Do you know if you're irritating your customers?
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Do you know if you're irritating your customers?

Adrian Swinscoe
  • Adrian Swinscoe
  • Business Partner

Adrian Swinscoe is a consultant, author and teacher with a particular interest and experience in customer-focused businesses.

He’s been conducting ‘a series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, helping businesses innovate, become more social and deliver better service.’ His blog has recently featured an in-depth interview with our very own Melvin Brand Flu.

You can listen to it here.

Highlights of my interview with Melvin:

  • Livework was founded nearly 14 years ago and at the time were the first service design company in the world.
  • Recently, they have invested heavily in making service design more useful and effective in organisational settings.
  • Livework is currently doing a lot of work around ‘Irritation’ curves i.e. when do firms/industries irritate their customers along the customer lifecycle.
  • What they have found, and have been mapping, across more than 14 different sectors are all the things that irritate customers across the customer lifecycle.
  • They have also found that focusing on asking customers to articulate what irritates them is much easier and they get better and more useful responses as opposed to asking a customer how was their ‘experience’.
  • The best service is the one that is not irritating.
  • When you irritate customers, the memory that you create is very long lasting.
  • One of the primary reasons that customers leave an organisation is not that they are dissatisfied with the actual product or service but that the experience they have had with the organisation itself has not been good or has irritated them.
  • These principles are as equally applicable to a B2B market as they are to a B2C market.
  • One of the big mistakes that many firms make is only trying to pick up their relationship with a customer based around their weekly/monthly/quarterly/annual billing and/or other operational cycles. This is usually a complete misunderstanding of the relationship cycle and needs of their customers and can prove very irritating.
  • Understanding these differences can lead to improved and better timed communication, reduced irritation and reduced churn.
  • Irritations can exist across the whole customer lifecycle even if your stats are all looking good. Take the example of Ruter, the public transport body of Oslo, who’s performance metrics all looked good but Lifework helped them understand how much of their service was extremely irritating to their customers. When the CEO found out, he went public announcing the strategy of ‘we will stop irritating you’. It earned him and Ruter respect and credibility in Norway.
  • This manifested itself in actions like letting customers wait for the time when a bus is ready to leave inside the bus rather than outside in the bus shelter in the cold.
  • Apart from actually going out and talking to your customers, one of the best ways to identify the things that irritate your customers is to look at your own data or ask your own call centre people.
  • Also, firms can gain insight from other firms as the irritations can often be generic to a sector.
  • Melvin provided an example of a firm where they redesigned their old sales process so that it didn’t leave customers hanging and thus removed that irritation. The result was that between one in three/one in four customers brought in a new customer/referral because they were so pleased with the new sales process.
  • Compliance and regulation shouldn’t always imply or have to mean irritation but often they do.
  • (Unfiltered) listening and then understanding where the customer is coming from (their viewpoint) is a great place to start.

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