Category Archives: Activation

An interview with Head of Customer Strategy & Insight, Stephen Plimmer, Kent Reliance

Stephen Plimmer

In a continuation of Lexden’s series of interviews with Customer Experience leaders, MD Christopher Brooks caught up with Kent Reliance’s Head of Customer Strategy & Insight, Stephen Plimmer to better understand the role of CX in the business.

Christopher Brooks (CB): OneSavings Bank was the toast of the FS Sector at this year’s Financial Services Forum’s Marketing Effectiveness awards, collecting the Best Customer Experience Award, among other accolades. Does the recognition come as a surprise or is this something you’ve been working towards for some time?

Stephen Plimmer (SP): For us, this was never a completely new way of thinking. The Marketing function always understood how important customer loyalty and experience was. But as a function, knowing that isn’t enough. The whole organisation has to be on-board and understand it and that’s what we’ve been working on over the last few years.

We’re lucky in that we have fantastic customer facing staff, both in branches and over in our call team. How we improved our customer service was a key part of our Customer Experience story and the recognition is all to do with their dedication and enthusiasm. Customer Service is such a key part of the overall customer experience.

Our call team always wanted to deliver exceptional service, to go beyond expectation and to embrace Customer Experience Management. Listening to customer feedback helped empower them to do so.

CB: Would it be fair to say OneSavings Bank is a relatively new brand for consumers? With a very busy banking services market well established and a host of distinctive new entrants arriving, what is OneSavings Bank bringing that others have failed to do?

SP: OneSavings Bank trades as Kent Reliance, a brand with over 150 years of heritage. When we started out on the Customer Experience programme we needed to know how important that brand name was to people and what it meant. We conducted several focus groups and surveys and aside from spitfires and the White Cliffs of Dover (something people always associate with the country) the recurring themes were around words like traditional, heritage and trusted.

There was a clear affection for the brand and of course at the time, most high street banking brands were considered quite the opposite. We discovered that many customers wanted a brand they felt they could trust, a need for those values. We just needed to make sure we understood and lived up to them. It was from this research we were able to start planning our Customer Experience programme – by setting clear objectives.

CB: Does a digital age increase the challenge for FS brands to deliver a great customer experience, or can it improve things?

It’s a fast evolving sector, mobile technology, greater expectations over speed of transacting; instant gratification and confidence in security are some of our greatest challenges. It is an incredibly competitive market now, with lots of new entrants. It’s about understanding your customer’s requirements and, if you can, staying one step ahead of that. I think that can only improve things but we’re not losing sight of the fact that not all our customers need great customer service delivered only online. Many expect the same level of service in branch and over the phone. It’s about delivering that consistency of service across all channels.

CB: ICS (Institute Customer Satisfaction) figures show that customer satisfaction has dropped despite more firms investing in it, so do you think this is a reflection of customer expectations increasing, a focus on the wrong things by companies or is there something else to consider here?

SP: I think expectation levels have certainly played a part. I also think that although Customer Service is an incredibly important part of delivering a great customer experience, I think many people still think customer service and customer experience are the same thing.

Customer Experience is in fact the sum of the whole, customer service playing an important part in that, but it is also about brand perception, relationship building, understanding your customers – what they like and dislike. It’s about delivering the brand qualities consistency across all channels and during the entire customer life cycle.

CB: Collecting the FSF’s Awards for CX demonstrates it’s a key priority of your overall proposition, how important overall would you say it is for OSB?

SP: It’s very important. We continuously engage with our customers and measure experience at every touchpoint. For Kent Reliance this has enabled a business transformation rather than a marketing function revolution. The crucial part was getting all customer facing functions on-board, otherwise you are just producing metrics. Unless all customer facing functions, and ultimately the business strategy units understand what customers were telling us, then key indicators are pointless.

CB: With trust from consumers being typically low in FS, do you think delivering great CX in financial services has its unique challenges other sectors do not face?

SP: There are so many alternatives in the FS sector now that product differentials and relying on customer inertia (as some probably still do) is no longer going to cut it. You need to be easy to deal with and you need to understand just how your customers want to deal with you. Gaining that understanding and then secondly delivering it is key.

CB: Do you think CX is a viable approach to demonstrate and deliver a more trusted brand to consumers?

SP: Trust was one of the key words associated with our brand and one of the traits we are naturally always working hard to retain. Our Customer Experience programme looks at these brand traits and makes sure we keep coming back to them in all we do.

CB: Can you provide an outline on your winning entry and why you think the judges saw merit in your submission beating retail giants RBS and Santander among others?

SP: The entry was around how we had engaged with our customer base, understanding their perceptions of us and what was important to them. This knowledge then prioritised operational change projects and channel development.

When the guest speaker joked at the start of the evening about a poor experience he once had was probably because the hotel group in question had put an accountant in charge of customer experience – the joke wasn’t lost on my colleagues around the table. But actually, my management accounting background has proved incredibly helpful when it comes to Customer Experience programme. From the very start I wanted to track and prove the impact the programme was having. And I think it was that evidence and the clear targets we set ourselves that made the difference.

