I really don’t enjoy writing these blog posts on bad customer experiences, because the experience is real for me or someone else. It would be a wonderful world if a customer could walk in and get the service expected or their problem solved. This would be end of story. However, this isn’t the world customers live in.
I was doing a podcast this past Monday with David Houle, a futurist and one question I asked him was, “Is the end of caveat emptor or ‘buyer beware’ at hand.” His response was that companies that live without trust with customers were basically dinosaurs that aren’t surviving today’s environment, never mind tomorrows.
That same day I started working with my current carrier Sprint to get 4 new phones for the family. I stopped into a Sprint-owned retail store to begin the exchange. I read online that you could get a discounted price on new Apple phones. Iwas informed by the Sprint agent that that price was only good for “new” customers. I informed the agent of my displeasure and that moving to a new carrier now was an easier decision.
I went home and thought I would give Sprint one last chance by trying Twitter and Sprint’s @customercare, here is the exchange:
No end to the discussion. As my last question has not been answered as of January 2, 2014. Needless to say, I was disappointed in Sprint’s response. I am not a fly-by-night customer as I have been a customer of Sprint for more than 20 years, but new customers are their focus.
The story does not end here.
I went to Verizon on December 30th to give them my business and was given a plan from one of the agents that fit my needs. It was a bit more expensive, but I was a motivated buyer. Anything to find an organization that appreciates my business. The Verizon agent gave me a quote and I told him I would collect the phones I had and bring them in the following day. The agent informed me the “trade-in” value of the old phones was only good through December 31st.
The next day I stopped in at the store with phones in hand to complete the purchase. I was informed by the Verizon agent that the agent that helped me the day before was not in and because he was paid on commission, he would have to send me to a non-commissioned agent. After a 20-minute wait, I was passed to the non-commissioned agent.
The non-commissioned agent and I worked through 40 minutes of paperwork and checking that the phones I wanted were in stock. We started the exchange and I was met with a fraud stoppage from the credit department. Apparently, by buying 4 phones I tripped some fraud audit. The agent said that my order was to be put on hold until I cleared the fraud audit and that could take up to 72 hours. The non-commissioned agent called me January 1 (yesterday) to give me the number that was needed to clear the audit. The saga continues . . . I will update.
I would like to think that David Houle was right and that companies had designed services that build trust. However, my experience has been that caveat emptor is alive and well. The consumer has to fight for themselves as commissioned sales people and having to do things on your own (as a customer) to progress an order are not user-friendly experiences.
Both Sprint and Verizon profess world-class customer service, but neither delivers on a consistent basis. As most service organizations, they can not see themselves from a customer viewpoint. They can only see the result of what they have designed and there is a lot of waste they are missing. The waste is innate in the design they have chosen and will remain until they take a customer’s viewpoint.
Take a look at your organization as your customers see it – our 4-day workshop has been called “an awakening experience.” Tripp Babbitt is a service design architect and organizational futurist. His company helps service organizations understand future trends, culture and customer. The 95 Method designs organizations to improve the comprehensive customer experience. Read his column at Quality Digest and his articles for CustomermanagementIQ.com. Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbitt or LinkedIn atwww.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.