The One Customer Experience Resolution For 2012

by Jeannie Walters

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It’s the time of year where we are re-dedicating ourselves to betterment. We want what’s new, fresh and better!

If there is one way to create a better customer experience, it’s this: Advocate.

The term advocate is used a lot when referring to kids in the court system, patients in hospitals, and others who can’t necessarily stand up for themselves. Caretakers are encouraged to advocate for their loved ones – ask questions, probe deeper, be sure you understand the necessary steps to treatment.

But who is advocating for your customers? In 2011, we had some unreal examples of when companies did the opposite of advocating. They became antagonists to the very customers they are supposed to serve. It’s easy to think of these big brands as nameless, faceless corporations. But anyone who has worked within the walls of such an organization understands these companies are made up of people, just like anywhere else. So how does stuff like this happen?

1. Netflix, once a darling of their customers, decided to recreate their business model without warning or consideration of the impact of these changes on their customers. Once loyal customers quickly became detractors – posting and shouting about the poor decisions to anyone who would listen. Netflix quickly had to back off the changes and apologize.

2. Bank of America, not necessarily known as a “warm, fuzzy” company to begin with, solidified their position as the poster-child big, bad company by introducing a fee for customers to use their very own debit cards to access their very own money. Quickly, customers not only took to social media but also to the streets to protest. BOA, like Netflix, had to back off this change and attempt to apologize. It seems a little too late – customers are leaving big banks in droves to avoid the feeling of schmuckery that comes with being a customer.

3. And, most recently, Verizon Wireless felt the sting of bad decisions when they, too, had to back off from a new customer fee they proposed.

What happens inside those walls? I can only imagine the conversations – something along the line of this:

CEO:  “We need more money! Money, money, money….grumble…”

Chief Fee Officer: “How about another fee? We can just RENAME the service we’re already providing, tack on a fee, and then watch the money roll in!”

CEO: “Yes! Call in those marketers. Come up with a snazzy name just in case someone actually reads the statement!”

Then the marketers lock themselves in a room, create a fantastically-inaccurate title like “Customer Choice Selection Investment,” then carry on with their lives.

I don’t think people who work in these companies are really awful or simple-minded AT ALL. I believe they are smart people who are asked to do simple-minded things.

And they are never asked to advocate for the customer. They are never asked to step back, think of what actions like this would REALLY do to the customer relationship, or the consequences of those actions. It is never part of the job description.

If someone in the room would ask those questions, we’d live in a better world.

Shame on them. Shame on the financial types who never “work the numbers” for what scores of canceled subscriptions, bad PR, and completely negative word-of-mouth could do to the company. Shame on the marketers who never stand up and say “this is BS.” Shame on the C-level for assuming customers aren’t paying attention.

Customers, FINALLY, have a voice. And we’re not afraid to use it. It’s time to advocate inside your company’s walls FIRST. Don’t end up on the list of bad moves.

Photo Credits: tray via Creative Commons

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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience. Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, LinkedIn Learning instructor, TEDx speaker, and President-Elect of the National Speakers Association Illinois chapter. Learn more here.

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