7 Customer Experience Mistakes in a Single Interaction



Brian Cantor
11/13/2014

I like to write. I like to complain. I like to buy things. I like to pontificate about the customer experience. I like to set myself up for potential freebies and coupons.

So, yes, I like to review my Amazon.com purchases.

More than a mere forum for venting, the Amazon review section perfectly encapsulates the age of the empowered customer. Instead of asking customers to rely on marketing copy and professional reviews, Amazon provides customers with instant access to tens, hundreds or even thousands of legitimate customer perspectives on each product. Sources of background information, use assistance and transaction recommendation, the reviews directly impact how a customer perceives a product and its accompanying user experience.

Tantamount to positioning a group of talkative customers in every aisle of every retail store in the country, reviews sections—particularly those as popular and thorough as Amazon’s—subject businesses to an enormous source of intimidation. They assure that the combination of clever, exaggerative marketing copy, flatteringly photographed product images and hollow promises of customer-centricity will no longer go unchecked. What a business says will no longer drown out insight into what customers actually experience.

A potential blow to a business’ sales and marketing strategy, the product review section also thrusts the organization’s customer care capability into the limelight. How a business responds to each customer inquiry—on both a microscopic, transactional basis and a more holistic level—will now become the property of the public. Businesses can no longer hide behind private contact center calls and emails; they must demonstrate their customer-centricity with eyes wide and expectations high. They cannot simply say they care; they must show they care.

To pull off the task under the bright lights of public scrutiny, businesses must assure every facet of their omni-channel customer care function is intact. They must establish an adeptness at communicating via a social, online platform. They must develop a propensity for monitoring—or better yet, anticipating—positive and negative customer sentiment as it emerges. They must display a flair for empathy when addressing customer concerns, inquiries and testaments of frustration. They must demonstrate a proficiency for quickly, conveniently and sufficiently resolving customer issues in the language and on the terms of the customer’s choosing. And they must reveal a clear passion for turning Amazon feedback into action at the product design level.

Unfortunately, many buckle under pressure. Even more struggle to demonstrate an unshakable sense of customer-centricity. Amazon reviews, therefore, often serve to showcase businesses’ experiential shortcomings as resonantly as they do production ones. They reveal that businesses neither create and deliver the products of the value they promise nor back them with the requisite service.

One brand’s response to a review I wrote, for instance, depicted a startling, multi-faceted failure to deliver anything remotely resembling competent digital customer care. That experience is detailed below.

The Scenario: I recently purchased a battery pack case for my cell phone. Designed as a replacement for traditional protective cases, the product also contains a built-in battery that can charge the phone on the go. It thus also plays a role similar to an extended battery.

My feedback was simple: the battery element of the product is valuable. It does not provide quite as much backup power as I would have anticipated, but some for something in a convenient, fairly low-cost package, it absolutely provides the extra power—and thus peace of mind—I require when on the go.

The product does not function successfully as a case. It covers up the speaker on the phone and thus muffles the audio that comes out (which makes it very difficult to use one’s phone as an alarm). It is also cut in such a way that inserting a charger, pressing the volume buttons, pressing the lock button and inserting headphones becomes exceedingly difficult.

It is worth noting that I was not necessarily even expecting a response. I did not feel that the manufacturer deliberately misled me about the product—I just felt it would be helpful to share my experience with other buyers. Those considering the product should know that they are getting a solid extended battery but a distantly below par case.

Once the brand decides to respond, however, it assumes the burden of offering a satisfactory response. If the business wants credit for interacting with its fanbase, the quality of those interactions must independently warrant such credit.

The Response:

Greetings,

Thank you for leaving us a product review and letting us know your concerns about our product.

We are so sorry there was an issue with your order. We make sure to do our best job to quality control all of our items and buy the best possible material's when creating them.
Could you please email us at (email@email.com) with your order number and we will do our best job to make this right.
Thank you for choosing (company name) and we hope to hear from you.

(Company name)

The Mistakes:

No Personal Engagement: While online communication is not exceedingly conducive to personalized communication, there are things a business can do to create the perception that an actual human being is attempting to engage with the customer on a human level.

This company made no such effort. Even though my first name is included in the review, the respondent did not include my name in the greeting. And even though a specific agent, conceivably, is the one responding to the matter, the response is signed using only the company name.

Nothing was done to even create the illusion that this is intended as a personalized discussion.

No Regard for My Actual Issue: Clearly a generic form letter, the response offers no direct acknowledgement of my specific issue (or even attempt to categorize my issue as more specific than feedback).

Not only lacking in specificity, the response is also lacking in relevance. I was not suggesting there was a "problem with my order" or an issue with the build material. Levied at the flawed design, my complaint was fundamental to the product. The smoothness of the order process has no impact.

No Clear Roadmap to Resolution: By inviting me to contact the support team, the business did go a step beyond those which simply declare, "Thank you for your feedback. In an effort to continually improve our product, we love hearing from our customers."

Unfortunately, it provided no clear sense of what that resolution would entail. And insofar as it demonstrated no awareness of my actual issue, a phrase like "we will do our best job to make this right" might be as inaccurate as it is nebulous.

No Accountability: By offering to "make this right," the business is acknowledging that something needs to be rectified. It is declaring itself accountable for doing so.

But it is not actually holding itself accountable for that action. Instead of outright offering a resolution—or expressing its desire to privately contact me to discuss the issue—it puts the burden on my shoulders. I am the one who needs to contact the business. I am the one who needs to devote additional effort to solving a problem for which I am not accountable. I am the one who needs to inconvenience himself to address an issue that never should have existed in the first place.

While Amazon might not provide merchants with the transparency needed to proactively contact me, more customer-centric brands would present self-service options or allow customers to set the parameters for follow-up calls. They would not declare that a customer must either go out of his way to receive a resolution or tolerate an imperfect experience.

No Acknowledgement of the Audience: Not restricted to the walls of a private conversation, the digital support interaction exists on a public platform. The brand’s response, therefore, is as much about communicating value to prospective customers as it is solving my specific request.

Absolutely no value is demonstrated in this interaction. By offering no acknowledgement of or blueprint for resolving my specific issue, the business does not render my review at all invalid. The concerns I have maintain their aura of authenticity, and the business therefore gains no ability to recapture customers who were discouraged.

No Accommodation for Channel Preference: While Amazon’s platform does not allow for complete flexibility in selecting interaction channel, it does allow businesses to express their willingness to engage in the channel of the customer’s choosing. It allows them to continue the dialogue within the comment thread. It allows them to direct customers to Amazon’s own Support Chat to issue any requests for refund or order support. It allows them to reveal the host of channels in which the customer can contact the brand (or be contacted).

This business seized none of those opportunities. It simply told me to email and potentially suggested I could call by sharing a phone number in the signature. What about social? What about mobile? What about the actual Amazon platform?

Already aware that I communicate in online communities, the business had no excuse not to present a contact option more consistent with my behavior.

No Sense of Professionalism: Using a form letter to respond to a very specific piece of feedback is disappointing. Using one that contains errant formatting and grammar is downright embarrassing.

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