This quarter’s Channel Pulse is focused on Customer Experience (CX). What we learned from our initial research is everyone (94% of respondents) is focused on CX. Many companies hope to use a superior customer experience as a strategic differentiator, but while overall CX initiatives have improved, few have achieved the stand-out result they desire.
What appears to be happening is an incoming tide that is raising all boats. With everyone focused on CX, the standard for a great customer experience is getting higher. There also seems to be some confusion about how CX is different from customer service or customer support.
Customer service and customer support are sub-components of CX. Customer experience includes every touch-point the consumer has with your business. Leading companies start with mapping the customer experience from end-to-end and then put Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in place at strategic touchpoints in the customer journey to measure success. For example, you might have a KPI for customer service and another for customer support to monitor the customer’s experience with each.
Another sub-component of customer experience is incentive programs. Incentive programs, like consumer rebates and loyalty programs, often get overlooked when companies look at CX. These programs are conducted under the name of the brand and therefore impact the customer’s perception of the brand. I’d like to share examples of an example of a consumer incentive programs I experienced to help illustrate this point.
The Mobile Carrier Consumer Rebate
I’ve got a large family of six all sharing the same mobile plan. My wife manages our household budget and this plan is a thorn in her side. It was around Christmas time the year before last that I got a few minutes to compare the cost of our current plan with other competitors.
After a great deal of research and comparing carrier offerings, I found a carrier that didn’t require a long-term commitment. The only downside I saw was you had to bring your own phones or purchase new ones. I did the math and they were significantly less expensive, but the upfront cost of new phones made me cringe. The good news was they were offering a significant rebate for each line/phone purchased. At the time, we were eligible for a $250 rebate.
Retail Customer Service
When we went to the local store the people were great. It was Christmas time and the store was busy. They registered our entry right after we walked through the door and you could see where you were in relation to others in the store on a monitor. It took only about five minutes before they got to us; not even enough time to look at the phones on display.
I informed the clerk of the promotion we saw, our desire to transfer numbers, and overviewed our current devices. I was pleasantly surprised to find some of our devices would work with the new carrier. The salesperson helped us pick out new phones, transferred all the numbers, and within 20 minutes we had completed the change-over. The whole experience was much easier than I expected.
An important portion of the customer journey, the retail experience was excellent. Their CX far exceeded my expectations and I was a “delighted” customer.
A “Less-Than-Perfect” Consumer Rebate Experience
I was a happy camper when I got home and sat down at my computer to complete the consumer rebate process. That’s where the “delight” ended.
Obviously, I wasn’t going to leave $250 on the table by not filling out a form and uploading a few images. Finding the instructions on the long receipt was made easier due to the salesperson making a mark with his pen to show where they began. It wouldn’t have been easy if he hadn’t done that.
The URL for the website was confusing and the rebate document process was cumbersome, but what came next left a real memorable impression.
After filling out the form it indicated the rebate would arrive in the mail in three to five weeks. Not only did it take longer to receive the actual rebate, during that time I didn’t receive any updates. When the rebate finally arrived, it was poorly labeled and completely off-brand. If I hadn’t noticed the carrier’s name, I would’ve tossed the envelope in the garbage – thinking it was junk mail.
The day the rebate came, I happened to be making an online purchase for $210. After activating the card, I tried to use it to complete the transaction, but it didn’t work. I called customer support and after being on hold for an excessive amount of time, I connected with someone who told me the card was not activated. They resolved the activation issue and I completed the transaction.
A month later I tried to use the card at a store for the remaining balance and it didn’t work. The online system indicated I had forty dollars remaining, but I was unable to use that remaining balance. After an exhausting amount of back-and-forth with customer service, I was finally able to use the rest of the funds left on the card. However, the entire process left me with a negative impression of the carrier. And, I’m fairly certain I’m not the only one that had a terrible rebate experience.
Customer Experience is Every Touchpoint
The customer experience is the sum of all experiences the customer has with your brand. In this case, customer service in the retail environment was great and so was core device support. They dropped the ball with their incentive program, and this left a lasting impression.
This happens with many companies where they simply don’t think through the entire customer experience. From the website to retail, back to the website, to support and even rebates and returns: everything matters.