Understanding Customer Experience Failure

“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” – Sir Winston Churchill

It is critical to understand customer experience failure since what customers go through with a company, has a bearing on their decision to stay or leave. Despite the fact that most companies claim that customer experiences are among their top priorities, many of them are unable to live up to this assertion most of the time. There is enough research and a large number of statistics to show that when customers are asked to recall their experiences with a company, about 76% recalled only the failures. The worst part is that companies are unable to see where and how many times they give customers less than satisfactory experiences. This gap in understanding versus expectation is a major customer experience failure.

In order to ‘fail-proof’ the experiences a company provides its customers, it is imperative to start by listening and understanding them, and then putting their feedback and data into action. Very often companies believe, mistakenly so, that since they have understood their customers in the past, it would not be hard to understand them in the present and even in the future. This is a grave and almost fatal mistake since expectations and demands of customers cease to remain the same and without a robust plan in place to keep pace, a company is setting itself up for customer experience failure, repeatedly. Depending on its willingness, a company would use even a tiny lapse or failure to understand the reasons, and put in place measures to eliminate the possibility of repeating the failure. This in turn leads to higher levels of service, meaning enhanced customer satisfaction. Such companies also involve customers in the problem resolution process – with ideas and insights from them, a company would be able to bring down the rate of its customer experience failure to a minimum.

While every company must make consistent efforts to enhance customer satisfaction and provide top class experiences, the fact is that customer service is highly subjective for each customer. This means that customer experience failure would be a given – it is inevitable but what a company does to recover from it, is what will define the company and lead customers to either stay or leave. Wherever there is human intervention, errors and failure can be expected – incorrect decisions, system errors, and other such ‘failures’ that could potentially upset customers. It is the onus of a company to record these instances and rectify them immediately, while continuing to analyse them to ensure they do not get repeated. While a company may not have the option of a 100% positive experiences, it does have the option of recovering swiftly from the customer experience failure, and ensuring the prevention in the future.

Customers have a variety of experiences with companies during their ‘journey’ and continually provide feedback in some manner or another. Smart companies pick up these ideas and insights, using them to tweak, improve, or enhance their processes, such that customer experience failure is at a minimum. Such companies also keep pace with customers by continuously learning about them, upgrading their systems, evolving their strategies, providing training for their employees, and other such ‘future ready’ practices, such that they can serve the needs and cater to the demands of customers in the time to come too. Whatever a company does in the present, and the measures it has in place to handle customer experience failure would make or break the relationships it would have established with customers. Improper handling will have drastic effects – there are several examples to prove this.

Customer experience failure can occur at any time, which makes it even more critical for companies to remain constantly aware of the possibilities and ‘times’ during which the failure numbers would be the highest. The shift in mind-set required from companies is to move from solely focusing on winning new customers and providing them with top class experiences, to ensuring that every customer has great experiences, extending beyond the time of actual buying. Each interaction with a company must be treated as the first – the same enthusiasm and VIP treatment must be extended, making customers feel happy, valued, and important. The sad truth however, is that companies often take customers for granted, thereby failing to provide them with the kind of service and experiences that attracted them to the company. This leads to disillusionment and anger, taking customers away from the company, and letting others know about their negative experiences – blocking off some prospective business for the company.

Obviously then, customer experience failure has its repercussions and could be costly for a company, especially if the company made no attempts at recovery. While service lapses are inevitable, they become costly from the aspects of money, time, credibility, and lost customers, if a company does nothing to salvage the situation. No company can afford these costs – irrespective of the size of business and customer base. These costs tend to have a snowballing effect – becoming a lot larger with time, making it impossible for a company to recover from them. While a company can afford some customer experience failure, quick resolution can save them from becoming expensive and insurmountable. The best way for a company to control such failure is to accept responsibility and stay away from the blame game. Acceptance would mean that the company would do everything possible to make amends, ensuring minimum inconvenience to its customers. If a company chooses to look the other way when customer experience failure happens, it would essentially be making a choice to incur huge costs, face repercussions including high customer churn. Are you such a company?

Smart companies ensure that they learn from every customer experience failure. Every such incident is an insight into their business strategies and operations, which they use to improve the kind of service and experiences customers, have with them. Accepting failure and learning from it, is the sign of truly authentic, confident, trustworthy, and open-minded companies. Such companies are agile and flexible – allowing them to bounce back despite some setbacks and imperfections. They refuse to hide behind their accomplishments, but rather admit to their humane side, and show willingness to learn and grow – customers love dealing with such companies, and ensure that they bring their friends and families to engage in business too.

The fact is that the customer-company relationship is no longer one-sided and neither is it stationary. The relationship is now more of a dialogue – complex and through several channels at once. The power has shifted to customers, making it imperative for companies to change their business style rapidly to match this shift. While customer experience failure may be forgiven, customers will not tolerate a laid-back attitude of companies. They must be able to see action taken and changes made to ensure that the inconsistencies leading to the failure are removed permanently. While customers want consistency, they do not want generalized messages and or treatment, and demand personalisation and customisation. Between customers and customer groups, and the plethora of challenges that each of their demands bring, customer experience failure does happen, but how a company recovers from it would speak volumes of their commitment and passion for its customers. A company may not be able to prevent a failure but its hands on attitude and readiness to make things right are what will differentiate it from the crowd, making it a preferred partner for a larger number of customers.

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