When Customer Happiness is Never a Priority, Does it Ever Become One?

I’ll be honest, this post has been a struggle for me to write (he said at the start of every blog post ever).

I made a resolution to be more positive this year and to avoid ranting about things I can’t change.

Fat chance! 🙈

I’d like to say I did a pretty good job but I really didn’t. It’s only February and this’ll be the second time I’ve broken rank to go off on a random tirade.

Truth is, I can’t hold it in anymore.

For a while, I’ve been trying to reconcile the idea that many huge companies purposefully avoid placing any effort on their customer service. And worse still, that we, as consumers, kind of let them. We fail to hold them accountable or really call them out on it.

Forgive the irony that in my last post I said we should all get along. I was young and that Matt lied! 😄

To be fair, the whole point of that post was to encourage people to focus less on what people aren’t doing well, as opposed to outright ignoring those doing awful things.

Anyways, I’ve justified it to myself now so there’s no getting around from it. Sometimes the bad is so in your face it’s too hard to ignore.

So let's just plow on through!

To be honest, as part of a team who try to deliver exceptional experiences to everyone, no matter what (despite our small but mighty team) it winds me up to see companies with limitless resources ignoring the plight of their users.

It’s frustrating. Even more so when it happens to you. We’ve no doubt all had moments where we’ve found ourselves internally screaming, longing for some form of karmic resolution. A resolution that never seems to come.

Perhaps the worst part is we all know the culprits. Social media platforms are collectively notorious for all-but ignoring their users—at the very least placing a vast chasm between the business and their users.

Airlines are another great example, regularly overbooking flights in order to ensure maximum profitability yet rarely investing in adequate support to manage the fallout. I wrote about a surprisingly acceptable experience after our retreat to Panama.

On reflection, perhaps the reality is it was ‘acceptable’ because I expected a horror show.

What’s more, I fear my single acceptable experience is a drop in an ocean of millions of crap ones.

Similarly, events and entertainment companies regularly overbook venues to ensure maximum capacity is reached while neglecting any real consumer-focused contingency beyond “sorry, here’s a refund”.

The thing is, we—me with my consumer hat on—let them get away with it. We flock to their products like crack addicts to an abusive dealer.

Why so Serious, Matt?

A few days ago—well it was a few days, now it’s more like a couple of months!—I found myself on the Little Warden blog reading a post about their Founder Dom Hodgson’s initial experiments and frustrations with Twitter ads, and the level of support they offer.

It’s an experience I’m familiar with. On more than one occasion I’ve found myself wrangling with Twitter support in the vain hopes of trying to get a resolution from a real person to no avail. Palmed off with platitudes and stock responses.

The thing is, I’m a huge proponent of self-service. A massive proportion of customer queries can—and should—be solved with an adequate self-service platform, be it a knowledge base, a simple FAQ, or worst case scenario a—gulp—chatbot.

But this was not one of those cases. Dom had come up against something no FAQ would be able to solve, and no bot would be able to clearly understand.

It was a unique issue—or at least one that required a custom response. Yet here he was, fobbed off with Twitter’s go-to catch-all we don't give a fuck response: "We cannot offer custom support to all queries".

I get it. Lord knows I get it. Twitter must have thousands of queries every. Single. Day.

But this wasn’t just some random egg wanting to know how to get verified. This was a paying customer who’d run into an issue with the product they’d purchased. The product Twitter supplied. And here was Twitter, actively avoiding their duty to answer the question because, well, they don’t have to.

How the heck is that ok? 🤷🏻‍♂️

Customer Happiness isn’t Always Crucial…and That Sucks!

It pains me to admit that happy customers aren’t a prerequisite to fiscal success.

For many hyper-growth focused companies—the Twitters and Facebooks of the world—success often comes without needing to invest in customer support, or indeed care about customer happiness at all.

As Dom—and many of us—found the hard way, some of these companies actively avoid helping their customers. And yet, despite the sour taste left in our mouths, we still flock to them.

It’s usually this point in an article where the author makes some kind of rousing, philosophical statement that brings everyone together. And in one voice, we all shout “No” and the tower these companies are precariously balanced on comes crumbling down.

Well, sorry, I’m all roused out! 😢

Let’s face it, there’s not much that I could say that would change people’s minds, anyway. I can tirade all I like. Occasionally I do like to tirade!

Even if a hundred or a thousand people were inspired to be angry and not use these services it wouldn’t matter. One only needs to look at the fallout from things like the Cambridge Analytica scandal—or lack thereof—to see that.

The truth is if a business succeeds despite avoiding customer happiness, happiness, in turn, rarely becomes crucial.

And why would it? After all, it’s an additional expense fiscally-driven companies don’t really want or need.

As consumers, it’s frustrating. But short of self-indulgent blog posts that do little more than satisfy the authors burning need to vent, what more can we actually do?

As employees, I guess we can try to make the changes from the inside. To bastardise paraphrase the thoughts of a great thinker, we can be the change we want to see at the company.

Perhaps we can set the example for those around us, and speak up when we’re lambasted for doing the right thing.

Maybe it's time growth-driven companies took a step back to realise while happiness may not yet have been important, perhaps a more customer-centric approach could be the future.

Long-term customer happiness should be the most important thing to a company. It's what drives exceptional experiences, makes brands a relatable entity and not a corporate Goliath, and helps us as employees feel fulfilled in our work.

But unless we help make a meaningful reality out of the vaccuous platitudes spewed from the mouths of these Goliaths, it's all for naught.

Perhaps it's time the customer really did come first.