Why Does This Have to Be So Difficult?

“Why does this have to be so difficult?!?” How many times have you had that thought as you navigated through some company’s confusing, maddening process? My guess is you could rattle off several experiences without batting an eye. I know I can. Sometimes it’s all you can do to keep from screaming. 

Just the other day I was helping my mom close an account with a large online bank (I won’t mention the bank’s name). She hadn’t used this particular account in years, and the balance was just $94. Well, it might as well have been $94,000 dollars with all of the hoops we had to jump through just to close the account. It reached a point where I wanted to tell the agent, “Just keep the $94.” (Maybe that was their strategy all along.) 

I realize that this frustrating experience was not the agent’s fault. She was simply following the process the bank has in place for closing an account. And maybe there are good reasons for the hoops we had to jump through. But it doesn’t matter. To the customer it’s a clunky process that will likely keep me or my mom from ever working with that bank again

Frustrating processes are everywhere:

  • The appliance repair company that tells you a technician will be at your house sometime between 8:30 and noon. From the customer’s perspective, whose convenience are they concerned with?

  • The doctor’s office waiting room where you sit waiting well beyond your appointment time, with no one providing updates of when you’ll be seen. Keep in mind they knew you were coming – you had an appointment! Whose time do they really value?

  • The company phone tree with a mind-boggling number of options, making it nearly impossible to get to a live human for help. How much value do they really place on taking care of their customers? 

Keep in mind that most of the organizations guilty of causing these frustrations know they exist. They just don’t do anything about it. And while it’s maddening for the customer, it’s likely even more maddening for the company’s frontline employees. They’re the ones who have to deal with these frustrated customers every day. And human nature being what it is, employees learn quickly to put an emotional barrier between themselves and the frustrated customer because they know they can’t win. They just want to end the interaction as quickly as possible. 

A wonderful way to delight your customers AND your employees is to actually do something about those frustrations. When you do that, you become a beacon of light in an often frustrating customer service world. Consider the following examples:

  • The doctor’s office that has an electronic board on the wall that shows where you are in the queue of people waiting to be seen, thus managing your expectations.

  • FastPass at Walt Disney World (pre-COVID) that allows guests to make reservations for popular attractions, dramatically reducing wait times. I also think it was a stroke of genius that for the newer attractions, the queue is designed to be a part of the attraction’s story.

  • The electric utility that texts customers with regular updates during a power failure. 

Each of these organizations has identified a customer frustration and done something about it. Customers appreciate the organization’s efforts, and employees do too. It’s a great way to build customer and employee loyalty

One of the practices I recommend to all of my clients is to have a team meeting four times a year with nothing else on the agenda other than these two questions:

  1. What customer frustrations do you regularly have to deal with?
  2. What can we do about it? 

If you’re a small company, you could hold this service improvement meeting with your entire team. A larger company might hold these meetings at the department level. 

You’re not going to solve every issue, but let’s say you eliminate or at least alleviate four customer frustrations a year. That is world-class and sets you apart from your competition. 

The outcome of this simple approach is that you delight customers rather than frustrate them, and you set your team up for success in serving customers. Who could ask for anything more? 

Here’s something to think about: What is something that frustrates your customers (and you know those frustrations exist), and what can you do about it?