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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

Why airports should focus on Customer Experience?

ACE Blog

Often neglected as businesses aimed at generating profits, airports have entered the competitive environment. Nowadays, airports need to be the first choice for passengers in order to attract more traffic. For instance just in London, passengers have the choice to fly from and spend their time and money at Heathrow, Gatwick, City, Luton and Stansted airports. All these airports are around one hour away from the city centre. Airport competition is becoming a reality and as it is in the airline industry, focusing on customer experience can offer the ultimate differentiator.

One thing that all passengers have to face immediately after entering the airport terminal is the check-in queues. Nowadays, even business class passengers would often have to queue to check-in their bags, especially during Monday morning rush hour. If you are unlucky, you might have to wait in separate lanes for each check-in desk, and as it is universally known, the queue that you are not in always moves faster, leaving you anxious and nervous that you won’t make your flight. What is the solution? Introduce the serpentine queuing system. All passengers line up in one queue and proceed to the next available counter. Studies have shown, that this type of queues management significantly lowers passengers stress levels. All passengers feel that they are in the same situation and no one is in disadvantageous position.

It is important to lower passengers’ anxiety and stress levels during check-in, because a passenger, who is worried about their flight departing without them, won’t spend money in the duty-free area. Airports increasingly are relying on so-called non-aeronautical revenues, which are all revenues that are generated from non-aviation related activities, such as concessions, rental space and car parks. Currently, on average almost 50% of airport revenues are generated by non-aeronautical revenues – airports are slowly evolving into shopping malls. Thus, airports really need to focus on customer experience to convince passengers that time spent at the airport can be a pleasurable and fun experience.

At one airport in the UK, it has been calculated that one minute spent by the passenger in the duty free area equates to 7 pence worth of revenue. If an airport would be able to persuade all passengers to stay in the airport for 15 minutes longer before their flight, returns could be enormous. Airport executives need to realise that investment in Customer Experience is the key to drive airport profitability.

So what can airports do to convince passengers to spend more time at their airports? There are multiple strategies. One of the best airports in the world according to passengers, Singapore Changi Airport, leads the way in passenger experience. While transferring through the airport, passengers can use in-terminal cinema for free, swim in the only in-terminal swimming pool, relax in the butterfly garden or have a drink on the terminal roof in the sunflower garden. With features and amenities like these, Singapore Changi Airport became not only one of the best airports in the world, but also one of the busiest transfer hubs in the world, which passengers consciously choose when transferring in South-East Asia.

To conclude, airports have to recognise that customer experience can not only improve their employee engagement but also more importantly improve their bottom-line by increasing their non-aeronautical revenues. In order for an airport to survive in this competitive market, they need to become the first choice for passengers, almost a destination in itself and not only a soulless transit point on their journey.

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 contactchristopherbrooks@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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Beware of the vanity trap of customer experience – part 1

Beware of the vanity trap of CXI’ve always felt the Greek tragedy of Narcissus would make an excellent addition to the national curriculum. I think the story of the hunter known for his beauty who was trapped into worshipping his own reflection in the river until he died, would be a helpful reminder to those making choices based on looks rather than learning. 

However, I think having seen a few Narcissus moments recently brands could perhaps do well from reading the fable too. 

I am talking about those who spend time promoting their customers satisfaction or net promoter scores. There are a number of shortfalls in this ‘low budget’ marketing stunt which perhaps is lost between the insight team, the CX team and the marketers. That said, i think consumer’s see straight through it.

1. Love me, love me, say that you love me

Customer feedback is the most valuable of commodities. True CX vanguards know it’s not the score, but what contributed to the score that matters. How the company made the customer feel or how they delivered is what mattered most to customers in such a fulfilling way. It is these experiences that keep the company ahead, not the score. All this message is saying, ‘They love me. They Love me’. Memories of John Hurt’s portrayal of The Elephant Man come flooding forward. It’s all very ugly. 

2. Scoring would have been easier

I accept sometimes promoting scores is a corporate comms way of appeasing or impressing regulators and shareholders, respectively. Although someone should mention it to them that customers see (through) this stuff too. However, the shame of it is that there was a message in their which all stakeholders would value. 

Look beneath the veneer of a score and you will find fabulous content. Real customers state why they scored the company higher and how it has changed their behaviours. The caveat here is that these insights will only be forthcoming if real time feedback has been set up with closed loop case management capabilities and customers are informed of benefit of improvements. Which then brings me back to the point of this section. 

