Greatness lies in the edges of customer experience

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It’s becoming an increasingly familiar occurrence these days for businesses, like healthcare practitioners, utility and telecoms providers, that rely on appointments with ‘customers’ for them to send out reminders, either via text message, email or by phone call, in the run up to the appointment.

There is sound logic in taking this approach as not only does it provide a perceived better level of ‘service’, there is a rule of thumb in these industries that around 10% of all appointments fail and, when they do, that time is rarely recoverable and comes with all sorts of sunk costs.

Therefore, on recently booking a check up with a local optician, it was no surprise that I received both a text reminder in the run up to the appointment and a telephone call the day before.

What was interesting about the text message and the content of the phone call was that they encouraged me to show up 10 mins prior to the appointment.

So, being the dutiful customer that I am, I did just that and showed up just before 850am for my appointment that was scheduled for 9am.

However, when I arrived I was faced with an optician’s whose doors were still locked. This confused and annoyed me slightly, particularly given the text message and the content of the phone call I had received.

Now, the optician is located in a local shopping centre and so I was able to peer through the window to see if there was any signs of activity inside. What I spotted was a group of people, staff I assumed, in the back of the ‘shop’ engaged in a ‘huddle’ meeting.

This further annoyed me.

Imagine being advised to show up 10 mins before an appointment and then being made to wait, I thought. And, I was not alone. Other customers had been told to do the same thing and I found myself waiting with them for the shop to open.

On the stroke of 9am one of the optician’s team duly opened the doors and asked us to enter. I did so and proceeded to tell the person at the front desk that I had an appointment with the optician at 9am.

I was then asked to take a seat and wait. Again.

Frustrated, I asked why I had been asked to wait and I was told that I had to have my eyes scanned and that this had to be done one person at a time because they only had one eye scanner.

At this point, as a student of service, my blood was almost at the point of boiling.

But, thankfully, after a few minutes I was invited to have my eyes scanned and after that I was quickly seen by an optician.

Now, the optician I saw was very friendly and did a great job. She was also very understanding when I explained the process that I had gone through from a customers perspective. She explained to me that their system was designed to manage for the majority of customers and that myself and the others, that were there early that morning, were the exception not the norm. She went on to say that they had conveyed concerns like mine to ‘head office’ a number of times and that their process was causing problems and irritations. But, that they had seen no action as a result and had no power to change it.

Now, I understand the logic of focusing on minimizing appoint failure. However, failing to look closely at how head office policies, processes and equipment levels affect the experience of all of their customers is a mistake. As I wrote, last year, in a piece about United Airlines, “Not all of your policies will be customer-friendly ‘in extremis’ and that is where most of the big problems will lie”.

Moreover, it is my experience that responding to, or being alive to, the edges and the exceptions of customers’ experiences is where you really find out how good your service and your overall customer experience is. In fact, I would go further and say that clues about your route to greatness lie in the edges and the exceptions.
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This post originally appeared on Forbes.com here.

4 comments On Greatness lies in the edges of customer experience

  • I know exactly which optician chain you are talking about because I had exactly the same experience and exactly the same conversation recently. It left me in exactly the wrong frame of mind to have a good experience so I then went on to become more irritated than I would otherwise have been about something else that happened – one bad chain of reactions all stemming from not paying attention to small details or listening to customers. Professionally I found it fascinating but personally it was rubbish,

    • Hi Kate, I’m glad I am not alone but wish these sort of things wouldn’t happen. Frustrating as they are easy to fix.Thanks, Adrian

  • Hi Adrian – Great information and great example of attendant customer service. I agree that the true measure of your CX lies in how your organization handles those situations on the fringe. In this example, the clinic should be rewarding those that actually do show up early as requested. For those that do not show up early as requested, they are the ones who should bear the risk of having to “wait” instead of generalizing.

    Thank You,
    John

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