Although the Net Promoter Score® process is a simple and effective way to measure and track customer loyalty, we should not fall into the trap of oversimplifying the drivers of loyalty. For every product or service there is a series of steps, interactions, and opportunities to create or destroy customer loyalty. Each of these steps or interactions can make or break the health of the customer relationship. Fred Reichheld, in his book The Ultimate Question, refers to this linear series of steps or interactions as the Customer Corridor. Just like in any journey, one misstep can have a disastrous impact on loyalty. Let me explain by relating my own, recent experience.

I finally made the plunge and purchased a large, flat screen HD TV. But what is an HD TV without the digital HD signal? That’s when I began my journey down the Customer Corridor of my local cable provider. I’ll not name the provider directly, so I’ll give them a pseudonym. I’ll call them Dodgers to protect myself from any possible legal action.

As a long time customer of Dodgers wireless and cable services, I often receive their marketing materials regarding their Hi Def cable service. As the first step on the Customer Corridor, the materials made a favorable impression. In fact, when my son purchased his HD TV, I recommended Dodgers to him. So, it was not surprising that I chose Dodgers as my supplier of the HD digital signal.

It was all down hill from that point.

With my new shiny HD TV set up and hungry for a Hi Def signal, I set out on the next step in the Customer Corridor and scampered off to my closest Dodgers retail outlet to pick up a rental HD Digital cable box. “Sorry,” they told me at that store, “Our systems are down and you’ll have to go to the Dodgers Plus store if you want to rent the cable box.” Slightly miffed, but still anxious to obtain my own HD TV experience, I set out on the next step of the Corridor and plodded off to the Dodgers Plus store.

After a twenty minute drive, I finally found the store and bounded in with all the energy of a playful puppy. Things were looking up as I spotted the in-store kiosk which I assumed was the spot to register for HD TV service. After waiting 10 minutes without being served, a Dodgers employee casually enlightened me to the fact that I was waiting in the wrong area, and had to proceed to the next Corridor step, the waiting line. I was now the sixth, non-smiling person in the line. This step in the Customer Corridor was not moving very far, very fast.

With all the patient of a three-year-old with a full bladder, I finally reached the front of the line and asked Rosie how to sign up for HD service. Maybe it was just me sliding into a foul mood, but Rosie seemed to rattle off the requirements for HD TV in mere milliseconds. I could only hope that my new TV had a refresh rate as fast as Rosie’s sales pitch. I nodded something akin to acceptance which prompted Rosie to hustle off to the pack room. She quickly (good for her sake) returned with a bag full of electronic gear. She thrust the bag toward me and told me this was all I needed and the instructions where in the bag. I asked if the service was “plug and play” and if I needed to do anything else to get the service started. “Nope,” she replied “I’ve initiated the service from here. Next customer please.” So, with bag in hand, and very little information in my brain, I headed home to the next step in the Corridor.

I returned home with heightened expectations. Now I had the HD signal within my grasp. Of course, you can guess how the next Corridor step unfolded. I plugged in all the cords, deciphered the instruction manual as best I could, turned on all the buttons and waited for the Glorious High Definition Picture! Actually, I repeated this step fours times before I reluctantly made the “I’m so stupid, I can’t get this #%$!&* thing to work” call the Dodgers customer service.

The Dodgers IVR assured me that they valued my business and the wait in the customer service queue would not be too long. I doggedly held on, listening to the marketing pitches, so I would not lose my place in the queue. I spent my time scanning the manual to see if I had missed a step. I was about to take the back off the cable box with my teeth when the Dodgers customer care agent clicked in. After the normal interrogation about my name, number, birth date and shoe size, I was allowed to explain my situation. With a condescending tone, the agent advised me that the cable box needed to be initiated to get the signal (despite Rosie’s claim it was ready to go). When this didn’t work, we tried twice more before the agent decided that the problem needed to be punted over the wall to Technical Services. On to the next step in the Corridor.

The technical service agent interrogated me about my name, number, birth date and shoe size, and then I was allowed to explain my situation. His attempts to get the signal to my TV were futile and he decided that I needed a visit from an in-home service technician. I have to admit that I lost my cool when he told me it would be at least five days before someone could come to the house to resolve my issue. “Not good enough”, I exclaimed “I want it and I want it now”. He seemed genuinely taken aback by my response. His only other remedy was to return the cable box and exchange it for another. He was guessing the box might be at fault. His suggestion got me off the line and out of the house.

