Often people will be fiercely loyal to a company after they had a problem with that company's products or service. They will call customer service, and within minutes, hours or days, the problem they had will be miraculously solved. Unknown to the customer, the problem is usually solved not by an individual, but through a team. The customer only knows what's happening based on his communications through that assigned customer representative. This is why customer service and support is such a difficult job - you have to manage not only your internal teams and contacts, but the customer's expectations and emotions.
If the experience is managed well, the customer feels loyalty to the company and further trusts it. (Believe it or not, a solution is not always needed. But I won't get into that issue here.) If it is not managed well, then the customer may decide to find a different solution and not work with that company anymore.
I don't think customers feel loyalty or trust simply because a customer service representative solves a problem. In fact, a customer having a problem with a product or service should cause the exact opposite of loyalty and trust. A customer is calling because something isn't quite right with the experience.
- Expectations aren't being met or managed properly.
- There is a communication problem.
- The product is simply broken and needs to be fixed.
Why would someone be excited that these issues, which shouldn't have happened in the first place, were resolved? That should be a baseline expectation - if it is broken, it should get fixed.
I'd say this loyalty and trust comes from the peak-end rule.
I learned about peak-end rule at the Giant UX Conference in South Carolina. I attended a presentation by Curt Arledge titled: User Memory Design: You Can’t Take Experiences With You.
The peak-end rule claims people remember the most extreme and the ending of an experience. Most aspects of an experience aren't particularly memorable; it's rare to experience something extreme. Typically, extreme experiences center around problems and challenges; we often don't associate extreme experiences around something positive, unless it is extreme winnings or a prize of some sort.
This a little discouraging for those of us who create experiences to read - that most of what we create isn't memorable. It's our job in UX/CX to create memorable experiences. In some ways, this concept validates one perspective I have regarding experiences - a successful experience helps the user complete his task with little resistance and shouldn't particularly memorable except that the user finished what he needed easily. Being direct, fast, and easy is a good thing - and should be the "normal," baseline expectation.
But back to the topic: how does calling support relate to a product experience? How is peak-end rule applied here? I like to include post-purchase experiences, which include support, as part of the customer lifecycle and part of how a customer experiences a product.
According to the customer lifecycle, a customer doesn't just experience using a product. The experience starts much earlier:
- Pre-purchase/research - the customer determines if the product solves the right problem
- Purchasing the product
- Using the product
- Calling support if there is a problem.
Given this process, and the idea that you could purchase more of the product as replacement, this experience could last years.
For example, your experience buying a car at a dealership could start when you research what car to buy. The peak experiences I had when I bought my car included:
- When I purchased the car
- When I had an extreme problem with the car and the dealer addressed it. (It was a little bumpy, but worked in my favor)
- When I brought my car in to be fixed at different times - usually when it cost me a lot of money
- When I continued to get reminders and great support for my car
I remember my car getting fixed and me being pleased. I have more clear memories of when it got fixed and I had to pay substantial amounts of money. Some of the experiences were positive; some where not. However, I appreciate when they are looking out for me with checkup reminders so my car is in good condition. My experience using the car - the product - didn't stop post-purchase or if it broke. It continued until I got it fixed and could use it again. Support is part of the experience.
If we take this back to a generalized product experience...
- If you have a problem during the experience using the product or along the customer journey/experience continuum, this is a peak event. (It's rare to have a great experience that is over-the-top memorable, but it happens.)
- How the issue is resolved is the end event, or resolution.
- There can be MANY resolutions along an experience.
- These challenges are memorable because the event probably shouldn't have happened in the first place.
- The good or bad experience, loyalty, and trust is a result of how the customer service person handles your problem.