CB: What would you say has been the key milestones or step changes at OSB in bringing customers more to the forefront of business decision making?

SP: Understanding what our brand meant to customers – existing and potential new ones. From that setting clear objectives to make sure the actual experience was consistent with what our customers wanted.

We gathered an in depth understanding of our customer base, from which we could segment and better understand their needs and how they wanted to transact with us.

We worked with a third party survey provider which allowed us to automate and expand surveying, also providing us with alert functions to be able to gather feedback across all channels and touchpoints – some in real time.

CB: Your CEO, Andy Golding has been associated with some more innovative Customer-led financial services companies in recent times. How important is it to have a CEO who backs the customer too?

SP: Within Andy’s first week here he wanted to sit down with key internal stakeholders and understand what our customers were saying about us; what they liked and disliked and how they rated each channel. Since then, customer feedback has helped prioritise all operational changes – what the operational managers needed to change or improve. He receives detailed customer MI, not just metrics but verbatim – what his customers are actually saying about the business.

We needed the whole business on-board if our customer experience programme was to be a success and having a CEO who feels passionately about delivering great customer service naturally helps convince people.

CB: What would you say is your proudest moment so far at OSB?

SP: There are many projects and initiatives that we’ve been a part of, but I would say the work we did with one of the call teams stands out.

New regulations across the mortgage market led to the call team struggling to answer even the simplest of customer queries; this led to poor CX metric scores and customer frustration. Working with various teams from across the business we were able to provide the call team members with training and simple to follow guides for dealing with customer calls. From call monitoring and understanding the issues customers were facing, we were able to improve the call team’s score dramatically; literally overnight. The call team were able to deliver a far better service which made them more confident which in turn we could see made a very positive impression on our customers.

The team are still improving and learning. It was a fantastic ‘quick win’ which really got them engaged with the customer experience programme.

CB: So the journey has started, what’s next for OSB and what can we expect to see you doing to wow your customers?

SP: More employee engagement, we are redefining our desired employee behaviours and making sure they are aligned to the brand image.

We are also increasing the research programmes, competitor analysis and using NPS from a more strategic perspective.

CB: Who do you admire most in terms of CX – either FS or beyond, and why?

SP: Some of the names here will probably be of no surprise, but in my experience it’s Amazon and John Lewis. Amazon make it easy to transact with and in terms of the whole business brand experience it’s John Lewis. For me, it’s the whole end to end process and in particular post sales. I’m confident that even if there was a problem post sale – it would get resolved. It’s about staff delivering the brand and ease of transaction.

CB: We are talking customer experience; can you give me a personal example of brilliant customer experience from any part of your life, not just financial services, you can recall you really liked and remember?

SP: I always struggle to recall a brilliant experience; like many consumers I can usually recall bad ones very easily. A certain laptop/tablet manufacturer springs to mind.

CB: So getting it right for customers clearly matters to you at OSB. How do you keep track of what matters most to customers? Are these enduring or changing needs?

SP: As we’ve said, this is a fast moving sector with lots of new entrants. For us, it was always more about the verbatim, monitoring shifts in verbal feedback patterns to know first what our customers wanted, liked or disliked and then from acting on that how that changed customer sentiment. Not just a score. A score is just a way of tracking, but it doesn’t tell you why it is what it is and how to change it.

We have also recently launched an online focus group. A panel of customers that we can engage with on specific topics. This allows us to research a new product concept or test new literature to make sure we are getting it right.

We also produce detailed journey maps, into which we put customer sentiment, scores measured at various touch points and data from the complaints team. We then use these maps when looking at key journeys with operational managers so that we can see how we can improve things – see what the pain points are for customers and how we can make these better. Sometimes this is as simple as making a letter clearer but then sometimes the whole process is re-engineered.

CB: Finally, there are many firms just waking up to CX (customer experience). What wisdom would you give anyone starting out on their venture?

SP: Have clear objectives by gaining a deep understanding of current perception of your brand and how this compares to where you want to position it. Let the voice of the customer prioritise change and get buy-in from the highest level.

Also, demonstrate some quick wins, if there is mistrust of CX Strategy then demonstrating how effective it can be helps change perceptions. This doesn’t have to be a profit measure or a traditional CX metric, but more helpful is when you can evidence that you have reduced call wait times or complaints about a specific process – these are real impacts for both customers and staff.

Finally, make sure you take everyone on the journey with you – staff and customers.

Many thanks to Stephen and we wish him and Kent Reliance continued success.

Posted by Christopher Brooks, MD, Lexden, Independent Customer Experience Consultants.

Before we start, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but there is no silver bullet or magic CX pill which will transform a business overnight from having a poor customer experience to a great one. And if there was, it’s the customers who will be the judge of the shift rather than the company. And our memories last longer than a ‘customer transformation programme’ does.

