Few will argue against customer experience being an essential part of a business offering. And whilst in some markets, such as wealth management where the provision of the experience has been picked up by the financial adviser channel (until RDR will change things forever more), for most ensuring the experience is acceptable has been a primary focus for a number of years.
Over those years I have had the pleasure of working with a number of brands to help improve their customer experience. And as Lexden we’ve been asked if there is a winning formula. For us there isn’t one answer, it’s about having a single minded approach: putting the customer first. Or as Sir Terry used to say, customers first, profits follow.
If great customer experience is in the DNA of the business it will reveal itself at every touch point. Customer experience from brands such as Asprey, Porsche and the Burj Al Arab is famed. Premium brands invest in quality and excellent service because with affluent customers comes demand and high expectation. But this customer experience gene isn’t exclusive to luxury brands. Everyday, low cost brands in commodity markets also gain fame for doing the right thing by their customers.
For us great customer experience exists on three levels. It’s about taking friction out of the experience so that it’s smoother, giving the people or the process permission to freestyle and exceed the customer’s expectations, and what happens inbetween distinguishes one brand from the next.
1. Remove the friction
When it comes to experience it’s important to remember that for many sectors such as life and pensions, insurance and car hire, the best experience is one of low engagement. The focus for these organisations should be removing the friction for customers when something goes wrong whilst still keeping the distinctive positioning of the brand fused in the experience. For example it would be fair to expect Direct Line’s claim handling involves making one call and the call handler directly managing the claim from there on, rather than passing the customer from call handler to call handler (and I am sure it is like this). Or if an Avis car hire customer finds the car they booked isn’t available on collection, you’d expect Avis to try harder than their competitors to get the right car rather than palming the customer off with another model. It’s about making the experience associated with the brand’s raison d’etre robust.
2. Brand distinction
Amazon topped the Customer Experience Excellence rankings for 2012 (Nunwood). Their customer experience is referred to by most using one word, ‘always’. There’s nothing spectacular about the service but whatever they do, it’s consistent. First Direct feature too. People who aren’t customers of FD assume the difference is 24 hour phone banking, but customers know it’s more. The experience is based on dynamic learning. Every interaction creates a tighter bond between customer and brand. Every piece of customer knowledge is captured and used to the customer’s benefit. Which means never is the same question asked twice – an advantage for which the phone is the perfect channel over both the high street and internet rivals.
Which leaves stories in this space to create and carry the brand. Examples rarely scripted, often one-offs and based around a human spirit to fulfil customer’s lives. Here are three such examples.
1. During the recent spate of snow, a customer from a leading energy provider found their boiler had packed up. So in response a boiler repair expert was sent. The snow was too severe to make the remote property by van. So the repair man abandoned his vehicle and carried on by foot, even though night was setting in. He arrived at the customer’s house and managed the repair much to the gratitude of the owner. By now his vehicle was buried and immovable in the snow. He had anticipated sleeping in the vehicle for the night but the grateful customer offered him accommodation until morning.
2. Fellow director of Lexden Ajai Ranawat recalls his experience of a hotel in Thailand where on arrival at the desk the receptionist welcomed him and hoped he was looking forward to his first stay, before she had checked him in. Impressed and warmed by the accuracy of the greeting he later asked how she had known, or was it a lucky guess? The receptionist explained the doorman had provided the answer by asking Ajai on his arrival whether he’d been before and then holding Ajai’s bag in a hand which indicated to the receptionist whether this was a new or existing customer. For more on this Unordinary Thinking No. 5. Read on…
3. Lego recently gained considerable column inches when a story ran about a boy called Luka who had lost his Ninjango Lego toy he’d saved his Christmas money to buy. This happened on a trip to Sainsbury’s with his father, despite his Dad telling him not to take it. Lego responded telling the boy the bosses wouldn’t send out a freebie just because he’d lost it but they’d consulted with the Ninjango Master Warrior and he thought his father was very wise and should be listened to and that he should ‘protect your Ninjango mini-figures like the dragons protect the Weapons of Spinjitzu’ in future. Given he’d spent all his money on Ninjango he must be wise, so a replacement was sent. The boy was happy again and the childlike fun of the Lego brand reaffirmed.
At all levels great customer experience can be delivered. But only when it’s a way of life for the brand will it be truly valued by customers. Hopefully this collection highlights that ideas and examples can come from any brand at any moment.
Perhaps that’s the true secret to great Customer Experience?
Posted by Christopher Brooks.
Lexden is a marketing strategy agency which creates unordinary propositions to motivate customers and deliver commercial advantage for brands.
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