So back I went to the Dodgers store. To be honest, the store staff was very efficient in replacing the cable box. Very few questions asked. I could only surmise they had done this before, many times before.

Would it be a surprise to say that Cable Box #2 didn’t resolve the issue? Didn’t think so. Back to customer care, back to the interrogation and onward to Technical Service. However, this time, I was told that a technician could be at my house the very next day to fix my problems. Since it was now dinner time, and I had already lost a day of Hi Def viewing, I jumped at the offer and booked the service tech for 11:00 am to 2:00 pm the next day. So began the next steps in this journey.

The service technician arrived the next day at 12:30 pm, well within the scheduled arrival window. A good start and hopefully a sign of things to come, I thought. Wrong again.

After checking the outside cable, which was nearly 30 years old, he determined that the cable could not carry the digital signal. This would have been really good to know when I initially picked up the cable box. I cannot be the only one in the city in this situation.

The tech then proceeded to pull a new cable from the underground cable vault, across my neighbor’s driveway, up a lamppost, through two trees, around my downspout, around my house, through a new hole in the wall and, finally, to my new virginal HD TV. Voila! I had HD TV! But, it was too soon to get excited.

After some checking, the tech determined that cable box #2 did not show an IP address. It seems this is needed if I ever wanted to order Dodgers- On- Demand. So, back down the Corridor and back to the store I went for a third cable box.

I’ll give the store staff full credit. They did not run and hide when I entered the store, perhaps because I was on a first name basis with most of them. The young fellow who had serviced me the previous day greeted me with “What; you again?” Sympathetic to my plight, he found me a brand new cable box (based on the manufactured date) and assured me that the cable box would not be the cause of any further problems.

He was right. Cable box #3 delivered the picture I have been dreaming of and it had an IP address. It was time to relax with a mildly alcoholic beverage of my choice and enjoy the HD shows. Or, at least until my neighbor started banging on my door.

It seems that the service technician, in his haste, had left the new cable draped across my neighbour’s driveway. She was very concerned, and quite rightly so, that the exposed cable would be a dangerous tripping hazard. I was concerned that the cable might get broken or cut and then I would lose my coveted signal. I had to act fast.

Back I went to customer care, who sent me to technical services who sent me to facilities scheduling. Yes, they agreed the cable represented a danger and they would send someone out to fix the problem. They gave me a case number to refer to but no specific time when the cable would be secured. My neighour also called Dodgers to complain. I guess she did not have my tact for handling these types of situations. She was told that if she didn’t like the way it was being handled she could call the president of Dodgers directly. She has yet to make that call but the conversation is being shared with most of the neighborhood.

Several days passed and there was no sign of a Dodgers technician willing to secure the cable. My neighbor was getting testy so I grabbed my box of tools and spent 30 minutes of my own time to secure the cable. This calmed down my neighbor and made sure that my HD signal would not leave me any time soon. I wonder how I can bill Dodgers for my time.

As I mentioned at the onset, the Customer Corridor offers many steps to impact the customer experience, leading to a likelihood of recommending. In my case, I would recommend Dodgers based on their marketing materials, a certain retail staff member and the final HD TV picture. I would definitely not recommend Dodgers based on the ability of customer care and technical services to resolve an issue over the phone. I would recommend Dodgers based on the in-home technician’s ability to identify the cause of my problem, but would definitely not recommend based on the sloppy work of the same technician.

Overall, the combined steps along the Corridor resulted in a Detractor not a Promoter. Analyzing the Customer Corridor will highlight what your company does well, but will also point out the specific interactions or transactions that may have a negative impact on the customer experience.

Loyalty is not the result of a single experience, but the accumulated impact of many steps in the walk along the Customer Corridor.

Are there any bumps or potholes along your company’s Customer Corridor? Take a walk and find out.

Keith Chapin is a Certified Net Promoter® Associate and Consultant with over 35 years of experience in research, marketing and customer insights. He can be reached at kchapin@promotersrecommend.com

Net Promoter, NPS, and Net Promoter Score are trademarks of Satmetrix Systems, Inc., Bain & Company, Inc., and Fred Reichheld.

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