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.

Author: Maz Iqbal

Experienced management consultant working at the intersection of strategy, customer, and technology. Combine a tendency to think strategically with a penchant for getting my hands dirty at the coalface of implementation.