My Journey Through Inconsistency (Part 2)

 

My last post started the story of a simple cell phone upgrade that has gone horribly wrong.

 

So we’re on day two and we still have no phone. I did walk through the online process one more time to be sure I was seeing things correctly, and then did some quick math on the lesser of the two financial evils. I decided to go back to the store and see what happens from there.

 

The same woman is there from my last visit, and remembers me coming in. That was nice. I explain that I would like to upgrade and she asks if we were still considering the iPhone free upgrade. I ask again about the cost, and she mentions the activation fee, but not the other costs. Untrusting, I go ahead with it anyway – I have other things to do.

 

This process went much more quickly, and she was even able to transfer the phone from my account to my daughter’s right then and there. I asked when the additional $10/mo would start on my line. Confused, she says it won’t because this new phone is going to my daughter’s line, which already has the cost. Huh, that’s new. As I’m reviewing the paperwork, I look to make sure she’s right on this, and so far, it looks good. She tests my current phone to make sure it’s working again since the transfer, and all seems well. Finally, an easy process!

 

I head for home and we are all set. Or so I think….I noticed that my phone was unusually quiet – no emails or Facebook updates, though I did get a text or two. I didn’t think about it another second, as I was thrilled the process was over.

 

Until the next day.

 

As I’m enjoying my morning coffee, I use the time to catch up on my emails on my phone. Wait, I’ve gotten NO emails (work or personal) in the last 12 hours? Impossible. I send myself a test email, and it doesn’t go through. I fiddle with the phone for a few minutes and figure it’s just spacing out for a while.

 

A few hours later I notice I’m still not functional with my phone, so I go back to the online chat. A very nice young man offers to check it out for me, and says that he sees upgrades in my area and a potential outage. He assures me that the network will be restored no later than the following morning. Since this is the first outage I experienced ever, I was okay with that. I did mention that I had just upgraded a line on my account the night before and had to re-transfer my phone to my account and asked if that could be an issue, and he stuck to the outage story.

 

Since this has been a journey in inconsistency, I decided to try another employee to see if I get the same response. That evening I call instead of chat and another very nice woman offers to help me. She looks over my account and walks me through a few troubleshooting steps. She explained that, when I had everything changed over the day before, I should have re-registered my phone so it can be picked up on the network. I did as she instructed, and presto – here come a slew of emails! I thank her profusely and realize that I am really, finally done with this experience!

 

As you can see, not one of their employees was unprofessional, unpleasant, or acted in a manner that would make me feel as though they did not provide good customer service. However, the inconsistent messages I got along the way, coupled with the effort needed for me to make what I thought would be a simple upgrade, made the experience less stellar than I’m sure they would want.

 

In thinking about this in hindsight, I’ve learned a few things:

 

1. It’s possible that their staff at various touchpoints (online, phone, in store) may be trained differently or provided with only pieces of information they may need to help customers. Since I got a different version of the story on some level at each point along the way, I wondered if it was a training issue. It could also very well be that each area only has access to certain information or tools, or they don’t know how to go further in the process. For example, why was the gentleman on the chat not able to see that I recently upgraded, and that may be causing my outage issue (or wasn’t given the knowledge to look at that as a red flag), whereas the second person I talked to was able to figure it out right away? Is it because he wasn’t trained properly, or does he not have the same access to my account as the telephone staff?

 

2. After all that, I didn’t walk away. Why is that? Well, this is a unique situation, because really I’m stuck with them. While my portion of the contract was up at the time, my two daughters still had a lot of time left, so we had no choice without paying the high termination fees. I will say though this made me check out the competition to see if I had any other options in the future when all of the contracts do run out.

 

3. Customer effort can make the difference between a raving fan and “just a customer.” I’ve always been generally pleased with the company, but this experience has given me pause. Would I recommend them to others? I might but I would caution people to really check the details, and perhaps confirm through two forms of communication with the company. Customers shouldn’t have to do that though.

 

4. I wonder if this inconsistency affected the employees. As you’ll recall, Jessica gave me a link to place my online order, which I mentioned was the same site I was already on. I now wonder if that was a special landing page that would give her credit for the sale (that never happened). If that’s the case, I really feel badly for her, and I feel bad that the company is hindering the employee’s opportunity to be successful.

 

5. They may never know about this experience. At no point through the process did I get an invitation to provide feedback. In the past, I have gotten invitations to take a web based survey with this company. I did receive a phone call that I wasn’t able to answer, which did say they were calling about my in store experience. However, I have no way to respond since it was a missed call. It is unclear if it is up to the employee to provide the survey invitation or not, but it does not appear to be an automatic practice.

 

A feedback survey may not provide enough of a picture to pinpoint these types of issues, as many do not offer comment boxes for more detailed responses. My immediate thought was the utilizing a “Plant a Shopper” mystery shopping program could illustrate potential breakdowns and inconsistencies such as this; having a typical customer evaluate their journey while doing business with any company can be enlightening and extremely beneficial.

 

All in all, life is back to normal. I did think it was a great example of inconsistency in a customer’s journey and was worth sharing. Have you had a similar experience with a company? Share it with the community – the more examples that we share, the more ideas it can give companies to ensure they are causing the least amount of friction and effort in the buying process, which helps everyone!

 

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