Category Archives: Real Customer Experience

4 differentiators and 4 reasons to get CX right

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Charles Tyrwhitt is a British retailer that specialises in mens clothing, and is famous for its shirts. Founded in 1986 by Nicholas Charles Tyrwhitt Wheeler, it has several stores in UK, US and France, and a flagship store in London’s Jermyn Street (the shirtmakers street).

I tend to be very picky when it comes to clothing. And I have only a handful of brands I usually buy from – a few examples are Mike Davis (Portugal), Massimo Dutti (Spain), Asics (Japan), or Banana Republic (USA).

I have been a customer of CT since I moved to London. My loyalty and advocacy of CT surpasses any other brand I do business with. There are a number of reasons – product quality, reasonable price, etc. – but above them all is the customer experience.

1. The Consistency across the different channels is something I cannot find anywhere else. The shops, the catalogues, or the website provide a similar and seamless experience, making it quick and easy, to browse and buy.

2. The Convenience of the services provided is also outstanding. No matter where, when, what or how I’m buying, CT always has an option for the products to be tailored, paid, packaged or delivered, with as much flexibility and less customer effort as possible.

3. The Communications, from marketing or customer service, are just excellent. Carefully prepared, humoured, measured, and put together. Following what I will start calling the “3S” rule – simple, straight to the point, spamless!

4. The Personalisation is second to none. Especially when CT puts emotion on the interaction – the above picture shows the most recent example of that, in a post card I received today, where CT reminds me of my first buy (7 years ago!), my preferred colour and style.

As far as I’m concerned, Personalisation, is the most important of the 4. But CT gets them all right, and I think the reason they do is because they…

  • Understand the customer’s needs
  • Monitor the customer’s behaviour
  • Listen to the customer’s feedback (see this outstanding example)
  • Analyse the customer’s data (X-data and O-data)

It’s all about the customer, it’s all about the data.

5 steps to fix issues and kill lousy excuses

One of the things that annoys me the most in hotels (when traveling for business) is when the key room stops working.

After a long day (typically travel and a full days’ work) you finally get to the hotel, swipe/touch the card on the reader, and the red signal displays.

It can only be worse if it happens every single day of your stay, more than once a day. Forcing you to go back down to reception again and again.

It happened to me recently at the Herbert Park Hotel in Dublin (Ireland). A quite nice and well located hotel, where I stayed 3 nights and had an unexpected below-average experience.

What made it worth a blogpost was the fact that the reception staff blamed it on me, every single of the 4 times it happened: “The problem is that you put the card next to your phone”, without even asking if I had done so – it’s clearly the pre-default lousy excuse!

The fact is my card-holder is always on my jacket’s right-pocket, and phone always on left-pocket. So no, it wasn’t my fault! But even if that was the case, it’s down to the hotel to upgrade/change technology, to avoid it.

This situation frustrates in equal measure customers – forcing them to put unnecessary effort on up/down hikes to reception – as well as staff – who constantly need to deal with annoyed customers and spend time resetting keys.

Clearly something is wrong with the keys’ system. And it happens repeatedly. Why haven’t they fixed it? Simple: Herbert Park Hotel is not focused on the experience it delivers to guests and staff, nor on its own brand reputation.

If they were, they would have put in place:

1. a functioning process for customers to feedback

2. a functioning process for staff to report issues

3. a functioning process to review and action on both

4. a functioning process to fix issues and improve services

5. a functioning process for closing the loop (with guests and staff)

7 best practices for closing the loop

I had stayed in the Iveagh Garden Hotel before and enjoyed it very much. A modern, comfortable, quiet, well decorated and located hotel in the centre of Dublin (Ireland) – where I travel frequently to visit Capventis HQ and clients.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to try their new “City Pod” rooms – which are a carbon copy of the CitizenM hotel rooms (if you know them). It was really nice, and very cost effective, but there was a detail I didn’t like.

The water from the shower would run down into the room, even reaching the bed area. Something wasn’t right, and I fed that back in the customer satisfaction survey, that the hotel sent me 3 days after my stay.

I was pleasantly surprised by the lightning-fast and candid response from the hotel (see in below picture). The response to my feedback followed every single best practice for closing the loop:

  1. Responded within a few hours, with a personalised email
  2. Thanked customer for taking the time to feedback
  3. Emphasized improvement can only come from voice-of-customer
  4. Acknowledged customer’s specific feedback (the shower issue!)
  5. Confirmed it was sent to relevant team for correction and improvement
  6. Showed desire to recover below par experience by offering upgrade
  7. Closed email with personalised signature and job role (accountability)

Despite being a bit more expensive than the various hotels in the same street (there are a hand-full of choices in a few hundred yards), Iveagh Garden Hotel is definitely differentiating itself by focusing and putting some effort in the CX side of things.

