I once came home on a rainy night to an empty house in a blackout. Tired and rain-soaked, I made my way to my bedroom in the dark and flopped back on the bed.

But the bed wasn’t where it was supposed to be, and I fell on the floor.

As it turned out, a relative who fancied herself an interior designer had rearranged my bedroom. Surprise!

This story reveals two essential truths: Helpful people are annoying — and people who insist they love surprises are liars.

Dealing With the Unexpected

I was thinking about this while reading a thoughtful article by Arke CTMO Chris Spears, who detailed how he returned home from a vacation with his family to a flooded house.

“To this day my family and I have still not moved back in. For quick timing, that means the I-85 bridge that collapsed in Atlanta last March was rebuilt and reopened faster than contractors have been able to repair my house.

“But the story of the flood isn’t the important part. What matters is what happened next,” he wrote.

Excellent Experience … Initially

The article goes on to explain the excellent experience he had with his insurance company, USAA. Using nothing but a mobile app, he was able to report the claim, schedule contractors and jumpstart the repair process.

“But then things started to break down. Why? Because USAA relies on a network of external contractors, much like your clients rely on third-party vendors to move goods and provide services,” he explained.

“The experience devolved to the point where I was texting and calling these contractors and subcontractors trying to get answers about when things were going to happen next.”

The whole incident crystalizes the pain of dealing with the unexpected and underscores the importance of streamlining customer experience.

3 Things Customers Want

Whether you’re dealing with a minor annoyance like a surreptitiously moved bed or a massive problem like a flooded home, you need reassurance, empathy, and a clear solution.

As a brand, addressing those issues helps deepen your relationship with your customers, build loyalty and minimize frustration.

Some companies, Amazon, for instance, intrinsically know this: The company’s customer service team is empowered to address issues and resolve complaints on the first call.

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Others have a lot to learn: They argue, they stall, they claim no one in the whole company can do anything about your problem. What lost opportunities!

Experience Matters

Experience matters today more than ever, Spears said. “Customers are 4.5 times more likely to pay a premium for excellent experiences is excellent than if it is poor, Forrester found.”

In addition, more than nine out of 10 business executives expect customers to become even more demanding over the next two years, according to Harvard Business Review Analytic Services.

“And yet, there is a substantial disconnect between the importance of customer experiences and the capabilities of companies to deliver them,” he said.

“According to that Harvard research, a mere 15 percent of business leaders rated their customer service strategy and approach as very effective, while just over half (53 percent) said their approach is somewhat effective.”

What to Do

Spears said successful companies are addressing customer journey problems with relevant content, relevant personalization, and consistency across channels.

He suggests senior leaders use their understanding of people, processes, technology, and data to win and retain relationships to help their companies grow.

That includes:

  • Engaging all of your employees around this shared vision
  • Designing clear customer journey and technology maps
  • Learning all you can about your customers by analyzing your available data

“Above all,” Spears said, “think like your customer. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Feel his pain, his frustration, his anxiety.”

Consider, before moving the bed without asking, how it will feel to fall on the floor.

For More Information

Noreen Seebacher is the content evangelist at Arke, where she researches, writes and continues her long career in news reporting as a brand journalist. Noreen lives in Beaufort, South Carolina with her husband, her dog and four formerly homeless cats.