Customer Experience News & Trends

How Siri makes your customer experience look bad

She’s cute, has a soothing voice, seems to know it all – and makes your customer experience look bad.

Siri is having a serious effect on customer expectations and satisfaction.

The voice of personalized self-service on iPhone and iPads has been setting new standards for nearly every kind of service for some time now. The problem is, many companies and customer experience professionals find it difficult to keep up with — or better yet, stay ahead of — the customer expectations the woman’s voice has set.

Of course, this incredible self-service phenom isn’t limited to Siri. More and more companies offer a “digital concierge” or “virtual agents” on their websites – and they almost make real-time chat seem archaic.

New expectations

Because so many people have adopted mobile technology like tablets and smartphones that are pumped with apps that give them immediate access to self-service, those high-tech tools have become the benchmark by which all customer experiences are measured today.

In fact, one Gartner Research study predicted that 50% of online customer self-service activities will be done through virtual agents like Siri. And right now, Forrester Researchers found about 72% of customers prefer to go online for information, solutions and troubleshooting over calling or emailing companies and customer service centers for help.

The good news is that real people in real-time and with lesser technology can still deliver outstanding customer experiences that live up to the change in expectations.

The people behind customer experiences — from executives and IT to sales, marketing and customer service professionals — need to understand the expectations Siri has created. Then initiate tactics to meet them.

Improve what you have

We aren’t suggesting every company run out to find vendors who can set them up with virtual agents. Technology isn’t always the answer, and not affordable for everyone. But as more and more customers move to mobile technology and demand real-time personal answers, some investment will likely have to be made.

For now, it’s a good idea to consider what kind of self-service you have, how well it serves customers and what you can do to make it better and more useful.


FAQ pages websites were once a powerful tool that empowered customers to solve problems, get answers and refrain from calling a company. But apparently, they weren’t and aren’t doing an outstanding job. Forrester also found that customer satisfaction with FAQ pages is at 51%, the lowest of all the communication channels they tracked.

So that makes this low-tech self-help tool a prime place to start improving the customer experience. The key is to make it as updated as possible, and make sure customers know they can get reliable answers from your FAQ page.

At PeopleCube in Framingham, MA, the customer service reps work together to create and update the organization’s “Online University.” They regularly update the FAQs based on what they’ve heard from customers who call them. They informally discuss the issues they heard most recently, the best ways to resolve those issues and how to word it so customers understand them when they look to the FAQ page in the future.

IKEA took a crafty approach to its FAQ page. Instructions on putting together its legions of some-assembly-required products are available there — or at least links to them are. Even better, the Swedish home interior goods store posts instructional videos of its employees following the written instructions to put together its furniture.


Whether you’re ready to deploy virtual agents or have no intention of going to that technological extreme in the near future, one thing is an absolute must when creating a excellent customer experience: consistency. Customers must get the same answers, level of service and solutions from any channel where you provide customer service. More importantly, they have to hear the same, consistent message from each person they talk to within an organization.

Furthermore, customers expect you to know what happens in one channel — say the email they sent yesterday — when they contact you in another channel. In other words, customer service reps better know what messages have been sent to customers and what they said.

Siri is consistent like that. She will give you the same directions to the grocery store today as she did yesterday (unless you request a different route, of course). Siri will tell you how many planets are in the Solar System with conviction. She doesn’t waffle on whether Pluto is still one or not.

And that’s what customers want across all channels — sometimes even when they don’t like the answer. At least they know they’re dealing with a company that won’t compromise and all customers are treated consistently and fairly.

To ensure information is the same across all communication channels, Chris Bright, Director of Interactive Applications at Expedia, Inc., worked with his customer care team to streamline information and simplify access to it for customers. They regularly review processes, available information and conversations with customers to eliminate extra efforts and confusion or inconsistencies in them.

Know where to find answers

Siri knows a lot, but she doesn’t know everything. She’ll ask questions, prompting customers to give her more clues on what to find out in the cases when she doesn’t know the answer immediately. She’s studied the entire volume of Encyclopedia Britannica, even the notes that tell you where to look next if the original information didn’t answer the question.

That’s created an expectation that every person customers get on the phone or via email, the app they download and the website they visit will have all the answers. It’s not realistic, but it is the new expectation.

They key to meeting it so customers rave about their experiences: training all customer-facing employees and equipping all self-service tools to know where to find additional information. And, yes, for self-service tools, finding the information can be the option of leading customers to people who have the answers.

CDW in Verona Hills, IL, gave customers easy access to people who could help them in almost all situations. First, customers had a key contact — a sales or service pro who handled almost all of their transactions — whom they could get in touch with through an online account. But when the key contact wasn’t available, a backup was ready, and customers could see who was available — including managers who could help in escalated situations or with complex issues — when they logged into their accounts.

To make the online accounts even more useful, Calvin Voss, CDW senior manager of research, and his staff regularly packed the online community access area with updated info and extra resources for troubleshooting problems.

Be fast

Siri is faster than most wait staff, online chat responses and the average call center to answer questions. Her vast knowledge base available in a short amount of time has created a completely different expectation on wait times and responses.

Customers have always wanted faster responses than what’s available. More importantly, though, is that they have and still want some sort of recognition when they reach out to companies and initiate the experience. So while a final answer, absolute resolution or end-all fix can take some time, a response to customers who contact companies across any channel must be immediate.

In this case, Siri isn’t the only one who’s created standards. Retail giants such as L.L. Bean and Amazon have made email order confirmation within a minute of a purchase the norm. And Comcast has made responses to questions on Twitter within a few minutes of posting the expectation.

Some rules:

  • If you offer chat, responses must be immediate
  • For social media, respond within a half hour
  • Telephones should be answered within 20 seconds (a long-standing industry standard)
  • Email should get an immediate automated response, indicating the message was received and when a personal response can be expected
  • Texts deserve responses within 10 minutes, and
  • Blog posts deserve some attention within a day.


An even better idea for blogs is to let customers know when they can get full attention on it and who will provide it. For example, Safelite AutoGlass created the Safelite Delight blog some time ago. It features messages from its top executives, such as CEO Tom Feeney, and the times when they’re available to help customers.

Another important tool for offering quick responses: surveys. Customers want to talk about their experiences with companies. And research has proven if they are given the opportunity to do that shortly after the experience, they’re more likely to remember it as a good or great one and rate it accordingly.


Steve Silverstein, CEO of Not Your Average Joe’s, took the use of surveys to a new level. He had his frontline service pros, who dealt with customers face-to-face, ask customers to take a 10-question survey, which was preloaded on an iPod Touch. The responses went right to the manager on duty, who could respond to any issues immediately — if the customer hadn’t left — or just reinforce the great customer experience with a pleasant goodbye.

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