The Mobile Gateway

We are still reading about how the mobile change and with it, another shift in channels is coming, including this piece by Ted Schadler of Forrester, co-author of "The Mobile Mind Shift." In it, he writes:

Mobile has increasingly become the go-to device to fulfill a consumer need”

Schadler caveats his assertion with “has increasingly become,” where I think he could be bolder and simply say "it is.” But the assertion that our mobile phones are the number one go-to device for almost every enquiry in life rings true.

Yes, the majority of transactions still happen in store or online, but the rest of the customer journey is owned by mobile devices. Mobile phones are the first thing we reach for when questions come up and that includes enquiries we have during a customer engagement.

According to research by Pew last year:

46 percent of showrooming shoppers still ended up making a purchase in-store, an 11-point increase from 2011.

Mobile is intricately meshed into our consumer behavior. It’s not a single channel -- it’s a gateway to “omni” as we use them not just to engage brands over the mobile web, but email, apps, social media. We also use them for the physical relationships of boarding passes and train tickets.

But, none of these things provide a great customer experience (let alone omnichannel), and if you can’t do that, the channel is irrelevant. Let me give you an example.

A Car Rental Desk, An Almost Empty Parking Lot

I recently found myself in an amateur production of Seinfield's rental car sketch as I stood at a car rental desk and was downgraded from my full size car reservation to a compact.

As the lady at the desk surveyed an empty car lot (aside from this one compact) she laid out my options -- “take the compact or cancel, we haven’t charged anything to your credit card yet.” This did not either a. meet my customer experience expectations or b. help.

After I left the car lot in the compact and checked into my hotel, I shared this experience over Twitter, including the reference to Seinfeld. I got a great response from the rental car company social team and eventually it was resolved -- but the ultimate service I got from the company was overall, not so great.

Here is a customer experience that was booked online, involved a mobile app when I wanted to check the pick-up details, confirmations by SMS, an in-person engagement, a physical experience of the product, printed materials and a conversation over social media.

That’s about as “omni” as a customer experiences get, it involved every channel I needed, it was seamless to transact and I got a good response from the social team.

So why did I still have a mediocre experience?

Learning Opportunities

Assuming you have a decent product I think there are three things that went wrong here that we could apply to our own CX strategies:

#1 Engaged Employees

In the case of a car rental company and probably in almost every business, the service and the people that provide it define the level of customer experience. I don’t believe that the rental company had run out of cars, I believe that someone didn’t care enough to make sure that they delivered on the transaction. A person was probably the weak link in this customer experience chain.

#2 Honor the Brand Promise

I’ve written about this before, but your brand marketing makes a promise of level of experience. This was not a budget rental company, they made a brand promise that they could not only hold a reservation, but provide a better service than the others. Therefore the gap between the promise and the experience was wide and when you don’t keep those promises -- the customer service shock is higher, which increases the chances of making someone outraged enough to turn to Twitter.

#3 Enabling Great Service

The response I got on Twitter from the rental company was that they would “have the manager call me.” I waited most of the day and when they didn’t, I reminded them (on Twitter). In this instance the good part of the experience -- the responsiveness of the social team -- was throwing me right back at the bad part -- the weak link in the chain.

A better outcome would have been for the person that responded to have been able to own the resolution. Instead I had to deal with a manager (who still struggled to find a car when I needed it) and then exchanged the car at my inconvenience by returning to the lot.

Clearly the systemization for being on multiple channels is not trivial. While there are plenty of tools that can make good customer experience easier to operationalize, I imagine that doing business over all of the channels was neither easy nor inexpensive for the rental company to do.

But for me what the "seamless experience" comes down to is all about the people. 

Title image by Ferenc Szelepcsenyi (Shutterstock)