Customer Experience – The good, the bad and the ugly

In today’s fast-paced world there are an overwhelming amount of options for consumers. In the past, if you needed a specific item you would get in your car, drive to a specific store that specialized in the sale of that item, perhaps ask a sales representative about the different choices (if there were any) and either buy or not buy the item. If you were unhappy with the service, you would have the option to ask for a manager to voice your compliment/concern/complaint. If you wanted to take that compliment/concern/complaint further, you would have to look up a corporate phone number by referencing a billing statement or perhaps looking in the yellow-pages.

This is how many Yellow Page books I had to keep just to keep track of the surrounding towns.

Fast forward to 2014. You can pick up your smartphone, browse for items being sold from all over the world, read product reviews, check prices, live-chat with customer service, find corporate emails/phone numbers to directly to send compliments/complaints/concerns, and immediately share your experience with the entire world via numerous social-media outlets.  In this fast paced ever-changing landscape of e-commerce versus brick-and-mortar, what defines a good customer experience?

In my experience, in order for a company to attract and retain customers they need to master the following brand attributes: authenticity, content consistency across all platforms, subject matter expertise, and accessibility.

Amazon continues to set the bar as the leader for a positive customer experience. Most recently Amazon topped USA Today’s 2014 Customer Service Hall of Fame list. As a consumer, I consistently find myself valuing and trusting Amazon’s customer reviews. Amazon encourages their customers to provide product reviews and makes it easy for them to do so.

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I recently polled a group of my friends and asked which companies they had had the worst customer service experience. The top offender was Comcast, which is not surprising as they seem to be on every list outlining poor customer service, from Temkin’s to Ranker’s ratings.

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Social media is changing the customer experience landscape by allowing customers to immediately and publicly hold companies accountable when they are not being authentic, offering consistency, properly sharing expertise on the product/service, and/or being easily accessible. Successful companies know how to effectively manage and leverage compliments/complaints/concerns to turn them into a moment to debut their authenticity and to remain true to their brand.

American Express engaging a complaining customer definitively and in a timely manner.

Companies who are not able to manage social media crisis will need to immediately reevaluate their brand to ensure that they are not opening the door for their competitors to take advantage of this.

Example of poor customer service leading a frustrated customer engaging with a competitor.