The Customer Experience Podcast
The Customer Experience Podcast

Episode · 5 months ago

172. CX Lessons from My Trash and Recycling Experience


I’ve lived in the same residence for almost 15 years. For 14 blissful years, I had no communications with my waste management service, and that was exactly how I wanted it.

Here’s the story of how that changed four months ago for the worse.

I’m Ethan Beute, Chief Evangelist at BombBomb, host of The Customer Experience Podcast, and co-host of the CX Series on the B2B Growth Show. In this episode, I share the story of change management so awful that it made the local news and caused garbage to physically pile up on the streets of Colorado Springs.

Here are some thoughts from the episode:

  • Why the best CX is an appropriate experience
  • Why customers bail when communication is unhelpful
  • What the channels and touchpoints were and how they failed
  • How not to manage change 

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Recently we'd put out our trash and recycling on pickup day and oftentimes it wouldn't get picked up. It was a running joke at some level. My wife would call and her call, like the trash and recycling itself, just wouldn't get picked up. The single most important thing you can do today is to create and deliver a better experience for your customers. Learn how sales, marketing and customer success experts create internal alignment, achieved desired outcomes and exceed customer expectations in a personal and human way. This is the customer experience podcast. Here's your host, Ethan Butte. Hey, a fun, interesting and cautionary tale for you today on this short episode of the Customer Experience Podcast. I'm your host Ethan Butt and back on episode seventeen I hosted bombomb chief customer officer, Jonathan Bolton, in a conversation and he shared with us a simple, powerful idea. The best customer experience delivers and appropriate experience. That's to say that the desired outcome needs to be met, but the desired experience also needs to be delivered, desired being the operative word. One of his examples was the TSA right when we go to the airport and we encounter the TSA and appropriate experiences. You know, get straight there, get straight through experience. You don't need to want a lot of small talk. It's highly transactional, hopefully a little bit friendly, and ideally it's frictionless. The last thing you want is to have to share a TSA story with people when you talk about your trip. Right. So the appropriate experience is quick and seamless and unremarkable in a lot of ways. And that's how I think about another service that most of us have, and that's trash and recycling service. You set it up once and it just runs. You don't need to think about it, you don't need to talk about it, you don't want to think about it, you don't want to talk about it. You just want to wheel the bins...

...out to the curb on pickup day and wheel them back in when they're empty. And that's how it was at my house for nearly fifteen years, and then it all changed. As I share this story with you, listen for themes of change management, especially after a merger or acquisition. Think about customer communication in the consequences of digital pollution. Think about meeting people in the right channels and in the right ways. Think about social media and customer feedback, think about balancing the tech touch and the human touch and finding off ramps from the tech touch to connect customers with real humans, and think about employee experience. A great employee experiences a necessary precursor to a great customer experience. And if the employees not having fun, the customer definitely isn't having fun, and very often vice versa, and that's the case here in this story. So to kick this off, I'll just say I got frustrated with our trash and recycling service at our house. I googled the company, I got the story. I'll share it with you in this episode and I'm going to start with some of the news headlines I ran into. Here are three headlines from local television stations here in Colorado Springs. Waste connections customers complain of lack of services comma trash not being picked up. Waste connections responds as trash piles up in Colorado Springs. Colorado Springs customers frustrated over service issues with waste connections. Comma district manager responds. Allam Bet, a couple of the news stories in the Post. By the way, for every episode of this podcast we do short write ups, oftentimes video highlights and links fully embedded audio at Bombombcom podcast. So if you go to Bombombcom podcast, scroll down to episode one hundred and seventy two and you can check out a couple of these stories. Now.

