help me

Everyone has a pet peeve about customer experience. Persistent pop-ups that ask annoyingly, "Need help?" Websites with music in their hearts.

Videos that start automatically. Hard to find contact information. Contact centers that make you wait on hold ... for what seems like forever. Intricate, thickly branched phone trees. Glitchy self-service kiosks.

It's a multichannel mess, more or less.

But nothing is more maddening — or more contrary to the whole philosophy of CXM — than scripted responses that lack even trace amounts of empathy, understanding or compassion. As customer experience researcher, innovator and entrepreneur John A. Goodman so clearly articulates, some things are better left unsaid.

What else would you expect to hear from the co-author of "Shut Your Mouth! Words and Phrases to Avoid in a Customer-Focused Service Environment"?

More than an Inconvenience

John A. Goodman

Goodman has been grappling with the whole customer experience thing long before CXM was a buzzword. As co-author of a 1970’s breakthrough study of consumer complaint behavior and customer service for the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, he's regarded as a pioneer in the customer experience industry. And he literally “wrote the book” on Strategic Customer Experience.

He's the founder of TARP Worldwide, a Rosslyn, Va.-based customer experience improvement firm that just recently rebranded as CX Act. He worked there for 40 years before leaving to become vice chairman of Alexandria, Va.-based Customer Care Measurement & Consulting, a company that tries to help Fortune 500 companies get a better return on their investments in customer experience.

Last year, he had an unpleasant experience on his "least favorite airline." It was summer, and thunderstorms were roaring across the East Coast. "While in flight, the plane was diverted to a city that was not my destination," he recalled. It landed at midnight.

Goodman, of course, wasn't happy. But he's realizes no one controls the weather — and even understood the airline had no responsibility to provide him a hotel for the night.

But what bothered him was what the airline representatives said when he got off the flight. "We're sorry for the inconvenience."

"Being dumped in a strange city at midnight is not an inconvenience," he said. "It's a disaster."

Couldn't the airline have offered a little TLC, he wondered -- or at least a little sympathy? 

Connecting with Customers

To provide the best customer experiences, you have to push beyond the company policies and procedures. You have to look beyond what is legally required. And you have to empower your employees to do more than follow scripts. 

The key to customer success is in the heart.