Tag Archives: customer expectations

AT&T, iPhone 5, and What We’ve Got Here is a Failure to Communicate

The stats were in a week or so ago…iPhone 5 set a bunch of records for pre-order volume.

As I mentioned here only a few short weeks prior to that my trusted iPhone 3gs went for a swim so I duly made my way to the AT&T store to leverage my upgrade discount and order my iPhone on “opening day”.

Of course, because I hadn’t called at midnight the night before or waited in line on the sidewalk I didn’t get in to order my phone until the afternoon. By that time I was told that orders being taken were expected to ship within two weeks, rather than the anticipated one week, but that I would be able to track my order status online.

The picture above is my actual order status. Notice anything? Somehow, in ten days, according to this, the is no difference in status from the moment when I was standing talking to the AT&T employee in the store to now. My order is processing.

I put this in the “failed customer self service” folder.

Order status checkers like this one are create tools to reduce call volume. The more customers who can see what is going on with their order the fewer will clog the phone lines with questions about shipping dates.

Unless of course you fail to update that status at all.

Not only does this produce more phone activity but it also sends a subtle message that either you’re hiding something or you don’t care all that much about the customer.

So why might a system like this show NO activity over ten days?

  • We’re slammed and the system is overloaded
  • We don’t know from the supplier when the items will be available
  • We now know it will take four weeks so we’re avoiding telling you
  • We didn’t create enough differentiate status levels in the system

In truth the reason doesn’t matter, the communication does. Even if “the system” posted a status that said “we’re backlogged and hope to clear the jam buy the following date” it would be more communication than “processing”. My order has been “processing” since I first said, “Hey, I’m here to order and iPhone 5.”!!

If you’re going to use a customer self service tool like a status checker you need to remember a couple key rules for success:

Rule 1: Keep the information up to date
Now to be fair the information on my status above may BE up to date. My order may not have moved at all. But you would think that it would have processed by now and just be awaiting inventory. But is does not appear to be up to date. By leaving it mostly blank the system has failed at its two primary purposes: reducing call volume and communicating status to the customer.

Rule 2: Communicate, even if it is bad news
It is far better to know that my order will be delayed than it is to keep guessing. By communicating even the bad news you communicate that you care about the customer. Trying to hide the bad news says you care more about your image than you do about your customer.

Rule 3: Think with a customer perspective
Too often these systems glitches become internal finger pointing or design arguments. If you failed to think like a customer during design think like one during the problem period. I wonder if anyone at AT&T is asking how customers feel about a dead order status?

Customer self service tools are great when they’re firing on all cylinders. When they’re not you need to react quickly, communicate effectively, and think like the customer.

What other types of “customer self service” tools have you run across and how effectively were they managed?

Bonus points if you know the movie that is referenced in the title of today’s post.  🙂

 

Poor Customer Experience…at Disneyland?!?

Hello, my name is Curtis and I am a Disneyland fanatic.

Friends call me for advice on how to best experience the parks. They get a two page email back.

I live in Colorado and I have an annual pass.

It’s just that bad.

We were just in southern California for freshman orientation at Azusa Pacific University. After a tearful good bye with our oldest son we headed over to the park for some “amusement”.

I never thought I’d say this but I walked away significantly underwhelmed by our visit.

I can remember not too long ago when you could get in for under $50. The price for visiting one park for one day is now $87. Okay, I get the fact that costs rise so, it hurts but I’ll still play along. Of course if you want to visit BOTH Disneyland AND California Adventure on the same day that will set you back $125.

So you would think you’d see the service level rise to match the price increase wouldn’t you?

Nope.

We experienced no fewer than five ride outages in one day. Mind you that’s only counting the times we were in line for a ride and it went out. Who knows how many there were when we weren’t looking.

Queue management, something Disney is known for, was sorely lacking with lines spilling out into walkways more often than not on a day that was busy but no where close to the worst we’ve seen.

Worse yet cast members in those situations seemed continually put out by the trouble of having to manage the flow of people.

Three different times we were told that a clearly displayed offer of a discount didn’t apply to our situation because of some fine print that was not readily published.

