Decorating the Last Touch

Your mama told you:  “A first impression is a lasting impression…and, you don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression.” For customers, that is especially true.  Here is what is also true: “A last impression is a first memory…and, you may not get a second chance to make a good first memory.” Yet, too few service providers think much about their last touch with customers.

Call center operators use a closed question—“Is there anything else I can help you with”—to signal to customers that the operator’s call handle time is far more important than the customer’s first contact resolution.  Even service providers who decorate their in-store or online experience with lots of joyful TLC and attention to details, then make online check-out, paper invoicing, or the cash register encounter seem like it was concocted and managed by an IRS agent eager to do an audit.

How many utilities make customer bills—sometimes their only touch point with their customers—a boring, bureaucratic, and mind numbing experience?  Is it any wonder that fewer than half of utility customers indicate they read their bill inserts?  Most assume the reading on the “blandmeter” for the insert likely matches the reading they put on their bill,  How many companies play games with customers by making the “past due” amount a much larger font than the “pay now” amount potentially seducing “paying on time” customers into paying more than they should?  How many service providers put Happy on the sales floors and Grumpy at the check-out register? High end customers even get to deal with Sleepy in valet parking…another last touch!

The last encounter with customers is sometimes their attempt to return merchandise.  The manner you handle their return item could determine if they ever return!  Sometimes, the last encounter is a departing customer seeking to close their account or sever their relationship.  This is the point when customers are most ready to trash you on social media. And today, the great majority of customers review online comments before deciding to do business with you.  Think about that!  You lose before you even begin. Take special care of all disappointed or departing customers. They hold your brand reputation in their hands!  .

Let your next empathy walk with customers focus on the customer’s last encounter, not their first.  Look at all the moments of truth toward the end of the service cycle that could turn a great service experience into an indifferent or disappointed memory.  Get customers involved in teaching you about their “last touch” expectations—and, then find ways to exceed them.  Keep your focus on ramping up the “sweet” on the “sweet sorrow” of your customers’ partings.

About Chip&John

Chip R. Bell and John R. Patterson are customer loyalty consultants and the authors of several best-selling books. Their newest book is "Wired and Dangerous: How Your Customers Have Changed and What to do About it."
This entry was posted in Customer Delight, Customer Expectations, Customer Experience, Service Recovery, Service Wisdom and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Decorating the Last Touch

  1. Hi Chip – What about companies who train their call center operators to close with stupid questions like “Have I helped you to make it a great day?”

    This was AT&T after their person had told me that I have no options for cheaper plans, even though said plans are based on bundles that they can’t provide for me – aagh!

    Their person was genuine enough to laugh wryly and acknowledge that she hadn’t made it a great day for me – but why is she forced to say it?

    • Chip&John says:

      Thanks so much for your note. Some organizations utilize a “scripted approach” because they believe it provides consistency. What customers are really looking for is an individual who shows empathy and provides as much assistance as is possible. They are also looking for straight answers quickly so their time is not wasted. Experience is about making emotional connections and memories. Scripting won’t get you there!

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