P.S. – This reminds me of another similar experience I had and shared in this blog post Close the loop with clients, but mean it! – where, again, you can see how important it is to have personalised and timely closed-loop

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Airport Pricks and Starfish Experiences

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Since the attacks of “September 11” security in airports has become the most important thing, surpassing any other aspect – including the most basic sense of inter-relational behaviour between two people.

Those of you who travel quite a bit are surely fed up of being treated like starfish – and by that I mean brainless, irrational and emotionless animals. I have my fair share of airports and I sure as hell am tired of being treated badly and unfairly.

It’s not really due to the way we need to move inside the airport (always between queue and belt barriers) as I appreciate that’s done to manage large amounts of passengers. It’s due to the way staff, in every role, mistreats us.

From security to passport control, or from check-in to gate. We are constantly being treated in a condescending, discourteous, indelicate and even rude way. By staff that, in some instances, wear Customer Ambassador vests (see picture) or Customer Service badges.

I can only think of two reasons why staff behave the way they do towards passengers. Either there’s a hiring policy in airports that require people to be pricks, or a complete lack of awareness for passengers and their experiences.

I’m almost sure it is the latter. Which puts the focus entirely on the operational processes. Leaving the staff, from management to front-line, imbue a culture where they feel empowered to do whatever it takes to enforce “the rules” regardless.

This ends up in a significant amount of situations where staff is completely unreasonable towards people, in particular those who are most vulnerable. Not long ago, at Dublin Airport, I witnessed a disgraceful situation.

A 10-12 year old girl who suffered from schizophrenia didn’t want to pass the metal detector without her mother. And even after both parents explained the situation to security staff, they forced her to do it.

Crying and visibly upset, the girl passed the metal detector running only to hug her mother on the other side. Unfortunately, the metal detector went off. The girl was hugging the mother crying whilst the security guard grabbed and pulled her, so she could search and scan her.

Voices were raised, some were screaming. I don’t know what happened after that. I was too upset and outraged to see more of it. And there were already enough people (the parents, the older brother, and other passengers) manifesting their dislike.

Airports and other organisations, should know that sending surveys to people, installing happiness-meter/smiley panels, or dressing staff with Customer Ambassador vests or Customer Service badges, does not mean they care about passengers and their experiences at all.

If they really want to be customer-centric, they should not only change their strategy and approach, training their staff, but also, and above all, look at the information they have to make passengers’ experiences much more agreeable, smooth and seamless.

After all, they are in a unique position – as my friend Ian Golding pointed out in a recent CX workshop. Unlike many other organisations, airports know exactly how many people are going to be at the airport, and when. And if they work with airlines, they could even know who those people are, and where they are going.

Does the NHS have any Promoters?

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After a visit to the St Thomas’ hospital A&E department, I received a request for feedback via SMS. For the second time this year (the first was with Rosa’s Thai Cafe) I was surprised with what was clearly the NPS question, but with a scale of 1 to 6.

It seems that the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK is so bad that they assume, straight off the bat, everyone will be a detractor!

Despite all efforts from CX specialists, we still see misuse of well designed, considered and established CX metrics, created to measure customers experience, but also to ensure the market has standard and consistent metrics, that allow comparisons.

I’m all for people being creative when measuring customers experience, and using whatever scores and calculations work for their organisations. Ultimately, the goal is not the metric, the calculation or the score itself, but the actions or improvements they trigger.

However, certain metrics are used for more than that. And they should serve the important purpose of benchmark. NPS was created, and is a trade mark of Bain and Satmetrix. The way it should be used is well explained in the official website – with Detractors (0-6), Passives (7-8) and Promoters (9-10).

I’m unsure if there are CX guidelines from the NHS, or if each of the NHS agencies has its own program (NHS England, NHS Scotland, NHS Wales, HSC Northern Ireland), or even if each trust does as it pleases.

A quick Google search throws things like “Patient experience book” or “Patient experience improvement framework” where lots of right things are said “Good experience of care, treatment and support is increasingly seen as an essential part of an excellent health and social care service, alongside clinical effectiveness and safety“.

However, there doesn’t seem to be a joined up and consistent approach to measuring the patient experience, which will surely make it harder for the trusts, and the NHS as a whole, to improve the experience of patients – as well as their families and the staff.

After all, the NHS is not as bad as this “bastardised” St. Thomas’ NPS question scale question makes it. I, for one, am a Promoter of the services of Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust.

Simple but crucial customer need: Ritz-Carlton, Nando’s, Tossed

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Recently, on her CX podcast, Human Duct Tape Show, Jeanne Bliss interviewed Horst Schulze – founder, Chairman & CEO of the Capella Hotel Group, and Co-founder & Former COO of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co.

Horst shared very interesting things, from the time when he was founding Ritz-Carlton Hotel – which is now recognised by their outstanding customer-centric culture and the experience delivered to customers.

According to him, at the time, they realised there were three basic customer needs that needed to be fulfilled, and one of them was crucial, as it was the one that drove greatest satisfaction – they needed, as a company, to “be nice to customers”.

