Don’t “Go the Extra Mile” in the Wrong Direction!

“What does ‘good’ look like?”

That’s a question CX leaders spend a lot of time pondering. For example, I’m often asked questions like, “How fast does our response rate need to be?”

The easy answer? “As quick as you can make it.” That’s the lazy answer, too.

It should come as no surprise that easy, lazy answers – even when they seem logical – might not be the best. But they can also seriously harm your brand.

Because nothing comes without tradeoffs.

For example, one Heart of the Customer client focused on same-day shipping for every service request. You ask for it today, they get it out to you today. That sounds better than “good,” right? It seems downright great

Faster isn’t always better

But this level of service came with a high internal cost. Someone had to assemble the orders and get the products out the door, so Service and Shipping teams dropped everything to take care of it. Which meant that other customer requests were delayed. And of course, the resources dedicated to same-day shipping weren’t available to invest elsewhere in the customer journey.

It wasn’t until that client spent time in the field that they realized that this rapid response really wasn’t necessary. That’s when they started to ask, “Just how fast does our shipping need to be, anyway?”

This answer – “It depends.” – might seem just as easy and lazy as the other. In fact, it’s pretty helpful.

Because as the client started reaching out to customers to learn more (“Depends on what?”), they discovered that not every package, as they say, absolutely, positively had to be there overnight.

While some shipments did need rush treatment, most didn’t need to go out that same day. In fact, after products arrived, they often just sat around until the customer needed them.

So not only was our client wasting time and money on a level of service their customers didn’t require, those same customers now had to allot storage space for the products until they were needed.

That “great” service wasn’t impressing their customers, it was inconveniencing them!

Key takeaway

There’s no easy, lazy way to read your customers’ minds. To truly understand their needs and expectations, you absolutely, positively have to talk to them to find out firsthand what truly matters.

And note that our client didn’t send out a survey to get this information. Expectations and emotions are too nuanced to capture in a survey. It takes face-to-face discussions (or face-to-Zoom, as the case may be) to get to the heart of the matter. It’s also the only way to break through organizational orthodoxies and biases that can leave you blind to actual customer problems, and have you instead wasting time addressing ones that don’t even exist.

There’s no way around it: To truly understand (and improve!) the customer journey, you have to involve customers.

1 reply
  1. Katie Shive
    Katie Shive says:

    Jim, great post! Understanding and exceeding your customers’ expectations are incredibly important for many reasons, as you summarized in your post. Many organizations believe that have to do ‘this’ or ‘that’ to satisfy their customers. However, sometimes doing those very things don’t really satisfy your customers but actually take away from their experience. I love how you highlight the importance of interacting with your customer, face-to-face to understand exactly what they want and need. Although this is a simple gesture and should be common sense, so many organizations are missing this key point! Thanks for sharing.


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