Customer-Compliant-WomanI am the bane of customer experience officers. I consider a customer relationship an invasion of my privacy, and my business can be bought with a coupon! Nevertheless, I consider it true that customer effort drives customer loyalty. So when I reflect on the times when I am loyal to a brand, and in fact promote it to my friends, I realize that it always comes down to effort. Not just my effort, but the business’s effort.

An easy customer experience is table stakes to me, so in and of itself “easy” does not catch my attention. Realizing that the best process in the world still breaks in the face of reality, what sets the great apart from the good is the company’s behavior during unexpected problems. My memorable experiences are when the company expended effort to help me without putting the burden on me.

My preferred airline has since been bought by an airline that doesn’t share their customer service attitude, but here’s why I used to fly them whenever I had a choice. I was scheduled to fly home from a small airport when the plane broke. Now when a plane breaks in a small airport, you have to fly parts and personnel from a big airport to fix it, which meant my connecting flight was a lost cause. After standing in line the requisite 90 minutes while everyone was rebooked, I learned that I would arrive home well over 24 hours after my original itinerary.

Oh well, no sense beating anyone up; these things happen. When I arrived in the big airport in the middle of the night to stand in a new line to get my hotel voucher, I casually asked the agent if they thought it was worth coming back to the airport early to try standby. Without answering directly, the agent scanned the flights, booked me on the first morning flight to Denver…in first class.

The first person that helped me wasn’t trained or equipped to do more than find an officially open seat the next day using the standard booking tools. The person who ultimately went beyond the simple fix had the desire to help, the skill to help, and the tools to help. As a result, everybody heard about this flight home – as a great experience not a nightmare.

Any good programmer will tell you that 90% of software is error handling. As you design your customer experience, are you also designing the error handling for when things inevitably go wrong? Specifically, can your staff get to needed tools from their workspace? Can they reach experts within the organization without having to actually know everyone? Do they have permission and training to try, or are they only taught to take the easy route?

Easy is required. Once you’ve got that solved, unleash your staff with technology and training to keep problem solving in your hands and not on the shoulders of your customers. These memories stick and these stories get told.