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What is a Customer Experience Audit?
Simply put, a Customer Experience Audit (CEA) examines an organization’s interactions with its customers toward the goal of understanding how those interactions will affect customers’ views, attitudes, and behaviors towards the organization. We’ll see this applied to a JetBlue experience.
A CEA is similar in concept to a usability study. Product designers, including website designers, will test their products before going live. First, they’ll test with internal staff making sure everything works as intended. Then they will test how easily the customer can use the product – so called “ease of use.”
A CEA is also akin to mystery shopping where people are hired to pretend they’re customers. But mystery shopping typically has a narrow focus on retail experiences such as restaurants or hotels, where the shoppers are given a long, structured checklist of items to examine.
Shouldn’t this same logic apply to any interactions or communications with customers, not just in the targeted areas mentioned above? The CEA concept really should be broadened to encompass ALL customer interactions, even where structured checklists can’t readily be applied.
While a CEA is clearly important for the for-profit part of the economy, clear parallels exist with non-profit, including governmental, organizations.
Why Do a Customer Experience Audit?
I daresay that any company CEO would assert that they want customer interactions to drive positive engagement, loyalty, and good word-of-mouth, which all support longer term profitability. We’re not just talking interactions that directly drive revenue generation, but also customer interactions that could indirectly affect revenue and expenses for the organization.
But how does one know if customer interactions create positive engagement? By examining the interactions. (D’oh!) Look at interactions with customers – or prospective customers – and ask, looking at both the process and outcome:
Are the interactions engaging for customers or off-putting?
What’s the tone of the communication? Could any phrasing be taken as: arrogant, condescending, presumptuous, or insulting?
Do the interactions create unnecessary work for your customer? That is, do the interactions come with a “hassle factor”?
In Lean Six Sigma parlance, what’s the muda (waste) in the system and how can it be eliminated? And remember that muda is anything that doesn’t create value for customers.
Are customers likely to view your organization more positively or negatively with each step in the interaction?
Will customers likely say good or bad things about their experience to friends and colleagues?
Will they be more or less likely to buy more from you in the future?
How could the interaction have been made better for customers?
Listen to your gut. How would you as a customer react to the interaction?
Yes, walk in the customer’s shoes…
Who Should Conduct the Customer Experience Audit?
There’s a reason why companies’ accounting records are audited by outsiders. Insiders have agenda – and blinders. Both may inhibit a truthful and thorough examination. The same argument holds for a Customer Experience Audit. Would an insider:
Really look for and recognize potential issues?
Overlook subtle problems — and maybe even obvious issues — due to internal blinders?
It’s best to have an objective outsider who is inquisitive, detail driven, and can think as a customer. Mystery shoppers as mentioned have a checklist of items to consider, but a good auditor has eyes wide open for the unexpected blemishes in an interaction that might not make a structured checklist.
Customer Experience Audit: An Example
So, let’s look at an example. And yes, it’s an example showing the shortcomings, but that’s really the best way to see the concept. The example is from a combination of travel and financial services.
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I am considering flying JetBlue as my new, post-Covid carrier since they are the largest carrier in Boston, my home airport. I needed to buy tickets for a January trip. Their credit card, offered through Barclays, garners extra frequent flyer points, which also count toward status for their loyalty program, Mosaic.
[Aside: for another example demanding a CEA, go to the JetBlue website and try to find information on Mosaic. They hide it wicked good – as we’d say in New England.]
I have a number of credit cards – who doesn’t? – and I don’t really need another one, but holding these affinity credit cards make sense because of the higher rebates and perhaps membership benefits.
I researched the benefits of the 2 cards offered and decided to apply for the basic card with no annual fee. Notice that the JetBlue site promises an “instant response.” (See nearby screenshot.)
The application process is what one would expect for a credit card. It asked for “identify verification” information, “financial details,” and home ownership, etc. To submit the application, I had to agree to electronic communications – exclusively. (See nearby screenshot.)
Electronic Communications Consent Requirement
Also nearby is the response I got via an email after applying online. Was that the “immediate response” promised? Hmmm… And how will they contact me? Unclear.
Application Review “Instant Response”
I did click on the link provided in the email. Nearby is that response. I was rejected. (Right???) This was a shocker since I have never been rejected for a loan or a credit card — and I’m no spring chicken. “Details” on the apparent rejection would be postal mailed to me, I assumed. What happened to the electronic communications?
Notice also the confusing header and action button: Check Application Status and Back to Check Status. They’re not logical in context. Why would I go Back to Check Status given that I had just Check[ed] Application Status?
Barclay Instant Rejection
Listen to Your Gut
Now, imagine this communication was directed at you. What’s your gut reaction? How does it make you feel? Are you interested in the credit card anymore even if you could get it? More importantly, do you still want to fly JetBlue?
Later, when I did buy the JetBlue tickets for that January flight, the payment screen pitched me to apply for the credit card, saying I had been “pre-selected”!! Huh?
Pre-Selected Marketing BS
Boy, is that marketing BS or what? What’s the difference between “selected” and “pre-selected”? And “pre-selected” for what? Apparently to not get the card! Doesn’t that add insult to injury? You “pre-selected” me after you reject me? Or was I “pre-rejected”?
