Tag Archives: customer

5 essential airline customer experiences

One of the greatest things about customer experience programmes is the portability of strategy through to activation from one sector to the next.

Whether it’s financial services where products are not tangible or airlines where everything is tangible the same customers are constant in both. They can even experience both sectors at the same time. This means their expectations of what one sector can deliver versus another are blurred beyond recognition. This means it’s getting harder to keep up and a real challenge to differentiate on experience.

So it’s fundamental to know what contributes to a successful customer journey; the moments of truth and deliver them brilliantly. So to know what brilliant looks like, you might be wise looking beyond your own sector.  With that in mind these 5 examples from the airline sector may be of more  interest to the financial services community more than anyone else!

There are many different factors that contribute to a successful airline journey which delivers satisfied passengers. From years of experience I have identified there are a few essential customer experience products that play a much greater role for in reducing anxiety, removing friction and adding value to the journey, than perhaps the industry sometimes realises. Delivered well these can drive those satisfied customers.

Self-Check-In Machines

Beyond booking, the passenger’s journey experience starts the moment they step into the airport. Shortly after arriving, many frequent passengers require quick and easy check-in process. They do not want, nor have the time to spend a long time queuing in the traditional airline check-in counter.

This is time consuming and is contrary to many passengers’ needs. That is why, the Self-Check-in Machines (CUSS), are so vital to the overall customer experience.  They do not only help passengers save time, but also allow the completion of the check-in procedures at their own pace, which makes the entire process stress-free.

check in machineNowadays, passengers value being independent and they do not want staff assistance at the every step of their journey. Many airlines that have successfully incorporated the CUSS machines into their check-in area, have not only shortened the queues, but also significantly improved the overall customer experience.

 

Boarding System

It is often stressful, as many passengers queue up and want to board the plane all at once. Many passengers state that the boarding process is one of the most stressful and unpleasant parts of their journey. Therefore, an efficient and clear boarding system can not only improve the speed of the process but also improve the overall passenger experience.

Tboarding systemhere is no golden rule regarding boarding systems, all of them have their strengths and weaknesses. Studies have shown, that well organized boarding system can speed up the boarding process significantly, resulting in a shorter turn-around times, which results in better utilization of the aircraft. Thus, by introducing efficient boarding system, airlines can not only eliminate passengers’ anxiety, resulting in improved journey experience, but also maximize profits.

Welcome on board

The welcome message from the captain is so important, because it does not only provide detailed flight information, but more importantly, it allows passengers to familiarise themselves with the captain and create a personal bond.  After first-time passengers hear the captain’s voice, they tend to be calmer and more relaxed. Good Cockpit communications can also save lives.

captains welcomDuring a famous incident over Indonesia in the 1980s, when a 747 lost its 4 engines due to volcanic ash, the captain said, “Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We have a small problem. All four engines have stopped. We are doing our damnedest to get them going again. I trust you are not in too much distress.” His candid message prevented a panic on board the aircraft. Therefore, captain PA cannot be understated and should be always a vital part of every flight. As in any other industry, in aviation as well, communication with the customer is the key. “Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We have a small problem. All four engines have stopped. We are doing our damnedest to get them going again. I trust you are not in too much distress.”

Amenity Kit

amenity packSimilarly to a hotel, where passengers expect to find the essential washroom amenities in their rooms, airplane passengers (beyond economy) are increasingly demanding comparable services. Most airlines now offer amenity kits in Business class, which became a standard premium product.

However, Economy class passengers’ needs are still being neglected. An eye mask, toothbrush, and socks can not only provide much needed comfort on a long-haul flight, but also significantly improve customer experience. Many airlines that have introduced amenity kits in Economy Class, have observed a steady rise in passengers on long-haul routes, resulting in better financial performance overall. Helping passengers spend the long journey in comfort by providing simple amenities results in improved experience.

IFE System

ife systemFinally the entertainment system (IFE). Nowadays, airlines that do not provide a wide selection of entertainment also struggle with overall customer experience. Interestingly, passengers increasingly demand IFE system to be available even on a medium-haul flight. This has become a crucial service expected by passengers across the cabin.

What is more, some research suggest that when an aircraft is fitted with modern entertainment system, staff have less work due to the fact that passengers are busy watching movies, instead of asking for assistance. Also, less drinks and snacks are served on such flights. As a result, it is a win-win situation, staff can direct their attention more efficiently, and passengers have more ways to spend their time on a long flight.

In conclusion, all of these examples either already are or soon will become the essential product parts of the airline customer experience. So I hope these have been of interest to you, whatever sector you are involved in.

Posted by guest blogger, Julian Lukaszewicz, former airline customer experience consultant

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. Or for further information contact christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com or call us on M: +44 (0) 7968 316548 or  T: +44 (0)1279 9022056548. You can also follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter or read client case studies at www.lexdengroup.com 

5 examples of how to have fun with Customer Experience

Often customer experience improvements focuses on broken processes, reducing friction or the dreaded self-serve (normally cheaper for the business but more effort on the customers than they would really like). All are about taking away pain and turning detractors into promoters….okay passives.

But do companies have the momentum to take this through from their ‘permission to trade’ or ‘brilliant basics’ level up to ‘make it enjoyable’ level? Not always sadly. But when they do it creates positive talking points and memorable experiences. Of course without the maintenance ground work, building fun experiences is more difficult for the business to feel it should be investing in or customers to enjoy if they’ve got outstanding gripes.

