Sour service 08:55 on Monday

In the last couple of months I’ve had a few really bad customer experiences:

  • Trying to find out about an unknown charge on my credit card (cleared)
  • Trying to get my Nokia N90 updated (updated, but still not working well)
  • Getting a proper insurance payment for my broken laptop (still on the way after two months)

How Good Experience

As I’m not living in a barrel (really) I have of course had more experiences with customer service in the last months, not all of them bad. The point is, those experiences have been good enough and therefore I can’t even recall them. This is illustrated in my User Experience graph: only the experiences far from average are remembered. For the mass of people who are not actively interested in customer experiences, the grey neutral middle of “good enough” is even wider. Hence, getting to the “good” end is very, very hard. And for any competitive company, all the more important.

Was customer service always this bad? Or is the Internet / computers / “new economy” / some other fad to blame?

It’s not that the customer service reps I talked with would have been off-putting or unfriendly, most of them were emphatic with my problems. It’s just that they really could not service me, and realizing that they threw their hands up. The attitude seems to be “if it’s not on the computer, it doesn’t exist or cannot be done”. My mother was told by a travel agency a small city she was traveling to did not exist, only because they could not find it on their computers. How bad, and to be honest, remarkably stupid is that?

I would be most interested to hear anyone’s take on this who works as a customer service representative.

Bonus link: Stop designing products and start focusing on long-term relationships, and consistent experience across channels. [via]

3 Responses to “Sour service”

    Links from my other posts:

  1. /personal » Blog Archive » Impressing the average users

  3. Juansi Says:

    What about the cultural differences?

    Don’t you think that the way of living has big influence on what people label as good or bad customer experience?

    There is indeed a final point in any customer experience and it is always the same one: the customer neccesities are satisfied (or not). But on the way to reach that point there are many different ways to get there, and I think that it is the choice of those ways what decides how satisfying can be the experience.

    This choice is of course mainly decided by the cultural customs.

    Customers have different neccesities depending where they are from and most of the times when being away from their natural environment they will have big possibilities of having bad experiences.

    Should be create an universal customer cultural?

    Could that be possible?…

    … I am afraid not at the moment.

  4. Niko Says:

    I think user experience is completely subjective, and therefore yes, the cultural differences apply. Designing experiences is hard to start with, but even harder taking into account the cases of creating an experience for someone whose culture is foreign to you; eg. servicing a foreign customer. Salla has a few great anecdotes about the difficulty and differences in serving for example Chinese shoe buyers… and it’s definitely not only the language barrier.

    It is an interesting point that there is a (non-) resolution point in every customer transaction and many ways to get there. Sometimes the way to the bad experience is shorter, eg. when the customer rep just gives up without actually trying to solve the problem. But often the way to the good experience would be shorter, and failing that the customer representative or other “experience provider” (a website, maybe) only prolongs and increases the pain of acquiring a bad experience. Resulting in xtra-bad-xperience. ;)