Light years

Why customer service experiences are light years from where they should be - and how to get there


Despite all of the amazing advances in customer experience technology, all of these platforms are simply adding technical debt to a set of tired outdated CX models, and often making customer journeys even more frustrating. So what's going wrong and how can it be fixed?

21st Feb 2022

Our Customer Service Experiences (and hence CX) are so far away from where they should be - it's unreal.

Controversial statement right ? No, I'll tell you why I'm convinced of this. The entire Customer Service Experience model is wrong, everywhere.

Despite all the amazing advances in CX Tech, in terms of data, AI, NLP, chatbots, speech recognition, speech & text analytics, sentiment analysis, next best action, etc, all of these platforms are simply adding technical CX debt to a set of tired outdated CX (customer experience) & CSX (customer service experience) models, and often making CSX journeys even more frustrating for customers.

These platforms are all amazing for sure, but I've not seen a single example of how I think they should be deployed in an end-to-end CX framework. This article will explain why.

What should great customer experiences look like?

Let me provide a very common example of what 'good' CX looks like now, and what 'great' CX should look like.

Situation: I received an item of clothing, doesn't fit / don't like it = I want to return it...

I'm also interested in an alternative size & colour shirt, which I've already added to my basket.

GOOD CSX typical journey right now

  1. Go to App / Website and sign-in
  2. Go to My Orders / My Returns page
  3. Click on Item to Return
  4. Give Reason why
  5. Select if you want a Refund to Original Payment method / Credit / Exchange
  6. Press enter to confirm the return.
  7. Confirm collection pick-up address
  8. Confirm collection pick-up date from a list of options (if you're lucky to be offered them)

    (The Good CSX journeys also don't then force you to print out return labels, and affix them to the package - but there are many that are still 'not Good'.)

    Then when it comes to the replacement item I want to order.... The most common 'Good' practice is to either:

  9. complete a brand new order, and wait for the original to be refunded... or
  10. wait for the original order to be returned and use the credit for the new order, by which time it may well have gone out of stock...


Common customer service experience

We then typically wait a couple of days for the collection, all going well.

It is still very rare that the collection and delivery of the new item are made in sync with each other. So there are usually separate pick-ups and deliveries - not always, but mostly

So, remember this is what Good CX in this CSX example commonly looks like.

BUT let's also recognise there are a lot of experiences in this scenario that are a long way from Good even. And of course, you can often always call the company contact centre, but let's face it, that is typically very far from a 'Good' customer experience these days.

So how about Great CSX in this same CSX example, what would that look like ?

GREAT CSX of the future

  1. I pick up my phone, tablet or switch on my desktop
  2. I go to the company website, app, or social media channel, and sign in
  3. I press an icon that says I need CSX Assistance
  4. I say (or type) something like: "'Hey xxxxx, the Tommy Hilfiger shirt just delivered is too big, and I don't like the colour. So I'd like to return it and try instead the Red one I've just placed in my basket. I'd prefer the collection to be made from my office address, so please deliver the replacement at the same time. Thanks."

This to me is such a compelling example of where CX & CSX needs to be heading, but I see little evidence of this sort of approach even being considered.

This is just of course a simple CSX example, but when you move to a CX model like this, the opportunities to innovate are off the charts.

Great CSX Example 1

Just type into an airlines 'Get Help' channel....

"Hey I need to change the flight I've got booked tomorrow, what are the options for around the same time the next day ? Oh and if the cost to change is less than $200 just go ahead and make the change for me. Send the options or booking confirmation to my phone by SMS and email in the next 2 hours please."

Great CSX Example 2

Or as you walk past a store window and see a pair of trainers you like, just send a photo from your phone and say into the Retailers 'Get CSX Help' channel.

"Hey here's a photo of the trainers I just saw in your store, can you send me a pair of size 8 UK ? Also, do you have matching socks ? If they're less than $15 dollars please throw in a pair. Finally, please take the loyalty credit from my account and use it towards this purchase ? If more is needed use my usual credit card please. Send these all to my home address please, thanks."

customer service experience

CSX benefits

  1. Incredibly easy for customers to say what they want and need.
  2. They don't need to wait, or queue, they just speak or type, done.
  3. Right now huge numbers of customers leave businesses because they can't even have a conversation. The number of customers dropping out of lengthy call centre queues, webchat sessions, or getting stuck in chatbot hell, is off the charts right now. But in this model, because every customer can easily tell you what they want or need, they will. The CSX staff receiving these requests (not everything can be automated behind the scenes) will receive all the rich data they need, at the same time as the customer request.

These three benefits may sound simple, but think of your CSX journeys right now, even the Good ones...

So how can we then turn these great CSX journeys into AWESOME CX JOURNEYS??

Here's how

So in this new world customers can tell us what they want and need incredibly easily right ? Just speak or type their needs.. But we will still absolutely need to CONSIDER THE CONTEXT of the customers situation in line with their words.