Beware of the vanity trap of CX 1

We have worked with brand agencies who find the detail of experience improvements too dull to convert into amazing communications, choosing analogies or celebrities to do the job instead. We work with end customers who are motivated by the former and switch off at the later. As a former brand planner, i know there is a balance. But if you put customer experience as a tick box on your churn or exit survey you will soon see the value of promoting what achieves the 95% rather than promoting the percentage. 

 3. Oops i did it again!

I am always amused by the way some organisations calculate satisfaction. As a paying customer, i have always viewed my definition as the correct one and even as someone who creates, manages and delivers voice of the customer’s programmes as one of the CX services we provide at Lexden, I still default to an elite band of academics who have spent years cultivating the most reliable articulation of customer assessment of experience. They have identified 25 different attributes (not 24 0r 26) which account for over 80% of a customer’s commitment to a brand relationship. This compares to less than 1% accountability or NPS or CSAT. That’s not a typo! (contact me if you need to hear more on this). 

This doesn’t stop companies choosing the slimmest of views, ‘are you satisfied’ or ‘will you recommend us to others’ and putting it on the most senior of dashboards. CEO’s can lose their position when the penny drops for those around him. 

Judging satisfaction based on what you do well rather than what drives customer commitment and contentment is pure vanity. I’ve never judged satisfaction on the number of routes a low cost airline has or the punctuality of planes landing on tarmac. These things have no bearing on my consideration of whether I use that airline again. Yet, I read they are No.1 for satisfaction on these criteria – oh dear. I can’t see that’s healthy for customers or the company either, especially as the experiences which drive true satisfaction under perform. 

CX is not a game, it’s a serious busy model (although ironically, ramification is a good way to get CX embedded in the business) where vanity has no place. Business leaders should look to drive better customer performance rather then chase promoters. 

There are many more points on this topic of CX vanity, so watch out for part 2. 

Posted by Christopher Brooks, Director, Lexden

Lexden is a Customer Experience & Value Proposition Consultancy

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 http://www.lexdengroup.com.

Can you deliver the 3 in 1 Brand Experience? Waitrose do.

We spend most days at Lexden helping clients to improve the effectiveness of their CX performance. That may result in a more valued brand differentiation, a new business model, an interactive employee engagement game, an increase in cross-sales strategy etc.

That’s the point; CX has moved on. Positioning CX as the only holistic all-encompassing new way of life for all to religiously follow is too much of a shift for many leadership teams? We don’t think it’s needed always either. In fact, we see it as a more effective business model to drive sustainable profitability. If that’s your aim, then bingo, you are the type of client we work well with. So read on and then we’d love to hear from you.

Rolling your sleeves up and working in the smaller ‘everyday’ customer experiences can be as fruitful and rewarding as seeking to exploit those defining moments which enables your brand to pull apart from others. Don’t get me wrong, we recognise the 8:1 ROI from the extraordinary branded CX opportunity is superior to the 1:1.25 potential of the ‘brilliant basics’. But let us not forget brands need constant feeding to keep their value and customers need as many touch points to experience that brand as possible.

So finding opportunity for the brand experience to shine is key. Finding these amongst the invisible spots, the unnoticed nooks and crannies is still a playground of opportunity for those clients prepared to look a little further and those of use helping clients who look beyond the conventional.

With this in mind we will bring you a number of brands who do this, effortlessly well. So easy in fact you trip over them. Many talk about delivering memorable CX at the start and the end of the journey; the CX rainbow.

Of course the chasing the pot of gold matters, but we do find a sprinkling of experiences in between can help pep up the customer performance indicators and encourage higher levels of average usage throughout too. To demonstrate how natural they are, pick a brand and find 3 in 1 minute that qualify.

Here’s 3 Waitrose experiences we found in 1 minute. Not every brand can deliver this. But those who do have CX baked in to their business model.

waitrose 1waitrose 3waitrose 2

 

 

 

 

 

1. Flowers – here they are with a bunch of flowers you can buy in store. They brighten up the place and say, they are good enough for us too. They also sit there for a week to show the quality.

2. Local community – Waitrose keep close to their communities and this much copied approach to local charitable donations speaks it in volumes. The fact that these are three cricket clubs adds a very appropriate ‘middle England flavour to Waitrose too.

3. Recycling the promotion – Waitrose may have moved the coffee cup behind the counter to keep out the M&S Food pretenders, but they are still squeezing more out of that cup as this poster I spotted shows and oozes Waitrose values.

Posted by Christopher Brooks, Director, Lexden

Lexden is a Customer Experience & Value Proposition Consultancy 

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.