I walked away feeling like Disneyland was telling me that I was fortunate just to be able to be in their presence so I should overlook the inconveniences.

Now, you could argue it was a hot day, large crowd, a couple of less than stellar cast members working queues, etc but those would all be excuses not reasons. There is no “reason” for poor service.

You might argue that I’ll go back so there is no real pressing need to fix any of these issues. You’d probably be right, I probably will go back. But then…I’ve never talked bad about Disneyland before and I am now.

How often do we allow circumstances to move from being excuses to being “reasons” for failed service? How often do we portray to customers that we just can’t care for EVERYBODY? How bad is one negative blog post about poor customer experience?

If hot temperatures, large crowds, and less than stellar cast members are becoming the norm I won’t need an annual pass any longer. I’ll just go one or two days in the off season to get my fix and keep my fond memories of great customer experience at Disneyland in tact.

When was the last time a company failed to meet your expectations as a customer?

Creating Customer Expecta…

 

What did you expect next? …tion? shun? xion? or some other form of finishing the word?

It’s interesting isn’t it how easy it is to create expectations. Whether good, bad or indifferent we’re creating expectations all the time. In our work, in our homes, with our co-workers, with our family expectations abound.

Think about every place you create expectations for your customers. Now think again. Does your tag line create expectations? Does your name? Does the graphical approach to your web site create a certain set of expected deliverables? The answer is yes, whether you realize it or not.

  • The truth is that customer expectations are being set, met or missed, and reset all the time. We’re constantly raising or lowering the bar. This up and down motion isn’t necessarily a bad thing though, if the bar stays put we’re invisible. So how do we take care to accurately set the expectations of people whom we’ve not yet met? By remembering to apply some simple guidelines:

1. Entice but don’t Exaggerate
So often titles and tagline are built purely to entice customers to come take a look behind the curtain and too often the”surprise” behind the curtain is an epic failure.

A friend on Facebook recently had a video posted in their status entitle something akin too: “Failed Surprise Attack”. I click off to video land to watch the supposedly failed sneak attack only to find nothing sneaky OR attacky about it. Multiple multiple people had commented that there was nothing worth watching in the video, it turned out to be a couple body builders flexing in the mirror.

I was so frustrated by the stupidity of it that I now am questioning whether I’ll look at anything that friend has in their status line ever again and I even went so far as to delete the view from my own status in hopes the same judgment would not be cast upon me.

The failed expectation resulted in negative results because the enticement turned out to be a gross exaggeration.

2. Remember the Reset
Don’t forget that every time you meet, exceed, or fail to meet expectations you’re resetting the bar. Meeting expectations raises confidence levels in further ability to meet them, exceeding expectations sets a higher standard, failing to meet them my result in a loss of opportunity to have another shot.

I recently had what I thought was a horrid rental experience with Thrifty Car Rental. My expectation was a fee of about $42.50 through priceline. My bill upon checking out the car showed charges closer to $150. I figured they had switched cars on me, pre-charged for gas, not3. O honored my agreed price and several other nasties but just left because I was in a hurry. I vowed they’d never agin get my business.

When I returned the car the guy at the check-in window explained all the rigamarole to me and showed how my final bill went back down to $42.50, exceeding my lowered expectations and perhaps winning back at least a chance to get back my business.

3. Oopsies  are Opportunities
We’ll all fail to meet expectations from time to time. Rather than seeing this as a failure see it as an opportunity to become something more than invisible.

I posted recently about a customer service experience with Mike’s Camera. Lo and behold who should reach out to me but Mike. Now, to be clear, I wrote that they had failed at meeting my expectations but had done just enough to make it up to not lose me as a customer.

Mike wasn’t satisfied with just enough though. Mike reached out and offered to make it MORE right on my next rental. An offer which I will no doubt take him up on the next time I need to rent a lens. Mike get’s it. He saw the oops as an opportunity.

In every case communication is the key but remembering these guidelines can help you set and manage expectations in a more reasonable and controllable fashion resulting in winning, and keeping, more customers.

What expectations do you think you set with customers or business associates?