When systems fail, the organisational culture saves us

The internet fiber connection failed

The internet fiber connection failedAll started from a personal case, which is the way I often get ideas for analysing the customer experience provided by brands. The internet fiber connection failed. I found myself in an odd situation when I needed to contact the provider for assistance but was unable to do it, frustrated by the impossibility of contacting the company and stuck with a broken internet connection. Luckily enough my tenant in Milano, at the time, didn’t use the internet, so I had a bit more time to fix it.

Companies with millions of users can’t avoid putting in place processes and systems to provide assistance to a virtual high volume of requests by users. Small businesses can manage direct contact with a limited number of users, but millions of users imply good systems to manage possibly hundreds of thousands of requests.

Fastweb is an advanced company with good service and good products, but at that time I was terribly frustrated as I couldn’t get into their assistance.

Time to time it happens to everyone to feel the frustration of being unable to get the service you need, and this might be an important moment of truth for the company or a frustrating issue. Often the problem depends on the tech savviness -or tech illiteracy of the user- but it may be worsened by the assumptions of the company’s operators.

When the company’s operators face anger, resentment and frustration from users that most of the time are stuck just because they are incapable to get the point, a totally human way to cope with it is to develop an assumption: users are illiterate and they are stuck because of their own incapability. It may result in lack of care, in blaming the users for their absence of competence and/or in behaviours that frustrates the users even more, like treating them as dummies.

Beliefs that lead Behaviours: This is what the organisational culture is

We all know that behaviours are led by beliefs and they are in turn influenced by values.

And this is where the differences take place: organisations that develop a culture of real care and understanding of the customers as persons with their real issues and values, become more relevant -and inevitably- successful in their markets. These companies set a pattern of values that influence people’s beliefs and behaviours.

I’m not going to quote authors or case history to support this concept as I personally believe it is such an obvious thing that it doesn’t need to be qualified.

What is interesting in my view is to understand what companies that do it well actually do.

I ended up contacting the company’s managers on Linkedin, and I also had the guts to contact the marketing manager, -who very probably is still considering me as an idiot.

But, contrary to what I was keen to believe about the company, what happened left me surprised. Let me be clear:

I can understand the marketing manager: being contacted by a user (among millions) who asks for support when the company has in place a very good automated system is just annoying.

But once again: what has been done by other managers really made me think.

Beliefs that lead Behaviours

Customer-Centric Journey through Tech Challenges

Many of them took care of my case and put me in connection with the customer support team. Once they checked the reason why I couldn’t use their system, they arranged for the assistance to call me on a phone call and perform the labour.

The case ended with several calls from different operators and managers as they wanted to be sure everything worked out.

Interestingly, the system failed as I couldn’t use it because of a glitch that no one had noticed before, but the organisation made me feel they really wanted to help me and solve my problem.

The glitch, if anyone is interested, was about a silly mistake: the app to manage the user’s account and contact the support is only available on the IOS marketplace for Apple clients in Italy. In this way, the company’s mistake was to not consider that a client could be not Italian which, in a global world, may seem odd.

So even if there was no way for me, as non-Italian, to download and use their app (something that some, marketing managers included, considered as my ineptitude), in the end, the organisation reacted positively, and many managers took my case seriously and it enabled the organisation to enquire more about the case and on what the problem really was, -avoiding falling into the assumption to blame the user-.

The organisation discovered a glitch in their system that nobody noticed before, at the moment of writing they didn’t fix it, but I can believe they will at some point.

Hence the consideration: any system can fail either a human procedure or an automated one. It can be a wrong decision in setting it or a tech bug or anything, obviously no system is perfect or fully reliable.

Customer-Centric Journey

Embracing Feedback, Verifying Systems, and Understanding Haters

What differs with companies that really care about Customer Experience is the capability to verify their systems by giving customers the benefit of the doubt.

  • Be open to listen to customers even if there is a high chance that their problems depend on their own limitations and incapability.
  • Be open to verify the system, it can be a flaw in designing it to be rapidly understood, or something really went wrong or, even, the market has changed and we didn’t notice it.

Jay Baer wrote an interesting book: “Hug Your Haters”

Essentially what Jay says is that haters are not mad, angry people; on the contrary they are the most affected as they were relying on your service, they encountered a problem and they have got dismissed as fools. And, interestingly, they voice it loudly because they care, while other customers just silently switch to another provider: you or another provider doesn’t really matter.

Jay then states: haters are not your problem, not to consider them is.

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