Monthly Archives: February 2011

How many of these emotional needs does your customer experience design deliver?

An experience is only an experience because of emotion; computers do not experience; the stronger the emotions the stronger the experience and it’s imprint in the memory bank. So customer experience design comes down to creating powerful, positive, experiences that leave permanent footprints in the mind/heart of the customer.

So what are the primary emotional needs of our fellow human beings?  There are as many schools of thought as there are writers on the subject.  Personally, I find that the Human Givens school has articulated a useful and actionable list of ten emotional needs:

  1. Security — safe territory and an environment which allows us to develop fully
  2. Attention (to give and receive it) — a form of nutrition
  3. Sense of autonomy and control — having volition to make responsible choices
  4. Being emotionally connected to others
  5. Feeling part of a wider community
  6. Friendship, intimacy — to know that at least one other person accepts us totally for who we are, “warts ‘n’ all”
  7. Privacy — opportunity to reflect and consolidate experience
  8. Sense of status within social groupings
  9. Sense of competence and achievement
  10. Having meaning and purpose — which comes from being stretched in what we do and think.
When these emotional needs are met we feel great and when they are not then we tend to feel down – we misfire.  And in every human encounter these emotional needs are either fulfilled, ignored or violated.   How is your organisation doing? Which needs are you fulfilling?  Which needs are not even on your radar?  And which needs are you violating 0 intentially or unintentionally?  If you took a good hard look and are honest with yourself you are in for a surprise and an opportunity.

If you are not working on dismantling the walls of separation then you are wasting your time

One picture can say more than a shelf full of books.  When it comes to forging a mutually beneficial relationship between companies and customers here is the picture that says it all – at least to me.

This picture was put together by David Armano and is part of his visual archive on his Logic + Emotion blog.   It is a blog that I rate highly and have listed under my “Worth Checking Out” links.

Why am I drawing attention to these walls of separation today?

Too much of what passes for Customer Experience is simply customer interaction management (the engineering mindset) or customer interaction design (the digital design mindset).  If the Customer Experience movement is to make any impact then the people working in it, leading it, have to rise several levels above interaction and deal with the stuff that really stands in the way of organisations and their customers: the deeply ingrained, taken for granted, walls of separation.

Put differently, if you are not willing to dismantle the walls of separation then you are wasting time, effort and money on Customer Experience, CRM and Social Media.  If you disagree then please do write and share your point of view and the reasoning behind it.

If you want to improve the customer experience put fairness into the contracting process

Focus on reducing the effort that customers make

A recent HBR article titled Stop Trying To Delight Your Customers the authors argue that delight does not deliver loyalty if companies fail to get the basics right.  They argue that companies should focus on reducing the effort that customers make in doing business with them. 

The importance of the contracting process

Now what can be more basic then making it easy for customer to figure out what they are signing up for?   I’d argue that the contracting process is the start of the relationship and the vendor has a responsibility to make it absolutely clear to the customer what she is signing up for.  And in particular, it is critical that the vendor makes the customer aware of anything that the customer may find an unpleasant surprise after she signs ups.  Why?  Because we dislike unpleasant surprises.  We feel cheated when what we signed up for is not what we think we signed up for.  It erodes trust.  And trust is the foundation of all ongoing relationships.

How are UK companies doing in making contracting fair, easy and transparent?

So it is with interest that I read the following article: Problem contracts cost consumers £3b, OFT says.   Here is paragraph that leaps out at me:

“Common problems included a lower quality of service than expected, firms interpreting contracts to their own advantage, problems accessing a service, and poor customer service.”

The OFT study goes on to say: “The highest instance of problems occurred with telecoms and internet access packages, with 10.3% of consumers surveyed affected.”

Is taking advantage of your customers limited to these two industries? No.  The study says:

“Telecoms and internet access aside, of the 32 sectors investigated by the OFT problem areas included home entertainment, home deliveries, home improvement, travel, mobile phones and in-home services and repair.”

I wonder if all this talk about customer focus is simply talk

How hard is it to make the contracting process easy and fair?  I contend that it easy if you want to do it.  So why are companies not making their contracts fair, easy to read and easy to understand?  Bear in mind that the worst culprits according to the OFT, the telecoms companies, have been on the Customer Experience bandwagon since about 2002.

Sonia at Linkedin: how to deliver a great customer experience

Customer experience is fundamentally about the human.  And when it comes to the human we are exquisitely sensitive to the tone of the conversation. Get the tone right and you leave your customer feeling absolutely delighted with you.  Why?  Because the right tone validates the customers.  Get it wrong and the same customer will feel invalidated and resent you for it even if she does not ditch you there and then.

My Linkedin Experience

So what do I mean exactly when I speak of the tone of the conversation.  Allow me to share my Linkedin experience with you.

Yesterday I decided to take the premium membership from Linkedin.  So I clicked on the box, entered my credit card details and was then none too pleased to find out that I had been charged for a full twelve months.  Why?  Because I thought I was signing up for monthly membership: with a monthly membership you get billed month by month and can cancel anytime.

So I reached out to Linkedin customer support through the FAQ section and sent an email to the effect that I had unintentionally subscribed to a year membership. And asked Linkedin to cancel that membership so that I could sign-up for the monthly membership.  That was on Tuesday morning.  This morning ( less than a day later) I received the following delightful email from Sonia:

“Hi Maz,

I want to apologize for the inconvenience this has caused you.

