My 5 worst customer experiences of 2016

As the year is coming to an end, it’s time to look back at 2016 and see in which ways organizations can learn from mistakes in Customer Experience. I’ve collected my five worst customer experiences this year so we can do better in 2017! And then look out to my five best customer experiences, which I will publish shortly.

5. Reaal (Vivat) insurance

As an entrepreneur I have some risks I want to insure, disability being my biggest risk. It is a big difference to being an employee, where in the Netherlands this is often arranged by the employer. That is why I decided to invest in disability insurance which covers this risk of income loss. It is a high cost, my highest recurrent cost besides my mortgage. I had great help of Geijsel Kroon in selecting the right cover, which was a Reaal Insurance policy. Reaal is part of the huge Chinese insurer Vivat.

The onboarding went perfect, but then I started receiving these ridiculous letters. Impersonalized, with terminology that is insurance wording only and there were just too many of them. One would have been enough. Besides, I started receiving invitations to fill out their customer survey. As a CX expert, I always fill them out, but collect them and save them for a moment that is convenient for me. They decided I waited too long and started sending me reminders. Now we are at the end of the year and I am in doubt how to pay the annual fee. I have not received any information on that important matter and had to call and find out how this basic process is handled. For me Reaal are in my top 5 because they send a lot of information on non-issues in non-descript language and they forget the basics. Easy to solve from a customer experience perspective: just start working on customer journeys and find out how your customers are understanding and feel while receiving your information.

4. My local doctor and health centre

I had a mole I was insecure about. With friends and family having a history of skin cancers, I wanted to get this checked out. So I made an appointment at the health centre and this appointment just happened to be on my birthday. In the waiting area there is a monitor with waiting times and it indicated ‘no waiting’ this afternoon. My appointment was at 2 pm and at 2.25 pm, I started to become insecure. Did I have the wrong date in my calendar? So I asked the reception lady, who looked it up on her computer (maybe she could see it was my birthday and she would congratulate me?!?), but no she confirmed that I had the appointment this afternoon, and the doctor was busy. Okay, I knew that already…

I waited a little less patient and 45 minutes after the scheduled time, the doctor called out my name. She looked at the mole, said it looked okay, but I had to be aware at potential changes over the next months. I felt relieved, walked towards the door (maybe she would congratulate me with my birthday?! But no!) and when I pushed the door open, whilst thanking her for her expertise and making me feel relieved that my mole was okay, she said: “Oh no”, “I don’t know if it is okay, but it looks okay. I can give you no certainty about that”. And that was how I left her little doctor’s office. Even more uncertain, not feeling relieved or confident at all. That day I received their customer survey and filled it out immediately. It took me 20 minutes to fill out (what a long list of questions…), shared my experience and asked to call me. No call came, but instead I received an extra questionnaire because they needed more info. I filled it out and I told my story again in the Open Space. When trying to submit, I got error that the Open Space couldn’t contain more than 250 characters. I decided to cancel the survey, and stayed unhappy. Customer experience lessons to be learned: if you give information on waiting time, make sure it is up-to-date; when handling uncertainty, be careful in wording; when asking for customer feedback, make sure you’re really listening and act upon it and when your customer is having her birthday, congratulate her.

3. AVI automakelaardij

Last year I bought a car. An 8 year-old BMW at a car trader. Within a month I encountered engine failure and when I came to the official BMW service point, they saw that the mileage had been reversed. I reached out to this car trader and he said: “You bought the car without guarantee, so I can’t help you.” I had the car fixed, feeling a little stupid, since I didn’t check this out before I bought the car. But when I told this story to a befriended lawyer, he told me that reversed mileage is a reason to legally cancel the purchase agreement. I tried to solve this again in a friendly way with the car trader, but he refused to help me. He didn’t react to any of my phone calls anymore, so I had to follow the legal procedure. First I sent the cancelation. When I got no reaction from his part, I got the help of a bailiff and finally went to court.

Let me tell you that I still hate this experience. Court should be your last resort as a customer, but this car trader should have solved this beforehand. He just wanted to bully me so he hoped I might even drop the case. I didn’t and won this case in court a year later. As a customer, I have my rights and he should have helped me from the beginning. In this case he lost big time. Paying the money for the car and all legal costs. But let me be honest, I lost too. A lot of time and frustration. My lesson here: never buy at AVI Automakelaardij or at a car trader when you are not a car specialist yourself as consumer. And sometimes people are not to be trusted, listen to your intuition!

2. DHL

This year I needed the book ‘Must Win Battles’ for a last-minute workshop I hosted. So I ordered it from Amazon in combination with speedy delivery, for which I paid extra (a lot extra I must say). It would be delivered on Monday and I received a text message that delivery would be between 6 and 9 pm. I went out for yoga and received a text at 4 pm that they were at my office and found nobody there. Well… No book for me, which I really needed for the workshop on Wednesday. On Tuesday I spent 3 hours on the phone, on Twitter, waiting, hoping for my book to arrive.

The direct messages are of the worst I received this year. Explanation why their own processes failed, why I sometimes received wrong messages, because they shared the twitter account with another business line, a colleague having a day off (really, I don’t care). The book wasn’t there by Wednesday, so I wanted my Express Money back. Nobody from DHL could help me, I had to go back to Amazon, because that is what they agreed upon. DHL offered me flowers for all the hassle. But to top this story off, no flowers came to my house. So they got it wrong on all accounts: not delivering on their promises, wrong information from all channels, indifferent personnel and most of all, not solving the issue! Shame on you DHL.

1. US immigration services

Sheer horror. This year I travelled to America three times. Denver, Miami and Phoenix. All three times it was awful to enter the country at all airports. Long lines, rude immigration officers, unclear procedures and the worst: crying people who were missing connecting flights because of the waiting times. The uncertainty is driving all travellers crazy. The way in it is organized at the borders at airports needs some serious Lean Consulting. Get the waiting out of it, make us a little comfortable; it is not so difficult, REALLY!

Besides, why that rudeness from the officers in the vicinity? Are we all criminals, is that how you look at us? Is your job so awful? I don’t know, but US Immigration must be the worst employer of the year. I have seen no smile from any officer. I hope they shake this indifference and hostility off at home. I would love to have a peek in their employee engagement survey. In all areas there are lessons to be learned: process management, cultural, listening to customers, caring about the insecurity in time for travellers, emotions management. Sorry to say, but this is the absolute winner of the worst Customer Experiences of 2016.