Customer Service Mistake #2

This is the second in a series of five posts in response to a client's question; "From your observations and consulting work, what do you think are the top customer service mistakes companies make?"

Customer Service Mistake #2 - Designing processes for the company's convenience, not the customer's.

How many times do you find yourself shaking your head in frustration as you deal with a company's non customer-friendly processes? My guess is you can name at least five frustrating experiences you've had in the last week. Too many organizations design their processes for their own convenience with little regard for the inconveniences their customers suffer.

Furniture delivery is my favorite example of this issue. When you buy a new sofa, the company gives you a window of time for its delivery - Friday between noon and 5 p.m. So, how many of us are able to sit around for five hours waiting for the delivery truck to perhaps arrive (because sometimes it doesn't)? Imagine if you told the company, "Just have the truck wait in the driveway for me, I'll be home sometime between noon and 5 p.m." How open do you think they'd be to that suggestion?

Doctor appointments provide another frustrating example most people can relate to. Physicians and schedulers stack appointments, so if you have a 1:00 appointment, you're not getting anywhere near the doctor until at least 1:45 or 2:00. The process is designed around the physician, not the patient. No wonder so many people's blood pressure tests high. They've been sitting in the waiting room being ignored, not told what is going on, and getting more and more stressed.

On the positive side, let's look at the airline industry. What? A positive airline example? One airline processes that has dramatically improved is the flight check-in process. Years ago, all travelers had to wait in line, sometimes for hours, to check in. Now, we have the option of checking in quickly at kiosks or completing the entire transaction in our offices or homes using online check-in. Airlines have a long, long way to go to improve overall service, but the convenience of the check-in process certainly works in favor of passengers. Having to pay for checked bags; well, that's another story!

Many banks are now extending their hours, recognizing that 9-5 isn't always the most convenient time for customers to do their banking. Opening earlier, closing later, offering weekend hours, and online banking are all positive approaches to looking at the banking experience through the customer's lens and focusing on the customer's convenience.

Where do improvement opportunities lie? I find that many companies know exactly which of their processes are designed for their own convenience. The problem is that they choose not to do anything about them. The most important element of dealing with Mistake #2 is a firm commitment to eliminating customer frustrations. If you really don't know what frustrates your customers, you likely have all of the tools you need to find out:

  • Go back through your customer surveys. What themes are there regarding customer frustrations? Lots of organizations do customer satisfaction surveys; few companies use the data for improvement.
  • Hold employee focus groups about what processes generate customer complaints. Your employees usually take the heat for those complaints and are only too happy to share them with management.
  • If your company has a call center, spend a couple of hours listening in on customer calls. It's an eye-opening experience that will generate plenty of information about what customers like and don't like.
  • Talk with new customers; talk with regular customers. Get their opinions on what processes can be improved.

Most importantly, take action. Start with one process and focus on improving the customer experience and the customer's convenience of dealing with your organization. When you've improved that process, go on to the next one. With a clear focus and unwavering commitment to improvement, you can differentiate your organization from all of the others that cause customers to shake their heads in frustration. Imagine if after dealing with your company, customers ask, "Why can't other organizations do it like you do?" And imagine if you can honestly answer, "Because we've designed our operation through your lens, and for your convenience."

To avoid Customer Service Mistake #2, design your processes for the customer's convenience.