Attitude, Passion and Pride – do your people have it?


On Friday, my family and I went on a short trip to London (I know the picture is of Chester Train station – bear with the blog and you will understand why!). An overnight stay arranged at the last minute. Now those of you with families might agree, sorting out the logistics at the last minute for any trip is pretty challenging, especially if you are not the bog standard ‘2+2’! In a world where the family structure has changed significantly over the last twenty years, more and more families have more than two children. Unfortunately, the tourism industry (largely) has failed to notice.

If you have ever tried to book a room for a family of five (or more) at short notice in London, you will be able to validate that it is extremely difficult, nigh on impossible. Many hotels will allow 3 people in a room, some will allow 4, but 5 – that is just asking too much.

Hotel accommodation in my mind is one where the industry finds it very difficult to cater for the needs of all types of customer – there is surely a gap in the market!

At this point I have realised I am ranting – this is not the main topic of this blog. Throughout our 48 hour stay in London, we had some pretty ‘normal’ customer experiences:

  • Virgin Trains – pretty normal – no issues, but nothing spectacular – did what it said on the tin (as expected)
  • Premier Inn – pretty normal – friendly staff, ok room, overpriced – nothing spectacular (considering we had to smuggle Jack into the room unnoticed – he slept on an airbed we brought with us)
  • Strada (Italian restaurant) – friendlyish (if not particularly knowledgeable) staff, ok food – nothing spectacular

With every (normal) experience, we met nice people, just doing their job. BUT…. I would argue that none of our experiences will live in my memory for very long. In fact if it were not for writing this blog, I would have forgotten about them already. Will I tell all my friends that they must stay in the Premier Inn in Euston when they next visit London – almost certainly not – there was nothing memorable enough about any of the experiences……..that is until we returned to Chester (hence the picture at the top of this blog).

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The gentleman in this picture (with Ciara, Caitie and Jack) works for Arriva Trains Wales at Chester station. I regret not asking him what his name is – because he is a real hero of the brand that he represents. ATW Man (as I shall call him for the purposes of the blog) absolutely loves his job……at least he must do to display so much genuine pride and passion as he did on Saturday afternoon.

ATW man noticed that my three children were looking at two trains being decoupled – probably not an unusual sight. But ATW man, noticed it – and he wanted to make sure that they understood what was going on, that they could see what was going on, and that they had a bit of fun. ATW man, put a huge smile on their faces, as well as my wife, Naomi, and I. ATW man displayed the kind of positive proactive attitude that I am sure we would all like to experience on a daily basis. ATW man had the right ATTITUDE, PASSION and PRIDE and was a real credit to his organisation.

He told us that it was important for Children who showed an interest in something to understand what is going on, he told us that if ‘you explain it to them when they are little, they may show an interest when they are older’. This was a man who understands people.

ATW man’s behaviour will not make it any more or less likely that I will buy train tickets to and from his station. What ATW man’s behaviour has done is make it extremely likely that I will tell everyone I know what he did. I will tell everyone I know that Arriva Trains Wales seem to be recruiting some very special people. What ATW man has done is increase the credibility of the Arriva Train Wales brand.

How many of us can say that we have people like ATW man in our organisations? How important is it to have role models like him? For a Customer Experience to be great and consistently great, all organisations need people like him.

So if you are ever at Chester train station – look out for the chap with grey hair in my photo – I am sure he would love to have a chat!

You are very welcome to comment on any of my blogs.

Tesco: Hero or Villain – You Decide


For the last 20 years, Tesco has moved indomitably to become the UKs largest retailer. From being just a successful supermarket, Tesco now sells everything from mobile phones, to printer cartridges, to the latest designer fashions. Tesco even has its own bank.

In becoming the giant it has today, Tesco stores have popped up like daffodils in Spring – although in the case of Tesco, the daffodils have been popping up all year round. There are enormous ‘out of town’ Tesco Extra stores – selling you everything you could possibly imagine. There are Tesco Metro stores on the high street and on shop corners – sometimes there are more than one on the same street!! There are Tescos everywhere!

