The Straw Point: How Process Can Win or Lose Customers

In every process we have customer interaction points – how well we manage these “moments of truth” with our customers influences their levels of loyalty towards the firm. Loyal customers spend more and are more likely to recommend the firm to friends or collegues so making customers more loyal should be a major focus – and to do this we need to look at process from a customer experience perspective. How should we do this?

When we look at processes we must take an outside-in view. The process does not start and end at the front door of the organisation. Take, for example, my recent experience with travelling with virgin on holiday. The flight is a small part of the customer experience – it’s up to organisations to influence and manage as much of the process as they can outside of their traditional view of the process.

Managing moments of truth is critical. Each interaction with a customer has a different level of impact on customer dissatisfaction and consequently loyalty. Example: for the last couple of years I have been ordering my groceries through Woolworths online and in the last couple of years woolworths online have made a mistake with every single order I have received. Usually it’s only a couple of items which is a minor dissatisfaction and not enough to make me either switch to a competitor or to trudge to the supermarket myself. However, minor dissatisfactions have a cumulative effect which can break a relationship with the firm.

Conversely, positive moments of truth can help to reduce the dissatisfaction that builds up. After I complained and said I was going to stop ordering with them Woolworths gave me a credit and refunded my delivery fee – which like pouring water on a fire, died it down for some time until the next event to trigger dissatisfaction…which wasn’t far off…

I then received a delivery where all of the frozen foods were missing. I contacted Woolworths and received a cut and paste email saying that they’d refund the missing items – this only inflamed my dissatisfaction before a couple of weeks later I received none of my fruit and veg (half of the order). Cue the straw point.

The straw point is the final incident of dissatisfaction that leads to the termination of the relationship with the company – it is “the straw that breaks the camels back”. All loyalty is broken. For me the straw point was when I called the Woolworths call centre 10 minutes after receiving my delivery to see if my fruit and veg was in the truck and I received a message saying that “due to unforseen circumstances the call centre is now closed”. After which I sent the following terse email:

“Hi – please refund the items marked with a cross which we did not receive. You will note this includes all of the fruit and veg. I called your call centre but you are strangely closed.

We will be shopping with Coles online from this point forward (if only you cared about losing a customer!)”

I did receive a response the next day – yet another cut and paste saying that the missing items would be refunded. And I was right, they didn’t care to lose me as a customer – a family of 6 who spend in the region of $20k a year in their supermarket.

So what lessons can organisations learn to avoid the straw point?

  1. Look at the process from the outside-in – look at the customer experience
  2. Identify all of your customer interaction points in the process
  3. Identify the dissatisfaction impact level in the event that the interaction goes wrong
  4. Reduce the number of customer interaction points to reduce the probability of things going wrong
  5. Optimise the customer interaction points that are left – focus on reducing the customer’s level of effort.

We are all customers, so do unto them as you would expect yourself.



P.S. My first shop with Coles online was last week – and I am pleased to advise that not a single item was missing.

Courtesy to Craig Reid. This blog is also available on The Process Ninja.

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By Craig Reid @ The Process Ninja | June 28, 2013

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