Why are so many customer experiences so bad?

This week I’ve delivered five workshops on service design and customer experience. Our participants have been a mixture of students, employees and business owners.


One of the exercises we do is to get people to think about a good and bad experience. We get them to write the name of the brand on a Post-It Note and then stick it on the wall. Good on the left, bad on the right.


Every time we do this, we notice that people struggle to think of good experiences. Everyone can think of bad experiences – maybe that tells you something about the British psyche – or more likely it’s a sad reflection on the services we deliver.


We then get people to share their experiences – what made them good or bad. When they talk about the good experiences, there’s not a great deal of discussion. The brand has met, or occasionally exceeded their expectations.


However, when they talk about the bad experiences, the mood in the room changes. It’s palpable, you can feel it. People get quite emotional – angry, excited, the pitch of their voice changes and you can hear their frustration starting to boil. I’m pretty sure that heart-rates are going up at the thought of those bad experiences.


You see experiences are about emotion. About how they make you feel.


So why don’t companies get it?


There are a number of reasons. In the early days, the owner is involved in everything. In that situation, assuming they actually care about what they’re doing, then they’ll go out of their way to do a great job and deliver a good service.


But as the business begins to grow, they become more removed from the front-line and further away from the customer. That’s typically when it starts to go wrong.


Often people report good and bad experiences with the same company. It’s those inconsistencies that drive us crazy. It becomes a game of roulette – the service you receive will be down to the mood or attitude of the person you’re dealing with.


How can we make sure this doesn’t happen?


First of all, realise that this isn’t easy. But it is incredibly worthwhile, and done well it will make your business more profitable.


Organisations that get it right follow these five principles:


  1. Listen to your customers. Find out how they currently experience your service. What’s good, what’s not so good? Understand their needs and problems then set about solving them.
  2. Understand the Industry norms. What is the norm for your industry? What assumptions, experiences and expectations do customers have? Where are the typical pain-points or hotspots?
  3. Map the Customer Journey. What is it like to be a customer of your business? Understand how customers flow through the different stages of your service.
  4. Align your organisation and systems with the customer journey. Make sure there aren’t any inconsistencies. No silos, and a smooth transition for customers as they flow through your service.
  5. Involve your people. This should be a collaborative process, where everyone in your organisation has a voice. That means including staff and customers, not just the management. Make sure that everyone understands the core purpose of your organisation – Why you do what you do. If it’s powerful enough, it will engage everyone.


So there you have it.


And the question that we’re asked most often? ‘Why don’t more people do this, it’s not rocket science?’


No, indeed it’s not…..