Customer Experience “Through the Looking Glass” – It’s the Last Mile that makes the Difference.

12 Feb


Caught a matinee today – awful really. Made far worse by the 3D glasses we had to wear. This is probably the nth 3D movie I watched – and not a single time has my experience with the glasses been anything but horrible. Isn’t it a huge pity that technology is advancing by leaps and bounds, the 3D tech has made movie making/ watching so supposedly pleasurable – but the entire experience is completely and utterly spoilt by one tiny detail – the glasses (oh btw, these glasses are rented – so I pay for them – which adds insult to injury!)

This experience reminded me of an article I’d written nearly 10 years ago in a newspaper (you can read it here) on how so many products fail – not so much because of the products themselves – though such examples abound (including in the article) – but because of the other elements (4Ps a-la-Kotler) of marketing – it could be distribution/ advertising/ pricing…and increasingly nowadays…customer service.

OK, since it looks like this is becoming a “nostalgic” post, I pulled up another article I’d written in the same newspaper even longer ago (actually that was my first published piece ever – so I still remember the thrill it gave me to look at myself in print!) ON customer service – or, the lack of it, in durables. (again, if you have time on your hands, you can read it here). Two things struck me – a) my writing style hasn’t really changed much! 🙂 b) In the customer service world, things havn’t changed much either! Witness bad quality 3D glasses!


Think about it – with the advent of social media, there’s this big hullabulloo about customer service; customer experience; reputation – these are now very dynamic/ very fragile/ very potentially viral properties. While Twitter is the new customer service helpdesk, it is also the crisis escalation firebell! One Dell Hell, One United Broke My guitar, or, recently, Findus/ beef lasagna/ horse meat controversy, and you’re stuck with a big big big problem on your hands. People are now getting paranoid about reputation. But you know what, this whole customer service shindig – hinges on really SMALL things – the last mile almost. It’s the guy at the cash counter who is counting bills while you are waiting/ the system that asks you for your problem for the nth time as you complain about bad internet bandwidth for the nth time when each time you’ve explained the origin and history of the problem/ it’s even the barman who didn’t smile when he handed you your pint, and most importantly, it’s the rant tweet that went unattended for 2 days when you complained about the above!

That’s why companies are investing in listening, and then responding. There are “Social Media Command Centers” being set up – not only to proactively engage with customers, but to respond to customer service issues. But it’s a scary thought – one rogue tweet that went unattended – and your command center is useless…

So what does one do? Apart from the obvious ones like – get a listening program in place (but how do you find out what’s important), have someone manning your social media properties for customer service related issues (but how do you make sure that one rogue tweet/ youtube video is not unattended), have a proactive policy of crisis handling?

The answer is the 5 Ts

Social CRM

Technology – I’m talking futuristic here – lets get Social CRM stuff – this is the utopican (currently) smart help desk that knows you when you buy/ call/ chat/ tweet/ rant – and can connect all the dots (see my older post on this by clicking here – I do believe that sCRM even as a concept needs much understanding currently – many people think its just an evolved form of listening. Its NOT!)


Training – Seems really obvious. The best tech cannot obviate human beings – and human beings cannot be let loose unbridled in the social media world – just like any contact center operation, social media helpdesk management requires policies and training – continuous, iterative, dynamic, flexible training. Best Buy did this best with their Twelpforce – they mobilized almost their entire organization as customer service agents, trained them but had the appropriate tech platform backing them.

Tracking – Make sure you have ways of finding out who can potentially be the bomb – so influencer identification strategy is important – keep a trace on big people on social media, and track them continuously. Remember, “influencers” can trigger virality quicker than mere mortals. Remember also however, that someone else’s pussy cat may be your influencer and vice versa!

Triggering Mechanisms – Make sure you have ways of putting in place traces of issues that are escalating – so a virality alert – that makes you get on the crisis fighting mode sooner rather than later. It could be a spike in negativity/ an unusual pick up in a competitor’s chatter/ unprecedented buzz on one site..just keep an eye on the trigger

and finally,

Transparency – Lets face it – the best will and technology in the world, may not be able to avert a customer service disaster. The best thing to do in such cases is – basically eat crow. Open your kimono, say you’re sorry, get the ranting raving customer be atleast a sympathetic ranting raving one. After all, most folks realize good intentions and appreciate that if you goof up and own up that u goofed up, a lot is saved!

As for my matinee movie, I read here back in August that we should be able to watch 3D movies without glasses soon – may the day arrive sooner rather than later. Samsung/ Sony – you guys listening?


11 Responses to “Customer Experience “Through the Looking Glass” – It’s the Last Mile that makes the Difference.”

  1. wendynewell February 12, 2013 at 7:50 pm #

    I’d add Empowerment of Employees. Many times I feel like the individual can’t help solve my problem because he/she isn’t allowed. Makes me crazy. I was trained in customer service through my position in Guest Relations at Disneyland. I really think any service related company should force their employees to go there but even more importantly their executives. Disney does a great job of allowing employees (or cast members) to actually solve the guests (or clients) problems. I strongly feel customer service makes or breaks a company’s success. Social Media adds another way they can succeed or fail. (For nostalgia on my part here are two older blog posts I wrote on the subject –,

    • joshsang February 13, 2013 at 4:31 am #

      yes agree. i didnt know u’d worked in disneyland! yr coolness factor in my kids’ eyes will now go up multiplefold :). so the old newspaper article i referenced had this point exactly – “The other important aspect is empowerment – because as long the employee does not get the authority to fulfill his job, he will not feel responsible for it.”

  2. Shoma February 13, 2013 at 5:04 am #

    Great read again! Customer service not done right is the most dangerous thing! I have to tell you – I got my house painted by Asian Paints and they did a very good job. However, once the job was done, a rep called me to get my rating on their service, she called me three times and on each occasion I was in a meeting and finally I got thoroughly annoyed, so much so that I gave them a “poor” rating despite being very pleased with their actual service! Talk about backfire!

    • joshsang February 13, 2013 at 3:51 pm #

      yep, heaven save us from well meaning but pesky cust serv agents!

  3. Avinash February 13, 2013 at 2:27 pm #

    Nice one Sangita. I have never heard the one about the open kimono before. Neote to self to store for future use 🙂

    Customer experience/ engagement on SM needs to go beyond managing irate/potentially irate customers. Post facto customer management Vs Building a loyal advocacy band. I think managing these customers who have problems is a must have hygiene factor. But beyond that, to really build and manage this community of customers both online and in the physical world there needs to a solid product service backed by a whole bunch of what are derisively called ‘fanboys’. I think Apple has created a mass of these and you hardly get to see huge issues about their customer service/ dissatisfied customers although I suppose there are tons of those. I think the way they have done this is by excelling at their core, building reasonable PR/SM presence and then farming out the
    reputation management to their loyal fans. Think Star Wars, Lego, Ferrari, Led Zep and our own Narendra Modi – for every critic of his you have a hundred who come to his rescue online (Labelled trolls by critics). That way, he does not really need to address every issue that people raise about him online. So in a way it is about creating a raving fan who drowns out voices of those poor unsatisfied souls 🙂 (Who you have obviously try to satisfy but failed)

    • joshsang February 13, 2013 at 3:48 pm #

      yep great points. most companies talking cust exp actually do talk the proactive part – its just that at the execution level – even the “management of negatives” is such a big one, and potentially more dangerous that energies get focused there. also, online community building is a big business (as u know 🙂 ).
      surprised u hadnt heard the kimono phrase before – debjani for one is queen of the kimono 🙂

  4. bellnight February 18, 2013 at 1:17 am #


    I have nominated your blog for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award.

    The rules of this award are at:


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