frustrated woman with her head on her desk with laptop next to her
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Let me tell you the tale of a missing table. After three years in our current house, my wife and I are in the middle of a project to get our back garden landscaped and arranged just the way we want it. Central to the plan was refurbishing the deck and replacing our worn-out patio furniture.

A Tale of 2 Customer Experiences

We estimated the amount of timber required to build a new deck and headed out to a local home improvement big-box store which we’ll call Store L. There we explained what the project was and what we needed the timber for. We received great advice on the sort of timber we’d require, and placed an order. At one point we needed to make an adjustment to the order, all done quickly and easily over the phone. The timber was delivered exactly when promised. It was a very pleasant and helpful customer experience.

Now it was time to decide on new patio furniture. We eventually found just the set we wanted at a different big-box store. We’ll call this one Store H. We decided not to order the furniture until the deck was in place. All well and good so far.

With the new decking complete it was time to order the furniture, but by now we were all on lockdown. No problem, we’d use Store H’s online store. We found an entry for the sofa and armchair set we wanted and clicked through to eventually get a message that it was unavailable for delivery. It took about 10 minutes of clicking around to work out I could actually get the exact same set by ordering each of the pieces separately, and the cost was the same as the advertised set. So why was that marked as 'not available'? We also decided to buy a cafe table set (table and four chairs), found a set we liked and ordered that too.

The website acknowledged our order and gave us delivery dates for all the pieces. None of which arrived when they should have. The first to arrive, two days late, were the armchairs. The website sent revised delivery dates, stating the cafe set would be next. The sofa turned up instead. Then nothing. Eventually, the Store H order page had a button where you could get a tracking number to copy with instructions to paste into the delivery company’s website. Except the delivery company didn’t have a tracking app where you could paste said tracking number. I eventually found an email link and contacted the delivery company. The cafe chairs arrived the next day, but no table.  

Store H’s webpage now showed the order as being fulfilled and delivered.

Eventually, I found a number to call. After navigating an unnecessarily complicated phone tree, and having to input my order number three times, and sit on the phone for 30 minutes listening to the same sound byte about how they value their customers on repeat every 30 seconds, I got to talk to a real human being. She told me that with a multi-part delivery the customer-facing tracking report marks it complete once the first part had been delivered, but that they have a separate internal tracking system they use with the delivery company that only marks it complete when all packages have been delivered. She said the table was on the way and would arrive the next Friday. It didn’t arrive. I emailed the delivery company again, it said it hadn't received the table from Store H yet. And so it continued.

Last week we needed to get a few more home improvement things for the house. Masked up we left the house, and made sure to drive the extra few miles to talk to the helpful folks at Store L where once again we had a great experience.

Related Article: How to Deliver Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Customer Experience

Customer Experience Is a Cumulative Effect

This has been a long intro story, but I think it illustrates a good point. Customer experience isn’t something that happens at a single point of interaction. It’s a combination of every single interaction a customer has with your brand: be that in person, on the phone or online. It’s not just about how you market the product, it’s about how you deliver the product, how you problem-solve and how you follow up.

Companies need to start thinking like the customer and look at the processes that drive interactions across the board because every interaction impacts the next one and has a cumulative effect.

It’s also about linking your systems so that the information your customers need is consistent not just within one channel, but across every channel. Make sure the content about your products is connected to the data about your products, including information like if it's in stock or not. Make sure your information about the customer and their interactions flows with them on their journey with you. No one should ever have to input a key piece of information like an account or order number more than once.

Related Article: Why Most Companies Haven't Cracked the Customer Journey Code – Yet

Stop Thinking About Customer Journeys as Theoretical

What we are really talking about are those journeys. True customer journeys are not theoretical marketing exercises about what web page someone reads or what buttons they click on. A customer journey is an ongoing conversation and relationship between the customer and the brand, and it should be part of the culture across an entire organization, irrespective of their functional role. 

A customer journey isn't a linear funneled process that stops when a purchase is made. In fact, that’s the real starting point. The experience after purchase is as important, or it could be argued even more important, than the purchase experience. The post-sales experience lasts longer than the sales experience as the customer uses your product. If that’s a good experience then they are more likely to make a repeat purchase and make peer recommendations.

Developing a holistic view of the customer experience creates an ongoing cyclical relationship of trust, repeat business and peer marketing, which all results in increasing the bottom line, while building brand ambassadors.

Not thinking about the customer experience from a holistic point of view just leads to frustrated consumers writing long blog posts while wondering if they will ever see that cafe table they ordered and paid for.  

Related Article: The Customer Goodwill Piggy Bank