The non-happy path of customer service: what is it?

Do any of the following statements sound familiar?

“Our product is designed for ‘straight-through processing’ - a customer will never need to contact us.”

“We have worked hard to design out the need for customers to make contact with us.”

“If we embed our ‘contact us’ details deep, deep into the website so they are difficult to find, we will reduce our contacts and therefore our cost.”
The non-happy path of customer service: what is it? | Probe CX

Well, I’m here to tell those businesses that believe in such theories to think again.

Having recently repatriated to Australia after a number of years living and working abroad, I’ve had the unique opportunity to ‘start over’ my consumer relationship with many companies. I’ve had to open new bank accounts, buy a car, arrange furniture deliveries, use car-ride and taxi services that didn’t exist when I last lived here, connect new mobile and internet services, find the best food delivery service – and that’s just to name a few. 

When I experienced what process designers refer to as the ‘happy path’, things were great. Unfortunately, I experienced the ‘un-happy path’ more often than I imagined I would and the service I received was plain awful at best and non-existent at worst. As a result, I chose companies I wouldn’t traditionally have gone with and abandoned forever some that are household names.

What best-of-breed, high-growth, global eCommerce players know

The high-growth eCommerce companies are moving fast. Their user experience online is optimised over and over again, with companies continually experimenting to maximise conversion and changing aspects daily or even hourly. They definitely don’t need to wait for quarterly or half-yearly deployment releases. New products are built in weeks and completely new services created in months, not years. This is all considered normal in the nimble world of global eCommerce.

While not all organisations have the agility, systems or environment to move quite that fast – at least not yet - there are critical lessons we can all learn from how these best-of-breed, high-growth eCommerce companies think about customer service.  

Yes, they still design their services and products largely for the ‘happy path’ but the pace and frequent iteration of products and services means the best organisations are aware customer service is critical. They know customer service teams exist precisely because the ‘un-happy path’ is inevitable.

By fully embracing this concept, customer assistance methods and cultures can be built around it. Self-service, contact us, FAQs and contact centres are not seen as discrete elements or strategies but as part of recovering the customer experience efficiently and in a customer-oriented way, it is precisely because the customer service teams see everything in the unhappy path that they are in the exact right place to lead the drive to turn the unhappy paths into happy ones for good.

If all the organisations I recently interacted with as part of my resettlement in Australia knew this, not only would my experiences have been more simple and less time-consuming, those I abandoned forever would have a much lower cost of acquisition.

Learn more about the best customer experience metrics and KPIs in this blog.

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