Tag Archives: retailers

Black Friday; a confusing customer experience

Bar humbug – the cost of Black Friday on sustainable profit from customer experience.

So Black Friday 2 came and went without YouTube videos of bun fights over discounted flat screens or Asda and Tesco staff fearing for their safety as iron boards are wrestled over. As it passed relatively unnoticed, I wondered who actually benefits from this rather distasteful annual event?

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Do the increased short term blip of sales stack up against longer term brand reputation impact for instance? The British Retail Consortium reported a drop of 0.4% sales on 2014 so it’s not delivering on sales it would seem. For many shoppers, stores didn’t drop prices as low as had been apparently expected. Online sales did go up. Is this because the fear of having to confront a hardened Black Friday’ bargain hunter type has put the rest of us off the high street. A sort of retail ‘no go zone’. Instead we, and perhaps even the bargain hunters have retreated to the safety of the online bargain battle zone where physical confrontation has been replaced by clicking frenzied spells?

The worry is, will these shoppers now stay away more often citing Black Friday bruising’s as a reason to abandon the high street more often, or altogether? Will this be an unintended consequence for retailers perhaps? These being the very same environments where the majority of the magic of their customer experience comes alive the rest of the year.

I passed a series of Black Friday shop window displays, in a cab. The cabbie said to me, they should call it ‘because we rip you off the rest of the year sale’. He felt if prices were that cheap and they made a profit, retailers were taking customers for a proverbial ride. Has consumer confidence, trust and appeal for some been damaged a deal too far? According to a research poll of one in that taxi, the answer was yes! I only hope the ‘quick BF buck’ was worth it considering the long term relationship damage it could cause.

Does Black Friday destroys long-term brand equity?

I’m quite a conventional shopper when it comes to Christmas with most of it completed in December in a few favoured stores, notably M&S and John Lewis. Often I take in the hussle and bustle of Oxford Street as part of my Christmas shopping experience.

I find Black Friday a fuss too early and a risk of probable compromise on the customer experience I’ve grown to value from my trusted stores. I value them for service not sales, but fear if they have decided to prioritise sales over service by participating in Black Friday my experience will be diminished.Black Friday01

Here’s an example of what I mean.  2015 campaign Black Friday signage was sprayed across our local M&S turning its facia in to something which resembled a looted shop! When is that ever going to be a good look? Where did the inspiration come from for that window dressing – the Croydon riots! That’s a connection I never thought I’d make with M&S – but it’s what Black Friday does to us conventional consumers.

As I write this I realise I haven’t been to either of these stores for my Christmas shopping as much as I have in previous years. Their engagement has potentially impacted my consideration. So the successful brand investment made over several years to gain my loyalty has been unpicked. I believe Black Friday has damaged my preference for these and other retailers who think it’s okay to cheapen themselves at this time and expect me to forgive them. I’m sure I will get past it, but I wont forget.

Black Friday is a ‘promotional platform’ which retailers interpret to suit their own performance strategies, like January sales only grubbier. It’s certainly not the kick-start to Christmas some report it as. It also can’t be owned – unlike the brand reputation and customer experience brands who normally avoid ‘sales sensations’ avoid (which I personally value much more). Hopefully JLP and M&S to place their marketing budget next November.

Mad Bad Friday

There are also some interesting/odd takes on the BF promotion – The 99p Store use it to sell products which cost a few pound more and Starbucks confusingly combining BF with BOGOF.

Also whilst Friday has always been a day long in my mind, M&S has extended the time paradigm to a weekend whilst Dorothy Perkins managed a week long Friday!

I’m sure these promotions are not aimed at me, so I should pipe down, but it certainly has made me think twice about something I previously certain of – my preferred retailers.

Posted by Christopher Brooks, 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.

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Showing the Human Side of (n)Power

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

How Imaginarium playfully deliver the 3 in 1 CX equation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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