Here are three unrelated stories from my childhood.
I am 6 years old. Every day for a month I get home from school and ask my mom if it came yet: my brand new, black and purple Darkwing Duck fanny pack. I’d sent in the box-top from a package of Frosted Flakes weeks ago. Things used to take forever to come in the mail!
I am 12 years old. It’s Saturday afternoon and Batman Forever is on TV. For some reason, 12-year-old me thinks Robin is more awesome than Batman. I am deeply uncool. I neither notice nor care that they cut out, like, 20 minutes of the movie and replace it with commercials.
I am 17 years old. I make maybe 500 bucks a month working at Rollerplex, and I spend a full 10% (at least) on CDs. One month I burned 50 bucks on The Strokes, The White Stripes, Super Furry Animals, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I was still deeply uncool. (Trust me, at my high school you got zero points for indie cred in 2003.)
What’s the point? Let’s fast forward to the modern age.
I’m 35. Anything I order on Amazon Prime gets here in 48 hours or it’s late. A 30-second ad break on Hulu infuriates me. And the market cost of all the music humanity has ever made is $9.99 a month on Spotify Premium.
The point is that my expectations as a consumer have been fundamentally reset. In e-commerce, we expect things to arrive faster than they used to. On streaming sites, we expect an ad-free experience. And for music, we expect it to cost less than it used to.
I’m talking about disruptions in three specific industries, but there’s a type of “expectations-reset” that’s happened across all industries at once, and I call it the “customer experience trap.”
What is the customer experience trap
When it comes to customer experience, you’re not just competing against your direct competitors. You’re competing against the best experience your customer has had with any company ever.
That’s the customer experience trap.
Here are three very much related stories — well, you’ll guess pretty quickly how they’re related.
I was trying to track down a receipt I lost from a restaurant for an expense report. It was a team happy hour, so it was pretty hefty. One DM on Instagram and one hour later, the manager had personally tracked down the receipt and emailed it to me.
My thermostat wasn’t connecting to my WiFi anymore. One tap on one button in an app and I was in direct contact with a human being who walked me through diagnosing the issue. The next day I got a new thermostat in the mail.
I was on the phone with my ISP, and you know what, I don’t even need to get into it. You already know how the customer experience was!
Next time I need to get a missing receipt or get support on a gadget, if it’s not as good as the first two experiences, it might as well be the third.
It may not be fair and it may not be apples to apples, but it’s just how the consumer mind works.
Why do companies fall into this trap?
When you’re competing against your direct competitors, the ones in your Magic Quadrant, or the logos you have battlecards for, you’re on a level playing field. Either you’re competitive or you aren’t. But when you’ve got to match the responsiveness of a small restaurant in Phoenix, AZ, or the support experience of Google, you’re at an unfair disadvantage.
If you’re a company of any scale, you get way more inquiries than a mom and pop restaurant. You don’t have the staff or time to respond to every DM over receipts. If you’re a mid-size company, you don’t have the resources to send every technical issue to one-to-one phone support.
As you scale, the complexity of your interactions grows. You need more internal teams to respond to those more complex interactions. Those teams often struggle to work together, to speak with one voice, and to stay accountable for any given customer — actually, for any given touch point with any given customer.
We sponsored a report from Harvard Business Review called Improving the Customer Service Experience. In it, we found that:
93% said that ensuring customer inquiries are addressed properly is highly or extremely important to the success of their organization.
63% said that data not being accessible to the right employee at the right time is a moderate or big challenge for teams when resolving a customer inquiry.
Only 38% say their organization is extremely or very good at communicating internally with other employees or teams when responding to customer inquiries.
What does it mean? It means that:
Elite customer service is existential to companies.
Most companies have too many customers or not enough staff to deliver elite customer service.
The problem is complexity.
Many companies we talk to say they are trying to respond faster or better than their competitors to win business. They say that their customers are demanding, that complexity means you have to sacrifice CX. There’s just no way to deliver personal experience in complex interactions with thousands of customers.
How to escape the trap
The first thing to understand is that the trap has two “jaws” that push on each other: speed and personalization. As you push on one, the other pushes harder.
For example, a lot of teams solve for speed by using automatic responses or chat bots. They’re lightning fast, but if you’ve ever been on the other side of them in the midst of a complex problem, you know they’re the worst.
On the other hand, personal responses take time to put together. It takes multiple people in different teams sometimes. And often the information is living in different systems.
You respond faster, you get less personal. You get more personal, you respond slower.
The only way out of the trap is technology. Specifically, there are four ways that software can give you the best of both worlds:
1. Better collaboration
When the solutions to complex problems live in multiple brains or multiple teams, you need to make it easier for those brains to communicate.
2. Data visibility
Taking the time to hunt down the information you need to solve complex problems is a speed killer. You need to surface the right information at the right time.
3. Task ownership
When teams are solving problems together, the issue is often too many people taking charge or no one taking charge. You need to have a clear, fast, and easy system for assigning responsibility at each phase.
Manual, repetitive tasks take up way too much time for most companies. You don’t have to automate everything, a la chat bot. Just the things that are duplicating people’s time and effort. There’s a huge green field of automation potential for most teams.
The beauty of getting out of this trap is that you don’t need separate SaaS to do each of these things. In fact, adding more and more software can make the problem worse. In HBR’s study, they found that 56% said having too many different systems or tools was a moderate or big challenge for them.
Front isn’t doing you any favors (but it could…)
Front was purpose-built to solve the customer experience trap. We designed it from the ground up to help teams collaborate better so they can give faster, more personal responses — all from one single, intuitive hub.
It delivers collaboration, data visibility, task ownership and transparency, and a bevy of simple to set up automations. You can see what it’s like to use it here.
In fact, it’s so effective, it’s actually making the customer experience trap worse for companies that aren’t using it. Remember how the trap is all because you have to compete against the best experience a person has ever had? A lot of those “best experiences” are happening because of Front.
Take Countsy for example:
Their customers are having better experiences, and it’s setting the bar higher for other companies both inside and outside the professional services sector.
If you’re caught in the trap, it’s only going to get worse in the future. But we can help you escape it! Get started with Front today to escape!
Written by Matthew Klassen
Originally Published: 18 January 2022