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  • Nick Hague and Paul Hague

The reasons digital customer experience fail

All of us in customer experience need to weave digital and personal experience within our offer. The digital experience can take place at almost any step of the customer journey. It is likely to be there at the outset when we explore an offering online, it is there when we become a regular customer and place orders online, and it is there to manage our changing profile and needs over time.


One of those occasions occurred to us the other day and demonstrated how difficult it is to get this right. We are members of the AA and buy car insurance and roadside recovery from the company. We have been members for years and have a digital presence set up through our email and protected by a password. There are occasions when people need to change their email address and this cropped up with us. We went online and made the necessary change of email address and all was well. At least we thought it was. When we bought a new car and wanted to inform the AA of the change, we went online thinking this would be the quickest and simplest way to make the update. We got in a loop whereby we were constantly being asked to put in our email address, password and none of this seemed to work. It didn't work for our new email address or for the old one. We gave up with the digital attempt and phoned the AA. After a tortuous 10 minutes of pressing 1 for this and 2 for the other, we got through to someone in the IT department who told us that in their system you can't change an email address online, it has to be confirmed with a phone call. We couldn't recall seeing this instruction at the time of making the change and in any case, we were bemused as to why the AA feels a phone call is necessary to change an email address when almost every other company allows you to do so online.


Digital problems occur because IT departments seldom report to marketing. They are more likely to be part of operations or accounting. In fact, most in-house IT departments have very little to do with marketing. They deal with broken computers, printers and software problems. The really important stuff such as websites and digital marketing is outsourced. The phone systems that require us to enter digit 1, 2, or 3 to speak to someone are installed and controlled by independent companies. We need the people who design our digital interfaces to understand the needs of our customers or we will never offer a great digital customer experience.


We have grown so used to digital crap it has become the norm. It doesn’t mean that it is right, it simply means that we are likely to get more of it because it is the cheap common standard. Marketing teams and in particular people who head up customer experience programs have a responsibility to take control of digital diehards. Doing what everybody else does digitally is not the way forward. There are many benefits to having a digital offer but we must not sacrifice ease of doing business, speed and convenience as these are the most important pillars of great customer experience.

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