The Best Customer Experience Really Is No Customer Experience – Sometimes
In a recent article by Don Peppers he asserted that the best customer experience was no experience. Claiming that customers just want to get in, get what they want and get out of interactions with brands, Pepper concluded that they are not bothered by an amazing experience. They just want a frictionless experience.
To an extent, this is true
No mess, no problems, no fuss: when everything goes smoothly you can continue your day, pleasantly unaffected by the very smooth transaction which just took place.
In the comments section of this article, however, Customer Service Managers, representatives and people generally enthusiastic about the value of excellent service, rallied in defence of customer experience.
Customer service, said they, is not only necessary for when things go wrong, but it is essential all the time. Kevin Rockwell shared some personal experiences, providing good arguments to counter Peppers’ point:
“When I was a kid I had a savings account at the Des Plaines National Bank … because they served free doughnut holes and coffee on Saturdays (hot chocolate with whipped cream and mallows during the Christmas holidays).
“The tellers knew me by name and made me feel important when I brought in my quarters, nickels, dimes, and pennies for deposit. It made me a loyal customer all during grade school and until I graduated high school…In an era when you can shop for anything you need and never talk to a single person (automated checkout), yeah I’d have to say the customer experience means a lot to me.” [Emphasis added]
Kevin makes an excellent point about excellent service: when it is exceptional, it makes the experience enjoyable, not just frictionless. Though the experience is frictionless nonetheless. Kevin describes a painless, simple and effective service. Though he doesn’t mention whether the bank provided good interest rates or stayed afloat during the recession, this doesn’t matter because that is not the point of the story. The point is that he felt important and this made him feel loyal.
Frictionless is something you should aspire to
Just because a service is frictionless, doesn’t mean it can’t be exceptional. For many customer-facing businesses such as retailers and restaurants, customer experiences that amaze cannot be done away with. For others, such as the bank mentioned by Kevin, the incredible experience was made even better because it was unexpected and unique.
For other services, such call answering providers, the definition of “excellence” is a little different. It’s a quieter sort of excelling. Namely, seamlessness. Frills and flairs on the phone would be unnecessary and even inappropriate for a business call handling service.
This is a case of get in, get out, hang up. The customer does not want to spend long on the phone because it is inconvenient. They also do not want to know that the person answering the call is not a member of their in-house staff because this is irrelevant information and unimportant. What they do want is their problem solved, a call back arranged, the call transferred or their question answered. That is all they want. Simple.
Frictionless is fine
Peppers’ mistake was attempting to define all customer experience at once, under one heading and without consideration of circumstance, industry or customer expectation. Frictionless customer service is always desirable, but a memorable customer experience trumps it every time.