New software is constantly allowing us to better engage with our customers. We’re able to dig deeper into our customers’ issues, provide extremely insightful information when they need it, and even engage customers wherever they are. These tools help to create amazing experiences throughout the entire customer journey. But with the good, there can also be bad. I had the unfortunate pleasure of experiencing some of this bad while purchasing a new home recently, so I thought I would share some tips you can use to avoid providing similar negative experiences to your customers.

The process of buying a house is already somewhat frustrating, but when mortgage companies fail to think through their technology implementations, the process becomes even worse. Let’s take, for example, my last dealing with a local mortgage company. Candidly, I happen to think the entire process of buying a home, from realtors through closing is bulky, too expensive, and in need of serious innovation. But let’s say for the sake of this blog post, I am okay with the normal process (cringe). Even if that was the case, there is no reason for a company to deploy technology that makes it worse but they did, and unfortunately, so do a number of other companies.

A sure fire way to alienate customers.

Everyone is talking about automating process and workflows. And why not? Automating business processes can help with quality control, operational efficiencies and scalability. But if you’re not careful, they can also create a disconnect between you and your customers. This post is not to bash the company I worked with, but for context, my experience while getting my mortgage was not a good one. Dates were missed, timelines took forever, nothing was done in time, promises were made but not delivered, and overall I was left with a pretty bad taste in my mouth, but it was after that process where the real breakdown occurred.

In a good technology-based solution, my experience would have been rated as negative, which would have caused my account to be flagged and removed from the standard follow-up campaigns. At which point, I would be included into a new campaign geared toward rebuilding my confidence, or better yet, handed off to person for a direct engagement. Instead, my account was dropped back into the general sales and marketing campaigns. I was bombarded with messages to try new services, provide referrals, and even to consider refinancing. Now, overly aggressive sales aside, the real problem is that my bad experience was completely ignored. The company ignored that important aspect of the relationship and tried to capitalize on an upsell campaign. Worse yet, the next automated message was from my mortgage agent telling me how much of a pleasure it was to work together, and how happy they were that everything worked out. Now, obviously I remember the relationship much differently, but the fact that this automated message was sent without the agent personalizing it, is the issue.

Ultimately, the failure here was when the company automated portions of the sales process, without taking into consideration the customer service component. The system was built to upsell, not to create customer advocates. It is one thing to move happy customers into a marketing campaign like this, but trying to treat an unhappy customers the same way creates additional frustration and mistrust, which are both very difficult to fix later. To be successful you need pay attention to the specific transaction. Was it positive or negative? Was the customer satisfied, or not? Did they get everything they needed or not? The answers to these questions need to shape the messages that goes out next. Ignoring this not only frustrates your customers, it can create vocal enemies of your brand. And hopefully I don’t need to mention it, but that is bad.

Adding insult to injury

Now although the experience above was annoying, it can happen. I understand automated marketing campaigns, and I don’t entirely blame the company for having an immature solution. It’ll get there, and over time it might even grow enough to help eliminate the bloated process strangling the mortgage industry. But unfortunately, they decided to keep pushing. For a number of industries the customer’s name is not terribly important. As long as services are provided, and the bills are paid, a name is just a label. So, for a number of industries I can see how typos could surface. In the mortgage industry however, a customer’s name is pretty important. Every document must have the correct legal name of the person getting the mortgage. The mortgage package contains a number of legal documents that can be almost impossible to change later if there is an error. So you would think that storing customers’ names correctly would be a no brainer in this industry. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. All of my mortgage documents during closing have the correct name, yet my very first statement included a wonderfully butchered version of my name.

It was obvious the company was making yet another common mistake. When using disparate systems for different functions within the company you need to sync similar data. Maintaining two, three or even four sets of similar data is a disaster waiting to happen. In my case, the disaster was icing on the cake of an overall poor experience but for other companies it could be far worse. I’ve even heard stories of this issue causing medical records to be distributed to the wrong patients. Don’t make the same mistake. For every piece of data company stores (account info, contact info, invoices, quotes, orders, pick lists, assets, etc.) you need to make sure to control how that data is synced between systems. If you are manually entering something in multiple locations, you are doing it wrong. Data should be entered once, verified, and then propagated out through an automated process. Investing time and money controlling the integrity of your data is well worth the effort. Not only from a customer experience perspective, but also from a risk avoidance one.

The two examples above are common issues that many businesses face. Although advanced technology offers us new opportunity, it can also causes challenges. When designing a new solution focus on the overall customer experience so you are forced to evaluate it from multiple angles. Hopefully you’ll be able to catch things like this before they affect your customers.