 

 

 

Metro Bank get it right, winning ‘Customer Service Training Programme of the Year’ at the Digital Experience Awards, 2015

Always a pleasure to be judging a category where teams are so proud of their work.  This was definitely the case this year with the Financial Services Customer Services Training Programme of the year.  The very worthy winner was Metro Bank for their innovative and infectious induction programme.  So many businesses can learn from the way they really excite their new recruits into turning up for the first day!  However, I do have to say that it is easier for a shiny new challenger brand like Metro to do everything right – no legacy, no cynicism and no built up problems. They are growing at their own pace for the sake of their brand and customers.  So a lovely clean sheet to start from –  I genuinely hope that it is always so wonderful and exciting to start your career there!

This is why I do have to give a quick shout out to the other contenders in this category as they were dealing with very real and difficult challenges with their training – challenges that only really come from brands which have been around a while and need to make some real changes.  Whilst not ground breaking for this category they were certainly very innovative in their own businesses and hopefully for their customers – the most important thing right?

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 experience 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.

Showing the Human Side of (n)Power

npower’s Head of Customer Experience explains how customers are taking centre stage in the business

The utility sector has been through some tough times, with press scrutiny, regulatory pressure and customers who are starting to vote with their feet, but despite this backdrop npower, spearheaded by Kelly Iles (Head of Customer Experience), is determined to embed a customer first strategy in order to gain back the trust of customers in the energy sector.

Kelly Iles,Christopher Brooks, Managing Director from Lexden Customer Strategy Consultants caught up with Kelly to find out just what npower has in store for its customers.

Christopher: You’ve been with npower since 2012. It’s a sector which is striving to provide better customer experience and has a way to go in this space. As head of customer experience at npower, what are your key responsibilities in driving npower’s customer agenda forward?

Kelly: We have come a long way, npower has put a lot of focus and effort into making it better for our customers but it’s fair to say there’s still much more work to do. Our mission to achieve this should never stop. My team’s remit is to be the voice of the customer, championing what they want, need and deserve. I have the accountability and authority to set our customer experience improvement agenda which for us right now is getting back to the basics and delivering the energy experience that customers expect. This means addressing core processes, people capability, systems, communications as well as changing the culture of the organisation. It’s a pretty full on role!

Christopher: Already I can tell you are clearly passionate about customer experience, what do you find most interesting about CX?

Kelly: I love the fact that CX touches every facet of the business. There are no hiding places; all areas of the business are involved in the delivery of a seamless experience and to make it work, activities need to bring business and functional silo’s together, which has always been a management challenge.

Christopher: So what is your ‘customer first’ ambition for the company? 

Kelly: We’ve only been serious about building CX capability in the last 3 years. It requires a wholesale business transformation and we continue to move through the different stages of maturity. Whilst this started as a programme ultimately building an enduring capability and culture as well as a well-recognised discipline is our aim.
The core stages are; 1) building a customer insight capability – to understand the issues are customers experience and to measure our progress and performance, 2) map the customer journey to understand when, how and why these issues occur, 3) build and execute an effective improvement plan and finally, 4) embed the methodology, approach, ethos, and culture so that it becomes everyone’s responsibility.

Christopher: What’s driving CX up the utility sector’s agenda?

Kelly: CX has become a core priority across the entire sector. As choice widens, customers become less inert this results in, energy providers have margins being squeezed and commoditisation increased, however for sustainable growth pricing can’t be the only answer. As a result providers are recognising that offering a good service may mean customers are less likely to shop around and might move away from choosing their provider based solely upon price.
Ultimately retention of customers becomes key and delivering a great experience will help to build long standing sustainable customer relationships.

Christopher: In the insurance sector the metric is ‘effort’. In a sector such as utility which is very much an essential service, what are the priority areas of CX improvement to impress customers?

Kelly: Opportunities to delight and impress customers are far less than in other sectors such as retailers. Like insurance firms, the key is to make it as easy as possible for customers to do business with us, effortless in fact. Developments such as SMART and the introduction of digital technology for example our new energy app allows our customers to track usage, manage their energy usage and ultimately keep costs as low as possible. For us it gives an opportunity to build engagement with our customers as well as giving us data that can be used to build a better picture of our customers upon which to offer more targeted products and services.

Christopher: It sounds as if there is much going on, can you give me an example of a one of those improvements made for customers?

Kelly: Listening to our customers we understood the anxiety that a house move creates. During any home move, Customers have lots of other things to sort. Managing their change of energy to their new property is the least of their priorities. as well as their energy. Our processes made customers contact us at a time suitable to us and we were only prepared to process Home moves by our telephone channel. Ultimately we quickly realised we could do a lot to make this process much less effort and one less thing to worry about at the time of the move. As a result we’ve digitised the whole journey and removed the restrictive contact window so that customers can inform us of their home move when it suits them. At the same time we built key checkpoints so we are able to reassure the customer that everything is going through as planned.