Fortunately, at my house we did not suffer the experience of some of the customers in those stories. We didn't have trash piling up, we didn't have raccoon problems, there was no health or safety issue. But here's what we did suffer. My wife and son and I have lived at the same address for nearly fifteen years. As soon as we moved in we signed up with the last remaining locally owned trash and re cycling company in the city. We had no problems ever. Again, you don't want to have to think about trash and recycling. This should be an approximately invisible service. But about a year ago that locally owned company got acquired by what our local newspaper, the Colorado Springs Gazette, referred to as a, quote, Toronto based trash giant end quote. It's a company with seven million customers and forty two of the United States and six Canadian provinces, nearly twentyzero employees through the first three quarters of two thousand and twenty four billion in revenue and seventy four million in profits, a relative giant. Up until recently, we'd put out our trash and recycling on pickup day and it would get picked up. More recently we'd put out our trash and recycling on pickup day and oftentimes it wouldn't get picked up. It was a running joke at some level. My wife would call and her call, like the trash and recycling itself, just wouldn't get picked up. Website chat was just a Bot with no real helper service, one of those kind of dumb loops where it keeps giving you information that you already have and no human picks up the chat. By the way, if no one is going to chat with you, it should not be called a chat. After a couple of times, my wife went to their office and stood in a line. Now in front of her were some of these people that we saw in some of the news stories, people with legit health and safety issues, people who's trash wasn't getting picked up because, a they were dropped from...

...the customer rolls because they didn't switch their billing over because they probably didn't get the communication after the merger or acquisition, or people whose pickup days had changed but didn't get the communication about having been rerouted and again to the employee experienced perspective, that person working the front desk probably didn't want to be showing up on these days getting berated over and over again by different customers who are being failed by the service. The person heard my wife out, but the response was the same as we would get occasionally by email or text message. Sometimes you'd see it in some of the BOT loops. Essentially, will pick it up next week at no extra charge. Frustrated after another experience, I did a simple tweet about it at mentioning the trash giant. One reply UUGH, same from another reply. They're an absolutely horrible company. I've never experienced such inefficiency and lack of customer service, not to mention a total lack of caring. And another reply. Yeah, we dumped them and went to a competitor. It sounds like they laid off a bunch of employees after they purchased the other company and haven't recovered since then. And I got a reply from the company themselves. We appreciate you reaching out. Could you please send us a private message with your full service address, including city, state and zip code, so we can assist you. So I did. IDM them. I explain the problem. It was marked as scene and a reply came back seven minutes later. That's a pretty good response time. I was interested, I was excited. I was curious to see what they would share back. But, like the chat, it was just a Bot. Thank you for contacting us. To find your new service day, use our APP. It's located on the home page and are your address to see your new service day.

Thank you. It didn't help at all. We already knew our service day. It was an irrelevant, useless response. So I replied back. That was marked as seen and no response from there. I talked with the person who switched providers, who said that it took a week or two to have bins picked up and they had to leave them out of the street the whole time. That detail about the post acquisition layoffs came from the representative that this person spoke with on the phone, and while the representative was nice enough, he also said that he could only take one fraction of all the phone calls that were coming in and they didn't have enough people to reply back to the voice messages. I guess you just have to call it a win for successfully canceling and eventually having your bins picked up. So here I am a little bit stuck and not sure how to proceed. As a customer. The easiest thing to do is keep going. If you look at online reviews, none of the providers anymore. Again, we lost the last locally owned one gets good ratings. It's a bit of a chort of switch and reminds me a little bit of local Internet providers. Most people aren't very satisfied. There are no easier, obvious choices. The Hope Right now at our house is that this massive company acquires the last locally owned business. They have trouble migrating billing over for hundreds, if not thousands, of customers. They get lost in the process. They get eliminated from routes because they didn't make the transfer in terms of billing. So they're not being served, even though they might not know, because they missed the robotic voice mail, they missed the email, they may be missed the direct mail. And this gets us to the theme of Digital Pollution. We set up our service provider, we did not communicate with them at all for over a dozen years. This type of acquisition isn't really a key headline, although it was written up in the local newspaper.

