Tag Archives: strategic thinking

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”.


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.


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 to start a Customer Experience Strategy: 4/5 Remember, once you are in, you are in!

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? It made me think. The lessons we have learnt have ensured we don’t start off on the wrong foot. Having pondered 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 short lived programmes use them

4. Once you are in, you are all in and you are in for the long haul if you intend to profit

We typically find brands will move through many levels of customer experience improvement (see Branded Customer Improvement Model below) before they really reap the competitive advantage of customer experience investment. Some sectors require lesser effort; such as airlines and retail and some more; such as utilities and telecoms.

Either way it’s something that needs to be explained at board level if you are hoping to see the plan through. Expectations need to be managed. I recall a utility being informed by a major management consultancy return would be seen in 3 months. 3 years later and they are still at the foot of the customer satisfaction leagues.

Working through the levels allows the brand to make connections with the customer at an appropriate level depending on how broken the experience is. It may need to be on a functional level first. This means fixing the stuff that irritates customers the most – issues they probably consider an absolute basic for a business to trade in that sector. With these repaired and hopefully some credibility with customers restored the business can start to fulfill on a rational level (through efficiency and integrity) before ultimately developing an emotional connection with the customer through an enjoyable and differentiating relationship. When we say emotional we mean the brand is fulfilling the customers deep rooted inner drivers in life (such as achievement, growth and legacy); be these every day requirements or more significant purchases.

Understanding what matters most to customers is key in this respect. Functional fulfilment is extremely difficult to sustain a differentiated positioning on, which is why even the latest technology brands move from function to emotional connections.

customer triangle

Diagram: Customer Experience Improvement levels

Aiming low – less intrusion, moderate investment and stay in business

If you are in it to just fix negative feedback then the left hand side of the diagram should be the focus. Focus on replicating what the better practioners do and you will find complaints reduce and NPS scores improve (less detractors and more passives). I’d call this a passive strategy and anyone embarking upon it should point out its limitations to those approving it before you start.

Does it work? Yes – albeit a survival position rather than thrive. But well supported with an employee engagement programme to root out poor internal practices that lead to these low NPS or complaints, and an ongoing PR strategy reaffirming the firms adherence to sector standards for customer experience and you will probably get back what you put in.

If that’s the ambition avoid the right hand side of the diagram otherwise you will over engineer solutions and over invest in quality of customer experience improvements which other parts of the business haven’t signed up to replicating. This leads to an inconsistent experience which means the brand is ultimately compromised.

That might seem like a simple undertaking and whilst we have found functional projects like this that can last just a month when there is a specific problem to fix, there are still unforeseen barriers which take time and investment too. For instance MI may not be available or organised in a way that can be extracted to understand scale of impact and the type of consequential behavioural change in consumers occuring following poor customer experience. In this scenario, at best an analyst locked away for a couple of weeks is needed. More likely it means a small team of analysts, new analytics kit and bids for resource slots on an already over booked IT prioritisation schedule to get traction.

It’s also a challenge to get employees to commit to change if the fix is recommended in isolation of any CX vision. Made all the more challenging if reducing complaints and increasing NPS performance aren’t tied to employee performance.

We have seen industries such as financial services taking this approach when they’ve been needed to adopt new regulation (such as TCF). In these cases what passes for customer experience is that which will keep the business the right side of the regulator. Which is fine, but it’s not optimising the commercial and competitive advantage of customer experience. It also makes it harder to implement later because employees have seen the ‘quick-fix’ option previously employed.

Aiming high – more disruption and greater investment delivering sustainable returns

Setting out to differentiate on customer experience is life changing for a business. It’s a philosophy rather than a project. It also means every single action and intention is directed around a customer vision (key foundation stone for any CX strategy), which means outcomes are invariably built with customer betterment, colleague ease and business benefit baked in. It also means the business understanding what really matters to customers and building an experience which fulfils this is in a meaningful way that differentiates the brand firm it’s competitors. Which means no other can replicate it because it has the essence and the values of the brand baked in.

Each level passed through impacts the entire business. Jumping levels can be fraught with bear traps. For instance, if a third party is controlling a very basic IVR router and you pass over this to get to the call handling, which the business controls, efforts in this area will be undermined if the IVR router creates an initial poor customer experience. It seems obvious but too often businesses will jump to the ‘make a difference’ space without forensically analysing every step in the customer journey. When the cultural mind-set is set to ‘in it for the long haul’ the customer experience team have space to investigate these critical areas. So along with improvements it requires a heavy helping of supporting ‘culture engagement’ and ‘governance’.

If the ideas to improve customer experience are to land as intended and drive customer advocacy and loyalty (which drive the business performance) they also need to energise and inspire internal stakeholders along the way to see the value of putting customers first. This requires investment of time from HR, internal comms, the board, the continuous change team and many more. For the customer experience team to win over these stakeholders they need to demonstrate the business is ‘in it for the long haul’ so that training programmes can be updated, inductions reviewed, internal comms dominated etc etc.