Suspend that thought and put yourself in the shoes of a customer experience team who are over the brow of that hill and living in the ‘make it enjoyable’ zone. Here are five enjoyable customers experiences which tickled us and we hope you take inspiration from too.

What we like about these is that you can see what the old experience was like. It wasn’t actually broken but there’s always room for improvement. Someone has said, ‘Could we make it more fun and see if that makes it more successful?’

Turn left. You will

tomtomThe technologists behind sat-nav science are incredible. But those at TomTom who decided to make the instructions barked at you come from the voices of John Cleese, Mr T, Yoda or Darth Vadar are genius. Rather than labour over the technological improvements in the mapping accuracy, which is already a 1000%  better than me reading the map, adding the voice increases the fun threshold to warp factor 10. And as soon as you get bored you can change to new voice.  In fact, Brian Blessed is the latest voice to be immortalised – Gordon’s alive!

Challenge Pizza Hut

Ipizzhut came across this example through twitter so have pieced the story together. But as I can make out when ordering there is a ‘any special requests’ section taken at the end of the order. Typically the response is ‘please hold the onion’ or ‘double anchovy’, but the customer has thrown in a cheeky ‘draw a dinosaur on the box’ request and rather than tell the customer to take a jump, the Pizza Hut staff have risen to the challenge and made a boring space very fun. It begs the question what else can you do with the inside of a take away box!

Grow your money trees

Umpqua could have a whole blog on fun experience all to themselves. Where others are moving from retail banking to mobile banking they are opening more stores. And according to Barclay’s analysts’ it’s not just a community play, it’s a commercially sound model. The Economist reported, “Barclays predicts by the end of next year, Umpqua’s return on equity will be 14%, far above the average”.

umpqua

They do things differently. For examples here is a plant on a customer’s door step. That may be what it looks like to you and I but this is actually a loan mailing. I’m sure you can get the creative reference link to growth, but you may have got the fact that what is normally a dry comms piece is made memorable and fun. And guess what it outperforms any other loan mailing stats you’ve ever seen!

Beep. Beep. Making shopping more fun for Mums

 tescocarToy cars in supermarket are not new. In fact they’ve been with us for a few years now having been introduced by Tesco in 2007. But go back to that moment when someone said, ‘I know stick a toy car to the trolley’. After a ‘Are you insane!’ was first fired back the visionary commercialist (also known as the customer experience manager) would have said, ‘hang on there is something in this. Anxious Mum’s buy less. Mum’s get anxious because of bored kids. Bored kids love driving toy cars. Toy cars would fit to a shopping trolley’ at which point everyone’s proverbial penny would have dropped. It was brilliant then and it always will be brilliant. And it’s less to fund than a crèche!

And the overall winner in the CX fun category is…

My favourite examples of fun in customer experience are those like the Tesco example above where fun has been used to take away anxiety or a negative behaviour. It’s a movement in its own right and if you are interested take a look at the VW Fun Factory examples.

But to finish my favourite example of improved customer experience is actually from real life. It’s the toddler eating journey that parents go through daily. It makes business challenges look like a walk in the park when it goes wrong! Getting small children, who are very good at manipulating broken processes, to eat when they want to play is a real challenge. But this fun idea is very successful and has probably been around since toddlers first needed feeding, but the ingenuity of it is still stunning.

mums

Put into a corporate context, ‘fun food’ versus ‘as it comes food’ – the outcome is exactly the same food gets eaten so why do it. But with fun food there are three huge advantages:

  1. More produce (toddler’s food) is consumed with fewer issues (tantrums) reducing time and effort spent on getting the customer complaints (toddler pacified).
  2. The customer (toddler) engages in the process (dinner time) willingly prepared to be distracted from the other more enjoyable daily tasks (toys and TV).
  3. The front line staff member (Mum) is more productive because there is less effort needed (feeding & remaking thrown food) and satisfied because the labours have been appreciated (feel like a good parent for a moment).

If you want some new inspiring creators of fun customer experience recruit a group of Mums with toddlers (left at home). They are world class fun CX practioners.

Posted by Christopher Brooks

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 sign-up to our ‘Putting Customers First’ newsletter. Or 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 case studies at www.lexdengroup.com 

How M.A.D. is your Customer Experience?

cx model

Is the ROI on your customer experience living up to its potential?

In our experience many CX programmes full short of what they should deliver largely because of the structure of the programme.  They end up Maintaining an acceptable customer experience or only occasionally delivering a real Advantage to customers and the business  but rarely achieving the ultimate ambition of reinforcing the Differentiation of the brand (or M.A.D. CX for short).

What does your CX working world look like?

If you find yourself knee deep in root cause analysis, customer mapping yet another page of exceptions, struggling to get MI produced at touch point level or explaining to the board why NPS has plateaued whilst CX investment has increased, then you are know your are a customer experience practioner.

But if this sounds familiar it may mean your customer experience programme has become more about maintaining a level of acceptable customer experience rather than striving for reinforcing brand differentiation.

Despite the business investing the resource, communicating the importance of customer centricity internally, delivering dozens of cost and time saving experience improvements and celebrating NPS increases, many CX programmes are not actually getting past ‘Level 1 – Maintain‘.

It’s reinforced by customers who believe only 8% of companies deliver a great customer experience whilst 80% of companies believe they do.

