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Dumb Things That Tick Off Customers

Customers absolutely hate things that are hard, stupid, or low quality.

I spent his past week zig-zagging across the country speaking to groups in healthcare, higher education, and retail. As I traveled I kept my ear to the ground and was actively listening to customers as they interacted with brands and businesses for the telltale sights of friction and frustration.

Customers have become increasingly sensitive to silly policies, questionable quality, and lackluster service.

I hear many leaders complaining that customer expectations continue to rise - but that is the equivalent of shouting at they sky because a blizzard is coming. Eventually you have to suck it up and deal with the problem.

So here is a little snapshot of what I heard throughout my travels in the U.S. and Canada this week. Maybe you can relate to these experiences.

"Were the surprised we were coming?" said an impatient airline passenger.

We had just landed at an airport in the Midwest and we were already running 20 minutes late. As we landed you could feel the telltale tension on board as everyone began anticipating the mad dash to tight connections. When we stopped, there was no little "bing" indicating the seat belt sign had gone out. It remained resolutely illuminated and the pilot came on "Um folks we are just short of the gate. We are waiting on the gate agents to come down and extend the jet bridge." What? 20 minutes late and they still didn't have anyone on hand to meet us? You could hear the jabs and snide comments from many on board as we waited another 10 minutes for the agents to extend the jet way.

So don't keep your customers waiting an unreasonable amount of time and give the impression that you were unprepared to serve them. Customers respect businesses that value their time and also have the organized feel of purposeful execution. This means understanding your customer's needs and then creating experiences and processes that help them win.

"What do you mean there's a wait. I can see empty tables right there," said a prospective diner at a cafe.

It was dinner time in New York City and the restaurant wasn't completely full. That said, the host stand was telling folks there was a 20 minute wait. On a Tuesday night at 6:30 PM most folks were hoping for a quick meal to ensure they weren't out too late on a work night. Even in the city that never sleeps, people have to sleep. It seemed odd to the casual guest that a restaurant would not want to seat people right away. Having spent many years in that field, I understand why this can happen. You don't want to seat the dining room all at the same time and bury the kitchen. It could also have been that a sever had called out sick or was not on shift yet. But the visual of empty tables in the dining room while customers waited was not one the engendered satisfaction.

Remember that your customer's perception is what you are judged upon. Also understand that everyone understands how skewed that perception can often be. However, it is the nature of service and forces businesses to keep the customer point of view in mind. Be sure that your policies make sense and that they don't give the perception that you are trying to make things easier on your business at the expense of customer service.

"It's been waiting for 3 hours for my test. You said it would be 30 minutes," lamented a patient at a healthcare location. This location was very busy and when as I walked through the waiting room it seemed as though everyone was running behind. There was a general feeling of dissatisfaction as the wait times lengthened and tempers began to run a bit higher.

This is a classic example of setting terrible expectations. Often those who are serving customers try to soften the blow by starting off with a low ball estimate of time or cost and then slowly add to it over time. This "creep" seems like it would help ease a customer into the longer wait time, but actually it just ends up aggravating them exponentially more. Best to be upfront about the time or cost in the first place and let them make an informed decision. There is also the benefit of getting the bad news all out of the way at once and then moving into recovery mode. With the slow creep, your customers never know when you will finally hit rock bottom and so they are constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. It is exhausting for them.

So across my travel this week it became clear that there is a need for constant attention to team training and customer experience. Let's talk about custom content for your organization today:

Thanks for keeping your customers at the center of everything you do.


Tony Johnson, CCXP Customer Experience (CX) Leader | Author | Speaker

Check out Tony’s FREE Resources and Training Tools:

Check out Tony’s book: TOGETHER WE SERVE Buy it now on Amazon

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