Half-Assed Innovation and Customer Disservice 

Sometimes the latest and greatest solution to your company's minor inconveniences can lead to crushing friction for your customers (and ultimately, a loss of revenue for you).
DALL·E 2023-07-09 14.28.16 - painting of a donkey answering a phone call

Ready to lose customers and enervate people? Put them through frustrating paces with technology that doesn’t work. 

Last month, I called my go-to kennel to secure some boarding for my fat Bulldog. They informed me that they were already overbooked, and my stomach dropped – I was going to have to find a new kennel.  

A Challenging Experience Made Worse

If you’ve ever booked a new kennel for your dog, you know the hell you’re in for in the best of conditions. Reading reviews, trying to find your vet records, finding out that each kennel you talk to has some weird, unique-to-them vaccine requirement no one’s ever heard of, etc. It’s not a pretty process. You know what makes the process even worse? Half-assed innovation. 

What I found this time around, is that virtually every kennel near me (even the mom & pop kennels) were now using these “advanced” phone systems and online schedulers. The only problem: none of them worked. 

I would try the schedulers first, and found a litany of issues from pages that wouldn’t load, to date requests timing out, to no availability over the course of multiple years (believe me, I was so desperate that I checked). After exhausting my options online, I would resort to making a dreaded phone call. 

Once on the phone, there was no respite in sight: I was met by these elaborate call systems that required a handful of selections before attempting to transfer me to the right “department.” The results were about 50/50 between reaching a voicemail and having my call dropped altogether. In multiple cases, I reached a full voicemail box. In 100% of scenarios, I was unable to reach a human being. As much as I hate phone conversations, I was absolutely desperate to get a person on the other end of the line who could tell me whether or not they had the availability to take my dog. 

Hey Consumer, You Don’t Matter.

Recently, I was in a brand workshop with a client, and he said something to the effect of “when I call a company and I get a recording with options, I know I’m not important to that company.” It sounded a little extreme to me at the time, but let me tell you something: when I got hit with a recording full of options after dealing with a broken website, I felt like I was stranded on an island ready to die. 

Hey Company, You’re Screwed.

So that’s the customer experience. But what about the company experience? The customer (me) was completely unable to book dates at the companies whose entire businesses are built on the ability to book dates for dog boarding. Were they just flush with guests and didn’t need any more inquiries? Apparently not. 

At the end of my rope (leash?), I scoured the websites looking for email addresses in order to explain what I was going through. I reached out to every single kennel I could find an email address for, but got nothing in response. Fast forward a couple of weeks as I was mid-travel, and the calls started coming in. 

Companies, in the name of ease and progress, put their full faith in innovation that wasn’t ready for prime time. Reputation and revenue take the hit.

Several of the kennels were now frantically calling to figure out if they could still be of service, after realizing what happened. I heard the same story over and over again: “we don’t check email much these days because we switched to an online scheduler.”

Therein lies the problem: these companies, in the name of ease and progress, put their full faith in innovation that wasn’t ready for prime time. The result? A stunningly frustrating user experience and a loss of revenue (and potentially tarnished name) for the company implementing the innovation. 

What’s Good for CX is Just Good

So what’s the solution? Humanity. Adding just a little bit of human interaction into the mix could have changed everything. Just providing an “out” from the automation would have saved the customer some stress and provide a paycheck for the company. 

My suggestion for companies going forward: invest in a concierge experience. 

Get a real, live person in place to offer that “out” for people who are swept up in technical issues, whether their own or your system’s. Even if the human being you’ve pegged for that concierge role has absolutely zero answers, if they can so much as process your pain point and report the issue to someone who can help, it will do a world of good for your customer retention and company revenue.

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Disclaimer: bio written by A.I. Daniel likes concerts (kind of true), cantaloupes (not true – honeydew FTW), and creating successful brands (true). Daniel went from college dropout (true), to Americana retailer (kind of true). Daniel is now a marketing professional (true) and entrepreneur (true) who guides small (not really true) businesses (true) to cool company status (I’ll take it). Daniel lives in Seattle (not true), occasionally flies to Inverness to smoke cigars with his dad (not true), and has 2 dogs (not true).
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