With this in mind, we’ve made it our mission to help brands revisit their approach and achieve the optimum potential of their CX endeavours.

At Lexden we’ve developed an independent check-point Customer Experience Effectiveness Audit to help brands committed to customers to understand where they are, how they got there, how much more they could achieve from CX and how to get on track to realise this.

We call it our M.A.D. CX Audit. It covers:

  • Identify which level your CX is at now and what’s keeping you there
  • Understand the business environment CX is operating in and the governance surrounding it
  • Identify how your employee’s and customer’s value your customer experience activities
  • Assess the commercial impact of customer experience improvements to date
  • Identify your journey comparative to your competitors, your senior stakeholders and your customer’s expectations
  • Identify the optimum level for customer experience within the organisation
  • Highlight activities requiring realignment (people, planning, partners, process, culture) to effectively support revised optimum level potential

It’s the perfect ‘light touch, high impact’ review to ensure your CX programme achieves the maximum ROI.

Or for more details of the service, please click here.

Posted by Christopher Brooks

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 sign-up to our ‘Putting Customers First’ newsletter. Or for further information contact christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com or call us on M: +44 (0) 7968 316548.     You can also follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter or read client case studies at www.lexdengroup.com 

 

How HSBC creates brand advocates through Customer Experience

I rarely write about my own customer experiences. Usually I’m taking examples from others and blending with my observations to evidence best or worse practice CX planning.

But on occasion I experience a customer experience as a consequence of a situation I’ve found myself in which impresses me enough to tell others.

And when it works, really well, it reminds us of the importance customer experience in helping consumers trying to ‘get on’ and live their lives. Great customer experience removes the friction in life which holds us back from getting through the day.

As a ‘consumer’ I can’t really consciously value this until it goes wrong. CX in this context operates as the unsung hero. However, the more important that process to me within the context of my life, the increased favourability I undoubtedly have for one brand over another.

So when something unexpected happens in my life, a customer experience designed to remove the anxiety will go a long way in turning my passive relationship to a promoter of their brand. I might even commit the experience to a blog. Here’s my story…

hsbc 2…at 11.30am I stepped back from a presentation I was preparing and picked up a couple of approved invoices to pay. I looked for my ‘securekey’ which allows me to access the HSBC business bank account. It wasn’t where it normally should be. I knew I needed to call HSBC to get a replacement. I decided I could make the payments when it arrived.

I was working remotely from our Bishops Stortford office so called the London office and told them the situation. I was reminded that these were due today and one by midday. Panic back on. It was at this point I realise I should have paid them before I got stuck in to the presentation but it was too late and the presentation was due to be sent in two hours.

hsbc bsI headed to the local branch of HSBC. As I walked there I realised I didn’t know what it would achieve going in to see them, our branch was in Victoria, but with the minutes ticking I wanted to share my pain and see what could be done over the counter.

On arrival I was greeted with a smile by a greeter. I explained the situation and he calmly said it could be sorted. He told me to head to the teller to get the payments made first. I did. I explained my quandary to the lady behind the glass. With enough security checks to make me feel comfortable, but not so much that I felt violated, ‘we’ made the payments on time. I say we because without the HSBC team I would have failed.

The lady informed me that if I called the replacement securekey team from the branch they could issue me a new card now. Wow, so within 45 minutes of my crisis starting, it would be over.

The greeter dialled through the IVR and connected me to a person. Being a global bank I expected a globally located operator. I was right. But that didn’t diminish the empathy and understanding of my situation he offered.

To get through to the point where an email was sent to me and a new securecard handed to me in branch involved three phone transfers and the assistance of three members of branch staff. But each one of those phone transfers managed my expectations and when I was handed over the recipient of my call explained my situation to me straight off to give me confidence that they were in control.

I left the bank 20 minutes after arriving with payments made, a new securekey ready to activate, a smile on my face and a tweet winging its way to broadcast from @consultingchris on how great they’d been.

It then dawned on me that I’d had a branded customer experience. This was global, local in action. Okay I wasn’t trading with New Zealand or requiring advice on setting up a venture in Baltimore, but I was vulnerable and their global network of operators helped me out capably supported by the local team.

From a customer experience best practice perspective this delivers against all 6 customer attributes:

  1. They managed my expectations across every touch point
  2. They minimised the time and effort taken by employing various channels and technology to arrive at the right outcome
  3. They empathised with my situation and brought my anxiety down whilst we got things sorted
  4. They resolved my issues without any sense of it being less than why they were there
  5. They personalised it to me. It may be this happens on a daily basis for them but I felt they’d structured their customer experience response specifically around my situation
  6. They showed integrity putting my interests first. They could have been more stringent on security (more than needed) but a few smart questions ensured I was who I said I was and they let me use a branch in the middle of the phone even though they were hosting a MacMillan Nurses Cake morning .

Hats off to HSBC from me and our suppliers who got paid on time.

Not forgetting my client who received the presentation in time too. And that’s why all of the above was so important to me. It allowed me to ‘get on’ with my business.

Posted by Christopher Brooks

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 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 further information contact christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com or call us on  M: +44 (0) 7968 316548. You can also follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter.

5 customer experience examples from the automotive sector

The great thing about working on customer experience mentoring and programme management is  how transferable ideas and initiatives are across different sectors. Customer is a constant regardless of sector so ideas transfer and inspiration can be taken from other sectors. It’s quite unique in that way. Clients are keen to see examples from other sectors to help stretch the thinking within their own.

