Maravilloso!! A Spanish lesson in customer retention

Cambio de Tercio is a Spanish restaurant in London. To be precise, it is a Spanish restaurant on the Old Brompton Road in South Kensington. I must make it clear that I am not a restaurant critic (although I would dearly love to be!!), and as such, this blog is not intended to be a ‘review’ of Cambio de Tercio. What I do intend is to use this amazing eatery as an example of how to deliver a customer experience that will ensure customer retention for many years.

Like many British nationals, I first visited Spain in my early youth. The Canary Islands and the Costas have always been popular holiday destinations for British families looking for good value fun in the sun. When I was younger, I never really appreciated the wonders of Spanish food. I remember the hotels I went to, and the swimming pools, but do not have much recollection of the food. That all changed when I met my wife, Naomi, 19 years ago. Naomi loves Spain – in fact she positively adores the country. From the people, to the language, to the varieties of culture and landscape, Naomi has always wanted to move there permanently – she will undoubtedly get her way eventually!

It is Naomi who opened my eyes to the culinary delights Spain has to offer. You just have to visit a Spanish supermarket to get an idea of what I am talking about. Fresh fruit and vegetables in Spain make our British offerings look pitiful by comparison. Spanish markets are array with colours and smells that we just do not seem able to replicate. I will never forget the first time Naomi took me to Barcelona. La Boqueria is perhaps one of the most famous markets in Spain, located on Las Ramblas. What amazing sights, sounds and smells we experienced.

So it is no surprise that when making a decision as to where to eat on a night out in Britain, we always tend to look for restaurants that specialise in our favourite cuisine. We have eaten in many Spanish restaurants in England. We spent many years visiting a restaurant called Meson Bilbao in Maida Vale. With rather brusque service and an old fashioned setting, Meson Bilbao would not be to everyones taste. However, what you could guarantee was that Jose, the owner of the restaurant, would serve up authentic Spanish dishes with ingredients sourced from Spanish suppliers. The food was wonderful, and we built up a great relationship with Jose. The ‘experience’ though was always slightly flawed by very ‘hit and miss’ service. Online reviews of the restaurant suggest we were not alone in forming this view. Here is one example:

Very disappointing restaurant unfortunately. I had high hopes for this place after reading the reviews but it really is not very good. We order 5 tapas dishes to start with, they arrived at different stages which was annoying as I wanted to combine what I had ordered together, not one by one. The Prawns in garlic were brilliant but everything else wasn�t. My husband wanted T bone steak but that�s was off, then he ordered the Cod but that was off too, so we settled for a chicken and sea food paella for 2.  Big mistake, Paella is my favourite Spanish dish and what arrived was defiantly not Paella, firstly it was long grain rice, secondly, no smoked paprika or red peppers had ever been introduced to this poor soulless dish. The prawns looked ill and the chicken was pointless. We took one bit and decided we had to say something. We called the lady over and said we were not happy with the dish, she understood and we paid for our tapas and wine and left, she charged me for an extra tapas dish ( the bread they bought over to us at the start of our meal) but I just wanted to get out of there so I did not question it. If your not someone who goes by reviews please believe we when I say I have NEVER written one before about anywhere but I  feel strongly about this place enough to do one now.

When anyone chooses to visit a restaurant, it is obviously the product that is primary in the decision making process. Shall we eat Indian, Chinese, Pizza, Pasta is always the first thing to be discussed. Once that decision has been made, other factors come in to play. If the food is brilliant, but the service is flawed, the fact the food is so good will potentially become an irrelevance. About ten years ago, Naomi and I decided that we wanted to eat Spanish – but we wanted to eat somewhere other than Meson Bilbao. It was then that we were fortunate to find Cambio de Tercio.

Cambio de Tercio is quite simply a gem (described in my best food critic language!). As soon as you walk through the door you are in literally in Spain. I was always told that you can tell a good restaurant by the people that are eating in it. If you are in a Chinese restaurant, and most of the customers are from China, that is a good sign. On our first visit to Cambio de Tercio, you could not help but notice how many Spanish nationals were in there. From the engaging welcome to the warm décor, it felt like a place that you wanted to be in. The service was incredible – friendly, helpful, and wonderfully Spanish. The food also did not disappoint – it was amazing. Cambio de Tercio was destined to become a regular destination for us – it enabled us to indulge in a little bit of Spain whenever we wanted (or could afford!!).

