Even the most reputable company can create “two-faced” customer service experiences.
If face-to-face service creates a customer experience vastly different from the online shopping or call-center customer experience, customers can be left with a “two-faced” impression of the business.
- One face, the pleasant, inviting marketing brand we have all seen
- The other face, a negative reality which may appear as disinterest, dishonesty or deception.
“Two faced” may seem an overly-strong adjective since it smacks of deceit, but it’s not. Personal and emotional customer reactions are involved when services and products are bought and delivered, so customer perceptions define reality. Inconsistencies in service delivery may leave the perception of disinterest in customers or of dishonesty or deception.
Example: My Starbucks “two-faced” customer experience could have undermined years of “Grande decaf” loyalty.
Starbucks provides a globally-consistent example of extremely-responsive face-to-face service excellence. However, even this can be undermined by online or call center experiences that contradict the branded customer-centric experience of good-natured coffee delivery.
When you walk into a Starbucks or text ahead, you know exactly what to expect. The attentive all-about-you staff seem happy to see everyone who wanders in. This is such a predictable reaction that I often give Starbucks gift cards as thank-yous: A positive experience in exchange for the positives I received.
Then in one afternoon, I discovered this reliable positive brand could be undermined in this customer’s mind by a disagreeable online experience followed by a more frustrating, dismissive call-center conversation. Years of positive impressions dissolved into experiences of being dismissed and of not being valued. I felt fooled into thinking the frontline experience penetrated right through the corporate body, so that everyone I encountered would perpetuate Starbucks customer excellence.
My attempt at “just takes a few minutes” online registration of my card turned into a frustrating experience that took more than an hour. Since loss of my time ranks as a number one crime against this customer, I was beyond disappointed.
No preamble diminished the sense of intrusion brought on by the depth of personal details required by this impersonal online registration form. Finally, an account was created.
A few minutes later, I decided to log into my new Starbucks account. The login told me firmly I had no account. Wasted time sucked as much as not being valued.
Finding Starbucks humans to talk to seemed to be the solution. Finally dug out a phone number and connected with a Starbucks voice. I explained what had happened. My questions?
- Where did my personal information go?
- What happened to the account I created?
Now, I’m into hour two on this “just takes a few minutes” project.
The Starbucks phone voice told me to be patient. Curt and unsympathetic, the voice said it would take care of everything. More information required. Long wait on hold. I was informed there was no account on record. No answer was given to my queries regarding the information I input or how this could happen. The offered solution: Go back to the Starbucks store and get my money back. No apologies for inconvenience. No alternatives. No warm Starbucks fuzzies there.
An indifferent or bad online experience followed by a worse call-center experience may be enough to overshadow even the best face-to-face experience.
Returning to my local Starbucks #16896 reminded me how pleasant picking up my favorite coffee is.
- When I handed in the gift card and asked for my money back, the cashier was puzzled, but immediately obliging.
- The manager, ever watchful of workplace flow, noticed our exchange. He offered a new card which I declined saying only that the negative experience had turned me off and I’d had enough of that. He offered to make my current order complimentary to ensure today’s experience was a pleasant one.
- Seamlessly, pleasantly, and without debate, he and the staff set about deliberately counteracting my negative Starbucks experience.
Act on Your Brand Definition to Achieve Extreme Service Excellence.
Are your main service delivery methods consistently strong enough to overcome negative experiences with your other service delivery methods?
Question: If I were a customer or client, displeased with any two of your company’s online, call-center, or face-to-face experiences, would the third delivery method be consistently terrific enough to erase the bad feeling generated by the two negative experiences?
Answer: If you say “Yes,” how sure are you? Assumptions are dangerous.
- When was the last time you made a mystery visit, call or email to test out the actual customer experience for each of your delivery methods?
- Are the nice service delivery people in your company counting on nice customers who will forgive them for making mistakes at the customer’s expense?
- If redesigning your service model is practical and essential, where is the best place to start on the evolution to Extreme Service Excellence?
- How will you create a process that innovatively aligns with your style, brand, and the challenges your business considers top priority?
- Experiment with key variables for your industry and related industries since client needs rarely fall in one industry to the exclusion of all others. Overlaps between industries and niches can offer more opportunities since these may be areas ineffectively covered by everyone.
- Whether this is a creative thinking exercise or a practical evaluation, experiment before you finalize your process and begin making widespread changes.
- Don’t rush this process or turn it into a marathon. Work through a few ideas and then let things percolate. Haven’t you found that your subconscious keeps processing, even while you’re working on something else?
Whisper in the Ear: Experiment with service variations. Involve target clients in evaluation and valuation of new services and products rather than assuming you understand everything.
- How will you monitor effectiveness?
- How will you let participating clients know how much you value their insight and suggestions?
P. S. My Starbucks experience has left me less likely to give Starbucks gift cards as gifts to people whom I really want to thank. The possibility that they could have a “two-faced” experience similar to mine, has me hesitating. Still a great fan of the brand and I remain hooked on my Grande Decaf coffee, so I’ll keep showing up for more.