With that in mind, here are 5 examples of customer experience initiatives from the automotive industry. So if it’s your sector; hopefully you can take direct lessons from these. And if you are in a different sector, let them inspire your lateral thinking.

Ownership drives customer- centric approach at JaguarJaguar

JLR asked Engine Service Design to help them design the customer experience around the purchase and, critically, the ownership of the C-X75. Engine explored a range of complex needs around ownership and driving experiences to develop the customer experience. Engine translated the insights into a set of principles and service personality to guide both the C-X75 experience and also the wider JLR experience.

Meet the BMW CX geniuses 

“The dealership experience is as old as the car industry, roughly one hundred years old. While cars have changed, the retail experience is much the same as it was one hundred years ago,” says Dr. Ian Robertson who oversees global sales and marketing for BMW.BMW

BMW leaders studied brands outside of the car industry to create BMW’s “future retail strategy.” According to Robertson it led to “a complete redevelopment of BMW’s digital world, the physical experience at the dealership, and how our people interact with customers in the sales process.” With an obvious nod to the Apple Store, BMW decided to create a new role in its dealerships—the product genius. The BMW product genius is a non-commissioned expert who will spend as long as it takes to educate car shoppers about their choices. “The product genius is not encumbered by the sale process and is not motivated to sell a car,” Robertson responded. “His motivation is customer satisfaction.”

BMW has already recruited about 900 people for its product genius positions and will hire a total of 2,000 over the next 12 months. The dealerships will also offer a seamless multi-channel transition from the digital store to the physical one. Robertson made an observation that applies to most business ventures in today’s digital economy: “What we have done in the past is definitely, definitely, definitely, not good enough for the future.”

Employee engagement to drive customer experience improvements at Lookers

lookersLookers recognises that a motivated and satisfied workforce lies at the heart of its success. It enhances its ‘Customers for Life’ company strapline and ethos. It revolves around Lookers NICER values: Nice, Informative, Caring, Enthusiastic and Responsive (driven by customer relationship drivers).

Paul Bentley, Director of CX said, “It’s that simple really. Happy staff makes for happy customers. The customer experience is the ultimate differentiator in the modern car retailing business and we are keen to make sure we deliver the best there is”. Areas of improvement targeted include customer and staff engagement, where regular appraisals, customer and staff surveys and improved internal communication are made a priority through regular analysis and measurement.

Audi uses customer experience to turn satisfaction scores around

audiAudi’s 2020 vision is to leave customer’s delighted. But 21st out of 23 in the International Aftersales Customer Satisfaction (IACS) rankings meant they had work to do. service issues and poor comms drove Audi customers elsewhere. A ‘Driven to Delight’ programme reached out to all 132 Audi centres from valet to sales translating ‘delight’ into behaviours.

A mobile entertainment unit took a roadshow taking everyone on the journey towards ‘delighting’. Starting with negative customers and finishing with a premium customer experience showroom once customers were turned into more loyal and profitable fans from receiving a better customer experience.

Where customers were satisfied was the foundation built on. But using a ‘Total Reality’ the appointed Brand Biology consultants worked with staff to figure out improvements. Staff bought in and committed to deliver improvements. The following years IACS results ranked Audi eleven places higher at 10th.

A differentiated customer experience the Mercedes Benz way

mercAfter sales is key for premium car sales. External market forces have levelled the playing field with the independents stealing share on price. Mercedes Benz looked to differentiate their offer.

Time was spent with dealers and customers to understand what great looked like when it came to after sales. Competitors that were praised were mystery shopped too. all insights were mapped across an organising vision. A suite of end-to-end concepts and experience enablers were tested using desktop versions to full scale prototypes. Five service principles were arrived at and MyMercedesBenz after-sales vision was born. Which features several core propositions such as My service booking apps.

Workshops were used to drive staff engagement. And a pilot was developed wit every aspect of the experience; comms, behaviours , interactions with 3rd parties and environment revised to align to the visions.

Satisfaction rating rose by 50%. Retail visits jumped to 8.1% against national decline of 3.1%. Average spend up £18. MyMercedesBenz has rolled out to 25 regions with 25 more and collected a host of prestigious industry awards.

I hope these have been of interest to you, whatever sector you are involved in.

Posted by Christopher Brooks, Director, Lexden

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  M: +44 (0) 7968 316548. You can also follow us on LinkedIn Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top challenges for marketers: A consistent customer experience

I was reading an article in Marketing Week (24th July) titled ‘New Model Agency’. It resonated because it’s a phrase that’s been applied to us here as a customer strategy agency at Lexden. But the main reason it caught my attention was the section looking at what do marketing managers consider the biggest marketing challenge today?

new model agencyThe top one and three are those which Lexden help brands with using customer strategy thinking:

  • Customer Acquisition
  • Consistent Customer Experience

Picking up on the point on ‘consistent customer experience’ , I thought I’d share our views following some recent experiences. It starts way before looking at the touchpoints. It starts with having three imperatives agreed to govern the customer experience:

  • The customer strategy must be aligned to the business strategy
  • The customer betterment criteria must be established (aka customer vision) and link back to measurable KPI’s
  • All existing agency partners responsible for affecting improvements must be included in a strategic capacity

The focus of this blog will be on point 3 and in particular the marketing agencies.

