Tag Archives: marketing week

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

virgin trains.jpg3

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.

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.