I’ve witnessed, less informed, but more globally located management consultancies inform CEO’s they can go from bottom to top of their sectors CX charts in just 3 months (which was then extended to an equally unrealistic 2 years). Well those years passed and whilst the management consultancy earned a seven figure fee, the CEO lost his position and that business is still rooted at the foot of those same CX charts!

So the formula, whilst not magic, is one I pass on to all; CEO’s, CX Directors, PhD students through to owner friends of small businesses:

Infinity LoopThey are interdependent and continuous. Beyond this I would question the value of any investment.

Knowing what ‘matters’ and defining the ‘meaningful difference’ are the first steps. Once understood and valued, the scale of what can be done and the return it delivers can be assessed.

The outcome of which must be measured in business performance rather than inferred intentions such as NPS. Also the brand differentiating standards of delivery must be consistent across all areas of the business and effect behavioural change others can’t emulate. Customer experience has to work hard, and brand (often an ever hungry cash requestor built on a model of fear of not spending) can be wholly accountable.

Some pursue this path by building a differentiation using strengths to exploit a shortfall in the sector (take the fixers at Direct Line), For others it is about delivering experience when it matters most to customers in a very brand centric way (which others will struggle to emulate).

Either way, they are not tradable – deliver both AND if you want to have the CFO’s support, ensure all endeavours are measured against something meaningful than a customers inferred intention to tell someone else about your brand, make sure it’s pegged to behavioural change resulting in increased share of category spend (take a look at EXQ). One approach will keep the interest of your CFO, the former will highlight gaps and can be the start of the end of CX for some companies.

It’s a fascinating area of business, and one which Lexden are delighted to support clients effectively. To find out how to apply this approach to your business contact christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com. Alternatively, take the formula and pursued effectively, you will succeed on your own.

Posted by Christopher Brooks, Lexden CEO

Money Transfers should be easy right?

You might think there is nothing more commoditised than transferring money internationally.

It’s as easy as 1) You want to send money 2) You send it 3) It’s received.

However, what seems like a very simple transaction is anything but, leading to opportunities for specialist providers to grab share from the retail banks. What many of these specialists are very good at is the technicalities behind a complicated transaction, but less experienced or set up to deal with the emotional anxiety associated with sending large amounts of money overseas for the customers’ involved.

One appeared to be different. They recognised the need to be empathetic with customers and using the ‘CXStart’ approach, embarked upon a transformation programme to deliver an enhanced customer experience.

However, embarking on any CX programme is as much about stakeholder management as it is the improved experience deliverables or incremental profit which follows. Whilst by now almost all multi-national corporates see ‘putting customers first’ as standard, it’s fair to say for SMEs’, including the larger ‘M’’s it’s still met with glazed expressions and often feelings of “Our brand is strong, our customers buy from us, we are doing well, therefore why do we need to rethink customer?” Adding an external independent adviser (Colette Porter, that’s me), regardless of capability of relevant expertise, to the mix and it’s obvious that winning over the client team early is extremely important.

Our evidence suggests, the more silos, the greater the resistance. But interestingly it’s here you often get the greatest gains too.

What did we achieve?

  • Over 200 Customer Touchpoints identified
  • 50 journey maps in four days, every touchpoint process blueprinted in minute detail through every department and every system.
  • We gained invaluable insight and some crucial feedback from existing customers via the survey that, together with the journey mapping, enabled us to provide a comprehensible report.
  • A strategic collaboration of over 100 recommendations put together for improvement areas.

What were the top 5 key findings and recommendations from this?

Rates and Charges

The rates and charges were sited as the main reason customers would not recommend or continue to use their service. Out of 70% of Customers who reported no service issues, 82% of these stated the rates and charges as a reason as to why they would discontinue using their service. Comments received ranged from exchange rates not being updated quickly enough to charges and taxes being too high compared to their competitors.

Website

The website could be more user friendly. Too much scrolling, helpful info hidden, not enough relevance and too many clicks were key issues.

Referral System

Reassuringly, results from the survey emphasised how much the existing customer base loved their proposition. A huge 39% of the existing customer base cite “word of mouth” as their way of finding out about the company.

It proved this was a very effective marketing strategy, not that it was deliberate. A good referral system would negate the need for regular promo codes thus maintaining loyalty and growing their customer base.

Customer Service

Their Customer Service dept didn’t favour well with contact problems, of those that had issues 2% complained of not being able to get through to anyone, others were not called back when promised and their response times and often replies to emails did not reflect the problems raised. Customer Services was cited as an improvement area.

Focus on recruiting the right type of people and training to engage and empower employees to take ownership of issues and build an emotional connection with customers whilst on calls is important.

In addition clear, concise and engaging communications would help spark the right connection with customers.

Communications

All automated communications needed to be re-written and personalised with a common appropriate tone of voice needed across verbal and written comms. This was sporadically deployed with the“Welcome” email being a great example of what to do and other subsequent pieces leaving customers seeing a huge inconsistency.