To my point, last week I met with a digital agency who spend much of their time understanding the user experience when customers are enquiring or purchasing on the sites they build for their clients. Having a sound knowledge of user experience often gives them permission to work across customer experience. They take what worked well (defined as engagement levels and transactions) on the website and seek to replicate this across other touch points in the business. This means that even through the website is just the information management and payment processing touch point for the customer, it’s driving the customer experience expectation across every other area of the business, including the actual product usage!

Again, a few months ago I worked with a brand who had brought in their comms agency to drive their customer experience improvements. When I looked over their (very stylish) customer journey mapping the primary swim lane was relating to the comms that went out to the customer and investment was made to get the MI against each of these. The first project to come out of the audit was focussed on improving the efficiency and content of existing comms to customers. This was done without understanding what mattered most to customers, what the root causes of irritants were to the customers, what should be communicated when and how etc. Needless to say it had to be reworked with the comms agency’s role swapped to delivery of improvements rather than driver of them.

Several years ago I worked for an integrated agency as head of planning. I’d been working with a city trading company looking to grow their business through enhanced customer experience. What became clear to me during the appointment was that with improved client management skills and a more effective database they could achieve growth quickly and efficiently by leveraging existing assets better. The problem for my MD was that our agency produced shiny ads and websites. We didn’t provide client management training or databases. He had 70 creative mouths to feed. I had my integrity so advised the client to pursue what was right for him and parted company with the agency.

In all cases, the projects focussed on what capabilities the agencies could deliver against before what was best for the customers and therefore best for the business.

So who should represent the customer?

The customer should be at the heart of the decision-making. Understanding what role the brand and its propositions are playing in the customer’s lives and the importance of the experience in attaining and using these informs the customer experience strategy. Delivering this in the most effective and efficient way to ensure retained and profitable happy customers is the desired outcome to achieve.

With this in mind the business should look to ensure the customer attributes (how their customers articulate what matters most) and the business activities (how the business delivers these) are aligned.

Its customers worldA solutions agnostic representative will evaluate where most gain is attainable for the customer and the business. This might prove to be changes to recruitment policy, a review of brand standards, customer services training, IT enhancements, product enhancements, KPI dashboard rework or even marketing discipline improvements.

But unless well-directed and managed the advertising, PR, media, digital, CRM, comms, branding, sponsorship and social media agencies will all have a slightly different interpretation on what that means which will impact what they deliver. This is where the inconsistency creeps in and starts to rot the experience.

Ideally you want a solution agnostic customer champion with commercial acumen and advanced stakeholder management skills to lead the customer experience strategy. These individuals can often be found lurking within the organisation having gained experience sitting in many of the client facing departments in their career.

Alternatively, an external customer experience mentor is a useful addition to the team. They will cling on to the customer vision objectively and ensure every action is accounted for and contributing towards a customer betterment outcome. It involves working with client’s existing agencies to ensure they are well equipped to deliver their ‘slice’ of the customer experience pie as and when it’s needed.  With an independent customer strategist there is no marketing discipline bias either. In fact, this role will help to ensure clients get the most effectiveness and efficiency from their agencies. And the agency is able to add the most value where relevant to their client. So it’s a win-win-win (not forgetting the customer).

Investing in the customer means investing in the agency too

Having explained why it’s dangerous for an agency to lead such a programme, it is critical they are at the top table and always involved. Remembering they will naturally be focussed on their discipline. So investment is needed with each agency to help them really understand customer fulfilment in the sense of customer experience. This includes:

  1. What matters most to the brand’s customers (in their life, in their brand relationship and in their usage and transactions)
  2. How customer experience plays a key role (often No.1) in influencing and shaping the relationship with a brand, which then determines future customer expectations
  3. The agency contribution to customer experience (needs to be well-defined to avoid scope creep) and how the outputs align to the customer strategy in order to achieve a consistent customer experience.

Each agency plays a critical role. But agencies are playing catch up when it comes to customer experience. They need support and assistance otherwise the interpretation of customer experience will be largely driven by their discipline view.

Establishing a ‘Customer Closeness’ programme for agencies will ensure they are as in tune with customers and their needs, wants and expectations as they are with their own discipline. They can then work to fuse the two better than anyone else within the organisation could.

And finally, when it goes wrong

verizon2This mailing from Verizon highlights what happens when agencies aren’t aligned. The mailing thanks the customer for moving towards paperless billing. But the notification went out to the same customer 56 times. With a ‘customer experience strategist’ at the heart of any changes this sort of cock-up is avoided. The team would have known which customer attributes were critical to deliver against. It is likely that ‘save me time and effort’ and ‘put my interests first’ would have come through in order to prove that paperless billing was a better outcome for customers. It is also likely the comms agency, the CRM agency and the website agency were involved. Each ones efforts has been compromised. But with someone representing the customer and what a better outcome looks like, diligence would have been applied to key aspects of the communication which could affect this, such as the mailing file and production.

Lexden provides customer experience mentoring, CX programme reviews and full programme design and management.

Posted by Christopher Brooks, Customer Experience Strategy & Director at Lexden

Lexden is a Customer Strategy Consultancy | Putting your 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 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  M: +44 (0)7968 316548 or T: 44 (0)1279 902205 You can also follow us on LinkedIn Facebook and Twitter.

