One small glitch for man, one giant leap for a competitor

Knowing the difference between what a customer says (or doesn't say) and what they do is key to creating valuable digital experiences that will make them return to your site. Peter Armaly, Strategic Advisor for Customer Success at Oracle, explores the potential pitfalls of relying solely on customer feedback to identify issues on your digital properties:

This past weekend I tried to book a hotel room at the website of a global chain for the upcoming wedding of a niece, under the code for the block of rooms she and her fiancé had arranged to be set aside at an attractive discount. The process to choose a room was simple and easy and everything was fine until I had to fill in my personal details. First name, last name, phone number, address…

All was good until I clicked on the postal code field (I live in Canada which has postal codes, not zip codes) and I was presented with only a numeric keypad. Postal codes are a combination of letters and numbers. I was using my mobile and the user interface would not let me enter any alphabetic characters. Odd. Did I do something wrong? I checked the Country field. Nope, I had specified the right country.

I closed the session and tried again, thinking that’s what their help desk would advise me to do anyway. Didn’t matter since I ended up with that same infuriating numeric keypad when I clicked to enter my postal code. I was stuck and couldn’t pay for the room. Or was I?

I was indeed stuck if I wanted to stay at that hotel but I wasn’t that stuck given there is lots of competition out there. I simply closed the site (with relish) and went to the website of a boutique hotel located down the street and EASILY booked there. And for $5 less.

Do we know what customers really think?

I texted my niece and gave her a rundown of the situation (I write long texts, yes). She replied, with an apology, and said she would call the hotel on my behalf (as if I’m some befuddled old uncle). I thanked her and declined the offer, telling her that I booked a room down the street. I then told her I’d be writing this personal story into a corporate blog post. She replied, LOL.

Would the first hotel care if they heard my story? Maybe.

Should they have been able to know I was having difficulty at that one step? Yes, but they probably didn’t and the very idea that they should understand the real-time customer experience to that extent probably never occurred to them.

Would they be able to convince me if their argument was that I should’ve used a browser on a laptop instead of my mobile in order to book the room? No. The interface shouldn’t matter.

Would they have any idea how much revenue they lost that day, or however long the mobile site hasn’t worked properly for Canadians? They probably have no clue but if they were to ask, I would tell them they lost at least $200.

Should I have called the hotel and told them about the situation? Sure but I was irritated and didn’t want to.

Moral of the story?

  1. Don’t expect your customers to report a problem they might be experiencing on your site. That’s a reactive strategy.

  2. Don’t expect your customers to help you solve your problems. If you want their help you need to make it worth their time.

  3. Never expect your customers to be patient, as a rule. Most will be, until they aren’t. Most customers will cut you loads of slack on other things as long as they get what they need when they need it.

  4. Errors, easily caught in a QA process, should never be promoted to the level of stupid errors and that happens when they are exposed to paying customers. Don’t skip steps. Skipped steps are more expensive than you’ll ever know.

  5. Vendors, be proactive. Don’t wait for your customers to stumble. Make sure everything you put in front of them to use is working as it should.

  6. This story is one about a B2C experience but the lessons apply equally to B2B. Just because you’ve got a customer locked in to a subscription for a year doesn’t mean they won’t exercise their choice to leave at the end of that year. Make their experience with your sites consistently valuable for them. So much so that they will return.

And that last point is how I will end this piece because it ties into what I said in my previous blog post:

 “… smart companies are using self-serve to better understand their customers through the ability to measure engagement and interaction and, in return, they use the knowledge gained to turn around and more personally nurture their relationships with customers.”

Paying attention to the usability and workability of your websites is a crucial way to productively engage your customers. It’s also a powerful way to collect insight into your customers’ preferences and behaviors, both of which are high octane fuel for making iterative improvements to your sites, your services, and your products.

Talk to us to explore how customer experience analytics can improve your business