How to turn around a bad customer experience

When we run our Customer Experience Workshops, one of the exercises we get our groups to do is think of a bad experience they’ve had and describe what made it unpleasant.


People have no problem doing this. Sadly, we encounter bad experiences on an almost daily basis. That seems to be the norm these days….


So how do you turn around a bad customer experience?


There are a few service design concepts you need to understand. First and foremost is this – services are like stories, they have a before, beginning, during and after.


Let’s look at each of these in turn.


Before – Where do customers come from? What prior experiences do they have of the type of service you provide? What prejudices, expectations and knowledge do they bring with them? We need to understand the emotional baggage they carry.


Beginning  – How customers begin a relationship with a service is critical to success. It significantly impacts retention and cost to serve customers later in life. Think of the negative impact of a customer starting a new relationship already feeling that things aren’t quite right. What can you do to make sure this doesn’t happen?


During – The day-to-day experiences and special events. Ups & downs in services are the planned and unplanned aspects of customers’ experiences. Planned is what they expect to get; unplanned is what they expect help with when things don’t go according to plan.


Businesses often ‘switch off’ once customers sign-up or purchase. Also, customers change and you need to be able to respond – for instance when they move house. Designing how you support these changes during the experience is an opportunity to help the customer. Incidents can be simple or complex, but if the customer notices them then they are important to them.


After – What do customers do next? It’s surprising how many organisations fail to consider the experience of customers after they have used their services. How do you make sure their exit is a positive one? How do you plan to keep in touch? Remember – the ‘after’ of one service is the ‘beginning’ of another.


Finally, customers reflect on their experiences. Even if they don’t renew their business with you, the information that you can gather about their reasons for leaving can help prevent future losses.


Next, we need to understand that a service is influenced by several factors. These are:


The Customer Lifecycle


The Customer Lifecycle is a framework that helps us to understand how the majority of users experience a service. It enables us to see a whole sector through the eyes of a customer, and helps us identify both expectations and hotspots at an industry level.


The Customer Journey


Whilst the Customer Lifecycle helps us understand things from an industry level, the Customer Journey lets us understand how customers experience your own service. This is much more variable – different customers will experience your service in different ways. We need to understand why.


The Organisation Structure


How your organisation is structured plays a huge part in how customers flow through your services. Many organisations are structured in silos, with little thought given to how customers (or users – these principles can be applied to any service including schools, hospitals, museums, universities etc.) will fell as they move from stage to stage. Instead of looking inwards to structure your organisation, how can you design it to be customer-centric?


The Business Systems


Under-pinning all of that we have the systems and processes, the reporting and measurement systems that are used to run and manage the performance of the company. Rarely are they aligned to the needs of the customer. Sales incentives, for instance, focus on winning business without taking into account what will happen once the customer is on-board.


Pulling it all together


As you’re probably realising now, this is a whole lot more complicated that you first thought.


Now, if yours is a one or two person business, then there’s a lot of this you don’t need to worry about, certainly from a design perspective. You should still be thinking about the before, beginning, during and after stages for your industry and your service though.


As your business grows however, or if you’re already a larger organisation, then to deliver consistent experiences that meet your customers expectations, you need to get to work on this.


Here’s what you need to do:


  1. Work through the Before, Beginning, During and After stages for your industry and record everything you can think of. Interview customers and get their perspectives. Get onto google and do some research – what are people saying?
  2. Map this at the Customer Lifecycle level. Deeply understand how users flow through the service and what their expectations of your industry are.
  3. Map the Customer Journey. Do this for each different customer segment that you have. Involve your customers and team in this process. Don’t sugar-coat things!
  4. Review your Organisation Structure. Is it customer-centric? If not, why not? Can you change it?
  5. Review your Business Systems. Are these helping or hindering the customer experience? Honestly?


When these five areas are visually mapped they help us to see whether our business is aligned around the customer. Use the Before, Beginning, During, After cycle as the headings and then map out each area. Overall this is what we call the Service Blueprint.


Now you can get to work on redesigning your service. Do this with your team and involve your customers. It’s a collaborative, co-design process.


Let me know how you get on doing this in your organisaton.