Martin Summerhayes (martinsummerhay) wrote,
Martin Summerhayes
martinsummerhay

Customer Service - Don’t put your companies complexity on your customers?

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” ― Confucius


Lets start with the following premise - whatever service industry you are in, be it catering, food, retail, manufacturing, or even IT, we are all faced on a daily basis with negative emotions and feedback.

“your service sucks!...”, “The food was late / cold / inedible…..”, “The room was cold / hot / dirty….”, “The product did not do x…..”, “The x is broken…”. We have all heard, seen and been on the receiving end of these comments. We even create these emotions as consumers ourselves.

What is even worse; what is completely unforgivable; are companies and organisations that put their organisational complexity onto the customer that they are supposed to serve.

Let me give you a couple more examples and see if they gel with you.

Phone Experience
Even if you are not familiar with the acronym, IVR, I can guarantee you have used one. An Interactive voice response (IVR) system allows a computer to interact with humans through the use of voice and tones input via keypad. When you phone your bank to do telephone banking; when you are trying to speak to someone about car / house / holiday insurance; when you are trying to book a holiday, a flight, a hotel room for the night; almost any interaction you have on the phone, you will come across these systems.

And guess what? Are they designed with the customer in mind? After all you are making a phone call to speak to a person, not a computer generated call flow process. So why are they so terrible?

It is because, most of the time, they are designed to constrict and manage call flows into the companies call centre. Like any system, if you segment it, script it, you can make it efficient. You can train the call centre agents on a limited set of responses. You can even get them to read, by rote, the answers out. This drives efficiency and obviously reduces costs. What it also does is completely ignore the customer experience that the customer is having on the phone.

You dial the number and they give you a set of options. Are those options articulated to reflect why the customer is calling in in the first place? Is the list too long? The power of 7 +/- 2 [a footnote at the bottom of this article explains what this is] and the ability for humans to remember in short term memory, long strings of instructions, means that the IVR should be as short as possible; as intuitive as possible and in the end; you shuld be given the option to speak to someone directly. Feedback from consumers indicates that more than 8 in 10 consumers (83%) say they will avoid a company or stop giving it business after a poor (IVR) experience.”

Website experience:
Customers who visit a company's web site may or may not be familiar with the specific product or service that the company offers. Often, you are directed to a web site through a search engine result. The home page should provide a clear overview of the products and services and should be simple and easy to navigate across the various web pages.

It should also have clear page links that will allow the customer to navigate the site, make purchases, look at the products or services, contact the company through e:mail, phone and physical address or even ask live questions. A site that is difficult to navigate will frustrate potential clients, and cause them to give up and search for another provider.

Website design layout and format issues include:

Color combinations of text and background that make the text hard to read
Busy, distracting backgrounds that make the text hard to read
Text that is too small to read, or crowding
Links that are not clear about where they will take you, or even dead links (links that don't work anymore)
Meaningless or useless graphics
Anything that blinks, especially text
Multiple things that blink
Animations that never stop
Junky advertising
etc. etc.


Customers make conclusions about who you are and what you do based on the visual appearance and style of your website. These impressions, once created, are extremely difficult to alter and you can lose customers forever.

In summary, if you provide a service think about how the customer gains access to that service, be it via: phone, e:mail, web site, or face-2-face. Get into the customer's “shoes” and walk through that experience. If you are not sure how the customer will act, get some people that do not know your company to try to use the access methods and feedback their experience. Get your staff to feedback their experiences as well. The results will be insightful and will point you to the areas that you need to improve.

I leave you with the following quote……...

“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” ― Steve Jobs



Footnote: The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some Limits on Our Capacity for Processing Information" is one of the most highly cited papers in psychology. It was published in 1956 by the cognitive psychologist George A. Miller of Princeton University's Department of Psychology in Psychological Review. It is often interpreted to argue that the number of objects an average human can hold in working memory is 7 ± 2. This is frequently referred to as Miller's Law.

Tags: confucius, customer experience design, customer service, steve jobs, work
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