Bad Experience Awards 2018 – Lessons Learned

No matter the profession you want to learn, grow and build on what you have learned. We all attend conferences, view webinars, videos, read books. Often we are customers to other companies. As customers, we immediately recognize lousy service or a generally bad experience. However, how many of you share these stories with your team? Do you ever do “post mortems” with experiences outside of your organization? With questions like: “What can we learn from this?”, “Can this ever happen to us?”, “Should we put resources to avoid such an issue? If so, how can we avoid this happening within our company?”.

Here are my top 5 remarkable bad customer experiences. As always, this list is subjective, personal and is highly influenced by my own social setting, culture and business environment. As it will be with all the experiences that we create as professionals. Let’s jump into it. Disclaimer: these are my personal stories. 🙂

No. 5. E-commerce and shipping

Online shopping has never been more convenient, simple and easy. Easy to browse, choose, easy to pay. Even though bad experience might come from the courier it still influences your choice of online retailer.

All went well with the order, received the tracking ID, and waited for the delivery. Every single day, several times I checked the tracking ID but found the same status: “Searching”. I thought it was a system message for in between outbound and stock. Nothing happened for a week or so.

I decided to call. Tracking ID, telling them the message I see. So the assurance came with a calm, very soft tone: thank you, sir, for calling, we will try to find the package because we don’t know where it is.

So the message was spot on. They really had no idea where it was, and if I didn’t call, they wouldn’t care. I was shocked.

Lessons learned: use the customer journey to understand the touch points where subcontractors are providing services that impact your(!!!) customer experience or NPS score. Their NPS is your NPS!!!!!

No.4 Sales Tax Magic

All businesses try to optimize taxes paid and try to make the most profit out of the same transaction. Some still believe that the financially best process wins. With a sustainable business, in the long run, the best customer experience wins.

I am the proud (?!?!?!?!)  owner of a butterfly two keyboard-equipped MacBook Pro 2017. You know, the one with the “it’s not a design fault, but we’ll replace it anyway” keyboard. (

I decided that I’ll extend the original warranty of one year to three years. I tried to purchase AppleCare+ through Apple Premium Resellers but they informed me, it’s no longer available through them, but directly through Apple.

Let’s try it online. The buying process was rough, to say the least. The webshop doesn’t support standalone AppleCare+ purchase, so I had to contact the call center. The process itself, once talking to the right person went on smoothly, but the invoice revealed a surprise.

It’s a bit complicated, but, by their optimization – selling from Ireland, I paid more (sales tax in Ireland is lower, therefore the same gross price is higher net price). It is like being a pickpocket when you have 100 million sitting in your account.

Lessons learned: Treat your clients’ money with respect. Especially if you are a premium brand, I don’t care about the money, but I care about the style you take my money.

No 3. (The Bronze Medal) Digitalization does not equal no customer service

Car-sharing mobile app experience (replace with anything where the app didn’t work as intended). I don’t own a car and wanted to try the local car-sharing service. However, the app kept collapsing (iPhone). No problem, let’s call them. Well, no one picked up. Ok, let’s contact them on Facebook. Nobody home. Later I got a call back (20 minutes later), but the issue remained. A day later they figured out that the photo function caused the app to collapse because the phone had not enough memory. They obviously knew about this problem, but who cares?

Lessons learned: the customer service should be available the same hours (at least) as your service (internet banking anyone????); if you opt not to do this have an emergency notification system in place to communicate with your clients: push notifications, banner on your FB page, a banner on your website that shows service outage.

No 2. The Silver Medal goes to Insurance companies and their way of doing business.

Insurance companies tend to be unique. They stick with you through your whole life, and somehow, they find new ways to embarrass themselves. I took over the insurance of my mother, and the company underwent a merger with two other insurance companies. Chaos was predictable, but the way they handled it, was outrageous. No communication, no fall back service center. I decided to do things in the 19th century way. Travel to the Big Company and meet them in person. It did speed up things, but still took weeks what would typically be an exchange of letters in 2 weeks total. I still don’t have everything, and we are six months in the process.

Lessons learned: own your most important processes and make sure these are airtight. This is going to make or break the experience. Everything else is just the icing on the cake.

Important, but worthless without the core value creation working correctly.

An insurance company does four things: asses risk, collect money, exchange documents and pay out money. It is not rocket science. Have a sound financial system in place and a document management system. That’s it. Afterward, you might focus on your webpage and marketing. Toyota and Honda built the most reliable cars. Looked like hell, felt like hell, but did the job the best way possible. Everything was built on top of these foundations.

No 1. The Gold Medal (with distinction) goes to The New York Times Cancellation nightmare

This is the latest bad experience which easily trumps everything from last year. I was a digital subscriber. As it turns out I didn’t take advantage of the subscription. I admire the professionalism of the journalists, but the style of the content didn’t fit my taste. It was too long and quite often redundant for my taste. It was time to say goodbye. The chat function seemed the most obvious, and although it smelled automation, I thought that a worldwide recognized top brand has all bases covered. The result was somewhat perplexing. At times it didn’t work, but at last, I could finish the process. I didn’t receive any email about the cancellation, and I forgot about it. Three days before the next invoicing period my credit card was charged. I took immediate action and sent an email to them. Long story short it took 11 (not kidding: eleven) email exchanges to make it happen. They tried to keep the money because the 11 emails took longer than three days and the next invoicing period started.

Lessons learned: expectations are defined by the brand, even for the cancellation process., Make your divorce experience better than the sign-up experience. The only story I tell about the NYT is the cancellation nightmare and not the gorgeous app, the beautiful design and the thorough reporting. The cancellation experience could be a great story to add to this, in a positive way.

As you can see, learnings are all around us. Customer experience is the way to stand out from the crowd, whether it’s for good or bad. I know we will have a lot to do on the inside, but outside stories can help your team align, share personal stories and better reflect on how this can happen with you? Also, it helps your organization to better empathize with your customers.

Can you tell me your bad experience as a customer and the learnings you will try to apply in 2019?

What techniques do you use with your team to find sources of inspiration and improvement OUTSIDE your organization?

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