Customer Experience News & Trends

Is your experience ‘real’ – or are you faking it?

No matter how well you orchestrate the customer experience, if you don’t really care, it’ll feel fake to customers. And they don’t appreciate that. Here’s the difference between a “real” experience and a fake one. 

“The relationship that a company builds with its customers is a sacred one,” says Dana Brownlee, president of Professionalism Matters, Inc., and author of the recent survey What Customers Really Want. “And when the company is really pretending to care, it feels like a dysfunctional one.”

Some of the processes, behaviors and systems involved in the customer experience make customers feel like they’re just going through the motions. There aren’t any emotions behind it — like concern from the company or empathy from the employees. Those kind of emotions make it “real.”

“Fake customer service is (when) the company is really just pretending to provide some sort of customer service support,” Brownlee says. “But their processes and infrastructure make it clear that at best they have an anemic customer service operation that has little impact on the rest of the business.”

Here are five characteristics of fake customer service, plus how to make it genuine:

1. Customers have to hunt

If customers have to hunt for contact information — email, phone numbers, chat options — when they need help, they feel shut out. They think the company doesn’t want to hear from them other than to make a purchase.

Make it real: Keep your customer service information prominently displayed on every page of your website — just as obvious as sales or reservation information. Add it to written documents and email, too.

2. Customers can’t give feedback

Many customers turn to social media with gripes because some companies make it difficult for them to give feedback. Customers are forced to call a general 800 number when they have a specific question or concern for a department or person.

Make it real: Give customers access to contacts in different departments they might need — for example, Accounts Receivable, Shipping, Technical. Or, if you want to keep all customer calls in Customer Service, designate an expert in your most critical subjects and get customers to them for their payment, shipping or technical issues.

3. Customers get lost

Customers want to know who they’re working with and how to stay in touch. Yet, at some companies where customers just get moved through the motions, employees don’t introduce themselves or build rapport with a question, such as “How’s your day going?”

Make it real: Give front-line employees time and leeway to introduce themselves and ask a rapport-building question or two. Even better, employees can offer their direct numbers early in conversations, email exchanges or online chats, so if they’re disconnected customers can easily reconnect.

4. No one else talks to customers

In some companies, customer service reps are the only people who ever talk to or help customers. Most people in the company consider customer service a department or function, and they don’t consider it part of their culture and everyone’s responsibility. So customers might feel put off by employees who aren’t in customer service, if they ever deal with them.

Make it real: It starts at the top. Executives need to establish and encourage a culture where everyone knows his and her part in the customer experience (because everyone’s job affects it in some way, shape or form). At some organizations, senior leaders and product developers have regular, direct contact with customers, perhaps taking calls or answering email a few times a month.

5. Service isn’t celebrated

Some companies still don’t recognize that the better the experience is, the better a company will perform. Sales are celebrated and rewarded much more than the efforts of customer service to maintain loyalty. Goals, metrics and rewards are centered on increasing sales, rather than maintaining loyalty — so employees focus their efforts on making sales.

Make it real: Set goals and rewards for customer satisfaction and loyalty. Some companies have created systems that reward all employees for raising satisfaction ratings and year-over-year loyalty.

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