Making Customers Happy is a Fallacy

Author Jeff Sheehan says Making Customers Happy is a Fallacy

Author Jeff Sheehan discusses his CX perspectives at length. He believes in adhering to business values rather than focusing on ‘making customers happy.’

“Making it easy for customers to do business is the paramount concern. This means you have to constantly listen for customer feedback that points to the friction and to understand what customers value. It’s easier said than done but a whole lot more doable than creating happiness,” says CX expert Jeff Sheehan, Managing Director at CX JS Consulting. 

For over 25 years, Jeff has been a customer experience practitioner and an active member of the global CX community. He is the author of “Customer Experience Management Field Manual: The Guide For Building Your Top-Performing CX Program,” and a new book on CXM ROI is coming in 2024. At Apple, Jeff served as a CX expert, focusing on ROI-driven solutions and achieving desired results by aligning CX projects with business goals.

Jeff states that the roles of CX teams are evolving and CX leaders are becoming business change agents. In the future, all technologies will be used to enhance customer experience with empathy and a deep understanding of customer intent, according to him.

Excerpts from the interview:

How do you see customer experience evolve in the next few years?

There is a notable shift in Customer Experience Management (CXM) from relying on surveys and scores to focusing on business cases that demonstrate ROI for CX projects. This change demands that CX leaders become business change agents, equipped with the data necessary to drive improvements from a business perspective. The traditional role of CX teams, which involved managing CX tools and platforms and distributing data for business units to interpret, is evolving. Now, more tangible value is expected from CXM efforts, and without demonstrating this value, the relevance of CX teams may diminish.

Also Read: CX Challenges Haven’t Changed in the Last Five Years!

Are there any CX-related approaches/beliefs that you disagree with?

Yes! The whole notion of making customers happy is rubbish. We can barely make our loved ones and ourselves happy, so there’s no way we’ll get tens of thousands of strangers to “love” the brand. What is most important, and has always been so, is knowing the purpose of your organisation – what value it brings to the intended customer, and building your purpose, people, processes, and technologies around delivering on that intentional brand experience. Making it easy for customers to do business is the paramount concern. This means you have to constantly listen for customer feedback that points to the friction and to understand what customers value. It’s easier said than done but a whole lot more doable than creating happiness.

What advice would you give business leaders to make CX an organisation-wide priority?

Let’s start with the C-suite leaders and business unit leaders saying that CXM is an organisation-wide priority. One of the main challenges of CXM is its requirement for cross-functional collaboration that spans the barriers of P&L, incentives, geographies, and back-office functions. This requires senior leadership involvement in messaging, CX governance, and expectation setting that includes clearly defining what CXM is and does within the organisation. 

How do you see genAI changing the game for contact centres? are there any apprehensions?

I think we’re still in the hype cycle with AI in CX, but some technology leaders and early adopters are generating real value for their businesses and customers by using AI in the contact centre. Some examples of this include a shift from the IVR to an IVA that uses AI to intelligently route customer contacts with the goal of minimal transfers and maximal first contact resolution. Another is using AI in knowledge management, and case notes to reduce the cognitive load on agents and reduce post-contact effort for agents. 

Knowledge management is another area where AI can benefit customers seeking digital self-service, and the business can digitise and automate its knowledge management using machine learning, large language models, and RPA benefits of an AI platform. All of these things, and more, are emerging and being refined and can have big mutual benefits at scale to the business and its customers by removing friction, cost, and time.

Also Read: Finding the Right AI Mix to Address Contact Centre Challenges

How should contact centres stay agile and adaptable to meet evolving customer expectations and market trends?

This is a big strategic question, even for the BPOs out there who are often hired to do this very thing. I think the best way to meet evolving customer expectations and customer trends is for the contact centre to be treated as a business partner. Often, the contact centre is seen as and treated as a post-sale “catch-all” for things that were broken upstream (e.g., product releases that are 70% ready for market or policies disconnected from consequences to customers or marketing offers that surprise customers when they get their bill). By treating the contact centre as a strategic business partner that interacts with your customers at scale every day, you can get and stay responsive to what customers value and what irritates them.

What technology trends in customer experience do you find most exciting with a potential for disruption?

I’m seeing some effective technologies that enable a human and digital onboarding experience. Technologies that offer virtual tellers at bank branches that guide banking customers to achieve their job-to-be-done with humanity and digital efficacy is one example. Another is co-browsing technology that partners with customers in real-time and with their permission to help them find and do what they need. In all cases, the best solutions do not merely aim for customer contact “deflection” or “containment” but with actual resolution supported by empathic humanity. 

What groundbreaking CX innovations would you hope to discover if you had a time machine that could transport you to the future?

I hope to discover that all of the technologies are used to enhance the customer experience with empathy and to understand the intent of your customer contacts. Knowing why a customer has disrupted their day to interact with your business is crucial to refining your business operations and enhancing what customers value. 

I adhere to the idea that all customer contacts should be held in deep suspicion as symptoms of a failure further upstream. In a telco/ISP environment, for example, roughly 40% of customer contacts have to do with billing questions that include surprises from price increases due to promotion expirations, unexpected fees and confusing credits, dissonance between marketing offers, sales online or in a store, and the first few bills. 

Imagine the gold mine of business benefits by resolving these internal issues so well that these tens of thousands of customer contacts disappear because the issues don’t exist anymore. Maybe this sounds like fantasy, but it is definitely possible, and I work with clients to make it happen.