When customer experience in our organizations falls short, as managers, we often blame the service representatives involved, coach them or warn them to do better, and move on.  The problem is that the biggest issues may actually lie within our organization’s systems, policies and procedures, and even the best reps may find their hands are tied. Consider the following scenario:

One afternoon, Sam, a 30ish professional business man, notices that a vendor is offering a ‘Buy One, Get One at Half Price’ offer on phones.  Given that his phone was almost three years old and wasn’t holding a charge like it used to, he was ready for a new one.

“Wow!” He thinks.  “I’ll buy one for me and get one for my spouse, at half off.  What a deal.”

So, Sam decides to order two phones and looks forward to a smooth customer experience, but unfortunately, our story doesn’t end there.  He enters the vendor’s website and after a full hour and 15 minutes online (including time in the chat window with a company rep who is willing and eager to help) he’s told the phones can’t be ordered online and he’ll need to call the 800 number.

Sam then speaks with a friendly sales representative who assists and places the order, completing the purchase at 4:15pm.  He’s now excited as the phones are guaranteed to be available at the local store of his choice within three hours of placing the order.

At 7:00pm (2 hours and 45 minutes after ordering and paying for the devices), Sam contacts the store to ensure that the phone will be ready for pick-up at the promised time.  At this point he learns from the person who answered his call, that the order was never received.

Now Sam is frustrated.  He calls the 1-800 number again and finds out that the order had indeed been emailed to the local store for a 7:15pm fulfillment.  Now Sam calls the local store again, and this time receives an apology and the information that the order had been received, but the store was swamped with customers who had stopped in to buy phones, and as they were closing soon, they would be unable to fulfill the buy-one, get one free order until the morning.  That was their policy, to sell phones out of the store first.  No mention of the three hour from time of purchase guarantee that was provided

Now Sam is not only frustrated, he is angry.  He launches a complaint to the vendor through their chat window.  The chat representative responds, “The store must not have those devices in stock.”

Sam exclaims, “Of course they do! They told me that I could come in and they could SELL me the phones tonight.  It feels like their commission is more important than providing a good customer experience!”

When he arrives at the store the next day, he hears from several other frustrated customers who have experienced this situation as well.

If your organization received a similar customer complaint, where would you look for fault?  In many organizations, the manager would blame their employees or coach employees to provide a better customer experience.  And, at the end of the day, the problem would still exist.  In the majority of situations, while employees are willing to work hard to deliver great experiences for their customers.   Unfortunately, it’s often the breakdown in systems, processes and resources to that get in the way of fulfilling the promised services.  Blaming the representative may be the easy answer, but it does little if anything to fix the problem.

We know that an exceptional customer experience is a significant key to success, and that clearly was not the result for our phone-seeker.   In situations like these, we can learn a lot for the future.  Where might we look for the cause so we can address the issues and fix them?  Is it that the promises we’re making at the top can’t really be delivered? The systems aren’t set up to ensure success?  The right hand and left hand aren’t coordinated.  The compensation structure or commissions aren’t set-up in a way that benefits both online customers as well as those that arrive at the store.   Is it that there aren’t enough people to help fulfill the orders?  Is it that people aren’t trained to do the jobs we need them to do?

I don’t have all of the answers.  I know that this is one story in probably a million where customers are left frustrated and unsatisfied.  And, in some cases there may little to no recourse mainly due to our choice to be dependent on certain vendors for product and services.

So here’s the thing.  If you’re in a position of leadership in an organization, if excellent customer experience is a commitment your organization has made, it’s your duty and responsibility to ensure employees are set-up for success to do the jobs they are hired to do.  Questions you might ask yourself or better yet, ask your employees:

  • Have you received the training you need to be successful? If not, what’s missing for you?
  • Do you have the tools to perform your job effectively? If not, what’s missing for you?
  • Is the system operating as it should? If not, what do you notice and what would you suggest to make it better?
  • How can I help you create a better experience for our customers?

Think about your organization’s systems, processes and people.   Is your organization set-up to deliver an exceptional experience to your customers as promised every single time?

If so, congratulations!  I want to hear from you.

If not, I want to hear from you, too.  What are you willing to do to help employees in your organization create an excellent experience for your customers?