The Experience Points Blog: Neen James
by John Seeds
Avtex Chief Experience Officer, Kurt Schroeder sat down with VP of Marketing, John Seeds to discuss key takeaways, and share what stood out about how to create exceptional experiences for customers. In this episode, Kurt and John discuss how to navigate the on-hold experience, putting customers first during the unexpected, and creating reciprocal loyalty.
[John] So we're talking about hold music.
[Kurt] That's one of my favorite things.
[John] I will say I did immediately recognize the Uber conference thing, and I kind of chuckled to myself because I have had that conversation where I’ve said to my wife, "Oh, by the way, I had this hold music song today. You gotta hear this."
[Kurt] Let's face it, there's a whole thriving industry focused around hold music. But I think there is a bigger issue and that is, why have hold? In other words, how do you currently accommodate customers and how do you leverage technologies to transform that hold experience? And I think one of the things that people have to recognize is, especially coming out of COVID, there are some expectations that have been set that aren't going to change.
I did some research, and Mayo Clinic produced a study that I thought was interesting. The purpose of the study was to answer the question, “What are going to be the long-term emotional impacts of COVID?” One of the things they found was 72% of the respondents said they lose their patience faster. The other thing they found is that people are more likely to be disappointed. If you combine those two things and I'm on hold for five seconds, guess what? I've lost my patience and now I'm disappointed in you.
[John] I think it's a fascinating point, and I love that comment that it's not about the hold music, it's about the hold experience. Music is part of the experience, right? And they're trying to keep people calm and preoccupied while they're on hold, which is kind of the classic paradigm there. But we've moved beyond that. And every time I get put on hold I'm like, why do I not get an option for a callback? Because that is not new technology. There are simple, plain tools that are available. And then as you said, you get into predictive experiences, advanced analytics and process automation and that takes it to another level. But it's grounded in, as a consumer, what is it that I want? Well, I want to go on with my day and I want to get my problem solved. And if you're not ready to talk to me now, then alert me in some better way that it's time for us to talk about solving my problem.
[Kurt] At Avtex, our three key tenants in terms of what makes a great experience is the idea that customers want you to know them, help them and value them.
The first being know who I am, know what I've done with you, know how I've interacted with you, and know my value to you. The second one is help me. So, solve my problem and address my concern. And the third one is value me. And part of value me is value my time. My time is important to me. I can't create more time. No one has figured that one out yet. Don't put me on hold. I understand that in this case, they were using the hold music as a representation for the concept, which I thought was just wonderful, that everything matters, including the hold music.
[John] Yeah. And I think that along those lines, one of the interesting things that we do for our customers is we talk about an audit. That’s where this idea of mystery shopping came about, where it's an anonymous person that then presents a report that says, here are the opportunities for improvement along the spectrum that they talked about. Maybe your whole experience isn't broken, but it's death by a thousand paper cuts. I’m interested in your commentary on how we've done that for our clients and what the experience has been like.
[Kurt] We do something that we call safaris. We just put a little twist on that concept of an audit. When you go through a safari you're facing different experiences. What we'll do is go through a safari for our clients. We highlight aspects of that particular experience that matter and that can be improved, or that maybe they're not aware of.
There are two things that are extremely important. One is meeting the functional need, and the other one is meeting emotional needs. Most organizations are really good at meeting the functional need but are really horrible at meeting the emotional need. As they said in the video, it's creating the emotional connection that creates loyalty, right? Meeting my functional need is the expectation. That gets you to zero. Meeting my emotional needs is going to drive loyalty.
[Kurt] My guess is that Mary is not the only person that this has ever happened to.
[John] Well, funny you say that, because it happened to my mom and it was one of the more hilarious calls that I've gotten from her recently, where she said that it was on an automatic timer and she came home and lo and behold…
A lot of times when we're calling organizations, we've already gone through the experience. We felt like we've done enough. We just want it to work and we’re not asking for more than for this thing to work or for the service to be delivered on time. Sometimes I feel like when I call into an organization, I'm trying to steal from the company by the way that they're citing policy, in the way that makes me feel belittled as a customer.
But Roomba made a different decision and they made the decision in favor of keeping the customer, which I applaud them on, right? I think that one of the challenges that we've talked about a lot is - it's a fine line because there are customers that try to take advantage of the system.
[Kurt] There are customers that take advantage of the system. We've done some work with a consumer-packaged goods company that make food products and customers call in and say, "Hey, you know what? Gosh, there was a piece of paper or some foreign object in my product." That's an issue of concern. So those companies, and our client in this case, would always make sure that they not only got reimbursed for the product they bought, but they'd send them coupons for other free products as well.