Why brand values, social media and customer experience must work as one to be fully optimised

Whenever I meet someone who inspires me, it’s not long before I ask them what good customer experience means to them. I was talking to Hazel, MD at the Creative Content Company and she was explaining how many businesses are choosing more to use social media as a way to engage with their customers on mass but their customers are using it as a faster way to speak to individuals in the business when they have queries or complaints. I thought this was an interesting misalignment and asked her for an example to explain what she meant.

Hazel told me how a large cinema chain used social media quite well but if they’d have used it appropriately in her case they could have done it so much better.

cineworld

A few months ago, Hazel went to her local cinema to watch The Love Punch. She ordered a pot of popcorn (sweet and salted) and a Coke Zero with no ice. Hazel doesn’t like ice in her drinks as she has sensitive teeth she told me.

When Hazel went through and found her seat in the cinema she started to drink her coke and noticed it had ice in it. By this time she had taken off her coat and bag, squeezed past several people to get to her seat so didn’t fancy going back past them all to get her coke changed.

Picture3Like a lot of us, Hazel took to Twitter. She sent a tweet, tagging #CineworldHuntingdon and explaining she was really looking forward to watching The Love Punch but she was disappointed they put ice in her drink when she specifically said no ice, adding that the guy that served her was polite and friendly but clearly hadn’t listened.

How Cineworld dealt with it

cineworld tweet 2Within minutes Cineworld Huntingdon came back on Twitter – good news from a brand responsive perspective to minimise reputational damage. They apologised for this and said they would put ice down the guys back that served her as ‘pay back’ for not listening. This was a really quick, friendly response. It gave the twitter account a personality and a lot of people retweeted and replied to the tweet as it was funny, but what about Hazel and her coke with ice? There was still ice in the drink, her teeth would still feel pain after the smile from the Cineworld tweet had worn off.

How a customer-centric Cineworld might have dealt with it

Let’s be honest it could have been so much more effective. From Hazel’s tweet they could see what film she was watching, they knew there were about 50 people in there from the ticket sales and they knew she was on her own from her ticket sale. They could tell the film didn’t start for 15 minutes from their scheduling on their website and from her profile picture on twitter they even knew what she looked like. A member of staff could have walked in to the theatre with a coke without ice and started by saying, “Did someone order a coke without ice?”

If Hazel had already taken to Twitter to query the coke and ice incident you could have imagine what she would have done if they had bought a replacement coke into the cinema for her? Not to mention the 50 other people in the cinema. Perhaps even a selfie would have followed featuring Hazel, the coke and the forgetful Cineworld drinks dispenser.

Hazel expected a coke with no ice, as she requested but she did not get this so her expectations had not been met. Whilst the response on Twitter was friendly and engaging which is great and personable her query was never actually resolved.

As a platform social media is an effective listening tool, but unlike a call centre with a limited number of seats so you can manage down the number of calls answered, the pipe is wide and always on. If you engage you must resolve.

The importance of brand values in customer experience

But most importantly if the Cineworld team had focussed on ensuring their staff were trained in the importance of delivering a branded experience as well as they well versed in how to tweet, the outcome would have been much more focused on ensuring their customer’s entertainment needs (in this case a coke without ice as much as the movie viewing) were fulfilled. Light-hearted banter is easy. Delivering it whilst reaffirming the strengths of the brand much less so. Brand is not an optional extra in customer experience.

The reason brands like Disney remain head and shoulders above all others in the entertainment world experience is because their people are empowered to focus on their purpose before their tasks.

sensitive teethIt’s a challenge. And it’s a cultural thing. Giving the social media team responsibility to resolve, or align messaging to a branded customer charter will take the brand from socially amusing to simply amazing.

Those who choose to respond to social media posts about their brands with jest without tackling the nature of the initial customer engagement have to accept they leave a lingering bad brand taste in the mouth of those whose issues remain unresolved. A lingering bad taste which is not associated with the channel (which often has flippant and frivolous content), but with the brands themselves. In this case an association between Cineworld and the pain of of very sensitive teeth. Not very funny now.

For an example of how to take a query and turn it into positive PR, with full customer resolution click on our Unordinary blog featuring  ‘we buy any car’.

Posted by Christopher Brooks, Customer Experience Strategy & Director at Lexden

Lexden is a Customer Strategy Consultancy | Putting your 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 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 M: +44 7968 316548. You can also follow us on LinkedIn Facebook and Twitter.

The communication weak spot in customer experience

Whilst marketing communications is just one of the ways Customer Experience can be demonstrated, it is often overlooked and the impact it has on customers not fully appreciated. There is little excuse for not getting customer experience right when it comes to communications, especially with the information feed from the CRM system and the ability of the data experts to translate it into meaningful insight.

In this blog we bring you two examples highlighting the impact on CX when communications aren’t aligned.

cx delivery channels The challenge for the customer experience, data analysts and communication teams should be figuring out how to make the communications a brand differentiating experience. In order to achieve this all aspects of the experience (of which communications is a very visible one to customers) must be beautifully aligned and complimentary to achieving a defined customer experience vision.

But let’s get real. Let’s get back to a world where the promotional communications are sent when customers don’t expect, need or want them. A world where products and services are released promising betterment but fall short or fail to even use communications effectively to get past shortfalls.

Typically these ‘glitches’ occur because of a poorly integrated communication strategy. Getting it right isn’t that challenging if everyone has ‘customer’ central to their planning.

