Tag Archives: Virgin

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.

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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.

The launch of The ‘Customer Experience Leaders Forum’ hosted by Lexden

At Lexden we spend much of our time working with business leaders figuring out how to help them make their business more successful by putting customers at the heart of their organisational decision making. It means we get the privilege of meeting and working with some of the very smartest practitioners in the clients we work with and the partners involved in the programmes we undertake.

Recognising that much of customer experience is transferable because what applies to consumers is adaptable between sectors and across countries we have worked in, we have decided to bring this shared ‘gold’ standard expertise to a wider audience.

To achieve this, Lexden is proud to launch the Customer Experience Leaders Forum. Our suite of benefits such as training, networking events, the CX hot house innovations lab, partnerships collaborations and the CXI mystery shopping files will be available soon. These will be a collection of ‘best in class’ initiatives for leaders in CX to take advantage of. The approach is simple; put something of value in and take something of vale
value out. It’s a knowledge exchange we believe all will benefit from.

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We will be forwarding further details to subscribers of our free monthly newsletter,‘Customer First’.

To kick off our launch we are pleased to include an interview with 2 times Customer Experience Award winner Paul Elworthy, Head of Customer Experience Strategy and Planning for Virgin Media. The Customer Experience Magazine has picked up our interview and published it in this months issue. Click on the image above and read what Paul has to say about how NPS has proved critical to the adoption of CX at Virgin Media and his views on how to keep ahead in the world of customer experience.

If you would like to receive this short newsletter packed full of ideas, inspiration and customer insight and read by senior marketers and leaders from brands such as Visa, JPMorganChase, OgilvyOne, William Hill and Tesco Bank please sign up here. Or if you would just like more details of the Customer Experience Leaders Forum hosted by Lexden, please email saralysaght@lexdengroup.com or complete the contact form below:

Posted by Christopher Brooks, Director of Lexden

Lexden is a Customer Strategy Agency. We put customers at the start and the heart of the business 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.

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.

What angry water molecules and a Disney Princess can teach us about executing customer experience successfully

When it comes to customer experience the driver is typically customer satisfaction or advocacy. When we work with clients to improve these metrics and in turn drive profitability, we often find a key enabler is the positive engagement of the employees responsible for the customer experience delivery.

Here’s an example of when it works. Because when it does work, it can really work.

At Disney, it’s not a trade secret that staff understand that every time they are in front of customers they are on stage. And their role is to make their audience happy. It’s also well documented that this is something employees implicitly understand because of the way they behave off stage. They look at each other in the eye when in discussion and smile at each other – often. The natural response from those they engage is positive and so they smile back. That reaction becomes a behaviour they enjoy giving and receiving – smiling is a positive communication tool.

So if we accept that employees also spend their time ‘off stage’ smiling which leads to happier employees (there are plenty of other similar activities to keep the culture alive at Disney), then it’s fair to assume when it comes to dealing with customers it will be easier to deliver happiness. The great thing about the Disney approach is how the ‘tone’ of the customer experience is clearly defined by the business which therefore allows the execution to be personalised.

dsineyHere’s an example which perfectly highlights the power of the Disney employees engagement with happiness. It’s about a security guard. He works at one of the Disney parks. Visitors to the Disney park carry autograph books around so that they can get signatures from characters buzzing around. The security guard also carries an autograph book. Whenever he sees a little girl dressed as a Princess he makes a b-line to them and asks, “Hey, you must be the famous Disney Princess, please may I have your autograph in my book?”

Needless to say it’s a hit with the mums and dads and probably turns the little girls into lifelong fans of Disney. He would say he is just doing his job.

Happiness is a powerful emotion which can change attitude and behaviour. There are not many tangible assets, let alone emotions that have that strength. Customer happiness felt from a branded experience can create the deepest consumer feelings for the brand, which when converted into actions cut through everything to achieve brand preference and advocacy.

Japanese Professor Masaru Emoto has been studying the impact emotion has on life. He has chosen a very basic life form: the water molecule, to study emotion. His findings show that if you create a positive feeling around the water molecule it grows in a different way to a water molecule that has been surrounded with negative feeling.

If you are wondering what’s the connection to customer experience, go with it, they do link up eventually!

love waterThe research involved experimenters telling different water molecule structures they were loved or hated which had significant consequences on how they were formed. Those ‘mistreated’ look ugly whilst those ‘loved’ look beautiful.

Now relate this point back to the Disney employee and the way they have evolved because of the happiness bestowed on them and hopefully you will see the connection.

If positive emotion impacts water molecular structure what can it do for an employee responsible for delivering a branded experience?

I’ve witnessed this first hand. Some time ago I worked on a customer experience assignment with a great ‘customer-centric’ visionary leader. But they couldn’t understand why the brilliant customer improvements they’d identified weren’t landing as successfully as hoped. The reality was the ‘boss’ didn’t invest emotionally in the employees in charge of making the customer improvements happen. In fact, it ended with the pay-cheque. So the team could not feel the warmth of a positive experience and struggled to know how to pass it on to customers. The leader would get frustrated and say, ‘but that’s their job!’

