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A Tale of Two Support Experiences

An IndustryVoices post 

Two months ago, I broke my cell phone. It’s a tale as old as time: you’re in the kitchen making dinner, guided by your phone-turned-cookbook, and need to move the phone off the counter to make room. With hands mostly covered in flour, I pinched the phone between pinky and index finger (as you do with such an expensive and powerful machine) and watched in horror as the device slowly slipped from my fingers, tumbling end over end onto the tile floor. A single, jagged crack of shame split the screen.

After the meal had been made and eaten, the dishes once again stowed away in their various drawers, I sat down with my computer to begin the process of remedying the phone situation. By that time, it was late in the evening, so I started by googling the provider’s support page. Throughout the following fifteen-minute-long process, I chatted on my computer, then moved to my tablet so I could snap a photo of the phone damage. I confirmed my identity for the agent with a code sent to my email that I then switched back to an app. At the end of the conversation, I was given the options of waiting for a shipment replacement or heading into a store the next day to complete the repair. I opted for in-person repair; the store an agent found for me was only a short walk from my home.

The following morning, I approached the agents at the store, and with only a confirmation number and a quick scan of the history of my case, they were able to verify the next steps necessary – no extra questions asked. All told, I waited in the shop for just over an hour before I was handed back a smooth screened, fully functional phone.
In well under 24 hours, using three different and distinct digital CX tools, what is often an anxiety inducing support interaction became a surprisingly easy and frustration-free experience. Every step of the way I felt heard, the people helping me were well-informed as well as empowered to do what was necessary to help me. Breaking my phone, a device I need to use constantly, personally and for work, will never be convenient, but the issue was solved expediently and in a way that best suited my schedule and location.

Walking out of the phone shop, I thought back to a far more painful experience I’d had a few weeks prior and thought, Why can’t it always be like this?

You see, earlier in the summer, I received a letter in the mail from my mortgage company. It told me that my home insurance policy was expiring imminently and if it wasn’t renewed, the mortgage company would have to purchase a policy for me. Not only that, the note ominously pointed out that said policy would probably cost a lot more than my current policy, but provided no further details, leaving me in the dark.

Over the course of two weeks and several phone calls, I spent hours on hold trying to handle this problem. Each time I called the mortgage company, I had to wait for an agent, be transferred to a new department, and provide all my personal information and the issue I was calling about before even beginning to move the process forward. There were no digital options, let alone methods for
asynchronous assistance, and support center hours were limited, meaning the hours I was on hold fell during my typical work day. To determine the problem and solve it, I had to:

  • Wait on hold for hours, rearranging my schedule to be available whenever I was taken off hold
  • Navigate the help centers for several departments within the mortgage company while searching for the right department that could help me
  • Repeat my issue each time I was transferred to a new agent
  • Email and call my insurance company for documentation multiple times
  • Fax information to the mortgage company

The potentially costly, stressful, and time-sensitive problem ended up being caused by a simple clerical error: the mortgage company erroneously entered the wrong expiration date for my policy, making it appear to expire two months early. Despite the relief I felt when the issue was resolved, arriving at this resolution was as fractured and frustrating as a process could be. On my final call about the issue, an agent at the mortgage company proclaimed, “We have it all! You are now officially insured in our records for another year!” We cheered and laughed – we completed the proverbial marathon. While the resolution felt momentous, it was more exhausting than victorious.

And I thought, Why does it have to be like this?

Since that experience, any time I get a letter from my mortgage company, I still feel a shiver of dread that I might have to go through that painful ordeal again.

We Do Not Have to Accept the Status Quo

In an increasingly digital world, people are always on the move and often prefer to interact without in person or voice conversations, or they need support choices that are available during the hours they are free – making the traditional support model of Monday-Friday, 9-5 incompatible with modern schedules.

We are evolving past the need to have human interactions to answer questions or resolve concerns, but we are not moving beyond needing these interactions to feel human-led. People today, now more than ever, want to be heard – and we want interactions to result in effective solutions that match our preferences, timelines, and needs.

Fixing my cell phone became a simple, minimal-effort experience because the company put me, the customer, front and center. They had a plethora of options for how I could reach out to them: a store, the phone, online via email and chat, and from every messaging platform I frequent. Most importantly, there was a clear connection between the systems and methods of contact I used: each agent I spoke with was able to reference past interactions so I didn’t have to repeat myself, saving all of our time – and when I did interact with an AI bot rather than a human, that bot also had access to my past transcripts so it was able to refer to that history and skip over already answered questions.

I was able to opt for an in-person repair because of how easy and connected these online interactions had been. The brand instilled confidence that I wouldn’t be walking into a crowded store only to learn that my “reservation time” never actually made it to the employees working in that branch. I could plan around the time needed because I felt sure that I wouldn’t have to repeat my problem, I wouldn’t be given a surprise timeline change or a quoted cost that differed from what the agents online provided. Because the brand put an emphasis on ensuring every agent listened to me first and focused on what I wanted to accomplish, when I needed it done, and my personal preferences for how I would like to solve my problem, I had confidence that the information I was getting was accurate and trusted that I would get the service and attention I expected.

Juxtaposing the phone experience with the mortgage company debacle unsurprisingly highlights just how impactful a positive experience is: the fractured nature of the mortgage company’s support system failed each agent attempting to help me before they even had a chance to get started. The alert department who sent me the original letter was not connected to the first level support team who I called when I dialed the 800-number on the letter. And the documentation team who had to verify my insurance was also not connected to the support team – they didn’t even have a way to transfer me between departments when complications arose in my case. I was frustrated but unsurprised when I found out the mortgage company never received documents from the insurance agency – with so many disparate and disconnected systems, it is far too common for procedures to break and important information to get lost as it snakes its way through a complicated and fractured system. And so not only was my experience frustrating, but the company also lost my trust and I felt obligated to put in even more effort to ensure that I received valid information and confirm my case would progress to the next expected phase during each step of the process.

Flipping the Script for a Better Experience

Bad companies don’t cause bad support levels: the best companies, with the best tools and intentions, often find themselves in the circumstances I detailed above with my mortgage company. How does this happen? Slowly, with decisions that each seem best for the business as they are being made, but that result in a CX strategy that employs dozens of different technologies, platforms, and processes to work.

Recently, our digital strategy team met with a global powerhouse of a brand. They were interested in switching to some of our solutions, and to hear our pitch, flew in leaders from each key department to take part in the meeting. The room had heads of marketing, digital transformation, website, customer success, social media, and apps; of the dozen or so high-level executives in the room, most had never met each other – had never even spoken to each other.

Every single one of these executives is a visionary in their field: they have all built teams that exceed their goals regularly and are direct contributors to why their company is regarded as best-in-class the world over. However, despite the fact that each of them have well-optimized processes with KPIs oriented around the interests of both the business and the customers, overall, their systems of support were failing because the company never took a step back to look at the holistic customer journey to ensure that said journey could be completed seamlessly.

By flipping the script and starting first with desired outcomes for brands and consumers, we can solve the fractured CX ecosystem – which in turn will decrease costs to the brand and increase satisfaction for consumers. By digging into customer data – found in chat transcripts and voice recordings – it’s possible to gain a deeper and more broad understanding of customer needs and actual brand interactions. We unlock the ideal journeys to the best outcomes first and identify gaps in the current landscape before even considering technology and operational processes.

We don’t have to be everywhere, all the time, for everyone. We need to be exactly where our customers need and expect us, when they need support most, to deliver high quality, empathetic service.

Topics: Best Practices, Contact Channels, Customer Journey Mapping