How do we do it?

Listen to the business. Listen to the customer

We started with the feedback survey, (every customer is different so this is reflected in tailored surveys) which will give a good snapshot of what current customers think; how satisfied they are with the service they receive and more importantly how likely are they to return.

Whilst we wait on the results we delve deep into the workshops. Inviting a mixture of crucial employees for these workshops, we start from awareness (How a potential customer could become aware of your service) and work through into information search and so on through the other elements “through the customer’s eyes”.

This workshop may include pre-sales, sales, customer service, marketing, web team, tech team and any other dept that has a customer touch-point for potential customers trying to gather more information about the service or organisation.

Understanding the journeys that customers could take for every request and decision they could make is crucial to mapping each process, in detail. How does that thought pattern or request pass through different teams or different software? How is that impacted in potential customers finding exactly what they want in a time that suits them or what they perceive is acceptable?

Once the workshops are complete and the survey results in analyse what we’ve been told by customers and compare it to what employees believe are the strengths and issues in the customer journey.

CX Start Programme Slide

We return after 3, 6, and 12 months to assess progress and provide support to ensure you can realise your potential from CX.

It’s an enjoyable process which in a relatively short space of time will help any medium sized business sharpen up their potential to profit from customer experience.

We help clients build memorable customer experiences and create engaging customer value propositions.

If you like what you’ve read please sign-up to Lexden’s ‘Customer’s World’ Update for ideas, inspiration and insights to improve your customer strategy endeavours. 

For further information contact christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com or call us on M: +44 (0) 7968 316548 or T: +44 (0)1279 902205.  You can also follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter or read client testimonials and case studies at www.lexdengroup.com.

 

Air Travel Customer Experience: Next battleground for aviation businesses

 

ACE

The air travel market has experienced dramatic changes over the past decades; it’s less than a century since the Wright Brothers first flight, air travel became the most popular and the safest mode of transport in the world, carrying more than 3 billion passengers annually. However, they constantly struggle for profits. In the Air Travel market the customer has all the power, with a plethora of carriers to choose from. That is why, Customer Experience is the key to success in this industry.

Customer Experience will be the next battleground for aviation businesses, which constantly has to strive for passengers in one of the most competitive industries in the world. Due to the extremely high level of competition, which leads to dismal profits, aviation executives who constantly have to maintain operational efficiency, feel that focusing on customer experience will not add any value to their business. But this is wrong and old thinking. Only business executives who do not understand the customers of today would think that experiences do not matter and unfortunately we can see results of that, because according to one study, the airline industry ranks in the bottom 4 per cent in customer satisfaction. In order to turn things around, airline executives must make long-term customer loyalty the primary focus of their business, and not price, because only then they can achieve sustainable growth.

Focus and investments in Customer Experience will lead to true airline differentiation, which in turn would lead to gaining market share, that results in optimising profitability and creating a long-term loyalty. The golden circle of Customer Experience and Loyalty will not only increase airlines profit, but also at the same time create loyal followers who would be willing to pay premium price.

Airlines have to realise that focus on Customer Experience is not just wishful thinking from consultants, but it is an unavoidable process that takes places across the business world, and airlines are already lagging behind. In order to stay relevant in today’s world, the customer has to be in the centre of the organisation. Only the customer has the power to transform the business and build it into something great.

Airlines are not unique businesses; they do not operate in a bubble where no other business is alike. Nowadays, airlines like all other businesses have to actively compete for customers. Thus the best starting point for any airline executive is to build on best practices from other industries like retail, hospitality and gaming.

One example that  illustrated the disconnection between passengers and airlines and how much they can learn from the hotel industry, was when i flew a few times on my birthday. Despite the fact that my passport and my personal information has been checked several times at different points during the journey, no-one noticed that it is was my birthday. However, when checking into a hotel, I was offered a free glass of champagne at reception and a free room upgrade as a birthday gift. If hotels can do it relevantly easy, why can’t airlines with their terabytes of passenger data? Offering a customer a glass of champagne or free chocolates on their birthday would not cost a lot, but it would create an experience.

Airline executives have to do their homework and build Customer Experiences from the foundations in order for it to yield high and sustainable returns. They simply can’t omit some steps and only pick strategies selectively. Only when there are stable enough foundations, then airlines can focus on true brand and experience differentiation. Really, airline executives need to realise that Customer Experience is the most important and profitable growth investment opportunity in the airline industry today.

This is just the first of a series of entries, on the importance of Aviation Customer Experience and different strategies that airline executives might use in order to achieve true and long-lasting passenger loyalty. Air travel has never been as competitive as it is now, thus aviation really needs to fully grasp the importance of customer experience.

As always, I welcome any suggestions, questions and interactions from you and would be happy to chat more about it if anybody would like to get more information how to gain loyalty from air travellers.