What we found out was that when we really started looking at the data, you had repeat offenders. People were onto this and would call in once a month looking for free stuff. They finally got to the point where, after people did that eight times, they just would reimburse them for the product, but they wouldn't get all this other kind of goodwill or free stuff along with it. I think it's important for companies to understand the cost-benefit. For example, it's easy to tally up the hard cost of sending Mary a new Roomba.
That's hard money, except what they've done, and what organizations need to trust, is both the science and the research around CX. That, that Goodwill, that word of mouth, that customer loyalty, those things all drive results to the bottom line. So yeah, there is a hard cost that you can measure right away, but what we know from all of the CX research, is there is a huge return on the investment. I think companies need to believe that, to be passionate about it and really grasp onto it.
[John] I think that's a great point because one of the interesting things that this story highlights and I think that as businesses, sometimes we put up a wall between how we think consumers talk about our business and how they talk about their lives. But this highlights very poignantly that when we talk to other people, we talk to our friends and our neighbors and everybody else, we're talking about our lives and our experiences and thus the businesses that are integrated into that.
[Kurt] I think you brought up a good point, which is this idea of organizations need to plan for the unexpected. People live lives, people have pets. They need to be able to accommodate. I think the companies that set very, very narrow guardrails and are very, very rigid are also the companies that are providing an experience that people just don't rave about.
[John] Yeah I agree and I think that we talked about that balance, right? Understanding that there are customers who need help and there are those who take advantage of the system. I think that guardrail conversation kind of highlights that it has to be purposeful about how you're thinking about these things and not just leave it up to the customer-facing workers or leave it up to the customers to go figure out. Create guardrails, create thoughtful ways that people can operate inside that gray, right? People can be humans because it is a human-human interaction at the end of the day.
[Kurt] Loyalty is tough to understand and even tougher to drive, as we saw from the questions they asked and then the answers. Only 74% of people think that they're loyal to a brand. Here's what I think happens. I think companies don't exert themselves as much as they should in really driving true emotional connection and loyalty. The industry has done this to themselves by creating loyalty programs. They're not loyalty programs, they're a reward program. They're not addressing the emotional connection at all, and so I think there's a little bit of a misunderstanding of what true loyalty looks like.
I'm a Delta Inner Galactic Diamond - whatever level that is up top member and a couple of years ago, my wife and I were on a trip and we got a call that my daughter was rushed to the hospital. I called the Delta Premium line and explained my situation. I know it was 2:30 in the morning when I called but they were not accommodating at all. In fact, I ended up having to buy a one-way first-class ticket to get my wife home so she could be with my daughter before emergency surgery.
This idea of reciprocal loyalty is hugely important to me. I mean, I'm a two-million-mile flyer with Delta. I have spent, either directly or indirectly through my business travel, hundreds of thousands of dollars, and just once, they can’t do something for me?
[John] You want them to read the room a little bit, right? This goes back to reciprocal loyalty, how can companies change the perception of what loyalty means? I'm curious if you have any kind of reverse examples where you felt like, oh, wow, they're being loyal to me as a customer, rather than asking me just to continually be loyal to them because I'm dripping rewards to them through my stars program.
[Kurt] There’s a particular clothing brand that I like actually. They don't have a rewards program, but they recognize me on my birthday. They recognize me when I purchase a certain amount, and I get these little cards in the mail that aren’t worth much. Sometimes I can just go get something for free, or sometimes there's a certain dollar amount I need to spend. But it's really interesting because I feel like I'm very engaged with them. I didn't have to do anything, but yet they're rewarding me for being attached to their brand. And I feel a stronger emotional connection to that brand because it seems spontaneous.
[John] Well, that spontaneity creates authenticity, right?
[Kurt] That's a really good point. Authenticity is extremely important.
[John] I think that it does take some outside-the-box thinking to answer the question of, "Oh, as a business, how can I show loyalty to my consumer base?" I think that the first reaction for people is to develop a loyalty program. But that turns into a rewards program, which turns into, again, this kind of commoditized paradigm. That's something that we continue to challenge our clients with, "Okay, well, what connections can you make with your customers? And what effort can you as a business put into that connection?" That's what's going to show loyalty.
[Kurt] That raises a really interesting point. Loyalty isn't an emotion. We know that Net Promoter Score has been the gold standard in measuring loyalty. Through research, they established the ultimate question, which was “What is your willingness to refer?” which is emotionally based. I'm willing to take my own personal brand, attach it to yours, and talk about you to other people. I'm putting my own personal brand at stake. That's an emotional investment.
When we think about emotions, how do we measure the emotions over the course of experience? This is where I think a Net Promoter Score is great at measuring the outcome of the experience. But it's not as great at measuring the emotions during the experience. I think you really do have to measure exactly how is the customer feeling. We can measure emotions. We can ask people to reflect back and measure the emotion of that experience, and then we have some level of predictability on whether they're truly going to be emotionally loyal and connected to us.