I would hope that in every business that it is clear who is responsible for sales and who is responsible for post-sales service. What may not always be clear is who is responsible for what happens in between.

Who is responsible for helping the customer move from one stage to the next? Is it the sales team or is it the service team? Or perhaps there needs to be a dedicated customer onboarding team. If no one is responsible, and it is left to chance, customers may fall into the “CX Chasm” never to be seen again!

Recently a friend of mine bought some furniture from a well-known UK furniture brand. She had made her choice, placed the order with the salesperson in-store, and paid the invoice.

She was given a delivery date and all that was left to do was wait. Delivery day came, she waited but nothing arrived. She contacted the furniture company only to be told that the products that she had ordered were out of stock and no longer available. She was fuming! She had fallen down the “CX Chasm” and no one had realised. It was then up to the service team to get her out. They did their best to help and I am pleased to confirm she now has her furniture and although it was not her first choice she did get a more expensive product for the original price she paid. However, the damage has been done and she will not be recommending this company to friends and family.

There are so many things we could analyse in this case study but I want to focus on the idea of the “CX chasm”. Why make the service team’s job so much harder, and less enjoyable, when a bridge can be built across the chasm. The bridge is a framework of systems and processes, with clearly defined responsibilities, that help the customer transition from sales to service. This part of the CX journey is critical because it is the point where a customer is judging whether a company lives up to their expectations. If they don’t, the customer will be left feeling disappointed and let down and will likely take their business elsewhere.

The bridge that a company builds across the “CX chasm” will depend on the products and services it offers and its business model. For example, for low risk, impulse buys the bridge may be very short and simple. Take Starbucks, the partner takes your name and order and passes it to their service colleague. Next, they take your payment and wave you on your journey but not before setting your expectations that your order will be available at the end of the counter when it is ready. If clarification is needed, the service person communicates with the salesperson and/or the customer. When the order is ready the service person hands it over to the customer whilst double-checking the order and signposting to the milk and sugar should they be required. Whether you like Starbucks or not, you cannot deny that they have thought through their customer experience and it is probably the most consistent and efficient coffee shop experience in the world.

For more considered, high-risk purchases the bridge will be longer and more complex and the customer may need to be guided along to ensure they stay on the right path. Buying a new house is a perfect example. You wouldn’t expect to just agree on the sale and leave the rest to chance. The best property developers use a combination of human interaction and automated updates to guide their customers across the bridge over the “CX chasm” before handing them over to the customer service team. Another example would be enterprise software when the salesperson hands over to a dedicated onboarding team to guide the customer across the bridge. Once the customer has successfully crossed the chasm they will be handed over to the customer success and/or support/service team.

The final point to consider is whether a company would benefit from multiple bridges. For example, my local meeting venue offers a different experience depending on the package purchased. For breakfast meeting bookings, customers receive a series of automated emails in the period between making a booking and the day of their meeting. These emails, whilst automated, are signed off by a specific member of the hospitality team. A week before the meeting this same member of the team phones the customer to confirm the final details. For half-day conferences, the process is similar, however, the emails include videos from their dedicated contact including a tour of the venue and their chosen meeting room. For full-day conferences, the human touch is increased further and includes a live virtual, or face-to-face, meeting, and a physical welcome pack with a handwritten note from the customer’s dedicated contact.

In summary, it is important to bridge the chasm between sales and service to ensure that customers don’t get lost, have a positive first impression, and have a consistent style of interaction as they make the transition from a new customer to a loyal customer. The bridge will consist of systems and processes that guide customers on this next stage of their journey.

The mix of automation and human touch will depend on the product and services offered, as will the time it takes to cross the bridge over the “CX chasm”. Investing time to view this part of the journey from the customer’s perspective, and mapping out a process that surprises and delights, could be the key to unlocking customer loyalty and increasing the lifetime value of every customer.

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