Written by Julian Lukaszewicz, (ACE) Airtravel Customer Experience Consultant, Lexden

If you like what you’ve read please sign-up to Lexden’s ‘Customer’s World’ Update for ideas, inspiration and insights to improve your customer strategy endeavours.

For further information on how we can help with your customer challenges contact christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com or call M: +44 (0) 7968 316548 or T: +44 (0)1279 902205. You can also follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter or read client testimonials and case studies at Lexden Group.

 

 

 

5 exceptional financial services customer experience examples

CX award winnweThis summer saw the UK’s first Financial Services Customer Experience awards (that’s me on the right with the winning Direct Line team). It was a great day with a few brands taking the lead now. Nationwide, Direct Line and Standard Life picked up more than one gong. With some smaller players demonstrating that you don’t need a big budget to deliver stand out customer service.

We were there to partner the occasion. We judged, we awarded prizes, we also provided the key-note speaker and we had a ball. So I am sure the 2016 finalists line up will be even more hotly contested.

It will also be interesting to see if the winners can continue to turn their famous winning experiences in to even more profitable outcomes for their shareholders (or members in Nationwide’s case), by obtaining more share of their contented customer’s wallet.

The financial service sector has woken up to Customer Experience. With that in mind, here are 5 great customer experiences. We’ve highlighted some which are unique and some which are well used. We hope they provide inspiration either way.

Umpqua Bank’s night time antics

umpqua.png2This American retail bank, with a growing network of branches is bucking the trend. They are locally focused so they’ve introduced a range of ways to embed themselves in the community. Which is all part of their positioning as a community bank. One of the ideas is the ‘hand the keys over’ initiative. When evening falls the branch is closed so the branch is a dead space. Space is much sort after by community groups, so members of the local community can hire the open areas of the branch for social activities such as Pilates and book readings – thereby helping the community out by making more of their underutilised assets.

Sun Life Direct making life easier when it’s painful enough 

sun life directFamous for the over 50’s life insurance (mainly bought for funeral planning) product, 98% of new policy holders state they are happy with the service they get when the plan is taken out.

However, following the death of the policy holder, when a relative claims for a payout is when the brand must really deliver. It used to take a few weeks to get a payout because of the pieces of information and documentation expected.

The irony being that the account holder was often buried before funds which they’d put premiums into the plan for, were released. So the very purpose of the plan was therefore not delivered upon! A basic fail.

Sun Life decided to challenge this with a ‘we take the risk’ approach. It reduced the requirement at claims to one number being needed. With this agreed at Sun Life payouts happen in days now and relatives have less to worry about.

Such is the impact of this idea I’ve since seen it win awards for a different brand, so it clearly has meaning and motivation.

First Direct pay customers for leaving

First Direct buck the trend by not only offering customers an incentive to open a current account, but so confident are they that the experience received once customers join or switch will meet customer’s expectations, they offer the same again for them to leave!

first directThe First Direct Service Guarantee states, “We’ll pay £100 per customer or joint relationship if you close your Account within 12 months of opening it <small print>. We’ll pay the £100 into your account prior to its closure. All accounts with First Direct have to be closed and your 1st Account transferred to another bank/building society.”

I’ve held an account with First Direct (among others) for many years. I can vouch for the thread of steel holding all experience touch points together, across products, across time.  This individual acknowledgement is backed up by several reputable studies and awards in customer service and experience including uSwitch and UKCSI.

Becu bank closing for good!

becu closed for goodThe American retail bank makes a commitment to the communities it serves which is authenticated through every aspect of the business delivery. It’s clearly an authentic focus for them. As their website states; PUTTING PEOPLE FIRST | MAKING OUR COMMUNITY A PLACE TO PUT DOWN ROOTS. As a consultancy which preaches a customer first philosophy (allowing profits to follow) we really connect with Becu. We are a fan and follower of their progress.

Their community commitment is evidenced through several initiatives; people helper rewards, environmental stewardship, financial empowerment partnerships, foundation scholarships and ‘Closed for Good’. These are great experiences for customers, employees and the community to enjoy who see Becu as a bank which cares for its community. It also helps employees understand the importance of community which ensures it is then evidenced through every other touch point.

‘Closed for Good’ is an initiative run on October 20th this year. It entails the bank closing until 1pm and every employee identifying where financial support will be beneficial and sharing their expertise with groups in the community. Is this the business model being delivered or marketing? Either way it ensures customers and prospects experience first hand or through the inevitable word of mouth, that Becu care about those they help. This delivers that rarest of commodities for banks; trust.

AIB’s digital transition lab

aib3There is efficiency in migrating customers to digital interactions with their bank – both for the bank and for the customer. Preemptive marketing which can help customers keep one step ahead of decisions is a good example of where banks can provide customer relationship updates via a digital platform. Click on the pic for a virtual tour of the AIB LAB.

