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Eldon Phukuile
 
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What some customers really feel

21 May 2012, 07:12

I saw this diagram in a journal, or a whitepaper a while ago. My sincere apologies to the author as I really can't recall who developed it – but I think it so accurately depicted the experience of customers.

I can almost stop right here.

The reaction time in delivery in so many instances is lamentable, despicable.

There’s something honourable in wanting to be the ‘best’ company in your industry in some way – best product, best service, fastest whatever.  Roger Sant of Maritz Research argued very plainly that there is often a gap between the inter-dependent Brand promise and experience. To a customer, he states, this is unacceptable because he views the company holistically. By way of an example, Roger indicates that a service failure by a no-frills, low-cost airline is more likely to be forgiven, and will matter less than an equivalent experience of a fully-fledged national airline. The lesson here is that a company should be clear and realistic about its capacity to deliver. The company also needs the same level of clarity and realism about is quality to deliver.

The CEO of Zappos, Tony Hsieh is doing it the other way around. He states that they spend no money on marketing – instead they spend this budget to improve the customer experience, doing faster delivery to customers. This means that Zappos is not putting any brand promise out and allowing the customer experience speak for itself. This is definitely a more powerful way of going about it!

OK, OK – that’s not all that Zappos does differently. I know about the mantra “create fun with a little weirdness”, but writing about that is not the objective of this piece today. Research it out for yourself – you’ll be surprised and inspired by what else they’ve done.

Let's get back to the picture above. When your company delivers to your customers, do you have blind spots and/or bottlenecks that hamper speedy and effective delivery to customers?

I’ve seen something incredible at a client company. They readily admit to problems and delays in customer delivery, but they were not willing to invest in infrastructure to fix the basics that would speed up this delivery. Instead, their approach has been to create different departments, each with a very senior manager and support team – to own the different aspects of the delivery chain, but within the constraints of the current infrastructure.

Fortunately for them, times are still good and money is still rolling in. This solution is extremely short-sighted and consequently, the jury is still out on the sustainability thereof. An unintended consequence of this approach has resulted in less autonomy and less empowerment for workers, and more politics overall.

I'd like to branch out on this picture above from a customer perspective and introduce the measurement of the applicability of the solution that is delivered – against the customer request. Here is an example to illustrate the importance of this.

I drive a fairly exclusive brand of motor car. At some point, I started noticing a strange knocking sound when turning the steering wheel in a certain manner. Over the last few months, I’ve constantly booked in the car to have it seen to. I’ve got no understanding of the mechanics of a motor vehicle, so I’m happy that they try whatever they have to fix it. The problem is – it has not worked and I still have the problem, AND frustratingly – each time the car goes in, they stamp the service book and capture it on their systems that the vehicle has had a full service done.

Let's summarise the arguments (AKA fire the warning shots):

1.     From a customer perspective, some companies take unacceptably long to deliver.

2.     Delivery should have a louder voice than the brand promise.

3.     Continually review your basic infrastructure and invest to keep the basics right.

4.     Classify and resolve service failures and customer requests according to the customer’s ideal outcome. Do not into a retro-fit the solution into the parameters of current policy and process as this will inevitably lead to a solution that does not deliver according to the customer expectation.

5.     Be truthful and ethical. Do not ‘stamp the service book’ for services that did actually take place. There may be severe downstream consequences for your brand, as well as for your customers.

6.     Do not let the finance managers dictate what can, or cannot be delivered to your customers.

7.     Be innovative, more innovative, more innovative and more innovative. The best thing for innovation is innovation. Although not all innovations will be successful, the culture of innovation within the company is excellent for creating additional markets, and finding that truly spectacular next innovation.

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