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My Journey Through Inconsistency (Part 2)


My last post started the story of a simple cell phone upgrade that has gone horribly wrong.


So we’re on day two and we still have no phone. I did walk through the online process one more time to be sure I was seeing things correctly, and then did some quick math on the lesser of the two financial evils. I decided to go back to the store and see what happens from there.


The same woman is there from my last visit, and remembers me coming in. That was nice. I explain that I would like to upgrade and she asks if we were still considering the iPhone free upgrade. I ask again about the cost, and she mentions the activation fee, but not the other costs. Untrusting, I go ahead with it anyway – I have other things to do.


This process went much more quickly, and she was even able to transfer the phone from my account to my daughter’s right then and there. I asked when the additional $10/mo would start on my line. Confused, she says it won’t because this new phone is going to my daughter’s line, which already has the cost. Huh, that’s new. As I’m reviewing the paperwork, I look to make sure she’s right on this, and so far, it looks good. She tests my current phone to make sure it’s working again since the transfer, and all seems well. Finally, an easy process!


I head for home and we are all set. Or so I think….I noticed that my phone was unusually quiet – no emails or Facebook updates, though I did get a text or two. I didn’t think about it another second, as I was thrilled the process was over.


Until the next day.


As I’m enjoying my morning coffee, I use the time to catch up on my emails on my phone. Wait, I’ve gotten NO emails (work or personal) in the last 12 hours? Impossible. I send myself a test email, and it doesn’t go through. I fiddle with the phone for a few minutes and figure it’s just spacing out for a while.


A few hours later I notice I’m still not functional with my phone, so I go back to the online chat. A very nice young man offers to check it out for me, and says that he sees upgrades in my area and a potential outage. He assures me that the network will be restored no later than the following morning. Since this is the first outage I experienced ever, I was okay with that. I did mention that I had just upgraded a line on my account the night before and had to re-transfer my phone to my account and asked if that could be an issue, and he stuck to the outage story.


Since this has been a journey in inconsistency, I decided to try another employee to see if I get the same response. That evening I call instead of chat and another very nice woman offers to help me. She looks over my account and walks me through a few troubleshooting steps. She explained that, when I had everything changed over the day before, I should have re-registered my phone so it can be picked up on the network. I did as she instructed, and presto – here come a slew of emails! I thank her profusely and realize that I am really, finally done with this experience!


As you can see, not one of their employees was unprofessional, unpleasant, or acted in a manner that would make me feel as though they did not provide good customer service. However, the inconsistent messages I got along the way, coupled with the effort needed for me to make what I thought would be a simple upgrade, made the experience less stellar than I’m sure they would want.


In thinking about this in hindsight, I’ve learned a few things:


1. It’s possible that their staff at various touchpoints (online, phone, in store) may be trained differently or provided with only pieces of information they may need to help customers. Since I got a different version of the story on some level at each point along the way, I wondered if it was a training issue. It could also very well be that each area only has access to certain information or tools, or they don’t know how to go further in the process. For example, why was the gentleman on the chat not able to see that I recently upgraded, and that may be causing my outage issue (or wasn’t given the knowledge to look at that as a red flag), whereas the second person I talked to was able to figure it out right away? Is it because he wasn’t trained properly, or does he not have the same access to my account as the telephone staff?


2. After all that, I didn’t walk away. Why is that? Well, this is a unique situation, because really I’m stuck with them. While my portion of the contract was up at the time, my two daughters still had a lot of time left, so we had no choice without paying the high termination fees. I will say though this made me check out the competition to see if I had any other options in the future when all of the contracts do run out.


3. Customer effort can make the difference between a raving fan and “just a customer.” I’ve always been generally pleased with the company, but this experience has given me pause. Would I recommend them to others? I might but I would caution people to really check the details, and perhaps confirm through two forms of communication with the company. Customers shouldn’t have to do that though.


4. I wonder if this inconsistency affected the employees. As you’ll recall, Jessica gave me a link to place my online order, which I mentioned was the same site I was already on. I now wonder if that was a special landing page that would give her credit for the sale (that never happened). If that’s the case, I really feel badly for her, and I feel bad that the company is hindering the employee’s opportunity to be successful.


