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How Lively Demonstrates Customer Experience is Queen (Thinks Out Loud Episode Episode 339)

How Lively Demonstrates Customer Experience is Queen: Customer service rep listening on headset

You’ve heard me say "Customer Experience is Queen" many times here on Thinks Out Loud. But what does it look like when a brand really takes that principle to heart? And what does it look like when a company doesn’t? Just this past week, I had an experience with two different companies that illustrates how important "Customer Experience is Queen" is in vastly different ways. Each highlighted key elements of using digital to deliver customer experience, one company—Lively—in the best way… and one of them not so much.

What does "Customer Experience is Queen" look like in practice? What does it look like when an organization does it well? And why does this matter for your business? This episode of Thinks Out Loud takes a look.

Want to learn more? Here are the show notes for you.

Thinks Out Loud Episode 339: How Lively Demonstrates “Customer Experience is Queen” Headlines and Show Notes

Show Notes and Links

Here are the regular show notes detailing links and news related to this week’s episode. Be sure to check out all the links that matter for your business once you’ve given the episode a listen.

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Past Insights from Tim Peter Thinks

You might also want to check out these slides I had the pleasure of presenting recently about the key trends shaping marketing in the next year. Here are the slides for your reference:

Technical Details for Thinks Out Loud

Recorded using a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Mic and a Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface into Logic Pro X for the Mac.

Running time: 22m 09s

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Transcript: How Lively Demonstrates Customer Experience is Queen

Well, hello again everyone. Welcome back to Thinks Out Loud, your source for all the digital expertise your business needs. My name is Tim Peter. This is episode 339 of the big show. I think we have a really cool show for you today.

I’m going to start by telling you a little bit of a story. Before I do, though, I want to let you know that in our last episode I was talking about basically what the Frightful Five—what the AGFAM’s—earnings tell us about the state of digital. I mentioned that I want to follow that up with what we heard from Shopify, and what we heard from Expedia, and what heard from Uber, and people like that. I will do that in a week or so. Some still haven’t reported their earnings, and I want to make sure I have a chance to get those all together before putting the episode together. The timing there is kind of funny.

Revisiting "Customer Experience is Queen"

Now, long-time listeners of the show know that I often talk about customer experience is queen. Customer experience is a key component in how you do digital well. Your customers expect to be able to interact with you on digital, the way they expect to be able to interact with you. Right? They have needs, they have goals, they have objectives, and they want to be able to accomplish them using online channels, just the same as they would if they walked into your store, or if they walked into your hotel, or sat in your restaurant, or if they talked to you on the phone. They have a point of view about how things should work. And I had an experience in the last week that I thought really illustrated both a counter-example, a way you don’t want to do it, and an example of how you do want to do it, all within the same transaction.

Some Background. I’m going to start with some weird background. I don’t know how many of you know this, but I am hard of hearing. I wear hearing aids because of my experience working in recording studios, working with live sound, and playing in bands, and things like that. I damaged my hearing when I was in my early 20s and I don’t hear particularly well. Now, I’m not particularly unique in that regard. About 15% of American adults aged 18 and over, so maybe about 37-and-a-half million people, report some trouble hearing. Two to three out of every thousand children, just in the United States, are born with "a detectable level of hearing loss in one or both ears." This by the way is all from the US National Institutes of Health, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. I’ll have a link to that in the show notes if you care.

The Market Opportunity for People with Hearing Loss. Nonetheless, in their data they find about 28.8 million people could benefit from using hearing aids. And as you might imagine, it tends to be worse among older people. I’m a lot younger than the folks who tend to have hearing problems and require hearing aids. My loss is related to occupational hazards when I was younger. Only about 2% of adults in my age range have disabling hearing loss. So I’m one of that 2%. Which I always thought I was above average; it’s nice to know that I actually am. The rate increases to eight-and-a-half percent for adults age 55 to 64, nearly a quarter of those age 65 to 74, and 50% of those who are 75 and older have disabling hearing loss. The greatest amount of loss is among those age 60 to 69. As I said, it’s somewhere between 10 to 15% of adults, so somewhere between one in six people and one in 10 people need help. That’s a big market. There’s a lot to be had there.

