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In any race or process the last mile is the hardest

For customer journeys involving a combination of technology and manual processes, the last mile is always the hardest and makes the orgs realise their moments of truth.

The last mile interaction, for non-automated processes, always happens to be between humans and technology and this, is where the rubber hits the road filled with friction. This happens because the processes may be open-ended and may not be configured for closure.

Let me explain this with three examples from three different industries.

The first example is from banking.

Recently I opened a current account with one of the top-notch banks in the country. There were some minor problems all along the account opening journey and I will not get into that but only talk about the last mile glitches which kind of spoilt the entire process. Finally, after the account got opened there were 2 issues:

  1. The online access could not be given as the account number had not been enabled for the login ID, by the backend team.

  2. After the above was resolved when I attempted to make payments (and that too to this very same bank’s customers), the same could not be done as it had a linkage to my debit card which was again not linked to my account. So both payments failed.

  3. Eventually, I had to give physical cheques for making both these payments.

So what are the key takeaways:

A. Lack of coordination between the various back-ended teams and the front-end sales teams can lead to a disastrous customer experience.

B. Inability of the teams to use technology to their advantage or better so, it would have been good had they put me (as the customer) in charge of certain processes.

For a customer who is already frustrated with one process, this was the last straw and unfortunately, the bad experience will be named against the institution and not against any particular person or the team.

The second example is hospitality.

Recently I booked a complimentary night's stay in one of the top-notch hotels in the country as part of their membership program. Since four of my family members ( all adults) including myself were travelling, wanted to get confirmation whether the room booked would accommodate 4 people. My experience had always been that big hotels do not allow more than three adults In a room. So I called both the membership department and the concerned hotel about this query. Both of them emphatically said yea and also convincingly told me 2 extra beds would be provided. Now let’s see what happened in the last mile:

  1. As I was checking in I was told that the room could accommodate only three adults and hence could not allow a fourth person.

  2. When I mentioned my conversations with both the membership team and the hotel they asked me with who I spoke and unfortunately, the membership team did not work on a Saturday and I had forgotten who I had spoken to at the hotel reception.

  3. Eventually, I had to book another room as I had already created excitement for my family about this free stay (that complimentary night) that would have got spoilt if we had to return home.

  4. While the hotel did give me an upgrade (of one of the booked rooms) to a suite, it was too late by then and too little.

So what are the key takeaways:

A. Lack of awareness of the policy between teams and the lack of coordination between the various teams can spoil the customer experience intentionally or unintentionally.

B. In the current age of advanced CRM, the inability of the teams to use the same for effective internal communication, and their inability to create customer delight, is sad.

C. When a customer(s) insists on rechecking something or asks for reassurance, the teams from the orgs responding have to be triply sure that they are saying and doing the right things.

For someone who did not want the membership in the first place - as I had not used the Hotel's membership vouchers for the last 2 years - the hotel membership team convinced me that they will carry forward the complimentary room stay (of the previous year) to this year, was a "wow" factor. However, this was spoilt by the bad experience in the last mile that I had at the hotel reception. To reiterate, this will be named against the brand and not against any particular person or team.

The third example is wellness (diagnostics).

When my wife was down with a viral infection and so had to order some blood tests to be done at home. There were mainly three tests to be done - two of these were clear, but on the third test there was some confusion about the name and whether the centre would perform the same at home. So the most popular diagnostics centre was called. The call centre easily confirmed the first two tests and also confirmed a little later that they indeed performed the third test too. Also that I will get a call in the next 30 minutes from the nearest testing centre to fix the exact time for the tests. Ito my surprise I got a call from the nearby centre within the next ten minutes and they also assured me that they indeed did the third test. Now let’s see what happened in the last mile:

  1. The person turns up at the appointed time and patiently answers all the questions and takes the blood samples.

  2. After listening to us and seeing our Doctor’s WhatsApp chat, he mentions that the third test should be done in 2 parts considering that there is some confusion and whether we would like to proceed with the same.

  3. Since the concern was genuine and considering that we did not want to do the tests again, we asked him to go ahead.

  4. Once the tests were done, the person asked us for options for payments - whether we would make a UPI payment or would use our credit card instead. After I had given him the option of a credit card, he was able to use his POS machine to charge us for the tests instantly.

  5. After courteously wishing us well he departed.

So what are the key takeaways:

A. Clear awareness of what products were being sold by all three teams - the call centre, the nearby centre and the person on the field creates a fantastic experience for the customer.

B. Clear display of the ability to suggest basis the customer interaction and customer need by the field person and indirectly he had already created a delight in our minds.

C. When the customer(s) insisted on rechecking or re-emphasising a point that he was not clear about, the field person was able to suggest an alternative to help the customer come out of it.

For something as important as health care where there are a lot of emotions involved, we would have anyway been gullible. So this was a pleasant experience right throughout and what's more, the person was willing to give us a solution for the confusion we had. The entire experience was fructified in this last mile.

If you are part of a bank, NBFC, or a financial services organization, and want to make your life and the lives of your customers easy - reach out to us today at We have the right experience, and expertise to help you implement customer experience at scale.

Ravishankar Gopalan

Execute Partners


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