A nice smooth customer journey is every company's goal. A smooth sales process. An easy on-boarding process. An on-time delivery. A frictionless claim. A streamlined payment.
But we all know that isn't always the case. Sometimes our processes let us down. Other times it's our technology. Maybe even our people. And it could simply be that our customers needs change somewhere throughout the journey and we aren't set up to meet those new needs.
Although we try our best to mitigate as many of these possibilities as possible, we'll never be able to control everything. That's why it's equally important to make sure you have plans in place for WHEN (notice the use of the word when, not if), our customer journey gets bumpy.
Read on for some key factors in smoothing out a bumpy experience.
Let's Talk About People & Processes
I'm going to address these two items together, under the assumption that we haven't hired a bunch of devious people that are just out to create a bad experience (as this is seldom the case).
If you've ever created a process from scratch, you'll know that there are two things that go into it: 1) things that you've learned from a previous process that you DON'T want to do, and 2) things that you THINK will work better. While the former is backed in data, the latter is really nothing more than a guess at what we think will make the current process better. We don't know for sure until we put it into practice. When we do get new processes into practice, we may learn that our assumptions were wrong and we need to try something else.
On the people front, we are all human. We have good days. We have bad days. We have lapses in judgment. I always talk to my employees about WHEN they'll make a mistake, instead of IF (similar to the use in the intro here). I believe we ALL make mistakes, and for customer facing employees, sometimes those mistakes will impact the journey.
When either of these two items experience issues, there is one simple way to make the experience feel better:
Show You Care
I think that humans as a whole accept the fact that we are all human. That processes sometimes break, and that people make mistakes. And they are much more likely to forgive you if you authentically apologize and show that you care that you have caused them pain. Small gestures and heartfelt words can make a world of difference when a journey gets bumpy.
When Your Technology Lets You Down
With technology it gets a little more complicated. Users expect technology to help them DO A THING, and if that technology can't accomplish that, it's almost immediately frustrating. How many times have you wanted to throw your computer because it didn't want to move as fast as you?
When it comes to your technology stack, there are a few things that can help:
- Build in redundancies: make sure that servers and other software solutions have redundancies built in. If something goes down in one location, then other locations can carry the load and make it seamless to the end customer experience.
- Have humans ready to support: the end-all for getting a thing done should always fall back on a group of people. People who can support the users to complete the same action, and make it feel just as easy, if not even more enjoyable.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate: in the case of a mass technological failure, it's important to communicate the customer impact, the new process, and any new expectations that should be set with the new process.
In essence, the takeaway for technology issues is:
This phrase always makes me think of Scar from the Lion King, but it's true. The best way to deal with a technological issue is to be prepared: 1) with back-up tech, 2) with back-up people, and 3) with a communication plan that makes everything clear and simple.
What About When Customer Needs Change?
The "nice" thing about this one is that it's totally out of our control. When I say "nice", what I mean is that, we can't possibly prepare for it, so we can only address it once it happens. And the takeaway for this one is equally simple:
Tell the Truth
It's hard, especially for those of us in sales, to tell people that we don't have something that will help them. But I'll tell you a secret. Every single time I've told someone that what I have is not going to meet their needs, they appreciate it. EVERY SINGLE TIME. And when we create an environment of appreciation, it helps grow trust, both as individuals and with the brands we represent.
So, whether it's a normal people, process, technology or needs issue, or you're dealing with a unique set of circumstances (like a global pandemic), remember to BE HUMAN. Do your best to prepare. Tell people the truth based on where you are. And if the first two haven't smoothed out the journey, show them you care. That's the ace in the hole; just don't feel like you have to keep it hidden until the "ideal" time. ANY time is the right time to show empathy for your fellow man :)