As Tesco have grown, there are many positive and negative commentators who preach the relative benefits (or not) of the success the organisation has achieved – far in excess of any of their competitors. Some say that Tesco’s growth has been to the detriment of the British high street – forcing many smaller retailers to close down because they simply could not compete with Tesco’s buying power. Why buy my meat from the local butcher, when I can buy it along with everything else during my weekly shop at Tesco?

Now there are many reasons as to why we should preserve the great British High Street, and I am by no means writing in support of the demise of smaller businesses. However, it is important to look closer at what Tesco have done from a CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE perspective, to understand why they have been so successful while others have not.

Being blunt, Tesco have done what every retailer should have done – they have given millions of British consumers ‘what they wanted’ – QUALITY, CHOICE, FLEXIBILITY, RELIABILITY and CONVENIENCE. Tesco successfully identified that we wanted our weekly shopping experience to be easier, without the hassle. If they could create a proposition that not only allowed mum and dad to get their baked beans, but also pick up the school uniform for the new term at the same time, most mums and dads would be happy with that. And we were……are.

Tesco committed to listen to the things that were most important to customers and deliver the shopping experience we want:

Tesco never used to be as enormous as they are today – they earned it (I would argue), by meeting customer expectation. If we, the customer, did not want what they were offering, we would never have shopped there. But the proposition is just too compelling. Everything we need located in the right place, or accessible online at the price we want – it is a winning combination.

So I appear to be erring on the side of ‘hero’ at the moment – BUT – I do acknowledge, that the bigger Tesco became, the more difficult it has become for the independent retailer to compete – on some things they will never be able to compete (such as being able to sell food and non food in one high street store for example). However, I strongly believe that if ALL businesses LISTEN to the British consumer, and give us what we want, they too can be as successful as Tesco (albeit in relative terms).

Businesses make money because they meet our needs – we cannot take away from Tesco that they achieved this. HOWEVER, things are starting to change…..Tesco’s dominance is being challenged……their financial perfiormance is starting to suffer…….just read this article http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-17767565 – even Tesco is infallible.

At this point, the commentators who are thinking Tesco = villain have finally got the headlines they have been looking for. Tesco have got their comeuppance. Tesco have got too big for their boots. Many large organisations in the UK would potentially put their head in the sands and put everything down to ‘trading conditions’.

I actually think, that despite some of the negative effects Tesco’s growth has had on the high street, as an example of how a big business should react when things are going wrong, Tesco is shining. Instead of putting their head in the sands, Tesco had the COURAGE to acknowledge that they had to fix things. They had the CONFIDENCE to admit they were not getting everything right, and they announce their plan:

UK Plan – Building a Better Tesco:

  • £1bn commitment this year to improve the shopping trip for customers – including c.£0.4bn of capital investment – focused on six key elements:
    • 1. Service & Staff – more staff for existing stores, initially in fresh food departments
    • 2. Stores & Formats – faster store Refresh programme; introducing warmer look and feel
    • 3. Price & Value – better prices and promotions, more personalised offers
    • 4. Range & Quality – better ranges, starting with re-launching the Tesco brands
    • 5. Brand & Marketing – better, clearer, more relevant communication with customers
    • 6. Clicks & Bricks – Click & Collect roll out, transforming range and online presence

Tesco had acknowledged that the customer experience was not good enough. This is despite the company still making a profit in the BILLIONS. As a customer experience professional, I recognise how hard it is sometimes for senior leaders of organisations to admit they have got things wrong. It is also still (shamefully and unfortunately) not often, that senior leaders of large organisations recognise the significance of the customer experience on financial performance.

