Monday, June 6, 2016

Customer Service Is Not Something to Drive Around

Many business experts have stated time and again in the mainstream press that the way to stand out from the competition is to offer exceptional customer service. This is not rocket science, and those in the customer experience sector have been singing this song for years. But the reality is, most companies ignore this recommendation, and instead, listen to a crazy song where the lyrics are “Ignore the customer, treat the customer poorly, and don’t give a hoot about repeat customers.” 

Why does this reality exist when it’s so easy to train employees to provide a positive and memorable customer experience?

Last year, I received an email from an automotive company seeking my business. At the time, I was not in the market for a new car, but since I attend the Los Angeles Auto Show on an annual basis and have visited a number of car museums in the United States and Germany, I’m always eager to test-drive new vehicles – especially those with a lot of horsepower! The email promotion advertised “Date Night” with a vehicle of my choosing. Here’s what the email said:

Dear Debbie,
On behalf of the Lincoln Motor Company, I would like to offer you an
opportunity to experience Lincoln through an exclusive, test-drive program,
Lincoln Date Night. Whether you’re looking for a stylish sedan or full-size
luxury SUV, this is the best way to get better acquainted with our exciting
2015 lineup. No strings, no obligation. The details are simple. Start by
choosing a vehicle from our 2015 lineup. On your scheduled Date Night,
drive away and enjoy the vehicle for a full 24 hours. Email or call to set
up your Date Night.

You may be thinking, what a great promotion. Who wouldn’t want to participate? I contacted Lincoln and after several back and forth emails, I learned that no vehicle was available in my area for any weekend. Naturally, I wanted my 24-hours to take place during a weekend, or I wouldn’t get much time to drive the vehicle. Alas, my Date Night with Lincoln never happened, but I hoped I would get another chance.

Fast forward a year. Last month, I received an email from Lincoln that referenced the 2016 lineup. After I responded to the email, I was told that there were no available SUV’s to test-drive and no dealerships within a 50-mile radius of my home that were participating in this campaign. To make matters worse, I could only get a car during the week. So, to recap, I was disappointed that I had not participated last year and then learned that I would have to drive 50 miles away from my home DURING THE WEEK to drive a car that I had no interest in purchasing. Some date night!

Let’s return to the concept of providing a positive customer experience presented at the beginning of this post. I was already a prospective customer with an interest in this event, since I indicated in my email last month that I had been disappointed in not being able to participate last year. So, it would have made sense for the Lincoln rep to have tried to accommodate my preferences – in any way possible!

According to Bruce Jones, Senior Programming Director of Disney Institute in Florida, “The words ‘'I’ll need to speak with my manager’ probably sound familiar to most of us, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with involving one’s manager in helping to make decisions. However, when a service failure occurs, it’s essential to resolve the issue quickly. With tens of thousands of visitors each day to Walt Disney Parks and Resorts around the world, we recognize that issues will occasionally come up. Therefore, it’s essential that employees are equipped with the tools to enable them to quickly resolve as many issues as possible on their own. At Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, customers discover that everyone is the right person when it comes to providing speedy service recovery.” Clearly, no one who interacted with me at Lincoln spoke with a supervisor – to find me an SUV in my local area – not was anyone equipped with the tools to resolve this epic service fail.

According to Annette Franz, a fellow customer experience consultant, Annette Franz (@annettefranz and @cxjourney on Twitter), “Achieving customer delight is paramount to the success of a business. Customer satisfaction is no longer enough – at least for businesses that want to thrive instead of just survive. But creating a delightful customer experience can be difficult, especially if you’re focusing solely on the customer.”

In addition, Annette writes about customer journey maps, a framework that allows you to walk in your customers’ shoes by traveling with them as they interact with your business. Customer journey maps enable you to improve your customer experience by helping to best understand how customers are interacting with you now and what areas to invest in moving forward.

Annette recommends that customer journey maps should be used to:
•    Understand the customer and his/her interactions with your business.
•    Build empathy for the customer and what he’s/she’s going through during all interactions with your business.
•    Provide a clear line of sight for employees to the target: customers.
•    Train and coach employees about the customer experience.
•    Speak a universal language (customer).

When asked about my recent “Date Night” experience and the fact that it didn’t happen for the second year in a row, Annette said, “The experience for prospective customers is as critical, if not more so, than that of customers. Ultimately, if you can’t hit a home run while you’re courting potential customers, then you won’t have any customers to have a relationship with going forward. You need to ensure that you deliver a great experience at all stages of the customer lifecycle.”

So, with all this knowledge about customer experience marketing and customer journey maps, why did Lincoln do such an incredible job with its Date Night PROMOTION but such a lousy job with the EXECUTION of its campaign? Tune in next year to see what happens.

Image Credit: Digitalart via

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