So I can see how people would miss a Robo call or miss an automated email or miss a generic piece of direct mail. There's so much noise out there it's hard to determine what matters and what doesn't. It doesn't surprise me the lot of these people got lost in the shuffle. If you go to bombbcom slash podcast and check out the post for episode one hundred and seventy to you'll see some of the people who got caught in that trap. They're being communicated with sometimes and channels that they didn't use. For efficiency, they re routed several of the pickup lines, so a lot of the service days changed. This becomes another communication issue that needs to be managed. So many issues integrating the companies and integrating the customer basis. At our house we were able to keep an eye on the communication. We successfully navigated the transition. We're hoping and assuming that they're ironing out these problems. We're hoping and assuming that some of the lack of response and the failure to pick up the telephone was due to overwhelming response in an acute situation. We're expecting that it's not going to be a chronic situation. We're assuming that there's some level of challenge in keeping their positions filled. Again, if you don't have a great employee experience, this is the type of labor market where people are going to leave and do something else. So they could be short staffed. Were just hoping for and expecting a rebound so quick summary. In a merger or acquisition, obviously billing systems need to be integrated. That produced a lot of problems here. Those changes need to be communicated in multiple channels and that communication shouldn't be managed as a check of a box. Just because you sent an email doesn't mean you were seen. Just because you left an automated robocall voice mail doesn't mean you were heard. In an experience like this, it's not unreasonable to expect a stronger effort to close loops with customers, some confirmation that people understand.

So they probably could have improved communication here. That's why trash was piling up. That's why customers were being removed from the customer list. A lot of that communication was probably lost amid the noise and pollution in digital and even analog spaces. Separately, all of the communication was tech touch. There's no real website chat. You couldn't reach anyone on the phone. It would ring and ring. You'd end up getting an automated voice mail. You could leave a message, but no one would call you back. If you wanted to speak to a human being, you had to physically go into the office. They even gave a bit of a headfake on social media. Hey Dm us and you DM them and it's just another stupid Bot. We need an off ramp to human contact and you shouldn't be in channels that you can't support. Those themes come up over and over again here on the customer experience podcast. And as for the employee experience, it sucks for the person taking the phone calls. It sucks for the person at the front desk dealing with Walkins. It sucks for the manager who has to get in front of television news cameras over and over explaining the situation and promising a better future. Again, we're expecting the best. We're going to ride this thing out. I just thought I would share this story because it reflects so many of the themes that we talked about here on the podcast. I haven't done an episode like this since episode four forty eight, which we called Five CX. Lessons from my car buying experience. Some of the themes that you heard about in this short episode remind me of episode one hundred and thirty five with a lie biggs of Intercom. We called that one creating conversational relationships with thousands of customers and it has a clear connection to episode one hundred and fifty seven with chef hiken. Why repeat customers may not be loyal customers. I already explain that we're going to ride this out, and it's not because we're loyal, it's just because we're repeat customer. It's more convenient at some level to ride it out and hope for the best, but any failure from here and we're gone. Repeat customers may...

...not be loyal customers. Loyalty buys us the patients and forgiveness and grace that we need when we let customers down, and it's built on emotional resonance. Positive Emotional connection is what drives loyalty, and there isn't any of that right here right now. So that's episode forty eight, five CX lessons from my car buying experience, episode one hundred and thirty five with a lie biggs and episode one hundred and fifty seven with chef hiken. Hey, if you have stories like these, send them to me, Ethan etch an at bombombcom. If you just email me directly, it's just Ethan at Bombombcom, or you can hit me up on Linkedin. It's Ethan Butte. Last name is spelled bee ute. As always, I appreciate you listening. I welcome your thoughts, I welcome your feedback. I produce these conversations and these short solo episodes for you. If there's something I could be doing more of less of doing differently, I welcome your feedback. Again, I appreciate you. I hope you have a great day and I hope that you never have to talk to your trash and recycling service. The digital, virtual and online spaces where we work every day are noisier and more polluted than ever, and the problem is only getting worse. At risk or relationships and revenue, join bombombs. Steve Passanelli and Ethan Butt, along with eleven other experts in sales, marketing, customer experience, emotional intelligence, leadership and other disciplines, to learn a new way to break through the noise and pollution. Human centered communication a new book out now on Fast Company press. Learn more by visiting Bombombcom book or search human centered communication wherever you buy books. Thanks for listening to the customer experience podcast. Remember the single most important thing you can do today is to create and deliver a better experience for your customers. Continue Learning the latest strategies and...

...tactics by subscribing right now in your favorite podcast player or visit Bombombcom podcasts.

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