The Department You Need to Check to Avoid Service Failures

In 2008, the shipping company DHL ran an ad campaign touting their outstanding customer service.

Each ad showed different service encounters where a DHL employee went above and beyond. The tagline was, "We're putting service back in the shipping business."

It wasn't true.

In November that year, DHL announced they were pulling out of the U.S. domestic shipping business. The company faced a myriad of problems, one of the biggest being their woeful customer service.

DHL's CEO, John Mullen, was quoted at the time as saying, "It's hard to see what could have been done that would have led to a different result."

But, there is something they should have done: audit their marketing and communications.

Why Conduct an Audit?

Your company's advertising is essentially a promise to customers. So, if you advertise something, you had better be able to deliver it. Customers naturally get disappointed when you promise them something and it doesn't happen.

Imagine a chain of furniture stores that promises same day delivery in their advertising. Fast delivery is the hook to get you in the door. But, what happens if there's a laundry list of exceptions to the same day promise?

A customer who expected same-day delivery when she ordered a couch won't be very happy to learn it will actually take two weeks.

It's scenarios like that that make it essential to conduct a regular marketing and communications audit. You'll avoid service failures if you spot (and fix) promises that aren't being kept.


How to Conduct Your Audit

Here's a three step process you can use to audit your marketing and communications.

Step 1: List all advertised promises. Check your advertising, brochures, and other collateral. Find out what your salespeople are pitching. Look at signage. Listen to your hold messages.

Step 2: Test each promise. Run a test on each promise to see if your company can actually deliver it. For instance, a bank is promoting their ATM machines as a faster and easier alternative than completing a teller-assisted transaction. You can test this promise by timing the same transaction via both channels.

Step 3: Make a list to fix. Identify broken promises that need to be fixed. Perhaps your advertising needs to be adjusted. Or, maybe your company needs to boost some capabilities to improve operations. The key is making sure what's promised is what gets delivered.


What to Audit

Here are a few specific things you should consider auditing.


As I write this, I'm waiting to get my car back from the mechanic. I was told it would be two days, but I just called to check the status and learned it will now be three. 

Check on anything you deliver, whether it's a service, merchandise, or the time to complete a repair or service call.

That's why Netflix frequently sends it's DVD subscribers an email asking, "When did you mail this DVD?" or "When did you receive this DVD?" They're monitoring their delivery to make sure it stays within the promised range.


Response Time

Check out fast you respond to customers via various channels. 

For example, the new response time standard for email is one hour. If you can't respond in one hour, make sure you have an auto-responder set up to let customers know when you will respond. And then, time your responses to make sure you're fulfilling that promise.

KLM does this for their Twitter account, regularly posting their expected response time on their profile page.

Product Image

There's a great scene in the movie Falling Down where Michael Douglas's character, D-Fens, loses his mind because he's served a fast food hamburger that looks nothing like what's shown on the menu. 

Source:  IMBD

Source: IMBD

It's an extreme example, but customers really don't appreciate it when the product doesn't match what's advertised.

Look at the product images you display on websites, brochures, menus, etc. and make sure they closely match what you're actually delivering. 



You can learn more about this and other techniques in a new training video, The Manager's Guide to Managing Customer Expectations on 

Here's a short preview video.

You'll need a account to view the entire course, but I can hook you up with a 10-day trial.

PS. Check out this slightly different, but still excellent How-To article from Denise Lee Yohn on how to conduct a brand diagnostic to scale up your brand.

Why We Need Less Marketing And More Customer Experience

Like most pet owners, I go out of my way to care for my dog.

She's a ten-year-old mutt that I've had since she was a puppy. She's a big girl, weighing just under 80 pounds. This means I make regular visits to the pet store to buy a lot of food, treats, and poop bags. I can only imagine how much I've spent over her lifetime.

There's a pet store that's just five minutes away from my house. I don't go there anymore because it offered a consistently poor experience. 

It wasn't just the customer service that was poor. It was the entire experience. Annette Franz has this handy definition of customer experience on her blog:

(a) the sum of all the interactions that a customer has with a company over the course of the relationship lifecycle and (b) the customer's feelings, emotions, and perceptions of the brand over the course of those interactions.

Someone in marketing had a new bright idea every week. They'd change the layout so frequently that each visit felt like walking through a maze. They frequently got rid of popular products because they thought they could sell a similar product under their private label for a better margin.

Now, I drive to another pet store that's fifteen minutes from my home. I literally pass the old store on my way there. The new store had a much better experience.

At least it did until Tuesday.

I went in for three items. This store usually gives you the option to get your receipt via email. I like that. It's one less piece of paper to clutter my pocket before I eventually throw it away. 

Not Tuesday. On Tuesday, the only receipt option was paper:

This monstrous receipt was for three items. It's 58.5 inches long in case you're wondering - nearly five feet tall.

Someone in marketing is responsible for this. They took away the convenient email option and replaced it with a file-clogging wad of coupons and promotions. I'm not interested in any of them. 

This isn't a customer service problem. The friendly cashier made the best of the situation when the receipt started printing and just kept going and going. We joked about it. I think she was a little embarrassed. She apologized for the hassle.

I'm sure a marketer thought this was a great idea. You can just imagine one of those creative sessions. Someone suddenly gets a devilish look in their eye and said, "What if... nah. It's too outlandish."

Someone else chimed in and said, "C'mon, Craig. We're brainstorming here! There are no bad ideas! What are you thinking?"

So Craig screwed up the courage to spit it out. "What if we gave every customer a giant receipt full of coupons? It could be like five feet long. It would be so outrageous that customers would think they were getting punked!!"

Actually, Craig, there are bad ideas.

No customer experience professional would have gone for this. One look at the awkward interaction between customer and cashier while the receipt printer spewed out coupons like a broken skee ball machine and they would have realized it was a crummy idea.

Those coupons might earn the pet store a few extra bucks. The marketers will take credit for that. It might also cost them a few customers. Whose fault will that be?