As a Service, Customer Success

The connected car vision is missing a few connections

The connected car is the future for automotive companies.

There is a lot going on in this space. I know because in my business, I have several customers in the industry.

But you don’t need to be in the business to know.

I recently purchased a car. It’s connected and awesome, I’m impressed.

But my experience taught me that something is missing.

I did not need too many people to help make the decision on the company and car I chose.

I made my decision and purchased without seeing the car physically. I investigated many options with various companies and did it mostly online. Talking to sales people was necessary at certain points.

I also made a decision to lease a car which will be up for renewal in 2.5 years.

That part took some time. To understand all the nuances I had to speak to people.

Dealing with the people and in many cases the online experience around many of the decision factors was mostly an awful grind.

That was all leading up to my decision.

In 2.5 years I will decide to continue with the same car and company, or not, based on a different experience. Some of that experience will be based on the car, including its connected features, some on further experience with the company.

I’ve not had much to do with the company since. The experience with the company after I decided was mostly good but it could have been a lot better.

I’ve opened up all communication channels with the company. I’ve made myself as receptive to the experience as possible. Time will tell.

Some questions for the industry

I get that the connected car concept is all about technology but is the industry thinking enough about other necessary connections?

Does it get the connection between experience and satisfaction and that this derives from many (often joined up) factors like people, technology and processes?

When the experience derives from people do they make the connection between the employee experience and how this influences the customer experience? To be specific I’m thinking that employees that have a great experience and are satisfied at work reflect that on to the customer.

Do they get that the rules of ownership are changing. Many do, getting in on the subscription model business, e.g. BMW and Lexus, Mercedes Benz, Volvo, etc. But do they realise subscription models bring new responsibilities?

Do they get how influential experience is in driving decisions, especially ongoing decisions about staying with a company or product, or not?

Do they get that technology is easily copied but experience isn’t?

Conversely, does it get that technology could play such a large role in connecting not just the internet of things for instance, but the internet of human experience?

They would probably say yes to all of the above. From my rhetorical questions you might guess where I lie on the matter. I guess it’s a question of maturity.

My recent experience and these questions are useful for the eBook / trend report I’m writing so excellent grist for the mill. I will try and answer them and provide recommendations. In the meantime…

Three ways I suggest the industry can start improving:

  1. Be more SaaS. The Software as a Service industry has learned a trick or two about how to build superb customer experience and the importance of customer retention and lifetime value. Specifically adopt many customer success approaches. Use the product itself (the car, starting with onboarding) as a core part of the experience with add on technology to enhance it through ongoing interactions that are data driven and point interactions with humans to amplify and delight.
  2. Extend the experience map. Map experience from employee through to customer and deliver on it from end to end. See it as an holistic journey that is harmoniously interdependent and made up of many parts: people, process, technology. Many are doing experience mapping but not adequately and not end to end in the way described.
  3. Bolster your employee experience. Its not just about the customer. This so often lags with employees playing second fiddle especially with the technology that supports work not matching what the customer gets. Robots and automation, especially in the auto industry, may play an increasing role but for the foreseeable future, humans will still play a disproportionate role in creating and nurturing human experience. Customer experience starts with employee experience.
As a Service

Why bad customer experience matters and Avis does not try harder

This is about a recent customer experience I had with Avis which has cost them my loyalty.

This is not just a rant, annoyed as I am. I’m capturing this kind of story as a way of illustrating what good or bad customer experiences look like for my new eBook / trend report. Its unfortunate I had to be the one experiencing it but I’ll put it down to research costs :)

The ironic thing is I am a Preferred member (to their loyalty scheme) and have given them my loyalty for many years. No longer. You could see this as an outcome of my experience – impact on customer loyalty. Another is the fact I’m so incensed I’m writing about and sharing this.

I used to hire cars at least every other month for work purposes over a period of 1-2 years about 4 years ago. Thats when I signed up to the Avis Preferred scheme. I’ve been using it less since then but at least a few times a year (work and personal) and had stuck with Avis throughout.

The Experience

I went on holiday to Italy for a week on the 26th of August this year with my daughter.

I rented with Avis as I do countless other times – I use their online booking platform. I’ve often had problems with it functioning as expected but not this time which anyway is not the point of this story.

I had to book to return the car at a time when the returns office was not open as my flight back was too early.

I picked up the car in Venice. It was busy. The wait was really long and my Preferred status was of no use. When I eventually got to the counter to process check-in, I asked about dropping the car off at such an early hour. I was assured it would be no problem and I could pop the keys off in a box outside the office.

I scanned the car before setting off as I always do and could see no untoward damage apart from some standard scuff marks as I had often found. I had waived additional insurance as I typically do so always check on these things.

I had a great holiday. My daughter and I arrived early on the 2nd of September and dropped the car off. Again I walked around the car with my daughter and the car looked exactly as I had found it. I dropped the keys in a box outside the closed door of the office where there was someone inside cleaning – he noted me and carried on cleaning.

