Instant gratification – a customer experience strategy to avoid

by Shannon Donnici

Faced with a nice, rich piece of chocolate cake, my focus on healthy eating and good intentions often fly out the window. If I’m tired or hungry, forget it. My willpower is long gone. This classic impasse between the temptation of instant gratification and the achievement of long-term health benefits indisputably has an adverse effect on my waistline. Yes, satisfying in the moment, but detrimental in the long run.

For many businesses, being shortsighted by doing what seems easiest in the moment, rather than considering what makes the most sense for its customers, has a similar detrimental effect on their bottom lines in the long run.

Delivering disappointment

The strategy of instant gratification amongst companies still seems to be the norm rather than the exception. I continue to be amazed at the frequency that poor customer experiences are delivered in the marketplace. Companies are giving in to temptation and taking shortcuts. Like eating too much chocolate cake, inevitably the effects show up as diminishing: customer experience, customer loyalty, customer spending and ultimately bottom line results.

Like the predilection for dessert, or whatever your personal temptation may be, it’s not so easy to stop the behaviours and reverse the effects. Companies are far too quick to take a pass on staying focused and investing in understanding their customers in order to truly deliver meaningful value that will generate customer loyalty, advocacy and correlated profits.

There’s a lot of talk, but not a lot of walk.

Take the other day. I was waiting for a Purolator delivery of (ironically) the Wazuku customer experience brochures when I had to briefly leave my home office. When I got back home the Purolator truck was pulling away from my driveway. The driver made eye contact with me, but kept right on driving.

You can probably guess what I found at my door: a slip informing me that I had missed the driver and would need to go to the Purolator office to pick up my package the next day. This was especially frustrating as I was leaving town early the next morning to make a presentation and had counted on having those brochures with me.

The folks at Purolator’s customer service were no help – no help in deciphering the reference number that was illegibly written on the slip, and no help in tracking the driver down so she could return to the house. They were unapologetic that the driver had driven away after clearly seeing that I was arriving home, stating that the driver couldn’t have given me the package even if she had stopped because, “Only people answering the door from inside a house can accept packages.” Huh?

I was not a happy customer. On the plus side, while I didn’t have the brochures for my presentation, I had something almost as valuable — a great story to share with my audience that beautifully illustrated poor customer experience.

I am quite certain that in that driver’s mind she had done her job. She rang the doorbell, and when no one answered, left a notice. She probably had a host of justifications for why she didn’t stop when she saw me. Maybe she was in a hurry to finish her delivery route. Maybe she was adhering to company policy. Maybe it was easier to keep driving then to stop the truck, get my package and ask me for ID. I’ll never know her exact reason — and I don’t care.

What I do know is that by putting my needs last, Purolator lost at least one customer. Now that I’ve shared my story with you, they’re en route to losing more.

 

The one thing every company should be doing

Whether you’re running a courier company, a retail store, an online business, or even a consulting company like Wazuku, the only reason you are able to open your doors, hire staff, produce a product and be in business is because you have customers.

However, you define them — clients, stakeholders, constituents, purchasers, students, guests (the list goes on) — customers hold the power. They are invaluable revenue generators and advocates for your business. If your customers do not see you as delivering on their needs and delivering value, your business will struggle.

It would seem obvious that as a business, the one consideration that should underline your every move is how it will affect your customers. In fact, your every move needs to be rooted in the perspectives of your customers.  This is what we refer to as customer experience.

It goes way beyond traditional customer service.

 

The customer lens

To develop first-class customer experience, an organization needs to look at every aspect of its business through what is now commonly referred to as the “customer lens.”

It means taking the time to understand who your customers are and what’s important to them. It means putting yourself in your customers’ shoes and considering how you would feel if it was you relinquishing your hard-earned time, money or other resources to do business with your company.

It’s about treating customers like you want to be treated when you’re a customer.

It seems obvious, and yet time and again large and small businesses set aside their customer lens in the interests of practices they perceive to be good for the company.

Why do they do this? It comes down to the same motivations that entice us to choose chocolate cake over losing a few pounds. Even though we know on some level what’s best, short-term benefits win out over the resolve and introspection that are required to earn long-term customer loyalty and the possibility of repeat business.

 

Payoffs are worth the effort

In today’s social media world, companies that do manage to set aside their cake and invest the time and resources to develop customer experience strategies are winning. They are attracting and retaining customers, and those customers are turning into their best salespeople — sharing their positive experiences over the Internet and social media channels.

It’s been proven over and over: good customer experience boosts revenues.

One such company that secured my business with excellent customer experience is Priceline.com. I recently needed to cancel a reservation I had made online and I was putting it off, dreading the expected runaround I would get, as I could not locate the reservation number. But to my delight, when I called through to the service centre to cancel, I was presented with an automated cancellation process that was clearly built using the customer lens. It was simple, logical and streamlined.

I was able to retrieve the reservation number and cancel the hotel booking in less than five minutes. It left me delighted with the ease of the process and the obvious caring and investment that the company has made in understanding and delivering positive experiences to their customers. Bravo Priceline! You avoided the temptation of instant gratification! I won’t hesitate to use Priceline again.  

On the other hand, if I need to send a package, Purolator will be my last stop.

 


Shannon Donnici is Wazuku Advisory Group’s Alberta-based Vice President. She is a passionate expert in the field of customer experience and customer service. As a former Chief Customer Officer of Shaw Communications, Shannon has honed her knowledge and expertise over 25 years of direct work experience successfully creating and executing customer experience strategies and leading customer service operations.