Discovering Lively. Now, there’s a lot of people who are entering the space. Hearing aids themselves are kind of expensive, they aren’t covered by most insurance plans, and they can be tough to buy in ways that are affordable. And what’s been really cool in the last couple of years is a number of companies have been entering the space to try to drive down the cost and disrupt it using mostly online models.

And I found one of these, a company called Lively. Full disclosure, this is not sponsored content. I’m not a creator who’s pitching them. I just happened to find them and think that they were a good option for me.

They do lots of cool things in terms of allowing you to schedule appointments with an audiologist virtually to help you get them set up once they send them to you to make sure that everything works. Yeah, I did everything online. It was a really cool experience. Right. So I really dug it, and I felt you should hear about it.

Customer Experience is Queen in Real Life

Except, here’s where things started to get interesting. I bought the hearing aids. They were shipped to me. And I want to be clear, I’m not trying to explicitly dis the carrier, so I’m not going to call them by their real name. Let’s just for sake of the argument say their name was "Dread Flex." I checked the carrier’s website to see when the package would arrive, and the website said it would arrive by Friday.

Friday. On Friday, late in the day, I went to the website and saw that the package was delayed but it would arrive Saturday by 8:00 PM. I also went ahead and signed up for alerts so that if there were any future problems I would know in advance. Now, between COVID and weather up and down the East Coast further delays were certainly possible. I live in Florida. We didn’t have weather, but I realized the package is coming from Midwest, and so somewhere along the way they could certainly run into weather. None of this at this point is a problem.

Saturday. Until Saturday, that is. I still hadn’t received any notification, I still hadn’t received the package. So I went into the website again, the carrier’s website. It said that they were delayed again, but they’d arrive by 8:00 PM on Monday.

Now, notice I hadn’t gotten any notification that I’d signed up for. I’d said, "Send me a text if in fact these have been delayed," but that didn’t happen. So I was getting a little frustrated. Not so much with the delay, though I wasn’t thrilled about that, but more about an expectation that I’d had had not been met.

Monday. So anyway, late on Monday I went to the carrier’s website. Again, I’ve still received no notifications. And guess what? The package was delayed again. This time it said it would arrive by Tuesday at 8:00 PM. Now I’m starting to get a little frustrated because I was supposed to get them Friday. I didn’t get them Friday. I didn’t get them Saturday. I didn’t get them Monday. I signed up to get alerted if they were going to be delayed further, and I didn’t get any alerts. So this is a terrible experience by this point in the process.

Tuesday: I’ve Had Enough with the Carrier. Anyway, fast forward to Tuesday. Late Tuesday still hadn’t received any texts. I still hadn’t received the package. I went to the website and it showed that the package was simply delayed. It showed that it hadn’t moved since 3:30 AM on Monday. It was still sitting in North Carolina. The funny part about this is, the package was in Georgia on Saturday, and it was in North Carolina on Monday, and I live in Florida. From where I’m sitting, that doesn’t feel like progress.

And remember, I’d gotten no notifications, I’d gotten no updates, and they really couldn’t even tell me when the package was due to arrive. So now I’m kind of frustrated. Right?

**Best Practice: Moving Difficult Conversations Out of the Public Sphere. ** So I jump on Twitter and I send the thing to their support on Twitter saying, "Hey, what’s going on here?" And of course they take this into the DMs.

This is a good practice if you are interacting with your customers on social media, and the customer has a negative experience, you definitely want to get that out of the public social chatter and bring that into DMs. Perfectly valid, perfectly understandable.

The person I was chatting with was very helpful. They were doing the best they could with the information they had available to them. They let me know that they’d have to put a trace on the package. They couldn’t figure out why it claimed to be sitting in a warehouse or someplace in North Carolina, and had been sitting there for, at this point, oh 37 or 38 hours.