5. They may never know about this experience. At no point through the process did I get an invitation to provide feedback. In the past, I have gotten invitations to take a web based survey with this company. I did receive a phone call that I wasn’t able to answer, which did say they were calling about my in store experience. However, I have no way to respond since it was a missed call. It is unclear if it is up to the employee to provide the survey invitation or not, but it does not appear to be an automatic practice.


A feedback survey may not provide enough of a picture to pinpoint these types of issues, as many do not offer comment boxes for more detailed responses. My immediate thought was the utilizing a “Plant a Shopper” mystery shopping program could illustrate potential breakdowns and inconsistencies such as this; having a typical customer evaluate their journey while doing business with any company can be enlightening and extremely beneficial.


All in all, life is back to normal. I did think it was a great example of inconsistency in a customer’s journey and was worth sharing. Have you had a similar experience with a company? Share it with the community – the more examples that we share, the more ideas it can give companies to ensure they are causing the least amount of friction and effort in the buying process, which helps everyone!



My Journey Through Inconsistency (Part 1)


I’m not sure I’m your typical customer anymore. After being in the customer experience industry for the last 12 years, I’ve become quite attuned to customer service and related issues when I’m out and about.


This week I witnessed a cardinal sin when it comes to customer service – inconsistency across channels and employees. This isn’t the first time it’s happened, but is a great example of keeping your  messaging and service levels consistent.


As you read this, keep in mind that the staff I’ve interacted with didn’t do anything wrong per se – they were all friendly and courteous ,and I believe they helped me in the best way they know how to. However, the information shared with me was inconsistent, causing confusion and hesitation on my part, which hindered my purchasing decisions.


Let me explain….


My daughter’s phone broke a few days ago. No matter where you live, you may have heard her screams of anguish when this happened. Being a teenager who is involved in sports and other activities, as well as having two similarly active siblings who need to get places and a father who travels often, leaving her mom (me) to play taxi and scheduling manager, I really need her to have a phone.


I checked her account online and saw that she wasn’t quite due for an upgrade, but I was. My first call was to my cell phone carrier, asking if it was possible to “give away” my upgrade to my daughter. I was told I could and we were off and running.


Since this company is notorious for having better deals online, that was my first stop. I checked our free options, and even the lower cost options, and didn’t find anything worth looking at. I remembered a friend saying that there were deals at Best Buy recently, so we skipped the web and went shopping.


Best Buy was a bust (I must have missed the deals) so on the way home we stopped at the cell phone carrier’s store. As we were browsing, the very pleasant associate shared that we could upgrade to an iPhone for no cost…..well, no cost until you add in the activation fee that can only be waived online, and the upgrade fee. I asked about the upgrade fee since I was told I could transfer my upgrade to my daughter. She said that was correct, but there was still a fee. I needed to think about this and go back online, so we went home. Already I’ve gotten two different versions of the story, and I needed to figure out which was correct.


Now my daughter has visions of an iPhone in her head, so I’m really in trouble. I go back online and search for this magically free iPhone upgrade that I didn’t see before and I actually find it. SUCCESS! I put it in my cart and it starts walking me through the purchase process. Wait – it’s asking me to choose a new plan, and I don’t see the plan I currently have. And it’s saying I’m going to need to pay an extra $10/month for my current phone since I’m upgrading.


Confused, I go to their chat feature. A nice woman named Jessica is eager to assist. I explain what I’m seeing, and she offers to look at my account. She says it’s all good and she can walk me through the process, but it will cost an additional $10/month. I ask why, as the phone is going to my daughter’s line, which already has that additional cost per month. I wasn’t understanding why my phone would get the additional charge when I wasn’t changing anything. She explained that this extra cost is for all phones activated since 2011. Okay, but mine was activated in 2010, so until I upgrade, it should stay the same, right? She says no, that’s not the case, and if “I like my data” the extra cost is well worth it. I ask if the activation fee is waived and the phone in my cart is really free so there are no more surprises, and she confirms that.


