Tag Archives: customer service

Outsourcing – the grass is always greener…isn’t it!?

Most of us, at one time or another in our corporate lives, will have been involved in a meeting or project where outsourcing to an external provider works its way to the fore, and becomes the desired option for the business, and for all the right reasons (you convince yourself).

Such a seductive idea – ‘we can rationalise FTE’, ‘we can make efficiency gains’, ‘we can reduce bad demand’ – after all, ‘they’re the experts at this stuff!’. The most tempting of the potential upsides though, will always remain cost.

Don’t get me wrong, in the right circumstances, for the right reasons, and executed in the right way, outsourcing is a hugely effective option, and can deliver great benefits.

  1. The first benefit is flexibility; the insurer who can lean on an outsourcer through a weather event to increase their capacity is an insurer who will save money, and be able to offer assistance to customers in their hour of need.
  2. The second is speed; the bank who wants to move in to a new international market can do it a lot quicker by situating themselves in the interim with an outsourcer with local market access and erudition, already set up with access to and knowledge of how to use their systems.
  3. The third (and most alluring) is cost; the aforementioned bank and insurer are able to start up their new operations with very little cost compared to a totally new call centre based in the UK or abroad – a positive nod from the board would surely ensue.

Adding flexibility and speed to a business while reducing cost makes for a fantastic set of KPI’s, but this won’t happen if a focus on quality is lost – this is where Lexden come in as CX consultants. We ensure the customer experience isn’t impacted. We cover a broad church in CX, but cost rationalisation can kick-start freeing budget to fuel the CX programme. Our studies show over 50% of CX investment has little to no impact on customer commitment.

In May 2013, O2 extended its existing contract and outsourced all of its customer facing operation to Capita (yes, all), with the aim of saving a billion (yes, a billion) pounds over the next ten (yes, ten) years. This was a huge strategic move from O2 – they had lost direct contact with their customers, had committed to the board and shareholders to save £1bn, and were committed to one partner for ten long years in an environment of constant, accelerating change alongside ever expanding customer expectations.

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Sounds like a recipe for disaster, doesn’t it?

Well, three years on it hasn’t gone too badly. In 2015, the partnership won three major industry awards dished out by the National Outsourcing Association: the Telecommunications, Utilities and High-Tech Outsourcing Project of the Year, BPO Contract of the Year and the CCA Excellence Award for Best Outsourcing Partnership. While not quite running at the £1bn run-rate, efficiency savings are being made, along with improved incident resolution speeds for O2 customers.

The positives aside, I can’t help but think about the lost opportunity cost of not having O2 culturally ingratiated staff, living and breathing the brand, cross selling and upselling to deliver the best results for the company they are a part of is unknown – we will save that for another day though.

We at Lexden interacted with two major outsourcers when researching a new UK call centre for one of our clients, who wanted to rationalise their customer service offering, to realise synergies in both sites and roles. An interim move to a call centre elsewhere in the UK, while they found their feet and set themselves up in the area for the long term was a very appealing option to them.

Having Programme Managed similar projects in the past, it sounded to me like the kind of project that any outsourcer would bite our hands off for, but the difference in appetite was simply stunning. I’ll get to the punch line later, but a very helpful member of staff from one organisation acted quickly upon my email inquiry.

Within a few hours, I was on a conference call with her, and two of her colleagues, so they could understand my requirements (an understanding of their bespoke offering, some case studies, and an analysis of the best place to establish a call centre in the UK). Both were delivered in the next few days, and we were able to confidently go back to our clients and present them tangible tactical and strategic options.

As a result, whether it’s on this project or the next, we now have a healthy relationship with them, and would have no hesitation to recommend their services to our clients going forwards.

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The next outsourcer however beggared belief. An off day maybe, but I emailed them, and didn’t hear back. I then rang them three times, on the number on their website, at 9.06, 9.23 and 9.45, and on all three occasions they failed to answer the phone, and didn’t get back to me when I left a message on their answerphone.

The one thing I would have expected them to be able to do would be respond to a customer over the phone or on email!

To be able to value something you need to experience it first. On this encounter, it’s fallen short. While my experience may not consistent with the standards they set, it has left an impression. These human interactions along with the business capability score-card is what we will use to assess suitability at this stage.

As independents, at the outset we have no allegiance to any vendor. But the experience delivered through engagements which lead to appointment are critical contributors leading to preference.

Posted by James Edmonds, Senior Consultant, Lexden

Lexden helps deliver effective customer experience strategy and solutions for clients seeking sustainable profit from customer experience.

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

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.

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.

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.

virgin trains.jpg4virgin trains

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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.

How a small pink purse created a big HSBC advocate

pink purseI found a purse in the road, a small pink purse – a child’s? No, not a child’s, but a Mummy’s purse.  House keys attached. PANIC. Tesco ClubCard number attached. Inside was about £200 freshly withdrawn cash DOUBLE PANIC, four library cards, a photo, some crumpled paper with ‘Roger The Plumber’ details, and an HSBC debit card OFF THE SCALE PANIC. No address or phone number (clever lady).

I know what a traumatic experience that can be, so my sleuthing began to find the owner. I went into six shops and asked if they’d seen this lady looking for her purse, no-one had. I crashed in on the christening party taking part in the nearest church and asked. No (I was sure that I would find the owner there). So, I left my number and name in the six nearby shops, and I also left my number and name under the wipers of the two closest parked cars.

It was a Sunday, but my first port of call was Tesco ClubCard. I found the ‘lost’ number and dialed – but they are not open on a Sunday (I thought they were open every day?). So I phoned the ‘lost card’ number for HSBC and Richard answered straight away. He took the card number and name and informed me he couldn’t give me the lady’s number – I asked if he had her mobile and he did. I explained that she would be panicking and wouldn’t be able to get into her house, nor treat her children. He promised to phone her straight away and give her my number. Within five minutes the lady phoned me, and within ten minutes the lady was reunited with her purse, her cash, her keys and her sanity.

hsbcSo thank you HSBC, not only did you restore my faith in humankind, as I did to the lady in question but you’ve probably saved yourselves a few pounds in admin fees in replacing the card too. Not to mention getting yourself broadcast in a positive light to the dozens I’ve told and the hundreds now thanks to this blog – the global bank certainly does do ‘local’.

We passed Canary Wharf yesterday on the way to Greenwich, and I told the entire DLR carriage this story too.

Finally, to the two ragamuffins that phoned on the strength of my quick and dirty ads placed to find the purse’s owner, asking for their cash! (My note said ‘if you’ve lost something valuable I may have it, please phone me’). How very dare you.

 

Lexden is a Customer Strategy Agency | We put customers at the start and the heart of marketing strategy.

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 experience strategies and creating engaging customer value propositions.

If you like what you’ve read please sign-up to our monthly ‘Putting Customers First’ newsletter.

Or for a discussion on how we may be able to help you, contact christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com or call us on T: +44 (0) 7968 316548You can also follow us on Facebook LinkedIn  and Twitter @consultingchris