Customer experience has become a critical topic for every company I interview – even in industries that haven’t traditionally prioritized CX as heavily as others (like utilities, for example). Companies have learned that, ultimately, CX is what drives revenue and creates brand loyalty. Looking at some of that statistics shared in this recent article, the emphasis on CX by companies in our audience is well supported. For example:

  • 81% of marketers expect to compete mostly (or entirely) based on CX (Gartner)
  • $1.6Tis lost every year in the U.S. because of poor customer service (Accenture Strategy)
  • 74%of consumers are at least somewhat likely to buy based on experiences alone (Forbes / Arm Treasure Data)
  • $98B/yearis left on the table by companies who fail to provide “simple” experiences to their consumers (Siegel+Gale)

So, what constitutes a good customer experience? I suppose the weight of different criteria vary person to person, but some table-stakes expectations are control (self-service), ease and quality of communication (omni-channel support, proactive information), visibility (insight), efficiency (first-time fix, on-time delivery, knowledgeable employees, etc.), and effective problem resolution. We’ve talked a lot in recent years about the imperative role service plays in CX, and how it is often times the most frequent (sometimes only) face of the brand to customers. As such, equipping employees with the information, knowledge, and assets they need to delivery a positive CX has become top priority for today’s service organizations.

Technology plays a key role in delivering a cohesive and satisfactory CX. Money, time, and effort are being invested to consolidate systems and reengineer processes to achieve this cohesiveness and keep pace with the type of CX provided by consumer-facing brands like Amazon. Disparate tools and siloed data must be brought together so that the customer journey isn’t fragmented, and the service workforce must be equipped with the information, skills, and resources to deliver the experience you want to be associated with your company’s brand. It’s not an easy feat, but it’s an important one – and we’ve featured many success stories of companies getting it right.

My Real-World CX Woes

Perhaps that’s why a recent experience has frustrated me so much. We just finished remodeling a family room in our basement. In December, we ordered a sectional sofa from Joybird to finish off the space. For those not familiar, Joybird is a trade name of Stitch Industries, Inc. which was acquired by La-Z-Boy in July of 2018. Joybird specializes in e-commerce of custom-made furniture with very limited showroom locations in New York, Washington D.C., and Chicago. I’d seen Joybird pieces pop up on Instagram in beautiful colors and interesting textures that received rave reviews and was excited to make the purchase.

The online selection and ordering process was modern and user-friendly, including the ability to order free swatches of their many fabrics to evaluate in person before ordering. You can custom design your piece from the Joybird website and, for those looking for financing, that option is easily integrated into the purchasing process. Because I am incredibly impatient, I actually placed an order before receiving the fabric swatches and realized when they arrived that I much preferred a different option – so I called customer service to inquire about making the change, and they were friendly and accommodating. I was impressed with the ordering process all around.

Once we updated our order to the preferred fabric, we received an order update email confirmation and estimated delivery date (January 21st) along with a “follow your build” email which enables you to check in on the manufacturing of your product for updates from beginning to end. The experience thus far was very in line with what I’d expect from the brand’s fresh and modern persona.

On January 11th, we received an email explaining that the sofa build was complete and that the next phase would be for the sofa to go to a transit hub, where it could sit for up to a week to synergize shipping with other local purchases. The estimated delivery date remained January 21st, but January 21st came and went with no word on delivery or further email updates. On January 22nd, I called Joybird customer service to inquire about our order status – you can’t reach someone directly but have to leave a message for a call back, which I understand is likely due to work-from-home circumstances of COVID. When the representative called back, I was told only that Joybird does not have visibility into any order status once the sofa has shipped and that we must await contact from the third-party delivery provider. I was assured this would happen by January 28th.

Then January 28th came and went with no sofa, no contact by the delivery company, and no updates. I called again January 29th and was told the exact same thing I’d been told the previous week. Third time is a charm, right? Wrong. Another week and no sofa, no contact, no updates. This time when I call, now into February, I press harder because – let’s be honest – this lack of communication and lack of visibility really isn’t acceptable. I am told that the sofa is en route to last-mile logistics provider J.B. Hunt for delivery. On my own, I find the number to contact J.B. Hunt to inquire about location and status of delivery and I’m told they have our order information but have not yet received the sofa – the representative is hopeful it was on the order received end of last week and just hasn’t been scanned in yet, so I remain hopeful the sofa will finally arrive this week.

Fragmentation, Lack of Visibility Are Entirely Avoidable with Today’s Technologies

Reliance on third-party logistics providers is quite common, and I’ve never had such issues with getting insight into the status of an order. Companies I talk with that use third-party providers know the importance of leveraging both technology and training to ensure the use of a third-party doesn’t negatively impact the customer experience. The contrast of the customer experience of the Joybird sales process versus its service process is honestly shocking to me – the initial phase was so strong that my expectation for a cohesive, positive experience was set. The sofa we eventually receive may very well be phenomenal, but at this point, the impression I have of the company overall is quite poor based on my service experience (or lack thereof). The reality is, with the technology available to companies to offer a more cohesive customer experience and to have (and maintain) real-time visibility into its inventory from order all the way through to delivery, this level of disconnect and fragmentation feels simply unacceptable. This is a real-world example of the type of customer experience that ruins a brand’s perception and reputation, and the thing that gets me most is how entirely unavoidable this is.

I have a local acquaintance who recently received a beautiful, emerald green Joybird sofa – I reached out to her to inquire about her experience, and it very much mirrored ours. She said, “the sofa is absolutely beautiful and wonderfully made, but I will likely never order from them again based on the overall experience.” My point in writing this article isn’t to blast Joybird, but to use this very real-world example to illustrate the absolute criticality of asset visibility, connectedness, and a cohesive customer experience – especially when relying on a third-party delivery provider.

Sarah Nicastro
Author

Creator, Future of Field Service