Can A Great Customer Experience Be Designed?

The simple and fast answer? NO!

Why not, you might ask? Because of what design really means. The late Steve Jobs said: ‚Design is not about the way it looks but about the way it works!‘ We intuitively know that this is the simple truth but we often do not know what will work for others. Hence we try to force them to do it our way and then tell them that this is what they want.

'Design is not how it looks but how it works.'

Steve Jobs – ‘Design is not how it looks but how it works.’

If we take ‚how it works’ as our credo then it might seem that analyzing, designing, implementing and monitoring customer related processes is the way to go. That is one of the grand fallacies of people who never go out and try to do these things themselves! While BPM has benefits for some simple processes, it turns sensible people into ‘fools with tools’. It all looks so simple in the ivory tower when you leave the human aspects out of it. And to prove that the processes work, measurement regimes are used to measure what is expected not what is real.

While there is nothing wrong with collecting data about aspects of a consumer interaction and satisfaction and using them to judge how things are going, much of the current approach in customer surveys leads to a ‘measure to manage’ fallacy. Decision making must not follow data but actual human needs.

Data is not the business and data is not the customer. Anytime you collect soft data, meaning data that are created through a statistical model and measurement assumption, you need to be aware that you are looking at a past that is distorted by data collection and correlation errors, a present that can’t be generalized across human individuals, and a future that is shaped by unpredictable human action in a complex adaptive environment and not by predictive analytics.

If you focus on numbers all you get is numbers!

Your measuring shapes your actions that become inhumane and disconnected from reality. Innovation is lost in a chase to meet set targets. The Gauss curve shapes your business activity in a drive to mediocrity. Doctors kill patients with drugs to meet the expected values in their ‘blood work’ or to reduce the size of tumors. The whole human and with it quality of life has become irrelevant.

Businesses have replaced the look into the customer’s eye and the questions ‘How are you?’ and ‘What can I do for you?’ with satisfaction surveys that are obviously done by third parties who could not care less. Unfortunately even medical doctors outsource diagnosis and patient interaction. How much time does a doctor actually spend time with the patient? Hardly any these days. They need to look at the patient and not just the charts. An illness is not cured by its diagnosis. Decision making about actions or treatments is not improved by data. It is improved by experience. Experience is a human condition and is not stored in a database. Knowledge is between two ears only.  (Peter Drucker)

Some call the present the ‚Age of the Consumer‘ because of their empowerment through social media and a more direct interaction with the vendor with less intermediaries. The crunch? Empowered consumers will shun your well-designed customer experience. They want to create their own and decide themselves how it works. Therefore the only way to meet the expectation of an empowered consumer is through empowered employees. Does this mean that you put your employees work on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube? Absolutely not. 

Empowerment for the employee means that they have to stand eye-to-eye with the customer. The person dealing with the customer either synchronously or asynchronously must be able to do the right thing and not be constrained by a predefined process that ignores the real context. What must de defined is well-set goals and outcomes for each context. ‚A person dealing with a customer‘ rings alarm bells in the heads of the bean counters, cost-cutters and process-optimizers. Clearly not only customers surveys are outsourced but also call centers. So the question is how technology can be used to make this employee-consumer interaction more efficient without outsourcing and automating it into a deadend. 

Around 20 years ago I said that CRM will never improve relationships and after all this time it is easy to see that I am right. Let me say it with Kurt Vonnegut who too wrote in 1999: 

‘You should know that when a husband and wife fight, it may seem to be about money or sex or power. But what they’re really yelling at each other about is loneliness.’

That can clearly be translated to a business to customer relationship. If a customer complains about your product it is really not about how good or bad the product is or works but purely about you taking him for a fool.

Kurt Vonnegut - 'Computers do not make you more intelligent than slot machines.'

Kurt Vonnegut – ‘Computers make you no more intelligent than slot machines do.’