Allied Irish Bank recognised that whilst this is a commercial ambition for the bank, customers benefit from it too. Customer adoption will take longer to move from the ‘comfortable and not broken’ to the new world of digital banking. With that in mind they have created a ‘digital transition’ store in Dundrum Town, Ireland which has no sales agenda but a hand holding experience for customers to trial new platforms and ask questions. According to AIB it’s “designed to deliver an exceptional customer experience through digital self-service.

The award-winning enterprise is making the retail assets move from sales to education to and the support creates a new experience perception of the bank whilst encouraging in a passive and comfortable way customers to trial and adopt new banking platforms. It also presents a future impression of the bank’s image through this experience enhancing activation.

If you’ve enjoyed this article other ‘5 exceptional experiences’ posts cover airlines, how to have fun with CX, hotels and automotive. Click on any to link straight through.

Posted by Christopher Brooks, Director, Lexden

Lexden has a proven track record in delivering Customer Experience Strategy and Management to clients seeking sustainable profit from customer experience.

If you like what you’ve read please sign-up to Lexden’s ‘Customer’s World’ Update for ideas, inspiration and insights to improve your customer strategy endeavours. 

For further information on how we can help with your customer challenges contact christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com or call M: +44 (0) 7968 316548 or T: +44 (0)1279 902205.  You can also follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter or read client testimonials and case studies at www.lexdengroup.com.

How Imaginarium playfully deliver the 3 in 1 CX equation

We’ve featured Waitrose and Virgin Trains Customer Experience recently in this feature. So what is 3 in 1 CX? This is when we identify within one minute of engaging with a brand, three touch points which demonstrate the strength of their positioning and differentiation through customer experience.

Despite admiring these brands, I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to showcase a favourite of mine, Imaginarium. I first enjoyed the European retailer’s toy shop experience a few years ago whilst working on a customer value proposition commission for an Italian Bank. Since then I’ve been a fan. So when I recently passed through Lisbon and spotted a store at the airport I seized my chance.

So what makes Imaginarium stand apart from the other toy stores? It’s that they recognise the importance of play, creativity and capturing the imaginative minds of children. This is brought to life in two important ways; the products and the in-store experience.

When it comes to the experience they look at it through the child’s eyes. This alternative view point makes the world of difference and creates a much more enjoyable retail experience for all. With two young children I’ve ventured into plenty of toy store retail chains and independents, but Imaginarium is the only one to have an unmistakable brand feel.

Within 1 minute of walking into an Imaginarium you get this. Here are three experiences at key touch points for any retailer which show how they deliver branded CX putting Imaginarium, in my mind, ahead of the others.

imaginarium1The entrance – this has become an iconic identity marque on the high street for Imaginarium. It works on so many levels. The mini arch acts as a greeter, it drives children to drag parents to the store, it is a beautifully different coloured shape to achieve stand out from all other shops in a mall or on a street, it says we are non-conformist to the convention of retail, it allows children to arrive in the store For just a second) on their own,

it’s a perfect defining brand moment which others can never copy and most importantly it says to parents and children you are equally important in our store.

imaginarium2The promotion – In a toy shop, sweets are an ancillary offer. They are non-core and therefore a promotion to enhance the brand reputation. Ancillaries often drive incremental profit for companies. And as long as they reinforce the strength of the brand (and not exploit it for short-term sales as some lesser companies believe they are there for), they can be useful promotions for the brand.

Imaginarium deliver this really well. Their displays are works of art which have to be experienced. They take common products (sweets in this case) and present them in totally engaging and intoxicating way making the cross-sell an enjoyable experience.

imaginarium3

The take out –  When you leave the store with your purchase in tact the transporter for the goods should of course be practical but also be a perfect reminder of the brand purchased. Imaginarium get this. Which is why their carry out bags are branding messages to the customers reminding all why Imaginarium are there and what they celebrate.

The bag states “Playing for a Better Future” and features various children. It has visual stand out and a core brand message. It’s also a bag parents will find hard to throw out (who would dare throw out this bag). They are so proud of their bags, they hang in the store.

Within 1 minute of walking into the store these three experiences wash over you and remind you how much fun Imaginarium is and how important inspiring children’s imagination is to their existence.

Imaginarium are there already, but at Lexden it’s our mission to help other clients find their own brand defining experience moments which also increase sustainable profits through content customer commitment.

Posted by Christopher Brooks, Director, Lexden – Independent Customer Strategists

If you like what you’ve read please sign-up to Lexden’s ‘Customer’s World’ Update for free monthly ideas, inspiration and insights to improve your customer strategy endeavours. 

For further information contact christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com or call us on M: +44 (0) 7968 316548 or T: +44 (0)1279 902205.  You can also follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter or read client testimonials and case studies at www.lexdengroup.com.

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You will be entered into our prize draw to win one of three copies of ‘Measuring Customer Experience’ when you click here and join our list of subscribers to Lexden’s ‘Customer’s World Update’.  Prize draw rules below.

