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Sometimes, meeting customer promises isn’t so impressive.

Jim Tincher Jim Tincher 06/07/2017

A few weeks ago, I found myself flying Air Canada for the first time. There were multiple issues – both flights were delayed without notification, three flights were scheduled from the same gate within an hour, leaving nowhere to put all the passengers, and agents didn’t have working scanners so had to manually write down each person’s seat as they boarded. 

Being a CX kind of a guy, I decided to post feedback to the website. I can honestly say I’ve never received this type of response before:

Thank you for contacting us regarding your travels with Air Canada. 

We appreciate your feedback and you can rest assured that an Air Canada representative will get back to you within 25 business days [emphasis mine].  Thank you for your patience as you wait to hear from us.

Please note that this automated message confirms that we have received your correspondence and there is no need to re-submit your information.  We’re on it! 

Best Regards,
Customer Relations
Air Canada

They plan to get back to me within 25 business days? Well, at least they’re setting expectations.

And they were on it! In fact, they responded in only six business days, well before their commitment. I can only imagine the meeting where they’re discussing their metrics. “Well, boss, we’re running 19 days ahead of our SLA.” “Excellent!” the boss replies. “Raises for everybody!”

Okay, so I’m being a bit sarcastic. But, while Air Canada is extreme, there is no shortage of companies who don’t want to over-commit to serving customers.

The Issue with Avoiding Commitment

We worked with a client who felt they led the market in service. In interview after stakeholder interview we heard about their superior service and how their customers just love them. Yet, the secondary data showed they were trailing their competitors. Sure enough, we found the same result – they were significantly below their competitors in multiple categories.

Among many recommendations, we urged a stronger customer promise. Their competitors had very strong customer promises; theirs was lukewarm. For example, one competitor promises: Our mission is to create engaged, lifelong relationships. We put you at the heart of everything we do.

Meanwhile, our client’s promise was along the lines of, “We’ll try not to screw up. If we do, we’ll be nice as we try to fix it.” I don’t want to share the actual promise, but it’s not too different from that.

We met with their CMO and recommended an updated customer promise. His response? “I actually like ours better. We’re not over-promising and under-delivering like they are. We’re meeting our promise.”

I was dumbstruck. How do you create a superior customer experience if you promise to be mediocre? How do you inspire staff if your public voice doesn’t even strive for greatness?

A CX vision is one of the three keys to world-class customer experience, along with a defined leader and governance. While the vision is internal, it should flow to your external customer promise – do you promise to be the most responsive, the most accommodating, the best operationally?

I looked on Air Canada’s site for a customer promise, and came up empty. But their website does say, “Our Customer Relations team endeavours to respond to your feedback and concerns regarding your travel experience.”

To build a world-class customer experience, you need to strive for excellence. Endeavoring to respond to customers is not a customer promise I’d want to make.

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