When we deal with any business, for any reason, we either interact face-to-face or remotely. Sometimes we have a choice, sometimes we are enticed to use a particular channel, and sometimes we just have no choice. In every case, however, we have an expectation about the outcome of the interaction and it not only depends on the facts of the specific interaction but also what else is happening – the context. And all these variables make it very difficult to design a satisfying experience for all cases.

Examples of Typical Interactions

You are buying a car or other item and you want to evaluate performance:

You are buying an engagement ring for your significant other:


You require technical support or help on a difficult issue:

In some of these cases, you shift between face-to-face and remote support seamlessly. At each step of the process, you have an expectation about the outcome. However, in the case of requiring help or assistance, we are especially sensitive when the channel fails to provide a satisfactory outcome when you expected one.

Case Study of Getting Help For a Difficult Decision

For the cruise industry, the bad news started 2012 with the wreck of the Costa Concordia. It continued in 2013 with a series of mishaps on Carnival ships. All the negative publicity depressed prices and revenue for Carnival. And the bad news even changed the way that people booked cruises. Online books grew 28% in 2011 and 26% in 2012. But online bookings are expected to only grow 6% in 2013. Also, both Carnival and travel agents have been spending much more time on telephones selling and up-selling prospects. Much of what they are doing is assuring prospects about the safety, comfort, and seaworthiness of their ships. It seems that people still want to cruise but many more are looking for the human assurance that things are OK – a message that an IVR system could never deliver.

Case Study of an Expectedly Good Outcome

My daughter has an Amazon Prime account. A few months ago, she had a complex transaction that she tried on the Amazon web site. When she could not accomplish her goal, she used their help screen. After entering her phone number, she barely had time to wonder how long she would have to wait for the call back when Amazon called her (total time about 15 seconds). After that, the person helped her solve her problem, taught her something about her account that she didn’t know and thanked her for the opportunity to help.

This matrix shows how we react to a challenging situation where we either have success or failed:

The moral of this story is if your business provided live support to solve difficult problems or correct bad situations, then these people had better be both well trained and empowered to solve the customers problem quickly and painlessly. If the business fails to meet the customer’s expectations then it should expect the worst!