Even when our agents are coached and trained to provide the best customer experience, those best efforts can be in vain if our processes aren’t making our customers happy.

It may make perfect sense as you read those words, but how many times have we made excuses about a company process being necessary for some reason despite negative feedback?

I’ve heard some top executives say that the questionable process would take too much time and effort to change. Others say that it is on the plans for change at a vague “at some later time” schedule. Some say that IT is very busy with (insert project name) and can’t focus on changing the problem process even though that IT all important project seems to involve more talk than action that is beneficial for keeping customers and employees engaged.

The bad process is often vigorously defended and taught to our reps as the unbreakable rule for them to adhere too regardless of customer complaints about it.

Despite process issues, some companies proudly display signs throughout their business stating, “The Customer Comes First” or “We Love Our Customers.” Apparently not enough love though to end the customer journey process pain.

Recently I experienced this type of pain with a service provider I’ve been using for projects with my clients. I’ve had an account with them for a few years and had an excellent payment record with them. Recently my credit card had a possible compromise situation at the same time that my auto-billed payment would be placed on the card by this service. The payment was rejected as the card was frozen. The bank was sending a new one expedited.

I received the email notice below from my project work service vendor soon after the payment issue occurred:

“Our records indicate you missed a payment. As a result, your ______ service has been suspended. You can view your account details and pay online today by signing in to your account. If you need help accessing your account, call us at 1-800xxxxxxx. If you are unable to pay the past due balance within 25 days, your subscription will then be terminated.”

I noted the wording about how I could pay online and remove the account hold. I attempted to sign in to my account to review what was happening. There was no mention of “suspended” and instead said that my account was terminated and I needed to contact the service center. I could see my customer profile information including the bad card information, but could not open and use any of the features of the product.

I called the account service number provided in the email and reached a rep who insisted I log in again and try to use the features since there was no way I was completely terminated. When that failed, he got his supervisor involved and they spouted the same bad process information and added more of their own. I ended up fixing the problem on my own later and wondered if I wanted to keep this service in the future. I went from happy customer to unhappy and maybe shopping for a replacement in the space of one day.

So how can your company prevent poor process design and process communication from driving customers to competitors?

  • Personalize emails as much as possible: We find copy and paste for emails an easy way to control consistency in information sent to customers, but are your canned emails generating calls or more contact from the customer? These can be big time wasters as well as creating negative customer experience. I missed one payment but where was the appreciation for the other months of on-time payments I’ve made in the past and my loyalty.
  • Have employees with direct customer contact review communication and processes that affect customers:  Are you using words that cause confusion? In my example above, the words “suspended” and “termination” were confusing and in the end appeared to mean the same thing despite someone’s attempt in the email to make then separate events. Someone at the top approved the emails, but the employees dealing with the issue were as confused as the customer.
  • Employees look bad when your process is bad: The CSR told me to log in again and there should be no problem since my account just “suspended” not fully terminated. He was actually adamant that I could still use for my project and view my information. He was clearly unsure what to do next when this failed.
  • Walk through your processes as a customer to make sure process knowledge in your center is correct and equals results: I offered to pay using a debit card. His Supervisor told me that a debit card wouldn’t work and would have to be a “real” credit card. I tried my debit card later and it worked. Bad information from not only a rep but also their leadership can escalate the customer situation to an even higher level.
  • Stop asking the customer to do more work to do business with you: The rep and supervisor both told me the only solution was to create a fake Free Trial account until my new card arrived, thus having a make believe temporary account and one still there staring at me unusable for now. This was a great example of a poor process being supported by a second poor process being encouraged by frontline reps and leaders.
  • Process time restraints can cause customer problems: Allow employees time to resolve process issues instead of just giving textbook answers that may not apply. Don’t control employee time so rigidly that they feel they can’t confirm information and follow-up with customers.
  • Empower employees to reward good customers using special process extras: If the customer information shows they have an excellent payment record and this is a first time issue, allow your employees to offer the suspended service “enabled” for one week to allow for payment resolution instead of freezing entirely.

Get feedback from your customers, prospective customers and employees on the effectiveness of your processes during real life usage. What sounds good and looks good in a leadership meeting may not be translating to an engaging positive experience for process users and those expected to explain to the customers how it does or doesn’t work.