Christopher: You’ve mentioned a number of customer improvements being made. Where do the drivers for improvement come from?
npower

Kelly: Our Voice of the Customer programme is complimented by our Voice of the People and Voice of the Process programmes. This gives us a complete view on what’s happening to both our customers, our people and why. By bringing together multiple data sources and developing insight, we are able to clearly see the priority customer issues that need to be addressed. Our focus is on what matters to the customer.

Christopher: What are the contributors to your CX programme you value the most?

Kelly: There are many areas, but three I’ll highlight. Firstly, it needs the support and buyin from the snr leadership team which will ensure that CX remains on the agenda. The leadership team need to take ownership, set the agenda and ensure followership. Secondly, our people on the ground. These are the team that deliver the experience to the customer day in, day out. They also know what the issues are and often how to fix them. Listening, empowering and giving them the accountability to make a difference for customers is vital.
Finally, the ability to upskill and embed CX capability into the DNA of the organisation. For this I look to my team who have the right skills and expertise to work across the business and define what good looks like. This could be practically how you delivery change in a customer centric way right through to building the right operational lead metrics to monitor and evaluate CX change.

Christopher: Are you pleased with the progress you are making?

Kelly: We’ve come a long way but CX isn’t a project, it doesn’t stop. There is always a better way to serve the customer. Real-time feedback as a measure shows the power of ‘in the moment’ feedback. It gives you the opportunity to address a poor experience and to build advocacy through heroic recovery activity. To take a customer whose expectations haven’t been met and then exceed offersa powerful opportunity to build loyalty.

Christopher: Who do you look to for customer first thinking inspiration?

Kelly: For me, I think those companies who just make the whole interaction effortless impress me the most. The AA breakdown service – I was on my own when I found myself stuck on a side of a road, they asked me specifically whether I was accompanied and then applied a very targeted to experience based upon my situation; text updates to manage what’s going on and even a message to help me recognise the recovery vehicle (driver flicking his lights)importantly it was executed perfectly and against the expectations met.

Christopher: CX is evolving fast, what do you think the major trends in your sector will be?

Kelly: The winners in the industry will be those who get the basics right, make interacting with the company seamless and then ongoing, build a proactive relationship with the customer that he or she values. Using data and insight will be key so we can put customers back in control. Ultimately, helping them to manage their energy more effectively.

kelly iles 1Christopher: it’s been so insightful, your passion is infectious and your expertise evident. So how could you help an organisation just waking up to the potential of customer experience?

Kelly: Okay, so I’d have to say strong leadership is key. It can get ugly and you need to be prepared to go through the journey. Leaders need to believe and recognise the phases you will go through. They will also help ensure you get your message out there in the organisation. Also it takes time – there are no short cuts. Many organisations transformation programmes can take up to 10 years. Perhaps most important of all, be relentless in your quest. Never give up. It’shard work but the rewards are great.

Christopher: Kelly that’s great. I’ve seen you at the CX Awards, so you are obviously doing the right things. It’s been a pleasure hearing more about where you’ve come from and where you are going. All the best with your mission. Thank you.

This article is published in the CXM (Customer Experience Magazine)http://cxm.co.uk/showing-the-human-side-of-npower/

If you head up a CX team and would like to be considered for a feature interview, we’d love to hear from you:

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 contactchristopherbrooks@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.

 

How to get it ‘Carpetright’ for your customers

Continuing my series of interviews with heads of customer experience, I caught up with Toni Adams, Head of Customer Experience at Carpetright.

Based in Purfleet, Essex the retail giant serves almost 600 stores across Europe. From under one roof everyone including marketing, accounts, customer experience, the board, storage, customer service and cutting operates. They’ve come a long way in the last 30 years since the first store was opened in Canning Town, founded by Lord Harris in November 1988.

As I arrived at their offices I was greeted by a delightful receptionist who showed a personalised greeting I’m sure would be envied by any high street retailer. Toni, who joined Carpetright from Nationwide at the start of 2015 took me on a guided tour of the business, where I soon discovered the delightful welcome offered at reception was a repeated trait from everyone I met.

Following a trip to the new concept store close at hand and often visited by head office staff to remind themselves what customers experience, I wanted to find out how much of the recent return to profit had been down to a commitment to customer. 

Toni Adams CarpetrightCB: Thank you for an impressive tour. Earlier this year Carpetright posted an equally impressive return to profit across the group. Clearly you’ve invested in customer experience – is there a link between the two?

