Putting the customer first is the key to business success.
All organizational decisions must have the customer at the center.
And no, I’m not implying that this is bad advice.
It’s a basic principle for any entrepreneur, startup or business looking to grow or simply survive in a competitive world.
But not all organizations find themselves in this situation.
And the more the organization feels above its customers the more it becomes apparent that what the customer needs is not one of its priorities.
For example, that bank that used to send you a receipt for each transaction by mail to your home and now you must remember to periodically log on to its website and download the receipts one at a time.
Yes: one at a time.
That is to say, if you have 12 transactions per month and you have to download 12 months… well, calculate.
What used to be as simple as opening an envelope when it arrived is now an operation that you have to remember and that can take you hours a year.
And if you forget to do it frequently then don’t worry. You can always get the list of old information by paying at the office.
And no, that’s not because the big banks have a lot of regulations imposed on them. It is simply because, for the moment, they are not worried about competition.
And I say “for the moment” because it is surely in their plans to streamline all this… when fintechs are a real threat that starts stealing customers from them in a significant way.
But much more bleeding is when we talk about public institutions.
Starting with the concept that it is frowned upon to call the user a customer. They should be called taxpayers or individuals or the public.
It is clear that “customer first” does not apply there.
Here is an example
I must pass the Vehicle Technical Inspection in a few months.
And for this there is a website where you can make an appointment.
At least until last year, finding a time to have your car inspected in the month it is due meant having to start requesting the appointment months in advance.
That at least seems to have been resolved now.
So, the process on the web is now:
- Select your province
- Select the station where you want to go for the service
- Indicate the license plate number of your vehicle
- Indicate if it is a car or van or motorcycle or whatever it may be
- Indicate if it is gasoline, diesel, electric, hybrid, etc.
- Select the month and the day you want to have your vehicle serviced, starting with the current month. Here you can see the days when there is availability.
- Select the time
- Indicate the name, email, telephone and accept everything that the laws oblige you to accept.
Good. At least they don’t ask me for the VIN or the diameter of the steering wheel in inches. These are logical and simple questions they ask.
The problem is this: when, after advancing a few months in the calendar, you get to the month when you have to pass the review and it says “No availability” what does it mean?
Have you run out of available hours for all the days of the month?
Or maybe they haven’t opened appointments for this month yet?
Faced with the doubt, which no one is going to solve for me, there is one option: Look at another station to see what happens.
And then I have to go through all the steps again. All of them.
Back to select another nearby station, to enter the license plate, my car is still a passenger car and gasoline and go back through month after month to get to the one I am interested in.
To, most likely, see again the message “No availability”.
Well, if we’re two for two it’s starting to be highly likely that they haven’t opened appointments for that month yet.
Let’s hope that’s it.
Shall we continue?
In my case, assuming they have not yet opened appointments for the month I need it, I decide to make a note in my calendar for a few days to try again to book an appointment.
How many days? Who knows? It would be an excess of transparency to inform users when new dates are published.
And why do I have to choose a station first? There are several stations about the same distance from where I live.
From my point of view such a process would be much more logical:
- Select your province
- Show me up to what date there are appointments loaded in the system. If there are no appointments for the month I’m interested in, we won’t waste any more time. Much better if you show me how far in advance new appointments are open and, if I can’t book an appointment now, I know when I have to try again.
- Indicate the license plate number
- Indicates whether it is a car or van, motorcycle or truck
- Indicate if it is a gasoline, diesel, electric or hybrid vehicle
- Show me a list of stations and months in which dates are available. Then I can select the one that suits me best and go directly to the month I need
- Select the day
- Select the time
- Indicate the name, email, phone number and anything else that is additionally needed.
In fact, the license plate I think could be requested at the end, although I have found that the system uses the license plate to validate if the vehicle has the first service in the next few months. Ok. Unlikely, but we accept octopus as a pet.
If at step 7 or 8 I don’t find a day or time that suits me, I can always change stations without having to re-enter all the vehicle data (which I’m sure doesn’t change).
I can assure you that technically it is very little more complex to get it right than to get it wrong.
What is the problem? That this is a service for the taxpayers that I have to provide so that they don’t bother phoning, but nobody cares if they go to the competition.
So, there is no interest for the organization to do it better or worse.
If you are a doctor, a massage therapist, a psychic, a repair shop, or any other business that requires prior appointments make sure you think well of your customer.
Getting it wrong can come at a significant cost. No matter how good your service is. You can lose many clients along the way who won’t even know how good you are.
And if you are lucky enough that your users don’t have a choice, then congratulations! Don’t worry about transparency or the time wasted by the user. Maybe the only thing you have to worry about is that the user decides to call you on the phone to solve their doubts.
Although for this there is also a good solution: set up a 902 pay phone.