  • Is this a desperately urgent request ?
  • Is the customer emotionally upset ?
  • Is there a context to this request that makes it the very highest of priorities to respond ?

That's where all the powerful speech, data and sentiment analysis tools can come into place.

Awesome CX example

Customer tells the company by speech or text input... (remember no queueing) :

"I'm really upset I can't believe the childrens outfits aren't here yet. I really need these by tomorrow, it's for my parents Golden Wedding Anniversary, and it will be so embarrassing if they are not here, and probably ruin the day.."

Of course we can pick out the words and sentiment (urgent, upset, significant occasion), but that's when companies can then deliver those amazing 'Golden CX moments'...

These are the moments that can make a customer LOVE a Brand or HATE it. So when the situation, requirement and context is clear we can then examine what else we know from our CRM, ERP, HCM and even PoS platforms.

In this scenario, do we know where the Children's clothes are right now ?

If yes, what can we do to ensure delivery by tomorrow, or better still today ?

If we don't know where they are, and can't guarantee the delivery for tomorrow, what else can we do ? We need to offer a solution now, that's non-negotiable.

This is where human CSX agents should be empowered to own the issue and resolve it, whatever it takes. i.e. we've got more of these clothes in stock in a warehouse or shop so let's just get a car to deliver them by hand today or tomorrow.

Or worse case 'we are really sorry, we can't guarantee the delivery by tomorrow (and here's why - very important there is an explanation) , so here are the options...

We refund you immediately, if the items do arrive tomorrow we can worry about that later; or we have these alternatives we can guarantee for you tomorrow; or even we suggest you try our competitors clothes which can be found here, we called them they can deliver by tomorrow (that would impress me so much).

Forces of CX

So when you consider the GREAT CSX and AWESOME CX examples I've provided above, and compare them to what we go through right now, this is why I think 'WE ARE LIGHTYEARS AWAY' from where CSX & CX should be.

So how do we get there from where we are now?

Stop deploying amazing CX tech into tired old CSX models

Deploying NLP / AI solutions with sentiment analysis onto the same tired old contact mechanisms and journeys just increases the technical debt there, and reduces even further the ability to truly innovate.

Build your company voice & text input CSX channels & publish the CSX help option everywhere a customer goes. 

Throw out your legacy thinking and think how you could create simple and easy channels for customers to share their needs. Sitting in long call centre queues, navigating through chatbots, or live agent chat needs to be put into the past as your CSX strategy.

Use the data you already have, but join it together

There are many ways to seamlessly authenticate the customer, so as soon as you know who they are, use the amazing power of speech and text analytics to identify their need.

For example, they ordered several items but only one 'Tommy Hilfiger shirt' - Tick. We can see the one in their basket so let's make sure that stays available for them now - Tick. We know their office address so that's OK - Tick. Let's sort out the offline delivery & collection experience to match these requirements - Tick.

Create empowered CSX employees whose purpose is to intervene when needed, own issues and provide the best possible outcomes. 

Of course, in many situations this combination of CX tech AI can respond & resolve many issues without human intervention, but it CANNOT empathise with a customer's situation, think outside the box, do whatever it takes to help a customer in need (and nor should it)..


The two biggest fundamental shifts companies need to make to keep their customers loyal are :

1. Take away the responsibility from customers to put in all the CSX effort.

Stop forcing customers into queues, dead ends, places where they need to repeat information. They should NEVER have to wait in a queue just to speak to you.

2. Provide all the rich data & insight to CSX staff that are empowered to OWN and RESOLVE issues.

Stop measuring CSX agents on answering calls, chats, messages etc.

All the amazing CX tech is available now to meet these visions of GREAT CSX & AWESOME CX. That's not a blocker.

But CX leaders need to start with a bold CX vision then align all of their CSX Transformation efforts behind it.

Continuing to add CX technical debt onto tired old contact centre journeys, painful chat sessions, disjointed social media channels, chatbots from hell, AND continuing to treat CSX agents like battery hens expected to answer call after call, chat after chat, message after message.....

All of the above just takes us further away from where we need to be in five years, maximum.

Just my opinion, but I'm convinced it's the way CX and CSX needs to go, and those companies that get left behind, will be left behind by their customers of the future for sure.

Finally am I delivering this in my current role, honestly no, but damn I will try....

Make your CSX EPIC.

Replies (1)

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By Totoz
21st Feb 2022 15:28

Alex thanks. I love reading the things you have to say about CX and understand your frustration that not enough cx is up to the standard you hope. I would argue though that were i differ in opinion is your assessment that not enough cx people are up to standard. I think if you asked most cx people what their idea of great or awesom cx is they would say somehting similar to what you outline in this article, its just that most cx people dont have the authority or enpowerment to be able to stand up for what great cx should look like in their business and have the required impact. We should be questioning ceos for not giving cx people the empowerment they need to create great cx in those businesss. Not the cx people themselves who are probably all aiming for the same sorts of goals as youve outlined here.

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