Every other week, I share some simple but important lessons on managing the customer experience, and occasionally the research that supports it. Sometimes, the lessons highlight something positive. Often times, the lessons focus on something negative. And full disclosure, we too make CX mistakes in our business; but we take away something valuable each time and correct it.
Be sure to correctly define all of the stages of your customer journey – then own it by taking responsibility.
I was reminded of this not long ago after renting a vacation property. To be fair, much of the experience was pretty good. We connected with the owner via a third-party rental service. Everything was done online, including negotiating the rate, booking and paying, getting the reservation details, support during our stay, and checking out. We had done this many times before and were comfortable with the process. We trusted the owner, mostly because we had faith in the brand and reputation of the third party acting on the owner’s behalf.
Part of this experience required that we submit a damage deposit with our rental payment. It was to be returned to us via the third party after the unit was cleaned upon our departure. This is the part of the experience that was poorly defined and poorly thought out. And no party was willing to take responsibility for issuing the repayment of the deposit on terms that were suitable to me, the customer.
Here is why the experience was poor and all on me to get it right. I had changed credit cards since the time I arranged the booking, which was more than six months ago. I knew they would try to pay the security deposit back to that credit card, leaving me to chase that bank for some kind of reimbursement. I notified the owner and the third party, not once, but two times each to explain the situation and ask them to take another credit card number for the repayment of the deposit. Each one said I had to consult the other party. And the owner said my request was “irrational” in this day and age since they would not take my credit card details for my own security. To be clear, that is not what I wanted. All the owner had to do was authorize the third party to request another credit card number from me, using the appropriate authentication protocol. A more inventive owner could have told the third party not to post the damage deposit to the original card. They could have then just sent me a cheque. I would have been happy with that. Instead, I got to chase after a credit card company for money on a card that was no longer even active. In fact, I could not believe the old credit card got pinged for a credit to me… but I digress (note to self about another blog post idea…).
This all happened because the customer (me in this case) was the only one that understood the journey fully. And to get satisfaction, I had to take responsibility for it from beginning to end. The two supplier entities (the owner and the third party) who took my money missed the point that the rental journey does not conclude when I check out. There are other steps that follow, and neither party took responsibility for meeting the needs of their customer. There are financial transactions needed to complete the deal. And like other stages of the journey, this one needs to suit the needs and preferences of the customer. It makes you wonder if they forgot about other parts of the journey also… you know, where annoyed customers talk about their experiences or share them with others on social media…
It’s ok to have third parties look after parts of your business and the value chain. Just remember, it’s your business, so you better take full responsibility for every part of the customer experience.
Andreas H. Noe, MBA, BComm Marketing, is a founding partner of Phase 5 and has more than 30 years of experience in marketing research and consulting. Andreas leads Phase 5’s Customer Experience and Market Insights teams.