At this point I think I’m frustrating her with my questions, because she asks if she can transfer me to a “web specialist.” Karen comes in the chat and reviews my situation. She says she can help me but asks for a minute to review my information. When she returns, she tells me she is going to transfer me to someone who can help me better. LOL I waited a moment and laughed when I saw Jessica come back  – maybe there are two Jessica’s, but it still made me laugh when i realized they might be passing me around like a hot potato.


Jessica then confirms everything and asks if I want to go ahead with the purchase. I say yes and ask her what I need to do now that the phone is in my cart and I’m ready. She says she needs to send me a link to place this order. She sends it and I click, and interestingly enough it’s the same site I’ve been on. She tries walking me through finding the phone and adding it to my cart, but I explain it’s already there. She says I have to empty the cart and start over, so I do. Keep in mind nothing has changed so far, so I’m not sure why we took the extra step. When it came to the plan selection, she said to leave it because my plan will stay the same. I tell her I cannot go forward without choosing a plan. She reiterates that my plan will stay the same and I should be at the purchasing page. I ask her what to do here, since I can’t go forward without choosing a plan and I don’t see my plan as an option. She says to select a plan and move on. Then she says I have the option of having it shipped or picking it up in a store. I was thrilled that I could pick it up in the store and went for that option. She explained how that worked and was eager to leave me at this point, so I put her out of her misery. Not before confirming that this would all work fine, there would be no additional cost for picking up in store, and I could simply activate the phone on my daughter’s number and all would be well.


After all this, I get to the final page and I’m thinking I’m home free. Wait, what is this? My “free” upgrade somehow lost a discount in this last step, because now I’m not only paying the extra $10/mo, but my “free” upgrade is now costing me $100. Tempted to hunt down Jessica and get some answers, I instead do what all retailers hate: I abandon my cart and close the computer.


Mind you this process has taken a day and a half. At this point I’m frustrated and my daughter is lying in the fetal position going through withdrawal. The second part is not a bad thing really, but this is taking entirely too long.


For my next move, check out the next installment of the story, which is coming soon!



CEI is the new NPS


You’re likely very familiar with the NPS score – Net Promoter Score. This tool asks one simple question: “How likely is it that you would recommend us to friends or family?”Using a 0-10 scale rating, with 0 being “not at all likely” and 10 being “extremely likely” businesses use it as a gauge of customer satisfaction – after all, if customers are rating this question as a 10, it’s likely they had a good enough experience to want to recommend to others.


The newest tool that is emerging no longer focuses on the NPS rating. Instead, we’re seeing the focus shift to CEI – Customer Effort Index.


Simply put, customers are asked to rate the effort that was put into their interaction with your company on a similar scale as the NPS rating; however, with CEI, businesses want to see a lower rating, meaning that the effort was minimal.


How can you ensure your customers do not have to go through significant effort to do business with you?


1. Ensure your telephone system is simple, gets customers where they need to go quickly, and don’t ask customers to repeatedly enter information, such as a customer number, every time they are taken to the next step of the interaction.


2. For online purchases, make sure all costs related to the purchase, including shipping and tax, are spelled out early in the process. Waiting until the last step of the process can frustrate customers and lead to abandoned carts. Make sure your website allows for easy navigation so there is not a lot of effort put into finding what customers are looking for.


3. Is your return process simple? Ensuring that customers are not spending a lot of time in line, or filling out multiple forms to make a simple return can go a long way in customer satisfaction.


4. Are your registers well staffed? Long lines at the point of purchase can frustrate any customer – make it easy for them to complete the transaction. Some POS systems seem to have customers confirm information more than once, or answer feedback questions. Some even ask if you’d like to make a donation to a specific charity. This is the final step in their interaction with your business; make it simple and efficient.


There are many other ways to decrease customer effort, and taking the time to look at your operational procedures and reviewing interactions from the customer’s point of view will help you learn what takes the most effort. From there, you can find ways to make it easier on your customer base.