Recipients of our free bite-size insights, ideas and inspiration for customer-led thinking include Direct Line, Nationwide, Standard Life, JPMorgan, Wells Fargo, Visa Europe, HSBC and many more.

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Virgin Trains deliver the 3 in 1 CX equation

Anyone who has spent time on Virgin Trains will agree the ‘experience’ is different to those on other rail networks. In fact, as I travel on other networks I see more and more of Virgin’s ‘touches’ appearing. However, with Virgin it seems natural because that’s what the Virgin brand investment promises. With others rail companies it often seems awkward and stands out like a sore thumb.

Our preoccupation is to help clients identify what customer experiences drive profit and make those brand differentiating. Simple really. Through years of experience with this focus, we’ve accepted that driving profitable CX is much more likely to succeed when backed by a brand which is:This is the latest in our series of 3 branded experiences in a minute.

  1. meaningful to its customers so they can extract the value it offers;
  2. accessible by its employees to translate into meaningful customer experiences;
  3. envied by their competition who can at best deliver a ‘me 2’ copy of an experience.

Within a minute of arriving on a Virgin Train there are three brilliant reminders of their brand strength, delivered through the least likely of experience opportunities.

The step

This isn’t just any step. Courtesy of the Virgin brand, this is a whooshing, moving into place, Thunderbirdesque gliding Virgin step in to a world of potential (okay, slightly carried away, but you get the picture). It possibly is more attributable to the train manufacturer than Virgin for the steps movement, but none of the other companies have one.. Even if they did, theirs would still be a dirty step on to a train. With Virgin Trains, the brand promise has meant it could be so much more (even when it’s dirty too).

The loo seat

Virgin Trains demonstrate that ‘any’ piece of estate can be leveraged. This message could only come from them though.  You will find it on the back of the loo seat on-board, it’s also in the voice over in the loo…..yep the voice over in the loo. It starts as expected with, ‘please don’t flush nappies, paper towels’…but ends in a less expected place with ‘your ex’s sweater, hopes, dreams or goldfish’. This toilet humour would be strange from any other network, even though they have the same infrastructure, but for Virgin it is spot on.

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The loo wall

Apologies. My one minute journey took me from boarding to this room! It’s just a wall, surely! On every other train this is no more than a beige bobbly abyss of a wall. But on a Virgin Train it’s an escape route to another world. Admittedly not every other network has a balloon enterprise to throw up, although I couldn’t see that ever stacking up as a, ‘the reason we don’t do it’ response from the competition.

What it does show, to all, is how the less conspicuous and often overlooked spaces have as much a role to play in delivering branded customer experience as the more obvious areas of improvement such as service, comms and technology.

This issue featured Virgin Trains. Click here for our recent blog on Waitrose.

If you want to find out more about how to deliver brand differentiating customer experience, contact us,

We will bring you more 3 in 1 adventures from the world of CX. Next stops will include Citizen M and Mini. If you have a nominee for the 3 in 1 CX equation please send them through.

Posted by Christopher Brooks, Director, Lexden

We help clients build profitable customer experiences and create commercially advantageous customer value propositions

If you like what you’ve read please sign-up to Lexden’s ‘Customer’s World’ Update for ideas, inspiration and insights to improve your customer strategy endeavours. 

For further information contact christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com or call us on M: +44 (0) 7968 316548 or T: +44 (0)1279 902205.  You can also follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter or read client testimonials and case studies at www.lexdengroup.com.

Customers will never forget how a great branded experience made them feel

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou (American poet, biographer and actress 1928-2014).

This sentiment has proved a useful yardstick when designing memorable customer experiences and compelling customer value propositions with clients. You know when you’ve got it right because customers state favouritism in feedback session such as, “I can’t quite express why I like them. They just seem to be in tune with what matters to me”.

brand heartHowever, measuring this emotional fulfillment is challenging. And I’d argue because it’s difficult to measure, it isn’t. Brands tend to be valued on awareness or share of market instead. Even if salience, relating to buyer memory structure, is on the brand dashboard it tends to be informed by recent promotions and the latest wave of advertising messaging. Businesses prefer to set their path by that which they can measure results against. Sadly a warm feeling inside because someone did something that left a lasting memory is not something a city analyst calculating brand equity will be able to make a company valuation on.

That said, customer experience does create an opportunity to deliver memorable engagements between customers and brands, which will remain in the consciousness for a while and the subconscious even longer.  And with measures such as NPS proving effective predictors of retention rates and profitability, it’s no wonder customer experience is seen as the next battlefield for differentiation.

Will it catch on? I think it will – I judged an awards last year where a market leading GI firm’s Commercial Director presented the case for CX as the reason their business fortunes had picked up.

