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Highlights from the 2017 Manchester Customer Experience Conference

With over 60 CX events available each year, why did I choose to attend the Customer Experience Conference in Manchester and what did I learn?

With some events, you know what you are going to get. Such as those run by tech vendors, who show case their tech stack as the CX silver bullet. Or the key notes from the ‘professional CX speaker’ circuit, who preach non-practised rhetoric. So, it’s important, considering how much they cost, to find ones which offer fresh content from a broad range of company perspectives I feel.

Why I chose the Manchester CX Conference  

It was this diverse range of promised case studies that initially attracted me to the September CX Event in Manchester. Among others, Virgin Trains, eBay, British Gas, Atom Bank and Leeds Rhinos were on the bill. I knew from this selection I would hear about battles in the board room and fantastic frontline improvements. In addition, I always look for an excuse to visit Manchester which is a firm favourite city of mine. And being a consultant, it was refreshing to see an affordable priced ticket for non-clients.

So, I got up at 4.30am and set off to Manchester with my note book in hand ready to capture some pearls of wisdom. The first speaker was the Head of CX from Virgin Trains, so as I boarded their 6.45am I wondered if I’d arrive on time and in good shape, or would I be raging having endured a miserable trip. VT didn’t let me down. I arrived at the conference hotel in time for coffee and croissants, laid out by the organiser in the middle of the now customary sponsored vendor’s baiting arena!

The hall was full and John Lewis’s Head of Contact Centre Operations kicked off proceedings with exemplary professionalism.

What I learnt at the Manchester CX Conference

We were off with several client presentations following in quick succession. Some were brutally honest and revealing whilst others skimmed over edited highlights. But scattered among the day were several gems which made the day valuable to attend.

eBay, Atom Bank and Virgin Trains presentations stuck in my mind as insightful and the Cystic Fibrosis Trust and Leeds Rhino’s CX presenters put passion in their pitch.

My five CX take outs from the day were:

  1. Some are losing faith with Net Promoter Score and its unreliable correlation with the commercial drivers of the business. With one highlighting the move to a more accountable ‘behaviour’ measure proving more insightful. That said many are still pegging everything to it
  2. The CX tech stack is still seen as an unwieldly However, some are shunning expensive platforms from gold plated sales reps opting for self-built solutions or using ‘free to use’ cloud based off the shelf set-ups to some effect
  3. Getting the CEO onside to drive CX is still critical. One organisation cited how they used to ignore customers until the new CEO arrived, who is customer obsessed and things have now changed
  4. Artificial Intelligence is proving a distracting for some who have more fundamental improvements to prioritise. The focus appeared to be on cost reduction rather than quality improvements. The issue of digital ethics was also raised in consideration of chat bots. Should companies declare to customers they are trying to kid them into believing they are talking to a human?
  5. Understanding how to engage other stakeholders with conflicting objectives is important to break down silo barriers. Which all agree is essential to move forward with CX.

Overall it was an enjoyable day. I heard passionate people talk, met a couple of interesting practitioners over coffee, caught up with vendors on what client challenges they are facing and heard much from the speakers to reaffirm our own methods and models we provide to clients are still at the front of the pack.

It was a shame Shopping Direct, Barclays, BooHoo and RBS from the originally advertised programme didn’t show. Even without these the organisers managed to run over time!

I got home about 8pm from the 16-hour round trip, making it a tiring day in search of fresh CX insight. The following day we ran an all-day planning session with a new client appointment’s team, so I was glad to have prepped beforehand and grab an early night.

Attending an event is a big commitment, both in terms of time and cost, so it must be worthwhile. However, the proof of the pudding is in the eating as they say. The reality is it will be when you are in an improvement session or journey mapping months later that you will reach in to the memory banks and pluck out the relevant example you heard from that day at an event, making the value of attending conferences difficult to quantify.

On reflection, I gained.

With over 60 events every year in CX, keeping up with what’s on is hard enough, let alone picking the best ones.  If you want to know what’s on email christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com and I’ll email you the FREE listing of 2017 Global CX Conference and Event we’ve compiled to help others.

Posted by Christopher Brooks, Director of Lexden, Customer Experience Consultants.

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

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

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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.

Virgin Trains deliver the 3 in 1 CX equation

Anyone who has spent time on Virgin Trains will agree the ‘experience’ is different to those on other rail networks. In fact, as I travel on other networks I see more and more of Virgin’s ‘touches’ appearing. However, with Virgin it seems natural because that’s what the Virgin brand investment promises. With others rail companies it often seems awkward and stands out like a sore thumb.

Our preoccupation is to help clients identify what customer experiences drive profit and make those brand differentiating. Simple really. Through years of experience with this focus, we’ve accepted that driving profitable CX is much more likely to succeed when backed by a brand which is:This is the latest in our series of 3 branded experiences in a minute.

  1. meaningful to its customers so they can extract the value it offers;
  2. accessible by its employees to translate into meaningful customer experiences;
  3. envied by their competition who can at best deliver a ‘me 2’ copy of an experience.

Within a minute of arriving on a Virgin Train there are three brilliant reminders of their brand strength, delivered through the least likely of experience opportunities.

The step

This isn’t just any step. Courtesy of the Virgin brand, this is a whooshing, moving into place, Thunderbirdesque gliding Virgin step in to a world of potential (okay, slightly carried away, but you get the picture). It possibly is more attributable to the train manufacturer than Virgin for the steps movement, but none of the other companies have one.. Even if they did, theirs would still be a dirty step on to a train. With Virgin Trains, the brand promise has meant it could be so much more (even when it’s dirty too).

The loo seat

Virgin Trains demonstrate that ‘any’ piece of estate can be leveraged. This message could only come from them though.  You will find it on the back of the loo seat on-board, it’s also in the voice over in the loo…..yep the voice over in the loo. It starts as expected with, ‘please don’t flush nappies, paper towels’…but ends in a less expected place with ‘your ex’s sweater, hopes, dreams or goldfish’. This toilet humour would be strange from any other network, even though they have the same infrastructure, but for Virgin it is spot on.

virgin trains.jpg4virgin trains

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The loo wall

Apologies. My one minute journey took me from boarding to this room! It’s just a wall, surely! On every other train this is no more than a beige bobbly abyss of a wall. But on a Virgin Train it’s an escape route to another world. Admittedly not every other network has a balloon enterprise to throw up, although I couldn’t see that ever stacking up as a, ‘the reason we don’t do it’ response from the competition.

What it does show, to all, is how the less conspicuous and often overlooked spaces have as much a role to play in delivering branded customer experience as the more obvious areas of improvement such as service, comms and technology.

This issue featured Virgin Trains. Click here for our recent blog on Waitrose.

If you want to find out more about how to deliver brand differentiating customer experience, contact us,

We will bring you more 3 in 1 adventures from the world of CX. Next stops will include Citizen M and Mini. If you have a nominee for the 3 in 1 CX equation please send them through.

Posted by Christopher Brooks, Director, Lexden

We help clients build profitable customer experiences and create commercially advantageous customer value propositions

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

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