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The Power Of The Minimum Viable Experience

I like my insurance company, or should I say I like the people who work for my insurance company. I’ve been with them almost ten years and have no intention of switching. Their call centre team is well trained and they really go out of their way to be helpful and make the customer feel understood. This company’s people are definitely their greatest asset. The process of getting through to the people who do all the heavy lifting in the claims department is another matter.

It’s not easy to sit for 31 minutes listening to a recording that repeatedly tells you one thing while your current reality demonstrates otherwise. I finally gave up listening to how valuable my time was and then out of curiosity called back to see how long it would take to get to a salesperson, by following the phone prompts to the new policy sales department. The answer was 70 seconds from start to finish. Two rings from the final automated prompt and a cheery salesperson picked up.

On the day that I called there were 113 people in the claims queue, which equates to a 40 minute wait. The guy in sales told me that he thought there had been a recent natural disaster in another state—hence the high call volume. He had never seen that many people in the claims queue.

Of course my first instinct was to ask why they don’t just add more people to the claims line. We all know that even with excellent data and planning it’s not always possible to redirect resources at short notice. Sometimes you can’t deliver the service that meets a customer’s expectations. If you can’t do that the next best thing is to manage her expectations. Often the best solution doesn’t mean fixing the actual problem.

What’s worse than a 40 minute wait—is a 40 minute wait without information. What we detest more than the wait is the feeling of uncertainty. There was an opportunity to change the story I was replaying in my head while I was on hold and to create the minimum viable experience (MVE) by simply tweaking the recording.

In customer service the minimum viable experience (MVE) is the experience with the highest return on customer satisfaction versus resources.

There is always an opportunity to create value at the point before the product or service is delivered. Uber has built a business valued at $40 billion by doing just that. They recognised the pain of that uncertainty and took it away, thus creating intangible value and massive emotional benefits for their customers.

When a customer orders a taxi to take her to the airport she wants to get to the airport, but the service starts before the actual journey, with a step that creates certainty in the moment—knowing that she will arrive on time is priceless.

When an Apple evangelist goes to the Genius Bar with a problem he wants his device back up and running, but the step before that is believing that the ‘Genius’ can and will help him. The Genius is trained to deliver a minimum viable experience by telling the customer exactly what he’s doing every step of the way. The phrase “don’t worry I’m here to help, we’re going to sort this problem out for you,” works like magic and best of all it costs nothing.

When we think about delivering the optimum customer experience we strive to create a scenario that meets the customer’s wants, often forgetting that what the customer wants is more than a cab that takes her from A to B, a computer that works, or a human being that picks up the phone right away. There are so many opportunities to create intangible value and subtle expectations that we can fulfil by being more empathetic and without spending a cent.

There is always a way to leave the customer feeling better. It’s up to us to find it.

Image by JF Gornet.