If you recall, that’s close to how they put it at Disney. But at Disney the crucial difference is that it’s the employees, not the employers, who say, ‘that’s my job’. The big difference being that time has been invested (continuously) in helping employees understand, through experience, the positive impact to customers of delivering something which makes them happier.

If you want great customer experience – which leads to great customer satisfaction – which leads to greater profitability, you probably need to start with a great employee experience. Does this approach work? Richard Branson preached something similar and look where it has got him!

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

In the red corner, Virgin Money. In the blue corner, the money saving expert

With the announcement of Virgin taking over the Northern Rock retail banking business I, along with many others, have been fizzy with anticipation about what that could mean to the face of banking. Especially as the existing business had landed but arguably not quite yet arrived (although their customer base and product range looks very healthy thank you very much).

So when I saw the ‘promise’ signage up at an old Northern Rock branch in Moorgate last week and heard about the two concept branches in Norwich and Edinburgh, I thought, as a fan of finding better outcomes, I should take a look.

We hear requests for better and different banking, especially in the retail environment. And others have tried before, with coffee seeming to be the common currency. This has taken the form of bolt on stores such as Costa at Abbey, or a pot of filter coffee as I seem to recall in some Alliance & Leicester branches. So I am expecting the coffee, but what else?

I asked Ajai, my fellow Director at Lexden (and former NatWest marketer) what he’d like to see. He simply said, whatever it takes to make the branch a place where he feels comfortable, wants to stay and is conducive to having a dialogue (about money should they want to).

So I drove up to Norwich on Saturday to take a look for myself (always good to walk the walk). I was greeted at the door and shown in, which made me instantly felt comfortable. It reminded me of http://www.chebanca.it/ in Italy in it’s clean modern design. And as I let my eyes explore the rooms in the branch, I spotted cakes, pianos, Playstations, portraits of Sir Richard Branson, snaps of Virgin Balloons and Virgin Coke art, trays of chocolate money, toilets, lounge chairs and dinner tables, more cake, newspapers, iPads, flowers, coat stands and more. Brilliant. The brief must have been, “Create an environment where customers want to come, and want to stay”. And then I spotted something I hadn’t seen for a while in a branch: lots of young families.

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I felt very comfortable in the environment and must have been there for ten minutes before it dawned , without seeing any sales literature or posters for products. Now this is a very unordinary approach to retail banking. And one that, I have to say, sat very comfortably with me given that it was my Saturday and I wasn’t looking for a product. It made me think: why can’t my banking be more enjoyable? And like when First Direct arrived I saw a smarter relationship, I am now thinking perhaps Virgin will provide an experience in a way I haven’t seen from other banks.

Retail networks are expensive to maintain, and sales targets need to be hit to do this. But, without a sale in sight and given the set up of this approach I am thinking the investment is more likely to be amortised across the lifetime value of a customer, rather than being recovered from incremental acquisition sales in 2012. And that different focus of customer value rather than product, enables the business to think more about the importance of experience and engagement than it does about acquisition. I may not be in the market for a new policy for some time but, when I am, Virgin Money has probably crept up my consideration list-especially if supported with products which provide sustainable rates rather than chasing best buy top spots for a week or two in the year. This would be consistent with the customer experience I enjoyed, so let’s hope that’s the direction.

Is it for everyone? Of course not-it’s not designed for everyone. In fact, there are certain customers hell bent on a cheap product from a bank that should stay away. If banking is to move in the direction of improved customer experience then this requires investment, time and customer commitment. These are currency the likes of Martin Lewis would dismiss as unimportant in a commoditised world of BUY CHEAP. It wouldn’t be his cup of tea or slice of rate tart at all.

And that presents the dilemma. Whilst some banking brands are looking to push banking into new directions, there are opposing market influences advising customers to steer clear of anything that isn’t the cheapest thing on the market.

The two just aren’t compatible.

It’s only when you re-frame what customers should be looking for to include an enjoyable customer experience, does it change the field of play. I wouldn’t choose a holiday regardless of location, accomodation or amenities because it was cheap and then suffer the inferior experience, content in the rational knowledge I have saved money! That has got to be counter productive for what’s good for me emotionally. When you bring experience into the equation for banking, you stop obsessing about getting the cheapest deal and start considering how important the engagement is to you in your more significant emotional drivers.

And when you think like that, Virgin Money becomes a very viable option for everyday folk looking for something fulfilling from their banking experience.

The brand is certainly creating a strong positioning quickly. And I loved the launch film held around the corner from us at Senate House http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86I_1bP7OXc . I’m looking forward to seeing how service, innovation and products follow this approach (expectations now set very high).

And maybe Virgin http://uk.virginmoney.com/virgin/northern-rock/ will help consumers appreciate it’s okay to enjoy your banking. As their campaign lines states, they intend making it better – and their flavour of better will be quality.

That’s a very different proposition to the comparison sites and money saving experts model of better-buy cheap. Consumers only interested in buying cheap do not need cake (or the warm and enjoyable experience) from Virgin Money. They can afford to buy their own cake with the difference they saved by buying cheap instead.

Is this a better model? It’s certainly unordinary. So let’s watch with interest and see how the new Virgin Money model unfolds.

Posted by Christopher Brooks http://www.twitter.com/@consultingchris

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.