Bitter Ex

I made a trip to the opticians recently, which considering the now mandatory COVID re-engineering of processes went essentially smoothly.

Professional and organised staff, hassle-free, and frames that nestled peacefully on my asymmetric features. To top it off, I saved a hefty chunk on my last similar purchase. A fat, juicy tick in the customer box. I was so impressed; I was steadying my pen for a brief but complimentary Google review.

And then it happened.

A customer experience survey hit my inbox. And that marked the point when my experience started to sour.

Now, I do understand the arguments in favour of customer experience (CX) work. By listening to customers, organisations can develop a model of customer-centricity that drives business change, increases the relevance of services, identifies errors, and ultimately drives growth.

But this little gift was a steaming plethora of inane tat: page after page of inquiries, tellingly more those focused on what the staff had or hadn’t done. ‘Did the staff member offer you contact lenses?’; ‘Did they make you aware of this product or that product?’ It didn’t say much about their genuine interest in my experience, unless they truly believe that being offered contact lenses might be a game-changer.

This was more about staff surveillance and sales intelligence.

For some time, I’ve been sceptical about the faux specialism of CX, which in my former contact centre career was furiously waved as a customer-friendly antidote to those resistant to the habitual hardcore apathy to punters. In contact centre hell, CX is all about stealth sales under the guise of customer love.

All too often, CX escapades rely in practice on British politeness and reservation that self-point punters to the higher scores, and this numerical data is used not for service improvement but for sales collateral and advertising. The associated PR puffs cling to what they report people are saying, not on how good the service actually is. And that makes all the difference in the world. It is of course all bullshit and wormtongue. People can judge great products and services themselves, and they can and do then vote with their wallets.

The cumulative layer of the generated customer experience narrative is artificial, and it is so for a reason: customer joy would not otherwise emerge as a tangible asset, and shady cash hogs need it to boost sales. Satisfied customers are satisfied and buy again. Dissatisfied customers complain.

You might think they could just offer up some effective customer contact channels and be good to go.

But having satisfied customers is never enough. They have to have that tale to tell, and that account will trump even genuine customer happiness itself. After all, a delighted customer has already paid and will buy again. The story might however scoop up infinitely more into the net

Some might beg to differ on my scathing analysis, but even the charlatans who pretend that the charade is real will tell you that a trojan horse CX exercise will undo years of patient trust-building (or chicanery, depending on your level of scepticism).

So will any inquisitive odyssey that takes a customer more than a minute or so to fill out. It’s almost as if many organisations feel you owe them meaty slices of your downtime simply because you might have been content with your purchase. Some send out repeat reminders to those who do not respond, and the boldest of the bold issue deadlines. It is a tad unhinged.

They just cannot grasp that a contract is sealed following the exchange of considerations: their product or service, and the customer’s payment.

Make no mistake that the CX bandwagon is shamefully entitled and spearheaded by those getting high on their own supply. And the customer domain is plagued by shady consultants, desperate to productise any usable comments into something that can be relentlessly banged out for top dollar.

It is a complacency, and dare I say a myopia, that is unwittingly campaigning for commercial euthanasia through its alienation of bread-and-butter business.

When all is said and done, the Trojan and the Odyssey are staggeringly deceptive, sucking up data that will be used for many other non-customer-related projects that are in fact the antithesis of a positive customer experience. It truly has come of age in 2020, our post-fact heyday.

So, as it stands, the only negative experience of the whole caper was the experience survey itself.

Should’ve gone to ex savers.

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