World Class Customer Experience

27th May 2012

 I was tempted to put 'world class' in quotes, as it wasn't my choice of words. At the Customer Concepts Exchange they recently asked the question:

What does World Class Customer Experience in customer service really mean?

Some participants questioned the term 'world class' itself, others gave their opinions on what it takes to provide experiences that could be considered 'world class'. As you can imagine - as many recipes as the number of people you ask. Not to be left behind, here's my take:

 'World class' doesn't mean much, but for this exercise I'll use it with the meaning 'good for anywhere in the world' (rather than 'world-best' - as we have not defined criteria for 'best'). 

IMHO a 'world-class' customer experience in customer service includes these essential attributes: 

1. Prompt response - when a customer needs help he is not kept waiting. Any 'service level' that justifies in advance excessive waiting time is not world class, period. 

2. Competent diagnosis - rapid and correct understanding of the customer's need for help. Detailed and differentiated understanding by a knowledgeable human 'front end' or a seriously intelligent system - inflexible FAQs or primitive interview scripts are  not  world class. 

3. Empathy - implicit and embedded in procedure. Disclaimers that it's not the company's fault, reminding the customer that she was (possibly) stupid and caused the problem, legal small print, doubts over eligibility for help - are  not  world class. 

4. Resolution - actually providing whatever help was needed. Providing it effectively and fast. Delays, complex 'escalations', redirections, multiple repeat interactions - are  not  world class. 

5. Learning - customer service doesn't 'fix customer problems'. It fixes our own imperfections, in our products, services or processes. A recurring need for the same customer service over the same issue is absolutely  not  world class. Ever. 
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That's it, folks! :) Elementary, Watson! Just do these 5 simple things, do them always, with no excuses for variations of the experience, no misses and no "$#!+ happens" - and you're guaranteed to be World Class. Easy! 
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Note: did I ever mention anything about 'Wow' factor or 'delighting' customers, or exceeding expectations? These are  not  part of the 'world class package' - because you can only afford to try and do those things if you already consistently perform points 1 to 5. Creating a delightful 'Wow' moment will  not  compensate for the cr#p experience of missing any of those essentials, 'delighted' customers will  not  forgive you for the suffering you've put them through. 

Quite the opposite: with widespread mediocre service and outright despicable experiences, customer expectations today are not sky-high. Actually doing your job and providing what you were supposed to provide is already a 'Wow' - more than any expensive programs and the clever advice of gurus who teach you how to create wonderful moments.

There is no moment more wonderful than things just working - and when they always do, this is already World Class!


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