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Customer Experience Alignment is hard. We know this because even the very best and most apparently aligned organisations still have moments of madness where the brand is forgotten and they act just like everyone else.

More often than not, the most frustrating issues happen when people and processes collide, and it happened to me recently with one of my favourite organisations, AO.com. AO are an online electronics retailer, and their biggest point of difference is their brilliant people. They invest heavily in their staff, knowing that people like me will turn to AO before Argos, or Currys or even John Lewis because of the quality of the aftercare and the friendly, human phone support. They say that “Everything we do revolves around our devotion to happiness and amazing customer service”. It’s a fantastic mission statement, and one that has put them top of my consideration list for anything electronic.

So when I wanted to buy a Smart TV for our living room (I was sick of my 2 year old stealing my iPad to watch Peppa Pig), I went straight to AO. Duly ordered, the TV turned up bang on time and the delivery team were their usual positive, friendly and helpful selves. But then it came to install the TV. All was going well, until we tried to find the Netflix app (Peppa was calling). Netflix wasn’t there, but surely I could download the app from the app store….

And this is where People and Process collided for AO. I began a webchat and told the operator of our issues. In every other interaction with AO.com, I’ve interacted with a human being. But on this day, the computer said an extremely firm ‘no’. The party line was well and truly stuck to (the small print did indeed say, had I chosen to click on it, that this “Smart” TV couldn’t access Netflix), but what frustrated me more was the coldness of the contact. The human, upbeat, positive brand was missing.

Whether this was a People or Process issue, I’m not sure. The point was highlighted when a managed called me back later, and was a brilliant encapsulation of the AO brand. But by then, the damage was done.

It all comes down to our understanding of what a brand is. I expected AO to look out for me. I expected them to realise that if I wanted a Smart TV, then I’d want to access Netflix (has anyone who’s ever bought one not wanted this feature?!). And I expected to be dealt with in the same way regardless of contact channel.

In short, I wanted a fully aligned customer experience.

AO.com is clearly an amazing brand, and the fact that they occasionally get it wrong should give all of us some reassurance when things get tough in the customer experience alignment business.

And I’ve learnt to always read the smallprint!

And what happens when staff aren’t empowered to deliver customer service in an on-brand way? They become frustrated and disenchanted. They then serve other customers, and maybe they don’t give it their best. And before long, customers are complaining, NPS is plummeting and things are at risk of falling apart.

So next time you’re considering whether you really need to implement that process change to benefit the customer, just do it – the long term benefit is sure to outweigh the short term pain.

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