Tesco are a HERO to me because they have – they recognise how important we are – the customer, the consumer – to the long term health and survival of their business. They have recognised that the number 1 thing to fix on their plan is SERVICE. They have committed to invest in getting things right. I noticed an interactive customer feedback board in my local Tesco a couple of weeks ago – not only are they saying they are going to do something, they have acted immediately.

How many of us would like to work for a senior leadership team that has done this? If Tesco can, any organisation in the UK can. Now if we can just to get to a place where they do so without any more damage to the high street………..

So you decide – Tesco: hero or villain?

You are very welcome to comment on any of my blogs.

John Lewis – are they still the best when it comes to customer experience and service?


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For years, John Lewis along with Amazon and First Direct have been widely heralded as the shining examples of how to deliver excellent customer experiences. Recent benchmarking studies from Nunwood (referenced in this marketing week article – http://www.marketingweek.co.uk/the-brands-that-run-rings-around-their-rivals/3030720.article) and Temkin Group (http://experiencematters.wordpress.com/2012/01/23/report-2012-temkin-experience-ratings-uk/) back up what most of us recognise – that John Lewis are still believed to be leaders in customer experience and customer service in the retail sector.

But…..there is always a but…….are these benchmarking studies right? Taking John Lewis as an example – are they really that much better than any other retailer? To stimulate some thoughts on the subject, lets think about what I believe are the three components that make an experience (as taught by Bruce Temkin – http://experiencematters.wordpress.com/?s=experience+components):

1. EMOTIONAL – how do John Lewis make customers feel?

2. FUNCTIONAL – does the John Lewis customer journey do what customers want?

3. ACCESSIBLE – how easy is it for customers to do what they want?

Considering each component, it is strikingly obvious that the critical advantage that John Lewis have over many of their competitors is number 1 – EMOTION. John Lewis is a brand that, driven by the passion of it ‘partners’ and a compelling brand promise ‘never knowingly undersold’, has emotionally linked the words TRUST and RELIABILITY into the psyche of the British consumer.

In developing any customer experience strategy, it is important to ask the question – ‘why would a customer buy my products or services?’ Can you have great products and poor service? Can you have excellent service but nothing on the shelves? Or are you able to WOW your customers by delivering products that people WANT, at an AFFORDABLE price, in a CONSISTENT customer journey, while consistently INNOVATING and modernising?

Creating an emotional link with customers demonstrates the ability to identify the WOW moments in the customer journey – the compelling brand proposition that leaves customers in no doubt as to why they keep coming back – and telling all their friends to do the same. For years John Lewis has consistently built its reputation for having a rock solid customer journey – reliable, dependable, trustworthy – quite simply – they have become the rock of the British high street, while at the same time evolving their rock solid multichannel solutions. Others, such as Marks and Spencer, have arguably failed to do the same.

Innovation has allowed John Lewis to address the other two components of the ‘experience’ – from a FUNCTIONAL perspective, John Lewis have entered the digital age extremely effectively – their online capability is as reliable as its bricks and mortar proposition – and critically it is seamless – the website looks like the store and vice versa – you know it is good old John Lewis looking after you. John Lewis have also addressed the ACCESSIBLE component – as other traditionally bricks and mortar retailers have done, linking their online model with their store model means that customers can pick and choose how they want to interact – whether it be delivery to the doorstep, or collection from a local store.

This all paints John Lewis in a brilliant light – but I’ll ask the question again – are they really that good? Or is the fact that John Lewis are always ‘top of the pops’ purely down to the fact that we THINK they are the best – something that has been embedded into our brains due to the amazing strength of the brand?

I recently visited a John Lewis store in Chester – a brand new ‘home’ store. It looks amazing – and exactly as you would expect a John Lewis store to be – clean, bright, beautifully laid out. Fantastic products were on display, an enticing cafe produced wonderful coffee aromas to make even the biggest dieter want to fall off the wagon. BUT……there is that but again……..on more than one occasion when walking around the store, I witnessed slightly disinterested staff, ‘standing around’ chatting to each other. I have heard stories of staff not being particularly helpful in other John Lewis stores, especially when being asked questions about technology. Are these isolated incidents? Have you had bad experiences with John Lewis?