The picture below was taken from the business class lounge and you can see how early it was.

venice airport.png

We landed and while waiting for baggage I checked various messages. Two were emails from Avis. One apologised for my wait on first picking up my car and offering me an upgrade the next time I hired a car.

The other told me they had found a scuff on the car that allegedly was not there before they had given me the car and that they would be charging me €293.02 for the damage. Below is the evidence they produced which I struggled then and now to make head or tail of – check alternating positions between zoomed out and close up.

Avis damage 1
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Avis damage 2
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I immediately (still waiting for luggage) tried to call them but the various options all said they were only available during weekly working hours. I then replied to the first mail apologising for the wait saying I had no problem with the delays but I did with the accusation of damage and the charge. I strenuously denied I had caused any damage AND refused to accept the unreasonable charge.

Moments later I received a response from the same person that had apologised saying he would look into it for me.

On the 26th of September after getting back to work and a busy period where I forgot about the issue I received an email to say that the amount had been charged to me. I confirmed that after looking at my bank statement online.

I immediately called up and after an interminable wait got through to someone. I questioned why I had been charged without being given the chance to go through a due process and after not hearing back at all on my first mail.

They asked me to mail through my initial mail which I did and that they would come back to me within sixteen days with an answer.

Sixteen days came and went and still nothing. On the 21st of October I called again and after another very long wait I got through to someone. They acknowledged they had failed to reply within their stipulated time and again apologised for this and that I had to call them. They promised a response within 48 hours.

I received an email within that time and the response was basically that they would not refund me the amount and that was it.

Why I have such an issue and this is a bad experience:

  1. Their lack of due process which presumes me guilty and takes my money before I’ve been able to resolve the matter – I have still not been able to discuss and dispute this properly. I’ve not been able to speak to anyone other than a call agent who did not deal with my case. And I was only ever pointed to email as a means of communication.
  2. Their disjointed response management – I communicated with the hiring office in Italy, the UK call centre and the damages department. There was no single thread of communication between Avis and I and these three entities which is what they point to for delays and lack of response on my first dispute. This is their problem not mine yet I suffered the impact.
  3. The time it took to get to an answer.
  4. The fact I had to chase them.
  5. The unreasonable cost. If I concluded the fault was mine which I have still not, surely Avis must be able to get this repaired at far lower cost? I assume they have many of these cases and cars needing to be repaired at once so must be able to get better rates – why have they passed this exorbitant cost onto the customer?

Avis does not try harderI remember when I did my Masters in Marketing we studied Avis as an example of masterful positioning – their “We Try Harder” campaign which they still use. Its a pity they no longer live up to that claim, if they ever did. Well at least they won’t have to try harder for this person who is no longer a customer.

UPDATE

After several months of wrangling and back and forth, Avis decided to refund me half the €293.02 they were charging me. At least half a solution but not enough to get rid of the bad taste completely.

Customer Success

5 usage and adoption heuristics for customer success

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I wanted to capture some simple rules of thumb that I could use to easily remember the top line influences on my work in customer success. I created a doodle to make it fun and memorable (for me) but also shareable.

I came up with these 5. I’m sure there are more. These would only really become heuristics if they were endorsed by a lot of people so I’ve added a poll below. I’d love your input – please vote on them and add any in the other option and I can update this list later. Below the poll I elaborated briefly on each in case the doodle is not legible – it’s self contained with the doodle so you can share it with this link if you want.

1. Launch well

I really do believe you only have one chance to make a good first impression. This goes beyond onboarding which I cover in a separate point. I think its fairly self explanatory but I do have an entire post on this if you are interested: Launch like a boss – bringing consumer startup practice to your enterprise technology platform

2. Social proof

Showing users other successful users or customers gives them the proof they need to adopt and use something. It becomes a self fulfilling cycle of success if you have good examples. Having a social layer in your tool to foster community and sharing will help greatly in scaling your efforts. I cover some of that in this post: Scaling your customer success efforts online – a guide

3. Signals sell

Creating feedback loops (dashboards) to let users see how they are using a system and what progress they are making can spur on further use. In other words, stats on how they are using the tool, what they have achieved in a given period, etc. Sharing other user stats with them might add a degree of competition, i.e. gamification.

4. Continuous onboarding

Users, especially in an enterprise environment, are continuously churning, i.e. leave the company. For the new ones that come onboard and also for new features (if you are frequently releasing new features), you need to constantly re-educate users. Self service training options and automation are a good way to address this at scale.

5. Use before value

By this I mean your first challenge is getting users to use a platform. They have to be familiar with it and its purpose and grasp the fundamentals. Only then can they go on to higher order value creating activities that achieve business outcomes. So first track usage and adoption metrics and ensure this is going in the right direction, then try capture other types of value related metrics.