The High Cost of Having Only Half the Story

A phone rings at the Acme Corp. call center. After pleasantries, a customer provides some account information to a well-trained agent and pays his bill. Acme Corp.’s call center regularly gets calls about making payments. Money spent on the call center is money well-spent, right?

Unfortunately for the decision makers at Acme, they are unaware that the same customer went to the Acme website three days ago, struggled with the site’s payment process, and had to find another time to make their call as a desperate, last resort. To make matters worse, the amount the customer paid by phone didn’t include a late fee assessed because his payment was late. The customer won’t know that until his statement shows up in two weeks.

Without a wider perspective and a longer timeframe, information critical to customer experience optimization is not just easily missed; it’s invisible. This is how well-intentioned companies fall into the trap of becoming excellent at optimizing individual touch points — bill payment, website experience, claim resolutions — without ever satisfying their customers.

Customers see one company, the sum of all their good and bad experiences. That fact explains why digital transformation needs to include an understanding of, and alignment with, how customers want to experience the company. By optimizing individual touch points rather than taking a broader customer view, companies risk inadvertently contributing to problems rather than solutions to the loss of customers, poor surveys, digital leakage, and, ultimately, increasing operating costs.

This level of insight is far more advanced than CSAT responses. When Acme’s customer calls back in two weeks to complain about his late fee, he may ding a perfectly competent agent in a post-call survey and proclaim that he will never recommend the company. A handful of similar survey answers, a few hundred from millions of customers, might be enough to prompt a business to invest in agent training when the issue lies elsewhere (a late fee) and its root cause occurred considerably farther back in time (an improperly scheduled web payment). [Infographic] 

This is not a failure of CSAT. Direct customer feedback provides useful information that can highlight factors that quantitative data alone might not reveal. But big decisions based on surveys from relatively few customers have limitations.

Big decisions based on a very small customer sample famously led Coca-Cola, once upon a time, to change its recipe. The company spent $4 million on surveys only to have to remove $30 million in New Coke products from shelves and production lines after less than 80 days.

Why limit your knowledge like this when it is possible to see everything that transpired? Companies are no longer limited by the high cost of surveying millions of customers.

Today, for example, if a bank had the notion to only accept mobile deposits, they could apply the traditional survey method. Then, based on an overwhelmingly positive response from 1,000 of their 2 million customers, they could stop accepting paper checks.

Which would be a shame when the bank could have explored its data and realized that 5% of its customer base doesn’t own a smartphone, 20% of its customers are elderly people who have never used the bank’s mobile app, and 5% of customers simply avoid the mobile app because of prior failed attempts to complete interactions with it. Those customers will certainly be missed.

This is not an indictment of surveys or a refutation of their utility to business. It is a reminder the business now has additional means to validate responses and feedback. It is possible to expand the field of view to include the non-surveyed population, to look at the entire customer base, and gain the perspective of all of their experiences over time across all channels. The need to change and adjust to customers is, and will be, ongoing. Such decisions are best based on having the whole story about your customers, which is a continuous narrative of experiences that started yesterday, includes today, and continues tomorrow.



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Written by Will Holloway

Will Holloway is a Managing Director within the Business Solutions division of ClickFox. Will joined ClickFox more than six years ago with previous experience in consulting. In his current role at ClickFox, Will leads consultant teams to deliver analytical insight across a variety of enterprise channels and industries including wireless, utility, and banking resulting in reduced operational cost and improved customer experience. Looking to the future of journey science, he is applying his expertise in customer behaviors and journey mapping into non-traditional journey management.

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