Want to give a great customer experience? Test it repeatedly

TLDR: Customer Experience is a holistic approach that covers every touchpoint your customer has with you. You should be constantly vigilant in verifying that every touchpoint is always working.

My tale of woe

When I was in charge of product management at AVG a few years ago, we had a massive number of Free product users; tens of millions of them. Unlike paid users, our free users weren’t entitled to contact our customer support group.

Instead, we pushed them to our moderated online communities for answers from both AVG employees and other community members. This is a classic support approach called “deflection”.

By monitoring the community, we thought we had a good handle on the issues our free customers were experiencing.

Until I discovered an email account.

Our public website had an email address buried deep in the footer somewhere. I recall the address was something generic like “contact at AVG dot com”.

Into this mailbox, frustrated customers were sending dozens of emails a week. Mostly, venting their frustration about product or billing issues and the lack of a readily-accessible customer support phone number.

Two problems became quickly apparent:

  • We weren’t consuming this feedback and dealing with it
  • Nobody was responsible for responding to these emails

The moral of the story? We were offering a customer touchpoint but it didn’t work. In fact, it was internally neglected.

Touchpoint maps not journey maps?

“Customer journey map” is a popular way to encapsulate the customer experience you’re designing. However, journey maps can get really complex when the customer journey isn’t a strictly linear one.

For many of us, we might be better off simply making an inventory of customer touch points and worrying less about the sequences by which they’re used. Call it a touchpoint map.

Test, test, test

When it comes to customer touchpoints, the devil is in the details. Some examples of how things can go wrong:

  • The employee who manages your Twitter account resigns. Who’s going to take it over without disruption?
  • Your website gets a facelift. Is every prior customer form still accessible? If not, was there agreement to deprecate them? How will you handle customers that bookmarked old forms?
  • A customer-facing email address has an internal owner or distribution list. Who will maintain the distribution list to deal with internal employee changes?

If you have your touchpoints mapped, you can do two things that will prevent these issues from coming up.

First, you can assign an owner of every touchpoint. Someone needs to be accountable to ensure it works, that there are defined response processes and that someone will report on the trends and insights of what’s being communicated across this channel.

Second, and most importantly, you can regularly test each touchpoint. What should you test for? Keep it simple:

  • Basic availability. Can a customer still access it?
  • Response time. Did the customer get a response in a timescale that you internally agreed on?

Delivering a great customer experience is about sweating the details. Focus on your touchpoints. Maintain an up-to-date list of all of your touchpoints. Make sure there’s an owner for each. Test each of them regularly to ensure they provide the customer what they expect.

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