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CX Fail Whodunnit Revealed!

Posted on September 8, 2014 , by Steve Bernstein
CX Fail Whodunnit Revealed!

Last week I wrote about a poor experience I had with a “premium brand” and asked you to vote for whom you thought would deliver such un-empathetic service.  We’ve tallied up your votes and the results are in!
Not only were the voting results of interest, your comments raised important perspectives as the saga continued last week. Let’s look at the breakdown of responses: 
CXfail graph

BMW received the most votes with Apple as a very close second.

 And while comments for both reflected personal experiences, they revealed very different attitudes about the brands:

  • Many voters wrote that because this story was due to a product-recall they automatically assumed it to be a car-service experience.  Most of these people then said they selected BMW because of their (poor) reputation.  BMW voters wrote things like, “Sounds typical of BMWNA’s inventory & information systems” and that it mirrored “personal experience.”
  • People that selected Apple as the vendor seemed to have a different explanation.  Comments from Apple-voters included statements such as, “They just don’t need your business,” or “it’s the arrogance,” and “Their customer service is very scripted.”  Hmmm….there seem to be more emotional sentiment in these messages.
We then looked to see if the votes and comments differed for people voting from a PC versus a Mac.  We actually found that folks voting from a Mac/iPhone/iPad were slightly *more* inclined to select Apple as the provider of this poor experience. (Keep in mind that this was an unscientific sample and that browser user-agents are far from perfect).

So who was the actual vendor providing this experience?


What’s more is a missed learning opportunity for the Apple team: My wife received a survey from Apple about this experience and provided several candid, low scores.  A couple of days later a manager from the Apple store in question called to find out more.  This was positive direction, but she was not properly trained in this process:

  • During this 15-minute phone call the only question the manager asked was to have my wife recount the experience.  My wife spent more time listening to this Apple manager explain how they’ve passed along feedback to “corporate” —  to get more parts in the event such a recall ever happens again.
  • Although the manager did apologize on Apple’s behalf, she never asked any critical questions and generally wasted an opportunity to turn lemons into lemonade.

What could she have done instead?

1.       Find out if Apple can “make it right.”  Apple failed to try to turn this experience into a positive one.  When Lexus has a recall, they return my car in better shape than when I hand it over to them.  In the past I’ve found that they filled up my gas tank (really!) in addition to a thorough wash and vacuum that is the norm for any service.  My Lexus dealer also comps me some of their “member points” which I can then redeem for gift cards.  Lexus recognizes the inconvenience and make up for it. By contrast, Apple knew this phone was over 2 years old.  They also know that the new iPhone 6 is right around the corner.  If they didn’t want to spend any money on their error (never mind my time plus the extra 45 miles on my car that I had to pay for), maybe they could offer a better place in line for a replacement?  Just thinking out loud…but the point is they never looked for ways to make it right.
2.       Second, make this a genuine learning experience by getting to root cause.  The manager assumed that the problem was insufficient parts for unexpectedly high demand.  She passed the buck and didn’t accept any responsibility for my inconvenience in fixing the chronically faulty product.  Stocking extra parts certainly could obviate this problem, but at a very high cost to Apple.  On the other hand, parts shortages are bound to happen and I can generally work with that reality.  But wasting my time (and being rude about it) is guaranteed to cause a problem with any customer. The manager could have used something like the “5-Whys,”  a common technique that, when used properly – keeping the CUSTOMER’S viewpoint in mind, not your own – can yield the right solutions.  Here’s an example for this kind of interaction:



The customer is upset as a result of a battery recall experience.

Why is the customer upset?

Because she had to come back for a second trip to the store to get it fixed.

Why did she have to come back?

Because when she came in for her first appointment we found the part was out of stock.

Why did she come in for her appointment?
[NOTE: Don’t think, “Why was the part out of stock?” as this manager seems to have done.   The customer doesn’t care why the part was out of stock.  Keep in mind the CUSTOMER view, not your “vendor” view.]

Because she wasn’t told that the part was out of stock.

Why wasn’t she notified of the need to change her appointment?

NEXT STEP:  Provide ability to proactively notify customers if dependent resources are not available for an appointment.

Look, I understand parts go out of stock.  But when it happens you need to take queue from Amazon and proactively let me know.  Avoiding problems will make a situation worse especially if there is effort required of your customer to help solve it. Moreover, beyond the investment in time Apple incurred a large opportunity cost:  They didn’t convert the detractor, and they didn’t learn what the problem really was (IMHO) that could be addressed operationally.  In other words, I don’t understand why they took the time to follow-up.

Final Take-aways:
  1. Make sure that managers know how to follow-up.  This doesn’t require a script.  Provide guidelines (like the 5 Whys) to get to the root cause.
  2. High brand equity can seemingly eradicate other “sins.”  I wonder how long a brand-promise can outlive real experiences…?
  3. Things are going to go wrong.  It’s how you handle those issues that will either create promoters or detractors.  Make time to consider what things can go wrong and subsequently establish proactive processes to handle those cases.  Your customers might be unhappy by learning of a problem, but look how upset they’ll get when you don’t have a solution.