Jeff Judy

Jeff's Thoughts - January 10, 2018

What Is the "Customer Experience"?

In a recent issue of Jeff's Thoughts, I wrote about our fondness, in the financial services industry, for complex solutions. Given that many of our products and services, especially credit, are delivered through a complicated process, it is all too easy to pass that complexity on to our customers when we could be more helpful in guiding them through, say, the results of our credit analysis.

I was reacting to a blog post by Lisa Joyce about "Mental Modes" that work against us and undermine the culture. Besides "Complexity Bias," the subject of that recent issue, Joyce wrote about four other biases that can create problems.

These biases are interesting, but I was particularly struck by the recommended solutions Joyce offers. For example, she discusses the mindset that “Money is the best motivator. I measure success by money." And she suggests this antidote: "Instead of competing for the biggest bonus or salary, how about competing for the best consumer experience ...?"

Another bias she tackles is "Self-Interest", and she recommends this: "Encourage empathy by rewarding employees when they go the extra mile for consumers. Ensure that they fully understand the products and services they are selling, and how they will impact consumers."

I agree that focusing on the customer experience can be invaluable in maintaining a healthy culture, one that will contribute to the institution's success. But let's be careful about how we use that phrase, "customer experience."

We tend to take a narrow definition of the experience, thinking mainly in terms of the actual interaction between staff and customer. But no matter how friendly your employees are in their personal interactions with your customers, the "customer experience" is much broader than that.

For example, suppose after a very pleasant conversation across the desk of one of your staff, your customer later remembers a follow up question. They call, and have to fight their way through a long, tedious, "Press 1 for this, Press 2 for that, Press 3 for more options" phone menu. Or they find themselves trapped in an endless exchange of voice mails.

Taken all together, is that a good customer experience?

In addition, the total experience must include the benefits the customer derives from doing business with you. Do they save time by choosing your institution, or do you add to the hassles they have to deal with in their daily lives? Are they better off financially, or at least do they see other benefits from your services that are worth paying for? How do you rate an employee who is very persuasive and personable with customers, but who consistently talks them into taking on more debt than they can handle?

Remember, nobody ever said that the problem with Wells Fargo was that their employees were rude to customers. On the contrary, they were no doubt very charming during the customer interactions. But once the customer left the building, many Wells Fargo employees took actions that were surely part of a very bad overall customer experience.

And let's not forget that those dreadful customer experiences were the product of the reward system deployed by bank leadership!

I agree with Lisa Joyce that a sustained focus on the customer experience can be an invaluable guide to business practices, countering some of the less desirable "mental modes" that can bias our behaviors. But just talking up "customer experience" without taking a broader view and without ensuring accountability and reinforcement for delivering an overall great experience will simply hide problems, instead of preventing them. Your customers deserve better.