How NOT to succeed with customer interactions

Andreas Andersson

Trends come and go, younger generations grow up to take a bigger role in the world economy, and new technology advances are made continuously. With these shifts, customers needs change. Catering customers 20 years ago, or even 5 years ago, was different from how the customers expect to be catered today.


5 ways of creating a bad customer experience

Some companies do a great job in adapting to changing customer needs, others struggle and leave the customers with a bad customer experience. In my work as a consultant and business analyst within Conversational AI in Avo I have had valuable insight into how organizations interact with their customer. In this article I aim to highlight some of the most common mistakes that companies do in their customer interaction, and that ultimately create a bad experience for the customer.

1. Not thinking about the full customer journey

One of the most important aspects when talking about customer experience is the where. Where is the customer, and where are we interacting with the customer? It is easily done to organize your company around the different channels you use for customer interaction, and think that it sets you up to create a great customer experience. However, structuring your customer communication solely around the channels can lead to a silo mentality and reluctance to see the whole picture. When a customer writes you a message on Facebook and then gets referred to your phone number, and then told to write and e-mail, there is a chance the customer might get irritated. Customers like to be seen and heard. Getting bounced around between different channels, with no one taking real ownership of an issue, can be frustrating as a customer. The first thing to do to avoid this kind of friction is understanding the customer journey. Customer journey mapping can be a helpful way to do so but is not in itself a solution. You also need to act on the insight that can come from mapping customer journeys to create a customer experience that spans over all channels. A seamless experience, as many people like to call it. Silos might have to be broken down, roles changed, and websites transformed.

2. Setting the customers up to fail
People do not like to feel dumb. Therefore, when repeatedly setting customers up to fail and in that way forcing customers to reach out, companies are setting themselves up for an awkward conversation. There are many things that can make customers confused, and it can range anywhere from information about service specifications to which number to call when you need help. No matter what the context is, people feel frustrated and dumb when they cannot find the information they are looking for, have to admit that to someone, or even worse, told they are doing it wrong. The first step in realizing we might be setting the customer up to fail, is recognizing the alarming patterns in customer interactions. Avoiding making this mistake goes back to understanding the full customer journeys, and what touchpoints exist.. Why is 20% of those who are considering our products contacting us asking about more product information? Are we not providing enough information on our website, or is not visible to the customers? We might ourselves be the reason for the customers’ confusion.

3. Not solving the underlying issues that create friction

While it can be frustrating to have your call redirected when you have reached the wrong customer service department, it can be even more frustrating to go through the same process again and again. If you, however, are acting in a way that feel intuitive to you and others, you do not expect to run into friction repeatedly. One single bad experience can make customers walk away from a brand they love, so why would you give them the same bad experience repeatedly? You cannot solve all the possible friction that customers experience, but you can take measures to minimize friction and unnecessary touchpoints. What this boils down to is priorities. You first need to prioritize customer experience in the first place, and you then need to prioritize which of the underlying issues you want to fix first. Where in the customer journey do most people experience friction? Which underlying issue has the most negative impact on the customer experience? On a higher level, companies need clear ownership and formal accountability throughout the organization, starting with the CEO.

4. Assuming that customers have all the time in the world
In most cases, we do not appreciate getting more information than we actually need. Scrolling through web page after web page to look for an answer to our question is not as rewarding as finding the answer right away. At the same time, we do not like lack of guidance either. Calling support and being told "to make an order you have to fill out the form on our website" can prompt questions "why don't you just help me here and now?". By either giving the customer too much or too little guidance we are leaving customers feel unimportant and dissatisfied. A better customer experience means not assuming customers have all the time in world. This, in turn, means making it part of the culture to appreciate the customers' time. Sure, there are some people who call customer service to chit-chat. However, majority of people want their problems solved right away. How can we help the customer best? Today there are many different self-service solutions that businesses can use to give their customers help quickly. Chatbots are one of these tools. As a part of a broader context, these types of solutions can support a company's overall channel strategy, aimed at giving the customer a better experience.

5. Treating all customers the same
Lastly, treating all customers the same can leave customers to feel unimportant. Therefore, reducing all customers to the lowest common denominator can be a recipe for a bad customer experience. This can be as easy as saying to all your customers that if they want to contact you, they must send an e-mail. That might sound great to people who like sending e-mails, but for all others this could be suboptimal. Creating a one-size-fits-all solution will always make sense if you are focusing on economies of scale. However, this strategy is not very appealing to the increasingly demanding customers.

What you should do about this then? Realizing that your customers are all different is the first step. The second step is designing services for all different customers. What it is not, is taking action to address or appeal to all individual differences that customers have. Designing services that appeal to all customers can be much easier than that. The real job lies in finding the right categories to divide people into. For example, there are those who like chatting, those who like calling, and those who like writing e-mails. Should we, and if so, design a good experience for all these categories of people?

When communicating with a bigger audience, either customers or employees, you will always do some mistakes. Truth is, you will never create a great customer experience for everyone. However, knowing of the warning signs –what create a bad customer experience –can make you better prepared to create a great customer experience for many.