From The Editor | June 26, 2018

Fail Forward: Mastering Customer Experience Doesn't Mean Expecting Perfection

Sarah Nicastro

By Sarah Nicastro, publisher/editor in chief, Field Technologies
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Fall Forward

With the hyper-focus that exists on customer experience among field service organizations today, I think there’s a misperception that mastering customer experience equals delivering perfect service. While there’s nothing wrong with aspiring to deliver excellent – even perfect – experiences, it is simply not realistic that it will occur 100 percent of the time.

So what is the goal? I think the goal is overall learning how to be a more customer-centric service organization and, in doing so; you will inevitably need to learn how to deal with failure. Despite your best efforts, you will end up with an upset customer at some point. I think how you prepare to handle failure says far more about your success as service organization than looking to avoid it altogether. You want your workforce to be in alignment that a good customer experience is the standard, but when something does go off course, you also want to empower your workforce to handle it well.

In Gartner’s 10 Habits Of Customer-Centric organizations, which you can read about here, attributes such as continuously listening to others, building customer empathy into processes and policies, acting systematically to improve the customer experience, and creating accountability for customer experience improvements are identified. In a field service scenario, these characteristics could translate into things like:

  • Not only asking for customer feedback after each service interaction, but making that feedback actionable. Are you positively reinforcing employees delivering on your mission of excellent customer service? More importantly, are issues identified through feedback dealt with immediately and effectively?
  • When a customer provides a bad review on social media or emails/calls with a complaint is that feedback addressed with fast and person-to-person contact?
  • Do you have a workforce that you feel is capable of being empathetic and empowered to resolve issues? If not, how can you equip them to do so?
  • Do you have specific steps in place to incorporate feedback into process reviews and ongoing business transformation efforts?

We all know that positive feedback feels good, and as a service organization you should be proactively turning that into endorsements and reviews and using it to your full advantage. But you’ve heard that saying that when someone has a good experience, they may tell someone – but when they have a bad experience, they’ll tell everyone? It is imperative in the quest for customer satisfaction to be able to use negative feedback constructively. To act immediately on criticism and make it your mission to turn that unsatisfied customer into a fan again. You can’t avoid failing; you need to learn how to fail forward. Don’t let bad experiences happen in a vacuum – if you have a complaint about a certain situation, determine where else in your organization similar issues could be occurring so that you can head them off ahead of time (acting to proactively anticipate needs – another of Gartner’s 10 Habits).

Each customer interaction, positive and negative, is a learning experience. The service organizations that can wring value out of these interactions by turning each experience into the next steps of a continual improvement strategy are those that will ultimately master customer experience and stand out among the competition.