So how do you deliver experiences or propositions which make customers ‘feel’ differently about a brand? For me it’s about three things:

  1. Understanding the situation your customer is in now
  2. Deciding how the better place you want them to be in feels like
  3. Devising how you get them there in a way that reinforces the nurtured values of your brand

Companies like Disney and Zappos do it naturally. For most it’s more of a commercially calculated decision, but that’s still okay. If the outcome makes the customer remember you favourably because of the way you made them feel, it’s a deeper connection than a 50% discount will ever achieve. As well as being a considerably more profitable one.

Here are a couple of examples which hopefully will leave a warm feeling inside and demonstrate how you can get massive cut through at very little cost by putting the customer’s feelings first.

Timpson’s & the unemployed

timpsonIf you’re out of work you can’t afford to be splashing out on dry cleaning. But at a job interview to rectify the situation, you want to give yourself the best possible chance of success. A freshly pressed dry cleaned suit or outfit can only help your cause and confidence. I’m not sure how they got there but this big hearted gesture from Timpson’s Dry Cleaners will live long in the memory of any out of work candidate who takes it up and lands that new job. As well attract applauds and a new customer or two in people like me acknowledging they don’t have to do this, but they do.

Ritz-Carlton & Joshi

This has almost become legend on the CX circuits but it’s worth rolling out a few more times yet. Having returned from a holiday at a Ritz-Carlton hotel in Florida, Reilly’s Dad realised that his young son had left his favourite soft toy Joshi the Giraffe behind. He called the hotel and they located it. Having found it the staff could have said they would ship it back at cost. But instead they had some fun and at the same time justified Joshi’s extended stay to Reilly. Joshi was returned with an album of memories from his time ranging from Spa treatments, to restaurant meals, pool time and more. Reilly, his parents and now millions of social media viewers have a warmer feeling about Ritz-Carlton than they did before.

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It’s that simple. Start with a scenario which is relevant to your customer and devise the best outcome you can achieve. Then worry about how to make it happen. It’s amazing where it can take you and just how long it will last in the hearts and minds of your customers.

For more on brand impact of customer experience try this presentation made by Lexden in 2014 to the Financial Services Forum.

Posted by Christopher Brooks, Director, Lexden

Lexden is a Customer Strategy Agency | We put customers at the heart of the decision 

We work with brands to attract and retain happy customers | We achieve this by helping them to understand what makes their customers tick, building memorable customer experiences and creating engaging customer value propositions.

If you like what you’ve read please sign-up to ‘Putting Customers First’  for fresh insights. 

For further information contact christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com or call us on M: +44 (0) 7968 316548 or T: +44 (0)1279 902205.  You can also follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter or read client testimonials and case studies at www.lexdengroup.com.

NEW – Competitor CX Analysis

‘Staying Ahead’ is a new report from Lexden highlighting competitor’s customer experience issues.

Where should you look to for inspiration for your own customer experience improvements?

1. Look at the world’s best practice. Beyond your own sector is a world of wonderful customer experiences which are fulfilling the same basic customer requirements which drive stronger relationships. So whatever the sector the experiences can often be transferred between them.

2. Spend time interrogating your customer feedback to find the clues explaining how customers want things to be better and interpret through your brand lens.

3. And now available; subscribe to Lexden’s new Customer Experience Competitor Analysis Tracking Study. 

We track and investigate competitor’s customer experience issues and identify why it drives customers mad. We capture this insight in quarterly sector level reports. We gather customer’s stories and overlay it with social noise to quantify and rank the most important issues. From here we calculate the commercial and brand impact of these issues. The result of which is a full competitor analysis of customer experience issues, ready to exploit.

To receive sample pages from the report, provide your details below. 

The ‘Staying Ahead’ Competitor Customer Experience Tracking Report covers:

  • Summary and ranking of sector level customer experience issues
  • Summary and ranking of worst competitor offenders
  • Cross sector comparisons of customer issues
  • Tracking reporting against previous quarter’s performance
  • Minimum of ten ‘Customer Story Boards’ detailing real customer’s real customer experience issues. Highlights the emotional impact poor CX has on customer’s lives
  • 10 critical data points of brand reputation impact tracked from the customer issues
  • Commercial impact of customer experience issues to the offending customer experience brands
  • Recommendations for improvements to CX issues highlighted from members of Lexden’s Customer Experience Consultancy team

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Sample Issues ranking charts above.

Sectors include Supermarkets, Utilities, Telecoms, Retailers, Airlines, Banking &Insurance.

Full 2015 report schedule and pricing is now available – please submit details above.

Posted by Christopher Brooks, Director Lexden is a Customer Strategy Agency | We put customers at the heart of the decision  We work with brands to attract and retain happy customers | We achieve this by helping them to understand what makes their customers tick, building memorable customer experiences and creating engaging customer value propositions. If you like what you’ve read please sign-up to ‘Putting Customers First’  for fresh insights.  For further information contact christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com or call us on M: +44 (0) 7968 316548 or T: +44 (0)1279 902205.  You can also follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter or read client testimonials and case studies at www.lexdengroup.com.