TA:

Absolutely. We have spent a lot of time reviewing our customer’s journey as we needed to better understand what our customers wanted. It has helped us make sure the productswe stock and the services we provide are right for our customers and that they are available when customers want them. We have adopted an end to end journey focus – moving from silo to seamless. We’ve come a long way in a short time,realising the key moments of truth and aligning processes to them. There is always more to do, such as systems work to further enhance CRM.

CB: You have joined Carpetright from Nationwide; a company recognised for their focus on customer service where much has been already complete. So how different were the challenges you faced when you started at Carpetright?

TA:

When I came to Carpetright I was looking forward to the new challenge. The culture needed to shift from sales to service. We have put in place a new customer feedback programme called; ‘Do We Measure Up?’ and we use what we hear to put the customer firmly at the centre of the business. One of the first things to change with this programme was to take ownership of customer issues from stores. We have over 142,000 surveys complete and 97% are satisfied or highly satisfied. ‘Do We Measure Up?’ is embedded in the business which allows us to focus on delivering our customer promise of doing the right thing, which relates to our brand values. This has also meant internally thinking about stores differently. We think and treat them as our customers, which in turn means they think more about their customers rather than worrying about level of support from head office.

CB: Is the expression ‘customer is king’ still relevant in retailing today?

TA:

Trends from The Institute of Customer Service (ICS) show satisfaction levels have been declining over the last five years. So customer expectations are increasing. Product, price and processes can be copied, but customers won’t forget how the experience made them feel, so it the emotional differentiator. People buy people first. So the challenge is to ensure that the spark and connection that comes from great people understanding customers is a constant rather than sporadic.

Carpetright

CB: From all you’ve said, CX is clearly becoming a priority at Carpetright? What would you say has driven this?

TA:

Customer Experience certainly is at the centre of everything here. Wilf (Walsh, CEO) is passionate about making this happen. He personally attended my interview which said to me he was serious about CX. We have a top down leadership approach surrounded by customer-centric people who reinforce our value of exceeding expectations by putting customers first. Our feedback shows this is happening. The content at our internal roadshows is now focused on the customer. In fact, this year’s annual conference is prioritising customers, whereas beforehand that would have been sales.

CB: Are there any specifics about your sector that makes creating a brilliant customer experience more challenging than other sectors?

TA:

We are in our customers’ homes. It’s a sensitive purchase so how we handle it is very important. We look to respect our customer’s home as if it was our own.

CB: Has digital changed how you deal with customers?

TA:

Customers understandably want to touch and feel carpets and other flooring products. But we are using digital to make other parts of the journey easier, such as researching products. Initiatives such as centralised estimating allow customers to book a slot for a Carpetright estimate based on who is available in the area, rather than the estimator being solely linked to the store they visited.We are particularly pleased with how well the ‘find an estimator’ initiative has worked which has meant customers are visited by an estimator earlier. We’ve been shortlisted for this year’s CX Retail awards, which is great for us.

CB: You’ve been involved in customer experience for much of your career, so what do you find most interesting about this area?

TA:

It’s part of who I am. My parents ran a hotel, so I grew up in a service environment. I’ve always been considerate of customers because of it. I love the challenge of making something work better than it did and seeing the results.

CB: So are you pleased with the progress Carpetright is making?

TA:

We’ve made good progress and huge changes. It’s a cliché but we are on a journey. We want to ensure our customers have a seamless, hassle-free end to end journey with great service each and every time. This means customer performance targets managed through HR, aligned to our customer promise to continue to drive the right colleague behaviours for our customers. Colleagues who have demonstrated ‘going the extra mile’ for customers’, have been nominated for our Customer Champion Award presented at the annual conference. Wilf rang each nominee up to tell them they had been shortlisted which he said was amongst the best things he’s done since starting. In fact, the winner will become a ‘customer ambassador’ for the year as an example to all others of how committed Carpetright is to putting customers first.

CB: It’s been great hearing about how the customer first philosophy invested in Carpetright is measuring up for customers. Is there any wisdom you have for anyone starting out on their own customer experience venture?

TA:

I’d say you need to decide what you want the customer experience to be and then you can build your business decisions with that in mind. Also make sure all areas work together from the start and throughout. It’s a company-wide thing rather than silo driven.

CB: Thank you for your time and candid answers. Best of luck with your future experience endeavours and award entries!

This article is published in this months CXM (Customer Experience Magazine) http://www.cxm.co.uk/ when-you-are-in-your-customers-homes-you-have-to-make-it-right/

If you head up a CX team and would like to be considered for a feature interview, we’d love to hear from you:

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 contactchristopherbrooks@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.