By Nancy Napier
As seen in the Idaho Statesman Business Insider on June 13, 2012
Think about great customer experiences you’ve had recently. A reservation service that allows you to make a restaurant reservation at 9 a.m., in 30 seconds, rather than waiting till the restaurant opens and you call. A grocery store worker who walked you to the aisle to find a product. The online retailer who got the order right and shipped it so your item arrived a day BEFORE you expected it. Some happen because of the people; some happen because people AND systems work well.
Now think of the experiences that didn’t work. What’s the ratio of good to bad experiences?
I’m sad to say that in the last few weeks my good to bad experiences, or what I call the “friction ratio,” is 1:4. And I try to be the good customer and not get irritated. But I am.
My experiences included a retail organization, a financial institution, an airline and a government agency. It’s happened inside the U.S. and when I have traveled outside. Often the people were nice, but the systems were not. Put together, that meant bad news.
I waited on the phone (once for 30 minutes) while I heard the lilting voice say I am the most important thing in her life but please hold till a customer service person comes as soon as possible. I waited because I’m a sucker for Pavlovian experiences: a human did show up, about every 10 minutes for about a minute and then I was trapped again. If I hung up, I’d have to start all over, which I dreaded.
I spent roughly two hours waiting, working, trying to get something done. While I’m not a big-time, highly paid executive, I could have done other things with that time, like preparing to teach classes or meeting with students.
But enough ranting. My point really is that the organizations I dealt with are not bad per se. In two cases, they are firms I LOVE, own stock in, know people who work in them, and cheer when they do better than their competitors.
So I was sorely disappointed when, as a normal customer, I got wretched service. The firms could blame it on “the system,” or I could blame it on the person. In the end, it doesn’t matter. The one bad experience with those organizations trumps much of what had been good.
In the past, when I tried to be the “good customer,” bend over backward to be nice, often I could make the system and people work for me, and I got good service. Not these days.
The lesson: In organizations, especially larger ones, it’s terribly hard to make all of the pieces work right.
Every day, each of us has the chance to change someone’s life in a tiny way. Doing our jobs, to be sure, but doing them the best way possible every single day is what will carry us in the long run.
I’m lucky enough to work with some incredible organizations that hold that very philosophy: do it better every day. And that means making sure the friction ratio is zero.
NANCY NAPIER Executive Director of Boise State’s Centre for Creativity and Innovation