User Experience (UX) is one of those management phrases that has come into vogue over the last few years. Thankfully it’s self-descriptive when used as a phrase. But what we’re really trying to say is: Did your customer have a good experience or not? And by experience, I mean throughout the entire process of working with your organization, from the first referral or advertisement to payment and receipt of your service or product.
If your organization is interested in stepping up to client service, click here for the difference.
A Tale of Two Organizations
Recently, I’ve experienced the book-ends of customer service during the invoicing and payment portion of the process.
So let’s get straight to it |
Company A is a law firm. They got the job done, communicated well, and were helpful in a number of areas. But where they did particularly well was with their invoice and payment process.
Less than 5 minutes is all it took to receive, review, and pay their invoice.
- They used E-mail to send me a PDF file of their invoice.
- Once I reviewed it, I simply clicked on a credit card processing link in the E-mail, entered my information, and the process was completed.
In short: They made it easy for me to pay them which was good for both of us. I didn’t spend much time on the entire process and they were paid in minutes which is great for any organization’s cash flow.
Company B is an insurance firm in which I’ve been a customer for years. They get the job done and communicate reasonably well when I call them with a question. But, they’re a complete failure when it comes to their invoice and payment process.
It took me twelve weeks to pay their invoice. Weeks.
- They mailed me an invoice via snail-mail (postal service).
- The invoice never arrived.
- They mailed me a second invoice via snail-mail.
- It arrived four weeks after the mailing date which was well past the due date on the invoice.
- I called them to let them know I had received their invoice and we were already past their due date.
- The customer service person let me know that this was the second invoice they had sent and implied that they assumed I wasn’t going to pay. This was after they reviewed my track record of payment and noted that I had paid every invoice on time for over a decade.
- At this point, I simply wanted to pay the invoice and end the conversation. Instead, the customer service person started to walk me through their internal process for invoicing and payments.
- So, I asked for the website where I could immediately pay the invoice in full. “We don’t have a website like that.” This is one of the largest insurance companies in North America.
- Still wanting to end the conversation as fast as possible, I offered to give the customer service person my credit card information over the phone for processing. “We only take checks mailed to us through the postal service.”
- After checking the date on my phone, I verified that it was in fact 2020 and not 1970. Given the only option available, I mailed a check to them after insisting that the customer service person note in their records the date it was mailed and the likelihood that the check would arrive at their processing center no sooner than 2 weeks and more likely in 4 weeks.
Ten steps and 30 minutes of conversation.
Note | It always astounds me when an organization, instead of addressing and fixing their own problem, starts to walk me through their internal process. No one cares about another organization’s internal process unless we’re being paid to fix it. I wasn’t.
I think you know where I’m going with this. But, first some postal service history |
Six years ago, I was retained to look at the internal process of an organization that was experiencing cash flow issues. The management team’s assumption was that either their employees or customers were slow-walking the invoice/payment process.
Two days later it became apparent that what was actually happening: The postal service’s delivery was slowing down while their incident rate of losing mail was increasing. Our recommendation was to use E-mail and credit card payments. They weren’t happy with the credit card payment recommendation because of the processing fees, but that’s part of the cost of doing business today. Besides, some of the cost increase would be offset by no longer having to purchase paper, maintain printers, or pay for shipping their invoices. They also had the option of increasing their prices to cover the service charge.
But the real benefit was two-fold:
- Their invoice-to-pay cycle decreased dramatically: from weeks to days.
- Their customers were happier and purchased more of their products.
Two years later I had a discussion with the branch manager of my bank about electronic statements vs. printed statements. This bank was pushing to switch everyone to electronic statements because of the cost and time savings. During the discussion, she mentioned that time it took from mailing a statement to receipt by their customer was continuing to increase and many customers were reporting that they frequently didn’t receive their statements.
As I write this, there’s a seemingly new political battle going on in Washington D.C. about funding for the postal service. But this battle has been going on since the founding of our country and is similar in scope to the ongoing debate over how our infrastructure for transportation (planes, trains, and automobiles) should be funded.
For clarity, nothing in this article is intended to be a political statement.
It all comes down to this: The speed and accuracy of postal delivery in the United States has been on a downward trend for years. COVID-19 has simply exacerbated a problem that already existed.
Why It Matters
User Experience doesn’t end for a customer until they’ve paid for your product/service and have successfully received your product/service. While receipt of the product/service is an article for another day, it’s in the best interest of all organizations to take these steps:
- The first point of contact, whether electronic communication, advertising, or talking with a person who represents your organization, must be a positive experience.
- Providing competent service and a good quality product is a given.
- Paying must be simple |
- If payment is made in full upfront, don’t give a potential customer a reason to bail on a transaction by making the process cumbersome.
- Similarly, if you invoice after the service or product is delivered: Simplicity is extremely important.
Speaking of simple here’s something to consider: If you use paid advertising to reach potential customers, a bad User Experience can negate anywhere from thousands to millions of dollars worth of advertising.
Because word-of-mouth is still the best way to get the word out about your product/service. We all love to tell our family and friends about a great organization and we also love to tell the same people about a bad one. It’s up to your organization to make the entire User Experience a positive one.
It’s in everyone’s best interest to keep the purchase process simple and fast. Your organization’s viewpoint must be from the customer’s perspective. Do these things well and you’ll have a customer who will want to purchase from you again and they’ll also share their experience with their family and friends.
This article is an excerpt from my upcoming book on Strategic Marketing & Advertising. To learn more about my books and classes and to receive a discount, you’re invited to subscribe to my List by clicking HERE.
Photography by Bruce Mars