Kurt Vonnegut also said at that time (1999): ‘ Only well-informed, warm-hearted people can teach others things they’ll always remember and love. Computers and TV don’t do that. A computer teaches a child what a computer can become. An educated human being teaches a child what a child can become.‘

Computers, software and CRM will not improve relationships. Reliance on CRM makes them worse. Am I just ranting or do I have at least something to prove my point? Unfortunatley there is no simple proof. Most political naive interventions are proven with the claim that things would be much worse otherwise. And so it happens with CRM. But let me ask you what will improve the relationship with your mother in law: a spreadsheet with all information about her, sending her a daily email about your relationship improvement activities, or simply inviting her to lunch and really listen?

As a matter of fact, CRM systems are not bothered with solutions for listening to customers. Multi-channel marketing and Big Data collection about them, these are the big tickets … but who wants to listen? When software is purely used to replace people and automate then things will go downhill.

The only thing that a software solution could do to improve relationships is to enhance, improve and support the way people communicate and collaborate. You might say that I am now contradicting myself and Vonnegut. Hey, what do you think a GSM telephone and network is? A lot of computers and software. What about Skype and Facebook! But yes, you are right that person-to-person in real-time is best. This is why Apple opened its grand stores – as shiny temples of customer focus – when everyone else thought that brick and mortar businesses were dead. Steve Jobs sent a clear message to his customers that they are important as people. Loose emotional contact with your customers and your business will go the way of Kodak, Blockbuster and Blackberry.

How we at Papyrus can help you to empower your employees to support emotional interaction with your customers is the subject of my keynote speech at the ISIS OpenHouse and Roadshow conferences. Look forward to see you there:

I am the founder and Chief Technology Officer of Papyrus Software, a medium size software company offering solutions in communications and process management around the globe. I am also the owner and CEO of MJP Racing, a motorsports company focused on Rallycross or RX, a form of circuit racing on mixed surfaces that has been around for 40 years. I hold 8 national and international championship titles in RX. My team participates in the World Championship along Petter Solberg, Sebastian Loeb and Ken Block.

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Posted in CRM, Customer Relationship Management, Process, Social Media
One comment on “Can A Great Customer Experience Be Designed?
  1. Kate Legget just posted this morning on Customer Journeys:

    Forrester data shows that valuing a customer’s time is the most important factor in good customer service. Customers simply want an accurate, relevant, and complete answer to their question upon first contact, so they can get back to what they were doing before the issue arose. Here are the numbers:

    Consumers have little tolerance for long or difficult service interactions. 55% of US online adults are likely to abandon their online purchase if they can’t find a quick answer to their question. In addition, 77% say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good online customer service, up 6 points from 2012.

    Older customers are as intolerant to friction in service interactions as the young. Impatience is not only a characteristic of the young. Older Boomers are not tolerant to long customer service interactions. Meeting these high expectations for the older generation can pay off. US online seniors may be less likely than their younger counterparts to purchase online, but don’t underestimate their online commerce activity: 71% of US online consumers ages 69 and older have made an online retail purchase in the past three months.

    But how do you offer effortless customer service? Here are 4 steps to get you on your journey:

    Guide customers to the paths of lowest effort. Consumers want to use online channels. Yet some communication channels — for example, web self-service and virtual agents — have lower-than-expected satisfaction ratings. This is because companies have not invested in best practices to tame content and deliver simple and intuitive user experiences that facilitate customers in reaching their goal.

    Architect your infrastructure to support cross-channel communication. Forrester data says that 69% of US online consumers would like to be able to move between customer service channels (e.g., from chat to the telephone) and not have to repeat their situation every time. What you need to do, is make sure that communication channels are not implemented in silos, that the context of an inquiry can be passed from one communication channel to another, and that agents have access to a customer’s interaction history across channels.

    Standardize the service experience across communication channels. Every customer interaction, irrespective of media type, needs to be queued, routed, and managed in the same manner. This requires common underlying workflows, business rules, decision support, as well as measures of success.

    Empower agents to support customers fully. Agents must be armed with complete and contextual information about customers, including their past purchases and interaction histories. This information must be presented to the agent at the point of time when it is most useful, so as not to overwhelm the agent with information.


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Max J. Pucher
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by Max J. Pucher. All rights reserved.

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