But established, launched and managed correctly, the direction of travel is upwards in terms of reaching and winning business on a ‘differentiating’ model, upwards in terms of NPS and CSAT performance, upwards in terms being known for esteem and value and upwards in terms of Business Value Creation.

Business Value Creation for CX means – Lower cost to serve + attract better quality customers so reduce cost of acquisition + therefore able to divert marketing spend to nurturing, growing and retaining existing business.

Again a significant strategic shifts in thinking is  required. Customer Experience challenges conventional business models, so the customers experience team’s proposal must be clear and the board (and all those who are key to delivering an improved customers experience) need to be fully aware of the commitment they will need to make gain the riches. This is a challenge if you haven’t done it before.

So we’d suggest building a Target Operating Model with a few check points and contingency considerations built in (such as extra analytical support required allowance). It’s how we approach a new project (alongside the activities from the other 4 papers on starting a customer experience strategy). It will ensure the CFO, the CEO and the CMO know what they are signing up to and gain their much needed support when you start to make inroads and climb the pyramid.

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 316548. You can also follow us on LinkedIn Facebook  and Twitter @consultingchris.

Unordinary Thinking No. 25 – Darning socks

Sewing is not something I have ever given much thought to.  That is until I read a really nice story about sewing machines (which, I might add, is not something I normally do either), which illustrates the idea of unordinary perfectly.

Jo-Ann Fabrics, a retailer in the craft and fabric space, wanted to sell more sewing machines.  Presumably this is no different to any of their competitors or, indeed, any organisation. After all, when in business is it not about selling more things to more customers more frequently?

Where Jo-Ann Fabrics approached things differently to others in in a simple premise: they actively pursued a strategy to understand their customers and what would work for them.  Now, don’t just skip over that last sentence.  Read it again.  It is definitely unordinary for an organisation to pursue active strategies and tactics to get under the skin of what their customers do and what motivates them.  Most organisations talk about it; very, very few do something about it.  The important point is to know how simple it can be to do.

Jo-Ann Fabrics used their website as a mechanism to understand what would appeal to their customers.  They did this by making the website a test and learn laboratory whereby different customers would automatically and randomly be shown different offers, website designs and tone of voice.  They looked at what customers actually did, rather than what they said they might do in a focus group.  From this, and following through to which customers purchased (or did not), they were able to gain insight about which overall propositions were most successful.  This, in turn, enabled them to think deeply about what was motivating their customers in order to hone how they communicated with them.

This led to quite a surprising offer for customers.  A deal which, on the face of it, sounds pretty dull and not very good:  Buy one sewing machine and get a second one at 20% off.  However this deal was successful-and not just in selling more machines.

But why? Well, at some level, customers evidently found the prospect of saving 20% on a second sewing machine worth having. However, generally, customers are not going to want two sewing machines and 20% is not exactly an awe inspiring discount.  The point is the offer acted as a catalyst for these customers to talk to friends, relatives and colleagues, any of whom may or may not have been in the market for a sewing machine.  It is no different to the classic ‘member get member’ schemes which you see in all sorts of industry but are often not very successful (certainly the ones I have seen in banks).  So why was this one successful?

I think it comes back to customers’ more deep seated reasons for pursuing a hobby such as sewing.  Making curtains or repairing clothes fits very much in a nurturing emotional space for people.  It relates back to the ‘gatherer’ role of our prehistory and because this is so deep rooted in our psyches, connects at a far more emotional level than the pure rationality of ‘20% off’.  What this means is that people really want to connect with others around this type of activity.  They want to share with others what they get out of it and they want others to (emotionally) benefit in the same way that they do.  It’s why you see sewing classes and clubs.  At Lexden, we have repeatedly seen with certain audience types that craftsmanship, in the form of activities like sewing, often has a significant place in their lives.  And these people often interact very closely, and have strong influence, with others who hold similar values to themselves-a lot more so than for other audiences.

When you know the above, deciding how to communicate with these people in a way that will resonate with them is much simpler.  It will just ‘feel right’ to them.  So when Jo-Ann Fabrics put this understanding together with an offer they had already observed working, the commercial benefits were multiple.  They had people finding time in their busy lives to have conversations about Jo-Ann Fabrics and about their sewing machines.  They had multiple amateur salespeople closing deals for more products.  They tapped into a pool of brand new seamsters who may not have even realised they wanted to have a sewing machine.  They have converts who will come back to buy more fabric, buttons and cotton thread (okay, so this is where my desire to know about sewing starts to diminish).

Looking at customers from a different startpoint, in order to get to a different result.  Incorporating a deep seated understanding of what makes customers tick.  An obvious and simple solution (in hindsight).  All stitched (sorry) together to give multiple benefits to the organisation.  Pretty unordinary.

Posted by Ajai Ranawat

Lexden is a marketing strategy agency which creates unordinary propositions to motivate customers and deliver commercial advantage for brands.

For more information on how we can help you, contact christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com or ajairanawat@lexdengroup.com, or call us on T: +44 (0)20 7490 9123.  And you can follow us on Twitter @consultingchris.