Here are our suggestions on how to align communications with customer experience:

1. Make sure you communicate ‘what matters most to your customers’, in a format they prefer to consume, rather than what matters most to you through your most commercially efficient communication channel.

2. Make sure you know where your customer is in the buying process (easier for B2B to achieve, but equally important to D2C and B2B2C).

3. Only launch propositions, products and offers when they are adding meaningful value to customers by taking them forward in their lives. Otherwise expect your PR resource to be spent compensating for your brands lack of customer understanding.

Stick to these when devising communication plans and it will ensure customer experience and communication budget isn’t wasted nor brand equity eroded.  With this is mind we bring you two recent examples demonstrating what happens when you ignore this advice.

The airport emails that lets the customer experience down

Sending the wrong message during the customer relationship leaves the customer feeling confused; ‘I thought you knew me, but this proves you don’t’. This example from Stansted Airport landed in my inbox. It told me I could fly from Stansted to hundreds of destinations. I knew that – I was actually away on holiday at the time having used Stansted Airport in the previous week to travel to my destination and returning there in a few days. So there was a good chance I’d seen the array of destinations on the departure and arrival boards or through various websites when I’d been checking out flight options.

stansted2The shame of this poorly timed email is that at the time of travel, my wife and I had commented when we travelled how relaxing Stansted Airport was compared to some airports. We went as far to say they really understand how to look after their passengers when they travel.

The email diminished that positive feeling created from the customer experience. To make matters worse when I sent a note to the sender explaining the situation to help them with their communication planning, I received a new communication offering car parking discounts. I only live 15 minutes away.

It highlights unless the communication planning is aligned the investment in customer experience will be wasted and returns fall short of expectations.

The Box which isn’t fit for purpose

Who doesn’t like to relax and listen to music on holiday? Me and my family do. The advertising for Blink Box Music had caught my attention and the customer reviews hadn’t put me off. I decided to trial the free option with the intention of a subscription if it worked out. I created a small library of tracks which took about an hour so we were set. Most importantly I was able to cross something off the holiday list much to my wife’s surprise and gratitude.

Fast forward to the holiday in France. Day one and I opened up Blink Box full of anticipation. Instead of the fruits of my invested time I was greeted with this message.

blinkbox3 #disappointing

The message itself is jovial enough, but because it hasn’t been made clear when I set up the account, it wasn’t the right tone of empathy. I also was on holiday and not living in France which did frustrate me because I’d input my home details to activate the account so BlinkBox know I’m not living abroad.

I checked and buried as Point 17 in the T&C’s, there is reference to territorial coverage. If earlier in the experience BlinkBox had posed, ‘how are you intending to use BlinkBox?’ it would have saved time and effort, ensured my expectations were managed and kept the reputation of the business for me, in tact.

However, the anticipation and experience of the service as an alternative to itunes, is undermined by not presenting the ‘limitations’ up front. Which is why knowing ‘what matters most’ to your customers and fulfilling these criteria is critical in communications for brands which embark upon customer experience as a differentiation.

Tesco as a brand does has a ‘customer first. Profits follow’ philosophy. These are classic growing pains of bestowing values to sub-brands, but as much as they may hope it wont, it does impact consumer perceptions of the mother brand and suggests that the brand has over stretched this time.

Keep communications in line if you hope to exploit customer experience fully

For customer experience to be employed as an asset and a differentiating advantage, all parts of the business must be aligned and follow the CX strategy. Communications, like Customer Service and Complaints have always had a closer relationship with the customer than others, so will be the most challenging areas to get to fall in line.

But without their alignment, investment into customer experience and customer propositions to create advantage instead of relying on price will always be compromised. Sadly the FD wont see or care about this when reviewing the overall return of a CX strategy investment. Either get all communications aligned or run the risk of CX being ditched as ineffective in favour of the less sustainable pricing approach once more.

Posted by Christopher Brooks, Customer Strategy Consultant

Lexden is a Customer Strategy Agency | Putting your 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 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 M: +44 (0)7968 316548You can also follow us on LinkedIn Facebook and Twitter @consultingchris.

How to start a Customer Experience Strategy: 2/5 Start with the company, not the customer

I was approached recently at a conference and asked, ‘if we are starting out on a customer experience strategy, what are the key pieces of advice you would give a business when embarking on a customer experience strategy? I answered:

  1. Ensure those responsible for the customer experience have the right experience too
  2. If it’s the company that wants to be more customer-centric, start with them, not the customer
  3. Understand the potential and the limits of customer experience early on
  4. Once you are in, you are all in and you are in for the long haul if you intend to profit
  5. Short cuts exist, resist. Only used by short lived programmes

2. If it’s the company that wants to be more customer-centric start with them, not the customer

When a company decides ‘customer’ should be more central in its decision making we found it has arrived at this conclusion driven by one of four motivations; cause, compliance, commercial or competitive – more detail on meaning and examples available from Lexden.

Knowing where it originated is critical because understanding which motivation drives the decision to be more customer-focused should influence the approach, framework and governance the business should adopt in structuring a customer experience strategy.

Sadly, this is a very early decision point many business’ miss. To think the starting point should be the customer and how they feel is logical. But misguided, or rather too purist for a commercial climate which is demanding of performance based progress overnight and pinpoint tangible evidence of accountability engraved in a silver bullet. Presenting the case is critical. Trying to deliver this by evidencing the state of CSAT scores or negative feedback verbatim won’t cut it with the even the most emotionally accommodating CFO’s.