What Happens When You Follow Up Good Service With Bad Expectation Setting. But then the rep says to me on Twitter, I’ll get an answer, someone will call me with an update or email me, and they’ll call me or email me in 24 to 48 hours.

Now remember, this is a package that is already 96 hours late. And I had a scheduled appointment with an audiologist through Lively to configure the hearing aids in less than 36 hours. So it’s possible that the appointment I’m going to have can’t happen because I don’t yet have the package I’m waiting for. Now, this was super frustrating. It’s exactly what you don’t want to do. I couldn’t get an answer. The answers I was supposed to get along the way I didn’t get. The rep was doing everything that they could. They weren’t able to get an answer. And repeatedly through this process the carrier had set an expectation that they were not able to meet. That’s exactly what you don’t want to do, because what’s happening now is, I’m telling an audience of people about this. Right? I mean this is exactly what you don’t want.

Lively Rides to My Rescue

All right. So I don’t want this all to be doom, gloom, and negative. Let’s talk about the flip side of this. So Tuesday, after this interaction with the rep from the carrier, I emailed Lively. They have an 800 number and they have an email address. It turns out you can also text them on the 800 number. I wasn’t aware of that at the time. But I emailed them just to say, "Hey, this is what’s going on. I’m a little frustrated. I want you to be aware." I emailed after 5:00 on Tuesday and I didn’t know what to expect. This is a new company to me.

I got an email reply at 9:01 Wednesday morning. So right at the start of the business day the next day I got an email. Then about 10 o’clock I got a phone call. They wanted to let me know who at Lively I would be working with so if necessary I could reschedule my appointment with the audiologist. They wanted to make sure they were looking into it and seeing if they could get the carrier to get the stick out of … I mean get things moving in the way that they probably should have been. All in all, super helpful, super friendly.

Understanding Your Customer so Their Experience Matches Their Needs.
I also think it’s really apparent that Lively seems to get that their customer … Remember, most people who wear hearing aids are A, older, B, we know for a fact, hard of hearing. They really did a great job of making sure that I understood the process, understood what was going on. You know, held my hand in a way that was just really great to see.

Matching Experience and Expectations

Now, let’s fast-forward a lot more. The package arrived late Wednesday. I got no notification from the carrier, which should surprise no one at this point. Right? And again, I’m not trying to drag the carrier. Things happen. But again, it’s this idea of setting expectations and meeting them versus setting expectations and failing to meet them. By contrast, I did get an email late Wednesday from Lively’s support just saying, "Hey, we just wanted to check in and make sure you’d gotten your package, and to make sure that everything’s set for your appointment with the audiologist tomorrow morning. And if anything needs to change, just let us know, be more than happy to help you out." So of course then Thursday morning I had the appointment with the audiologist. Everything was fine. The hearing aids are great. The service I’ve gotten there is tremendous. The service that I got from the carrier, not so much.

What Lively Did So Well. So a lot of this is all about expectations. A lot of this is about helping the customer in a way that is appropriate. Lively doesn’t do their own shipping. I mean they do, but they don’t have a track your package on their website. They link you out to the carrier’s website. That’s an okay experience. And they step in and help when they need to, when the customers hits a point that they need the help. So it’s a great example of saying, "Look. There’s parts of this process we’re responsible for and we can help with, and there’s parts of this that we outsource to another company. But the parts that we can control, we’re going to control really, really well."

It was a really outstanding delivery on the expectations they had set along the way. The carrier, not so much. They set a number of expectations. "We’re going to deliver it Friday. We’re going to deliver it Saturday. We’re going to deliver it Monday. We’re going to deliver it Tuesday." Missed all of them. They set the expectation that if you sign up for alerts, we’ll go ahead and alert you if there’s any problems, which that sounds like a really good idea as long as you actually alert people if there’s a real problem.

Again, my point here isn’t to beat up a company. It’s to talk about what it looks like when you do it well versus is what it looks like when you don’t do it well, and what that means for a customer. I will say great things about Lively to anybody who asks me.