Your premium subscription has been cancelled and a refund of $ 479.40 has been issued to your credit card. Please note that refunds take up to five business days to post to the credit card. To see a record of this refund:

1. Hover your cursor over your name in the upper right area of your home page and click on “Settings”.
2. Click on the “View purchase history” link.

You can also view your purchase history from the link below:
https://www.linkedin.com/secure/purchase?displayPurchaseHistory

Your Basic free account will still allow you to:

1. Build and maintain contact with your trusted professional network.
2. Find and reconnect with colleagues and classmates.
3. Request and provide recommendations.
4. Create and maintain your professional presence on the web.
5. Request up to five Introductions at a time.
6. Search for and view profiles of other LinkedIn users.
7. View Company Pages and follow Companies of interest.
8. Join and participate in sharing in Professional Groups.

Please know that you are more than welcome to renew your premium subscription at any time by clicking on “Upgrade My Account” at the bottom of your LinkedIn home page choosing monthly instead of annual subscription.

Thank you for using LinkedIn, Maz!

Regards,

Sonia
LinkedIn Customer Service”

Why am I Delighted?

I am not delighted that I got what I wanted – a refund of my subscription.  Why?  Because I assumed that as a professional organisation Linkedin would act professionally.

I am delighted because of the tone of the email.  Specifically, Sonia makes me feel that I am talking with a caring human being.  One that I can count on. How does she do that exactly:

  • Sonia addresses me by name and informally the way that a friend might address me if we were meeting up at a cafe.
  • Sonia absolutes floors me with her opening line “I want to apologise for the inconvenience this has caused you.”  In that one sentence, at an emotional level, I totally felt a bond.   Wow, I am speaking with a real human being – one that is speaking to me in normal human language and gets my experience.
  • Sonia tells me that she has sorted out my problem and she shows me how I can check for myself that she has fixed it.  Not that I have bothered to check I trust her.
  • Sonia shows me how I can go about subscribing to the monthly membership but does not pressure me to do it.   That leaves me feeling trusted.
  • Sonia ends the email as beautifully as she started it: ” Thank you for using LinkedIn, Maz!” I feel appreciated and validated.

The Lesson

Nothing, absolutely nothing beats a human being who gets the fact that customers are first and foremost human beings with deep emotional needs: acknowledgement, respect, validation, trust, caring ……The role of technology is to support these human beings in being great.  And to make life easier where the ease is wanted.  Technology should never be used to replace the human encounter – the personal touch.

PS. As a result of this encounter, I have decided to make a list of companies that I find to be customer friendly, even customer centred.  And Linkedin is on that tab along with other favourites such as TeamSnap and Amazon.

Customer Experience: the gulf between the talk and the reality in the UK banking industry

Is Customer Experience the latest fad?  Are some organisations, perhaps many organisations, simply paying lip service?  Or is it that clever people who have risen to the top of the corporation simply are confused and have a mistaken view of Customer Experience?  Is it possible that they simply see it as the gift wrapping?  Something that you put on the outside to make the product – which may not be that great – look prettier.

Complaints are a great opportunity to learn, to build an emotional bond and generate advocacy

From a customer perspective, customer complaints are  a key ‘moment-of-truth’.  As a customer I am reaching out to you to let you know that I am not happy with the way that your organisation has treated me.  And if I am making that complaint then I am implying that I think you are the kind of person, the kind of organisation, that it is worth complaining to.  That is to say that you will listen to me, investigate the matter efficiently, and come up with a fair resolution.  If I did not believe this, even if it is at a subconscious level, I would not bother complaining; time is in short supply and there is a lot to do.  As such a complaint is a great opportunity for the organisation to build a stronger bond with the customer.

How well is the UK banking industry handling complaints?

Now lets take the UK high street banks as an example – only because they are in the news.  I am pretty confident that there is at least one person at each bank with a Customer Experience title.  Yet, it appears that these banks do not even deal effectively with customer complaints.

According to Consumer Focus the UK banking industry received over 1.25 million complaints in the first half of 2010 and over 47% of the people who had made a complaint are not happy with the response they have received.

Is it that the UK banks have their house in order and the 47% of customers that are not happy are simply being difficult.  This is what Consumer Focus has to say:

“Consumer Focus is calling for banks to take complaints more seriously and devote more resources to improving customer service. The consumer champion is also urging the Financial Services Authority (FSA) to continue using the prospect of financial sanctions to keep the pressure on poorly performing firms.  The FSA previously concluded that banks’ complaints handling is ‘poor’ with more than a third underperforming in this area.

So why is it that the banks are so poor at handling complaints?  Back to Consumer Focus: “Consumer Focus thinks that poor customer service and complaints handling is a sign of weak competition.”  Frankly, the banks are doing such a poor job because customers are not bothering to switch – partly because of the perceived difficulty of switching and partly because consumers see all the banks as being pretty much the same.

What are the Customer Experience folks working on?

All of which makes me wonder what the Customer Experience folks working in the UK banking industry are working on?  Maybe they are working very hard and the Tops are simply not listening – after all complaints cost money today.   Or maybe they busy working on the sales side of the customer experience?

If you are working on improving the Customer Experience in the UK banking industry then please write and let me know as I am genuinely puzzled.

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