The customer strategy needs to be presented on a like for like business case comparison with other decision about productivity, growth and investment.

Being passionate about putting customers first still needs a supporting business case to get buy-in

We work across several borders and in many sectors. Everywhere our findings are the same; the starting point is the same;  the commercial value of a customer strategy. To achieve this, when Lexden are engaged to bring to life or improve a client’s customer strategy, we start by diagnosing the following:

Lexden's CX Diagnostics Tool Kit

  1. BUSINESS MOTIVATION | What’s driving the decision to be more customer focused
  2. CURRENT STATE | Where the business is in terms of its journey to being customer focused (culture temperature check*, capability assessment and commitment to customer improvements)
  3. MARKET VALUE | Market expectation, appetite and opportunity for differentiation by experience
  4. FUTURE STATE | What is a realistic ambition (which business performance measure will CX drive upwards)
  5. CX STRATEGY & TOM | From which a CX Target Operating Model is formulated highlighting what needs to be done, in which order and how it should be done to realise the potential

*Additional point – if the business fails to provide a colleague experience which engages enhanced commitment to the brand and advocacy over others, how can the business expect its colleagues to think or behave in a similar way with their customers? Often this proves to be a game changer in terms of adoption of customer-centric thinking within an organisation to miss this point and not build it into the Target Operating Model will undermine the entire strategy.  

The outcome of the diagnosis phase provides a new view to the business on the current state reality, the future state potential of customer focused strategies and a proven development programme to take them there.

It’s from this sound foundation the customer experience strategy should begin if the business is to provide the best possible experience improvements to the advantage of customers, colleagues, the business and the bottom line alike.

In summary, to put customers first, first the business must get its own house in order.

Posted by Christopher Brooks

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 M:+ 44 (0)7968 316548You can also follow us on LinkedIn Facebook and Twitter @consultingchris 

My Christmas 2013 ‘Customer Experience’ Crackers

Like many I decided to switch off and enjoy the recent Christmas festivities with my family and left my work behind. Those who know me will know that whilst a worthy ambition, it’s usually compromised. However, this year I did it!

I spent two weeks with the family. But what that meant is that I also spent two weeks as a consumer, without my Lexden Customer Experience Strategist hat on.

cracker

As a consumer I found dozens of interactions which made me feel warmer or colder towards the brands I engaged with and subsequently more or less likely to use them again. So whilst I wasn’t strictly working, I did capture a few of the best and worst experiences (see also My Christmas 2013 ‘Customer Experience’ Turkeys blog) to provide you with inspiration and ideas for your own CX programmes.

Here’s my three favourite Christmas Crackers delivering the gift of a great branded experience which will live on long after the decorations have come down. Loving…

myringgo2MyRingGo | My wife, my two young boys and I planned a trip to see the Snowman at the Peacock theatre. Travelling in on the train we arrived at the station car park. We realised we had no change! Ahhhh. Then I noticed a sticker on the car park machine offering a phone service to buy a ticket. With a low level of faith in customer friendly mobile payments from experience, I was sceptical. But hat’s off to MyRingGo. I called and within two minutes the automated service had texted me confirmation that my parking ticket had been purchased. All for a supplement of just 20p on the ticket. The message also told me it would take just 30 seconds next time now they have my details (ensuring a repeat purchase).

But the real magic came when 10 minutes before the ticket expired I received a reminder and options to extend the ticket. Having been caught out before by traffic wardens, this was a revelation – a real customer advantage of the mobile over cash.

jlpJohn Lewis | Like most I could default to John Lewis to buy all Christmas goods, including alarm clocks, bears and hares. At the Bluewater shopping centre store John Lewis had managed to spill the TV ad out across the store. With a looping Lily Allen version of a Keane track and TV screens playing the ad it couldn’t be missed. And surprisingly not that nauseating. We then came across a wonderful experiential version of the ad in the store. The children out shopping with their parents were captivated, almost as much as the parents were!

premier innPremier Inn | We travelled to Staffordshire to see family and found the most convenient hotel was the Premier Inn. Given the low price I set my expectations low. But that was unnecessary, it was just fine. The most impressive proposition was a ‘silent please’ family ground floor. As a family we were put on this floor and asked to ‘Shhhhh’ between 7pm and 10am. Having stayed in hotels when our children were babies and been woken by guests not unreasonably chatting in the corridors at not unreasonable times, this idea is helpful when settling children for the night.

But it was the lovely touch of an extra spy hole for children on the door which I felt added fun to the experience. It was something for the kids which proved a great novelty.

A great and relatively low cost addition to reinforce the ‘family floor’ proposition.

These brands have created a positive association (which could lead to incremental spend) with me their customer. The John Lewis example demonstrating how to optimise the value of your traditional TV advertising, and Premier Inn highlighting how a well thought through integrated proposition works.

It would be good to think all brands are pushing forward in this way. But I have also written a blog on ‘My Christmas 2013 Customer Experience Turkeys’ suggesting some have quite a way to go!

We collect customer experience examples. If you’ve come across any which have amazed or impressed you, please forward them to me at christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com. We will periodically post and link them to you and your company.

Posted by Christopher Brooks

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 sign-up to our free 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  M: +44 (0) 7968 316548You can also follow us on LinkedIn Facebook and Twitter @consultingchris