I hate to complain. Really, I do. But, it happened to me again, just as I’m sure it’s happened to everyone at some point in the course of their adult lives: this week, I called the customer service desk for an insurance company with which I have a policy, and there was a problem wherein they could not locate all of my information. I spent 45 minutes on the phone being transferred to five different people until I ended up at someone’s “dead-end” voicemail. A truly terrible customer experience. No one could help me, even though I have paid for services.

I know we’ve all been there, whether it be via an insurance company or any other company. Yet in this day and age, where technology is increasingly better than ever and self-service is the norm, how does this kind of bad experience continue to be “a thing?” Given that I work in a field of process improvement and technology, these situations leave me particularly stymied. Will there ever be an end to the circular phone calls and poor customer experiences?

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In situations such as these, I often hear “the system” blamed for the lack of ability to service customers in a quick and efficient manner. “The system” is slow, or “the system” is not updated. But it’s not just the system: it’s the underlying processes and how the systems support those processes. What should be at the core of implementing aligned processes and systems? The customer experience strategy.

Having a customer experience strategy and designing the customer experience, once a differentiator for companies, is no longer a luxury. It has become a necessity to stay competitive. Gartner, for example, has an annual Customer Experience & Technologies Summit. Similarly, Oracle has a Modern Customer Experience Conference every year. The days of blaming “the system” for customer service problems are over. Companies can no longer afford avoiding an investment in the design of the customer experience. They need a strategy, and that boils down to ensuring they have efficient processes in place that are supported through useful and carefully implemented technology. It’s really that simple.

The secret to customer satisfaction is understanding how important an investment in process analysis really is: if your Net Promoter Score is low or your customer feedback is increasingly negative, you need to examine the combination of process and technology in your workplace. The right blend will improve a company’s bottom line and ultimately provide a return on investment. That is not done haphazardly: it’s accomplished through making it a priority.

The company I called this week has most likely invested thousands, if not millions, in technology, but I’m betting they have invested little in truly developing their processes and making the customer experience a good one. Meanwhile, here I am, the customer, telling you about my negative experience. I did finally get a resolution: a call back to help me navigate to the correct person. When companies don’t marry technology to their processes in a thoughtful and calculated way, however, it’s just plain bad for business.

Again, I generally try to focus on the positives and what can be done to transform a broken process. I hate being “that” complainer. So, what can you do if you are in a situation wherein you perform in a customer service capacity, but don’t have what you need to provide that “ultimate customer experience” or work for a company with no customer experience strategy? Raise your concerns about the need for process improvement and better system integration every chance you get. Do it in a constructive way with the aim of making the customer experience better. Provide examples of when the customer has been frustrated or expected more, but ended up disappointed. Empower yourself, even if others have not empowered you. It will be recognized in time and illustrate to senior-level decision makers that the customer experience is, really, what makes or breaks a company.

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