. Few customers read their homeowners insurance policies which often have surprising limitations and exclusion creating anger when a claim is denied for items thought covered. Farmers Insurance has just initiated a savvy ad campaign entitled “Find the Gaps.” While the sales department hates highlighting limitations, the customer’s reaction, is “Thanks for warning me, can I buy a rider to cover this exclusion?’ Translation — can I give you more money?

3. Identify when company operational actions will impact the CE and proactively let customers know.

This strategy is what I call psychic pizza — delivering the information (like the pizza) just before the customer asks for it. A credit card company has started texting customers two days before a late payment penalty will be imposed — while only a minority of customers make the payment to avoid the charge, they all appreciate that the company cares enough to communicate. Once programmed, this text message can be sent with little or no cost but great positive impact.

4. Develop processes to be easy to do business with at each customer touch-point.

United Health Care noted that guardians and spouses often called on behalf of loved ones, but every time had to get their permission to discuss their account due to HIPPA regulations. UHC eliminated this frustrating, bureaucratic hurdle by creating a voice print of calling guardian or spouse linked to the permission so that the authentication must only be done once, not every time the guardian calls. 

Technological Requirements

1. A common customer identifier must exist across the CRM platforms, as well as operational and financial databases.

This allows easy communication of impending problems to the individual customer.    

2. Key operational data bases must be able to flag and communicate process failures and confirm impending actions.

These event data, using the above common customer identifier, feed both proactive psychic pizza actions and the Voice of the Customer. For example, Amazon monitors slow movie downloads, apologizes and gives you a credit before you ever complain.

3. The company’s website should be reoriented to balance education and support for the customer with traditional marketing and sales activities.

Most websites are 80 percent sales when 80 percent of visitors are seeking support. Education, support and new customer orientation should all be featured prominently on the home page, not just on the “contact us” page.

4. Video is the best educator but it must be entertaining or it will not be watched.

Millennials will never read a page of text, but most will watch a 45 second video, especially if it is funny. Zipcar has a video on extending your reservation — sounds boring, right? Not at all – it is a mini-soap-opera about a young woman meeting her new boyfriend. Even United Airlines’ safety video is funny, with visual puns — 70 percent of passengers are now watching the safety video, which traditionally has been deadly boring. You should send short videos to your customer on how to use two additional product functions — additional utilization translates into additional value.

Getting Started

1. Better a Small Success than a Big Disaster  

Go for small wins at first. If you do not have a CE journey map, start with one phase that has problems or start at a macro end-to-end level. Address only one or two preventable problems to start with.

2. Measure, Experiment, Measure Again 

Measure the revenue and word of mouth damage of the top unpleasant surprises and the benefit of delighters. Pick two events that you want to prevent or encourage. Experiment with a small percentage of your customer base - then measure changes and impact. Share the results with the Finance Department — they need to be convinced of the value in an enhanced CE. Preventing five unpleasant surprises equals winning one new customer.

3. Involve your Front Line Staff and Celebrate Success

Your millennial employees love making and appearing in Youtube videos. Challenge them to create a preventive education video. Then celebrate your success with both customers and employees. News of small improvements will create momentum and give both groups hope that the CE really is going to get better.

About the Author:

GoodmanJohn Goodman is one of the original trailblazers of the customer experience industry and has personally directed some 1,000 customer experience studies for clients worldwide. He is the author of two books: Strategic Customer Service and Customer Experience 3.0. Follow him on Twitter: @jgoodman888



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