The interesting thing is that they didn’t stop there. They went to determine what “being nice to customers” meant. So they researched, and even consulted behavioural analysts.

No matter what you are doing, you look the customer in the eye and say: Good morning, how are you doing”. You don’t just say “Hi” as that is putting yourself at the same level. You want to lift your customer higher.

It made me think of two recent experiences I had. One in Nando’s (the famous chicken restaurant) and another one in Vital (from tossed a very healthy salad place).

At Nando’s (in Gatwick Airport) I approached the counter to order and was greeted with a “table number?”. The girl took my order and payment without looking at me once, and the only thing she said was “anything else?” and “twelve pounds, fifty pence, please!”.

Food arrived to the table in the hands of another visibly bored staff member, who put the plate down, took the table number and menu away, without saying a word. What if I wanted to order something else? I didn’t, because I no longer had table number or menu.

At Vital, things are completely different. I’m always greeted with “Hello sir, how are you today?” and whilst they prepare my salad they keep going “How has your day been so far?”. Always with a smile on their face, and clearly looking after you and paying attention.

This week I was about to get in when a homeless man approached me “Excuse me sir, could you buy me something to eat?”. “Sure, come on in, choose whatever you want, and I will pay for it”, I said. He came with me to the check-out, I paid and he thanked.

Two days later, I went to pick up my lunch. At the check-out the girl (funnily enough not the one I paid the previous time) said “The other day, you paid for that man’s lunch, right?”. I nodded. “Well done sir, today your lunch is on the house. Kindness generates kindness”, she said.

It’s going to be hard for me to return to Nando’s in Gatwick Airport, but I will definitely keep having 4 out of 5 meals (lunch during week) at Vital.

10 Lessons from an uncomfortable booking

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This real experience involved me (the customer), booking.com and Comfort Inn Downtown Salt Lake City. After reading this blog post you will understand why, after 72 bookings with booking.com and 3 stays at Comfort Inn, I will never use their services again.

  • I booked 3 rooms for 5 nights, via booking.com, at the Comfort Inn Downtown in Salt Lake City, 2 months ago
  • Today (after a 16-hour journey from London) at the hotel check-in desk, I was informed that the hotel was over-booked, they could do nothing about it, and I should call booking.com

Lesson #1 – When you (or your partners) fail the customer, don’t tell him you can’t do anything about it, putting the burden on him to sort himself out. Contact your partner and try to resolve the situation.

Lesson #2 – If the communication or process between you and your partner has failed, don’t throw your partner under the bus, as it will only make you look even worse (the words used by the hotel receptionist were “If I were you I would never use booking.com again… they always mess up”).

Lesson #3 – If the procedures and policies make it impossible for you to help the customer, at least empathise, apologise, make an effort to be helpful, and be supportive (even if just morally).

  • After a winding IVR and 10 minutes waiting, booking.com put me on hold for another 10 minutes, only to tell me “we will get back to you in 30 minutes with a solution”

Lesson #4 – When you pick up a call from a customer that has been on hold for 10 mins, don’t put him on hold again for endless minutes. If you need time to find a solution, at least check-in every couple of minutes to apologise, update, and ask him to bear with you.

  • The “solution” arrived by email, and suggested I went to booking.com, looked up an extremely scrappy side-of-the-road motel, and booked it myself.

Lesson #5 – If you are going to offer a solution to your customer, make sure it is at least as good as the original one. And if not possible or available, provide an explanation (in this case, everything else was fully-booked) and show some goodwill.

Lesson #6 – If the solution you are providing the customer is one that he could find himself, you should first confirm if he has already done it (I had already gone to booking.com myself searching for alternatives).

  • After a winding IVR and 10 mins waiting, booking.com put me on hold for another 30 mins (yes, 30 mins!), only to tell me “we found an airbnb, will send you a link via email, you can book it yourself, and then claim the difference”

Lesson #7 – If you are providing a solution via email, get in touch with customer straight after, to ask if he is happy with what you proposed, provide other alternatives if not, and confirm he is all sorted or in need of further help.  

Lesson #8 – Review Lesson #5 (the original booking was for 3 hotel rooms, and the airbnb had 3 rooms but only 1 bathroom) and Lesson #6 (I had already gone to airbnb myself searching for alternatives).

Lesson #9 – Try not to mess up with a CX-zealot, otherwise you will end up like Deirdre (the unlucky agent who picked up my call) and put up with a frustrated Portuguese guy giving you a 15-min long speech on the Customer Experience topic, and how you should treat customers.

Lesson #10 – If the resolution you are suggesting is going to ask even more effort (and money!) from the customer, the least you can do is trigger the refund claim process yourself, escalate for it to be processed ASAP, and give the customer a guarantee that it will be approved, rather than using works like “maybe“, “probably“, “likely” or “few weeks“.