Customer experience (CX) is more critical than clever ads and interesting content for getting new sales, securing repeat sales, referrals and loyalty. And it’s been this way for more than a couple of years. So how is it, then, that we continue to get really bad service from some of the really big brands that have the resources to really know and do better?
Bad customer experiences, including difficulties customers have getting information about your products, not only kill sales, but can wipe out all of your efforts and spend on marketing, and actually backfire. Take this next statement seriously if you want to keep your job.
If your marketing promises a happy, customer-first friendly experience through words, offers and images, but your sales and customer service are not lined up to deliver accordingly, change your marketing or don’t market at all!
Missed expectations don’t just miss the mark, they miss the ability to generate trust, loyalty and referrals from customers. Oftentimes, they create such bad impressions people go to the competition and tell everyone how bad your business was!
Case in Point: Here’s a rundown of the experience I had just this week with Lowe’s while shopping for new kitchen countertops.
- Visit website and find no information on pricing for options listed.
- Go to the store and look at samples.
- Salesperson tells me she can’t help me, but the guy tied up on the phone can.
- Wait and he never acknowledges us, so we leave.
- Go to website and look for granite and quartz styles.
- Again no prices, no measurement guide or cost estimator to guide selection.
- Call the store again.
- Told I have to call the store closest to my house, as prices change at each location. (What? Does this mean they mark up prices when they think they can get away with it?)
- Call the local store.
- Am told sales rep is out to lunch and will call back.
- Never does.
- Connect with online chat that tells me they don’t have prices.
- Call the store again.
- Get sales rep, who tells me she’s busy, but will call me back.
- Never does.
- Get an automated email from sales rep per the online chat I did.
- Sales rep has no idea I am the one she told she’d call back, but never did.
- Email sales rep asking for prices.
- She sends me category prices, which are of no help as they are not listed on website.
- I email back as to what styles are in the lower category.
- She emails me names of styles that are not on their website.
- I delete the email and get an estimate for various options from Home Depot in less than 10 minutes, using its online estimator based on actual prices listed on website.
That Lowe’s experience involved 21 touchpoints or actions on my part that went nowhere.
A friend of mine bought a microwave from Lowe’s and paid for installation, which was promised in 48 hours. Instead, he got a series of unreturned calls, and excuses from employees, which included, “It’s been a long day so I can’t help you; I’m going home early,” over eight days. He returned the microwave and shopped local, where he got the same microwave for less money and got it installed in 24 hours.
Its advertising promise is, “Never Stop Improving.” But perhaps Lowe’s needs to change it to “Never Will Be Improving” as this kind of service, and difficulty in getting information about products you are trying to buy, is unconscionable and has been for years in this decade of customer experience strategy and technology.
On the other hand, Home Depot’s promise, “More Saving. More Doing.” was right in line with my experience. It DOES provide information about products online and on the phone. It DOES provide guides to help you determine what you need and what your costs will be, and it DOES help you save by offering discounts frequently. Even though it, too, didn’t return phone calls. I totally don’t get that for any business.
The purpose of sharing this story is not to call out Lowe’s, even though it deserves it, but to make a critical point. Your ad copy, marketing promises, content offers and more, MUST align with the experience you offer at all touchpoints of a customer journey. You can’t just come up with a great slogan that promises unexpected, delightful service and products. You have to deliver!
When people see slogans like “never stop improving,” they call or chat or go to the store with an unconscious expectation that their experiences will be an “improvement” over what others offer. When this does not happen, the levels of disappointment and respect fall deeper than if they had not seen your promise in the first place.
Unfulfilled expectations from slogans are much like “fake news,” as they become fake marketing promises that can kill a brand as quickly as fake news can a politician.
Take inventory of your customer service protocols and see just how well they align with your promises. Here are some tips:
- Mystery shop your own brand.
- Pay a friend to mystery shop and give the friend some tough questions or situations to pose to your staff.
- Find out what your NPS score is. Do your own NPS survey and, if you’re a big brand, go see what SatMatrix and others list it as. Is your experience worthy of referring others or not?
- Survey customers immediately upon purchase and ask them to evaluate their experience in their words.
- Ask customers to rate their experience by the words you currently use. If you promise, “friendly,” “extraordinary” and “best in class,” how much do they agree with you?
- Make employees feel like they matter to you and they will make customers feel like they matter to them. A simple, yet critical and often overlooked concept that costs almost nothing.
Actionable Takeaway: Define how you want customers to feel after every touchpoint with your brand. Create an experience protocol for all to follow that supports that outcome. Train your employees on how to deliver on your marketing promises, and make sure they are promises you can keep! Every day, every customer.