How (Not) To Lose a Customer in Less Than Two Months
The way you manage your work has the potential to make or break your value proposition. Your ability to develop a continuous improvement mindset, keep your attention on your customer experience, collect feedback and incorporate it into the services you provide to your customers is what makes the difference between success and failure.
Today, I’d like to share with you a story about excitement, disappointment and missed opportunities. This was an experience that proved to me again that managing workflows effectively is the driving force behind every successful business.
Let’s start from the beginning.
We’re Getting a New Car!
Here we are on 1 July. It’s 8 o’clock in the morning. I’m having a kiss goodbye with my kids as they leave for kindergarten with my husband, and I’m going straight outside to pick up the mail from the mailbox. The post service here in Belgium is one of the most reliable delivery systems in existence. For example, if you need a new ID card or a new credit card, it’s always sent by post (including the PIN code + the device that enables you to authorize any payments!).
So, I’m picking up my mail and I’m seeing a letter from our car insurance company for a technical check of our car. I’ve never received anything like this before, and I wonder what all of this is about? It turns out that our car has just turned 4 years old. Time really does fly.
Well, it’s getting old, I thought. It doesn’t have a guarantee anymore (when you buy a car in Belgium they come with a 3-year guarantee), and all the online services I used to enjoy have expired. Now I have to go to a technical check. I don’t want to deal with this stuff. Probably it’s time to retire it.
So here we are on 5 July and my husband is passionately showing me a variety of options for our new car. I only have a couple of requirements – it has to be big (making the calculation in my head 2 kids + 2 adults + 2 dogs + grandma/grandpa, yeah it needs to have some space) and it has to provide a comfortable driving experience. The rest is up to him.
2 days later, I’m already talking to the broker in our local car dealership about the latest models in stock. Awesome, they have what we wanted. I’m told that in a week or so, we will just need to bring in the old one, pick up the new one, and everything else will be handled by the dealer. Such an awesome customer experience! At least, I hoped so.
The Story of a Missed Opportunity
It turns out that our broker goes on vacation the next day for 3 weeks. “Send me some pictures of your old car, please, so we can give you a price”, he says, “My colleague will take care of the details, while I’m gone”.
Fast forward 3 weeks later and we have absolutely no progress with the deal and we start feeling quite uncomfortable. We are going on a vacation to France on 15 August and we really need more passenger seats.
Here we are, 27 July, our broker is back from his vacation, trying to sort things out. We have a price for our old car and we’ve sent an offer for the new one. However, it turns out that the garage works with a leasing company, which in turn works with a leasing insurance company who have to approve the deal.
On the 3rd of August, we start feeling the pressure and coming up with backup plans for our vacation. The thing is, at this point, we as customers feel quite nervous. That’s not the service we were looking for.
The 6th of August comes by and we still don’t have an answer. We have to cancel our vacation. Not fun, we needed this time off so much.
Poor Processes Equal Poor Customer Service
10th August, the deal has been approved, they call us to book an appointment to pick up the car! But we then receive an email saying that now we have 2 cars on our account. Huh?
Just a day ago, we got a confirmation email that this same garage was buying our old car. What happened? So a few emails back and forth managed to help them sort this out.
18 Aug, waiting for the registration documents so we can purchase the car insurance. We contacted our insurance broker to take care of the details. 2 hours later we have a signed document saying that we can pick up the car the next day. We’ve booked an appointment.
18 Aug, 4:20 pm, Last few minutes before the end of the working day, I am calling the garage to confirm whether everything is ok for the next day. “Let me check! Well, actually, the insurance documents should be signed by the insurance company, not the insurance broker. Otherwise, we are not able to release the car”. Imagine my surprise!
Plenty of calls back and forth. The appointment got rescheduled.
At this point, I’m thinking. From a customer perspective, what I need to do is to handle the entire collaboration from the insurance company to the insurance broker, the garage, the leasing company AND the leasing insurance company as a bonus. 5 instances in total, just to be able to receive what I’m paying for.
The Need for Fit-For-Purpose Value Proposition
Let me ask you a question, which part of this process can be optimized? To take this further, which part of this process can be handled without involving the customer?
What if the insurance company talked directly to the leasing company? What if the brokers had the authority to collaborate together to make this deal work?
What if they had given me a realistic deadline in the first place? How would that change my customer experience and my loyalty to the company?
What went wrong? Here are just a handful of the reasons that led to poor results: lack of visibility, lack of communication, lack of prioritization, lack of ownership and accountability, the list goes on.
Here is my advice. Start with visualizing your processes and set explicit process policies. Once you make your work visible, begin measuring your performance to be able to come up with reliable delivery commitments. From there, identify the obstacles that prevent you from providing fit-for-purpose services and optimize the way you manage the work. Then repeat!
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Don’t be that service provider. It doesn’t matter whether your individual workers are high-performers or your teams get work done well on their own. All that matters to your customers is that they receive what they’ve requested on time and with a high degree of quality.
From the very moment when an idea arrives up until the moment a solution has been delivered, you should keep your focus on optimizing the flow of work.
Put yourself into your customer’s shoes. Understand what it is they are trying to achieve, solve their problem, collect feedback and use that knowledge to improve your value proposition. This is how you build long-term customer relationships and a reputation of credibility and reliability.
And if you’d like to explore the proven roadmap to optimize your workflows for predictability and deliver exceptional customer service, I’d be thrilled to welcome you to our Sustainable Predictability program!
Meet the Author
Sonya Siderova is a passionate product manager and a driving force behind Nave, a Kanban analytics suite that helps teams improve their delivery speed through data-driven decision making. When she's not catering to her two little ones, you might find Sonya absorbed in a good heavyweight boxing match or behind a screen crafting a new blog post.