To provide balance, I also recently had a table and chairs delivered to my home by a John Lewis delivery team. They were quite simply amazing – smart, polite, friendly, helpful, and did everything I would expect of John Lewis – there is that word CONSISTENCY again. A friend also told me yesterday that they placed an order with John Lewis online – but they needed the order to be collected by someone other than her –  a quick phone call to customer services was greeted by ‘of course – not a problem’ – how many retailers would be that ACCESSIBLE and easy to deal with?

They say that facts do not lie – benchmarking studies tell us that John Lewis are still right up there after all these years – is it because they are so good at maintaining a focus on the three components of an experience, or do we just think they do?

You are very welcome to comment on any of my blogs.

Are Barclays looking for the ‘right’ CX professional?


I recently received an automated LinkedIn email advertising a new role at Barclays – Customer Experience Design Director http://www.linkedin.com/jobs?viewJob=&jobId=3159960&trk=fjr_results&goback=%2Ejob .

On receiving and then reading the job description, three thoughts crossed my mind:

1. It is both encouraging and exciting to see that an organisation the size of Barclays has recognised the importance of Customer Experience and the significance of designing products, processes and tools that make customers lives easier

2. Are there a plethora of individuals in the UK that actually possess the skills to do what the job description is asking for?

3. Can you be responsible for Customer Experience Design if your background is purely in designing solutions?

The Barclays job description states the following:

‘You will undertake the ownership of digital design associated with projects and programmes which impact on customer experience. This includes the ideation, design, development and delivery of projects that make the lives of our customers much easier. You will also lead our interaction with digital design agencies. Ideally, you will have proven expertise of Customer Experience having previously worked in a consulting design firm and/or for another global customer-centric corporation. You will have a track record in creating highly creative digital solutions that differentiate provide a unique customer experience and subsequently drive engagement and loyalty; think innovation and collaboration!

A fantastic job description that focusses almost entirely on an individual’s ability to create ‘digital solutions’ to ‘improve the lives of customers’. Barclays want someone who has ideally worked for a ‘consulting design firm’ or ‘another global customer-centric corporation’. The successful candidate will have created ‘creative digital solutions that differentiate and provide a unique customer experience’ – very grand!

I have no doubt that there are some incredibly talented and skillful online/digital experts who have created stupendously sophisticated multi channel solutions that have truly made life easier for customers – the Amazon ‘1-click’ purchase springs to mind. However, are these individuals ‘CX experts’? Are these individuals ‘CX professionals’? Nowhere in the Barclays job description does it state how important it is for the successful candidate to have been involved in the creation and development of customer experience strategy – which combined with customer experience measurement ultimately leads to the understanding of exactly where customers lives need to be made easier.

It may be inferred, but I believe that anyone who is responsible for ‘designing customer experience solutions’ needs to have a deep-rooted understanding of customer experience ‘end to end’ – not just the design of a solution. A customer experience professional understands what it means to create a customer experience strategy; methodologies for understanding what is important to customers; the ability to prioritise what improvements are required and what new solutions are necessary; the understanding of how improving the customer experience will engage with and improve the lives of their own people as well as the customer.

What Barclays are looking for is encouraging and exciting – but are they looking for the ‘right person’?

You are very welcome to comment on any of my blogs.

Hello world!


Over the last seventeen years, I have worked in some of the largest corporate organisations in the world. From RBS in the UK, to Deutsche Bank, to General Electric among others. I have worked in financial services, FMCG, outsourcing and retail. I am a certified Lean Six Sigma practitioner and a customer experience specialist, currently sitting on the board of the customer experience professionals association.

As a result, I have had a lot of experiences I would like to share. I also continue to experience customer ‘interactions’ on a daily basis and would love to share them as well.

Any feedback on my blog will be gratefully received!!

Ian