So far I’ve only had these hearing aids for what, a little less than a week. But so far they’ve worked great, and so far all of my interactions with their customer service has been outstanding. I’d like to point out, when they set you up with the appointment with the audiologist, that was all done through a Zoom call. They walked me through the app. They showed me how the things worked. They showed me what you can do with the app. All things that I never got with audiologists in the past when I worked with them in person. Now to be fair, sometimes the apps were so much less, they had so many fewer features, that to be fair they probably didn’t have to show me much because there wasn’t much I could do. But it’s been a tremendously, tremendously positive experience.

And their expectations all along the way, the expectations they have set all along the way, they have met. And in some cases they’ve exceeded those expectations. Notice they didn’t have to exceed my expectations everywhere. They just had to meet them.

Using Digital to Augment the Customer Experience. So when you think about how you use digital to connect with your customers, when you think about how you’re using digital to create an experience, all you really need to do is make sure that it is delivering on the experience the customer expects. Set an expectation, meet the expectation, and don’t be afraid, like Lively does, to say, "The set up, that’s something you shouldn’t do on your own. It’s not a self-service thing. We’re going to set up an appointment with a specialist, and the specialist is going to walk you through this," in this case over Zoom. So they’re still using digital to do it. But notice they’re using off-the-shelf technology, they’re using Zoom to make the call happen. Really very, very straightforward. So all along the way, set an expectation, met the expectation, and occasionally exceeded the expectation when things didn’t quite go according to plan.

Why Customer Experience is Queen

And without belaboring the point, the reason the customer experience is queen is the fact that I’m now telling you about it. Anybody who saw my message to the carrier on Twitter knows about the fact that there was a problem, and that’s all they know, and that’s the last they heard. And the best I’m willing to say about the carrier is that I won’t call them out by name.

And the brand that did a good job is getting a shout-out to an audience of, okay I don’t know, maybe four or five hundred people. But they’re getting a shout-out and being told something. And suddenly some of those folks could become potential customers. Maybe you. I don’t know. But it’s something where I now as a customer am willing to advocate this brand to other people I talk to where I think they could help.

Conclusion: How Lively Demonstrates Customer Experience is Queen

That’s why customer experience is queen. I often say the modern marketing team is a media company. But the truth is, so are all of your customers. All of your customers carry a TV studio, and a radio station, and a television network, and all of the ways that they can broadcast to their friends, and family, and fans, and followers, on social media with them everywhere they go.

So they’re going to become potentially either an advocate on your behalf or a detractor. You really want them to be an advocate, and customer experience is queen is how you do that. By setting an expectation, and meeting that expectation, and then ideally turning that customer into an advocate for you just as Lively has done with me.

Show Closing and Credits

Now, looking at the clock on the wall, we are out of time for this week. I want to remind you that you can find the show notes for today’s episode, as well as an archive of all past episodes, by going to timpeter.com/podcast. Again, that’s timpeter.com/podcast. Just look for Episode 339.

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Sponsor Message: SoloSegment

As I do each week, I’d like to thank our sponsor. Thinks Out Loud is brought to you by SoloSegment. SoloSegment provides an amazing suite of search tools that provides search as a service for large enterprises. They focus on business results, not search results, with easy automated tools that help customers find the content that matters to them and helps drive you to your business goals.

They do this all while protecting customer privacy and improving business results along the way. You can learn more about SoloSegment and all the amazing work they do there by going to solosegment.com. Again, that’s solosegment.com.

Show Outro

With that said, I want to say once again how much I appreciate you tuning into the show every single week. It means more to me than you could possibly know. It’s just always the best to know you’re out there listening. So with that said, I hope you have a wonderful rest of the week. I hope you have a great weekend. And I’ll look forward to speaking with you here on Thinks Out Loud next time. Until then, please be well, be safe, and as ever, take care everybody.

Tim Peter is the founder and president of Tim Peter & Associates. You can learn more about our company's strategy and digital marketing consulting services here or about Tim here.

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