Back when I was a kid, we used to get prizes inside cereal boxes, and getting to those prizes was a bit of a ritual. Arriving home after the Friday night round of weekly grocery shopping, my brother, sister, and I would open the box of Shreddies we brought home and spend the next fifteen minutes or so hard at work. Our first step was to peer inside the box hoping the glint of plastic would catch our eye. If that didn’t yield results, we’d reach in and see if we could find the prize through touch (touching every, single Shreddie in the process). If that didn’t work, we’d dump the entire box into a big bowl and sift through it until we got the prize. Looking back, I see we sure went to a lot of effort to get them.
I share that with you because of my recent experience with the company that makes my blender. They buried their prize, which was a stellar call centre experience, beneath a mountain of effort to get there. A closer examination of my experience provides an excellent case study on how great recruiting (the customer service agent I finally spoke with was superlative), training, and an obvious customer-first culture was buried beneath heaps of inattentive social media, a poor IVR, and a website that made finding their toll-free number more difficult than it needed to be. So, let’s get to it. I broke my blender, and here’s what happened next:
Step 1: Twitter
Upon discovering my blender had become non-functional, I hit their website on my phone and found that they’re on Twitter. Awesome. A look at their Twitter handle showed some customer service related engagement (the standard, “Sorry to hear that. Please DM us your details and we’ll get back to you.”). I Tweeted my issue and expected a reply. After 24 hours, nothing. I Tweeted again: More silence. The result of this was a sense that my blender company had little concern for customer satisfaction. Turns out that perception was far from accurate, but I wouldn’t have known that from my experience with them on Twitter.
Step 2: Phone Call Attempt #1
Going back to their website, I managed to find the “contact us” button at the bottom of their site in very small text. Clicking on that, I scanned the page, found their toll-free number, and dialed. After listening to their automated greeting and being given 4 options (none were for what I was calling about), I hit “0,” was greeted in French (not sure why), told the call would be recorded, and then after a moment the recording advised me that the office was currently closed. Argh.
Step 3: Phone Call Attempt #2
The next day I called, hit “0,” got French, pressed “1” for my language preference (English), seemed to get more French, then an English call-recording notification, then silence. And more silence (one usually hears music, or….something). Unsure of whether I had been disconnected, I hung up and re-dialed.
Step 4: Phone Call Attempt #3
I repeated Step(s) 3, but this time instead of silence I was connect to a truly fabulous customer service agent. Alice took the time to express sympathy for my situation, carefully made sure she understood what the issue was with my blender (she even got the same model blender I had, so we could walk through my issue together), and she made careful notes. At the end of the call, she took my address and promised a new blender would be sent within 10 days. And voila, 4 days later, I have a new blender.
Keeping the Prize Well Hidden
What’s fascinating about this is that based on my experience with Alice I’m convinced that my blender company is 100% dedicated to their customers’ satisfaction. Having said that, the focus of their efforts has clearly been on the contact centre touch-point, potentially at the neglect of other touch-points that come earlier in the customer journey. The onus was on me to sift through the pile of negative experience (including the fact that the blender had broken), until I finally got to the prize, which was a brilliant customer service professional and a new blender that arrived earlier than expected. Had I not done the equivalent of dumping the box of Shreddies into a bowl and gone sifting, all of the effort that had gone into the phone experience would have remained hidden, and I would have a new blender from a different company.
What We Can Learn
Many organizations invest significantly in training and technology designed to deliver great customer service at the contact centre level. But if your customers need to exert unreasonable effort to experience that service, you may be investing in something that many of your customers never discover. Indeed, they may have given up earlier in the process and taken their business elsewhere. Providing great customer experience through the contact centre is awesome. Be careful not to hide it under a mountain of customer effort.