The Customer Journey: Do You Need A New Map?

photo credit: SIEGFRIED LAYDA

Over the last week, I have had some troubles with my laptop. So as many people do, I logged on to customer support, jumped through every single one of their hoops and learned my problem is covered by the warranty. This was great news! The next step – scheduling service. To schedule the service  there’s a new set of  hoops to jump through, but because it is covered under the warranty, I happily complied. Interestingly enough, the online agent could not schedule the date and time because the part has to arrive in “the area”, as he put it, before service could be scheduled. At the end of scheduling the part to be moved to the area, I was told I “needed” to speak to the agent’s boss about his service. Although the process had been cumbersome and lengthy, I was happy to speak to the agent’s boss because he had been delightful and empathetic.

The next day (Friday), I received the much awaited call from scheduling at close to 4pm est. We set the time for Monday morning between 9:30am – 1:30pm, after I asked was there a way for us to narrow this down a little more. The original offer was between 9:30am -5:30pm. Before the call ended the scheduler gave me my ticket number and encouraged me to call if anything changed.

Later that day a friend of mine asked me if I could help her out on Monday morning, she had a doctor’s appointment and was expecting an important delivery and needed someone to be there. In my mind, I thought of course, I’m happy to help my friend, I would just call the scheduling center, update the address (my friend is less than 5 miles from me) and ta daa – both tasks could be completed! Well, as it turns out, it is not that simple. I called right away, just a few minutes after 5pm est and learned scheduling is only open M-F.  So I waited until they opened at 8am this morning. I was on hold for about 4 minutes, when the scheduler came on the line, I politely asked if I could change the service address. She politely said no, she would have to close my ticket and I would have to wait for another one to be opened. She explained she cannot open tickets and since the address is in another zip code (mind you the address is around the corner, same city) the process starts over. She cannot tell me when I can expect service but as soon as the ticket is re-opened someone will call me to schedule service.  At this point, you could have knocked me over with a feather. Coming out of technology, I have a sincere appreciation for process but this is a little crazy. Because I knew my friend needed me and my laptop is still functional I agreed to the change. And in all fairness to the rep, she was just following the process as defined by the company.

Now here it is 11am and since my call to the scheduling center today at precisely 8am, they have called me twice to let me know my ticket has been canceled and that I am waiting for a new ticket to be opened. Didn’t we cover this at 8am this morning?

So what is my point? The good people who work in your organization and are customer facing need to be empowered. During the last call this morning, the rep on the other end of the line said: “I closed your ticket this morning myself, I am not sure why we called you.” She went on to say: “I truly wish I could reschedule you but the company simply will not allow us to do that. Let me check for you to see if the system has re-opened your ticket and if it has then I can  reschedule you now.” After checking we learned the system had not re-opened the ticket. The rep was as helpful as she could be and I truly believe that she genuinely wanted to help me and her hands were tied. I believe many of the people who are customer facing want to create good customer experiences. And they should be empowered to do so.While this process has been a tad bit frustrating, in every case the people I have spoken to have been courteous, empathetic and professional.

Customer experiences are not one and done experiences in many cases…wait make that any case. Companies need to recognize that they are building a journey for their customers. And as the saying goes, it is not the destination it is the journey. Most often the customer’s enthusiasm for a brand is built over a series of interactions. And just like most journeys there are bumps along the way but it is the overall experience that we remember.

Your customer facing people are your brand, the journey guide, and empowering them can go a long way. While I believe processes are important for so many reasons – creating predictable environments, measurement and delivering happiness. It is also important that they are not so rigorous that they compromise the customer experience.

Have you mapped out your customer journey to ensure it works both for the customer and you? Do you need a new map? Are your people empowered to “move the ball forward” ? Or are they bound by the process? Have you had an experience where you felt like the people wanted to help only their processes and rules did not allow them to help? Did it change your view of the brand?

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