The Response: But Is This a Phishing Attack?
A full week after I made the online application, I did get the sort-of promised letter in the mail. It is shown nearby – obviously with confidential information obscured. Barclays had not completely rejected me, which was certainly the take-away from the initial communication; they just need some more information.
Barclay Rejection Letter
The letter just screamed yellow – and red – flags to me, in part because no one thought about how a customer could react to the substance and the style. Further, this letter struck me as very possibly phony, as a possible phishing attack. Really.
First, the letter is monochromatic. How often do you get letters from BIG companies in black and white? Hmmm…
Second, notice that the letter has THREE different addresses in it. One in the header. One in the footer. One in the body. Seems odd, right? Imagine if I gave Barclays 3 addresses? (What’s good for the goose is good for the gander – if one can use that phrase still.)
Third, there’s an application number, which I had never seen before. The “immediate response” through the web link didn’t provide an application number. I would have trusted this letter more if Barclays had linked the communications. Now how difficult would that have been? D’oh! Unless this IS a phishing attack.
Fourth, what appears to be a QR code on the right margin was not scanable. What is it?
Fifth, could the letter be made more impersonal? Not even a fake signature with a made-up name. “Sincerely” followed by a blank space is a bit of a contradiction.
Sixth, no professional writer or editor reviewed this document. I can tell that from the bullet structure and the lack of clarity of the document request. (Do they really want the backside of my utility bill?)
Seventh, and perhaps most importantly, look at the information they want. Photocopies front and back of my driver’s license and my Social Security card, along with a utility bill or bank statement showing name and address. Yikes! That’s pretty much the cream of the crop of personal information. (Why didn’t they ask for my passport and draft card too? Yes, I have a draft card; I told you I’m no spring chicken.)
But Why Does Barclay Even Need This Info?
I have lived in my house for 39 years. Why would they need proof of my address? Doesn’t my credit report show my address and years lived there? How could it not? I think I know why. My wife and I had the audacity to retire our mortgage a few years ago. So the credit check showed no current mortgage. Not having a house loan is a negative. Silly, eh?
Also, all our cards are paid off in full every month. We use them as charge cards, not credit cards. But the brain-dead algorithms at Barclays, and probably other banks, don’t distinguish the difference.
Add to that a FICO score that most would envy — deep into the 800s. (As I said, I pay my bills.) What’s the point in having FICO scores if they’re not used or if they don’t reflect the reality of a person’s creditworthiness?
My FICO score with last 2 digits disguised for confidentiality.
Let’s Evaluate the Communication
Off-putting or Engaging?
Create or Reduce Waste (Muda)?
Create Positive or Negative Viewpoint of Companies?
Generate Good or Bad Word-Of-Mouth?
Lead to Increased or Decreased Purchasing?
I think the answers are all pretty obvious. So, let me put the acid test to you regarding the letter’s transactional requests:
How comfortable would you be sending that much confidential, personal information in response to a letter like this through postal mail to a PO Box – whichever one – that you could not verify as legitimate?
How do I know that some enterprising Barclay employee doesn’t intercept applicant information for those who have been rejected and has a side business selling these poor fools’ personal information? I don’t think this is a phishing attack, but the downside risk is huge. Why take that risk? I’m not.
Personally, I think anyone who would respond to this letter is far too cavalier about their personal information. I don’t need Barclay’s credit card that badly. But this also means that my connection to JetBlue will not be as strong.
Perhaps the tone of the letter is even more important than the contents. Read the letter and pretend it was addressed to you. Now answer this survey question: (Hey, I’m a survey designer; how can I not use a survey to make the point?)
Customer Experience Survey Question
The letter seems to be a perfunctory effort, designed to drive the prospect away. Congratulations. You succeeded.
Has my experience with Barclays – and by extension JetBlue – enhanced or hurt my attitudes towards both vendors? Easy answer there. I even tried to communicate all this to JetBlue’s Director of Customer Loyalty and Partner Programs, Chris Buckner. But he ignored my missives. Makes one wonder about their true interest in customer loyalty…
So, I may fly JetBlue – since it has the most non-stops out of Logan Airport – but my relationship with them will be purely transactional.
The loyalty will be skin deep at best. And that’s just a reflection of their attitude toward me.
If they only had audited their customer communications…
It’s been a fortnight (mid-August 2021) with no response whatsoever, despite an autorespond promising a response within 10 days. I wouldn’t expect this to be a high priority, but no response? Hmmm….
Addendum to the Addendum
I did finally get a response — sort of — more than 3 weeks later:
Thank you for contacting JetBlue. With customer service a top JetBlue priority, we regret we were unable to respond to your email the same day it was received. We also thank you for your feedback and assure you it has been shared with the appropriate leadership teams who will use your feedback to make any necessary improvements.
We know you have many choices and we appreciate every time you fly JetBlue. Thank you again for choosing JetBlue and we hope to welcome you back soon.
Warm regards, xxxxxxx
JetBlue | Customer Support Executive Offices
Of course, that’s an acknowledgement, not a response. Still waiting…