In 2005, we relocated from London to Chester. Undeniably a beautiful part of the country, Chester has one big problem – its restaurants. There are a small number of excellent places to eat, but we had not thought about how to maintain our Spanish ‘fix’ when making the decision to move the family. We have been literally pining for Cambio de Tercio ever since – always saying that we would go back whenever we had the chance.

So when I started planning a trip to London to celebrate Naomi’s 40th birthday, it was a very simple decision to arrange a trip to our favourite Spanish restaurant. Our memories from 7 years earlier had not faded – the experiences we had always had meant that we would always go back – the ultimate test of loyalty. Cambio de Tercio means something to us on an emotional level – something that any organisation should try and achieve to drive customer loyalty.

As we got out of our taxi, it was though we had never been away. However, things had changed. Not only had the restaurant expanded (taking over the shop next door), they had also opened a new establishment. The success of Cambio de Tercio meant that they had not just expanded the existing restaurant, but had also opened more. It was now possible to enjoy Tapas over the road in Tendido Cero. If you wanted something lighter and more bar like, you could spend the evening in Capote y Toros, a Ham and Sherry bard two doors down from Cambio de Tercio. They had also opened a restaurant in New Kings Road called Tendido Cuatro.

At a time when the restaurant trade, like many others, is feeling the effects of our struggling economy, this Spanish phenomenon was growing rapidly. It is no surprise. As we walked in to the restaurant, we were greeted like old friends by Abel, the restaurant owner. Whether he remembered us or not – he made us feel as though he did. I will not go in detail about the service or food – suffice to say it was everything we expected and more – yet another beautiful memory to go with all the others.

After our meal we had a drink in the Ham and Sherry bar – whilst we were there, the Spanish Ambassador came in for a drink and some Tapas. The Beckhams’ visited the restaurant in New Kings Road last week as well apparently. We have now been visiting Cambio de Tercio for more than ten years – punctuated by a seven year gap. In that seven years we never forgot how good the place was. It is still that good. What Cambio de Tercio demonstrate is that by having consistently great product and service, you can ensure that your customers will keep coming back time and time again, year after year.

Will we go back again – you bet we will – and if you love Spanish food, make sure you book a table the next time you are in London – you will not be disappointed.

As always, I welcome your comments on any of my blogs.

Can I offer you a complimentary glass of Champagne sir? Now that is how to recover a customer experience!

A few weeks ago, I posted a blog about the exclusive London hotel, Claridges ( Inspired by the BBC2 documentary about the hotel, I wanted to share my views on what we could all learn from the wonderful service culture that underpins the whole establishment. What I saw on TV also inspired me to book afternoon tea as part of my wife Naomi’s 40th birthday celebrations. On Saturday afternoon, we arrived at Claridges full of eager anticipation!

As we approached the ‘Foyer and Reading Room’ (where afternoon tea is served), we were immediately taken in by the warm buzz of conversation, supported by the magical accompaniment of a Cellist. Everything seemed set for us to have the amazing experience that we were expecting. It is therefore ironic, that of all the guests that something could go wrong with the reservation, it happened to be me! In the short time I have been writing my blog, I have not become accustomed to repeating posts about one organisation. However, it is what Claridges did on Saturday that further adds to our learning of how to deliver exceptional customer experiences and drive loyalty – so please allow me to tell you what happened.

The hostess greeted us with a wonderful smile. She maintained the smile, even though she could not immediately find our name on the reservation list. As it became clear that our name was ‘not on the list’ and my heart started to race, the hostess remained calm and composed. ‘Would you like to have a complimentary glass of champagne while we find out what has happened’, she immediately asked. No demands to see a reservation; or accusatory suggestions that I may not have booked. We were seated in the lounge outside Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant, and delivered two lovely glasses of champagne and some canapés.

I started to seriously question if it was indeed Claridges I had booked. I was very lucky to get the reservation as a result of being put on the waiting list. It is notoriously difficult to get a table – if you want afternoon tea at the weekend, they are already fully booked up to September!! I did not receive a confirmation email. so perhaps I was wrong. The hostess re-appeared and asked again if I was certain that I had booked – she enquired in a way that did not make me feel as though I was in the wrong – she did it so expertly and sensitively – very clever.

Whilst she continued to investigate, our champagne glasses were refilled. I then remembered that I had a voicemail from Claridges – as they had telephoned me last week to confirm my booking. I breathed a huge sigh of relief – at least I was not going mad – although the hostess was still confused as to why she could not find my booking – and there were obviously no empty tables.

After a few minutes, she returned. They had discovered what had happened. My reservation was for 3pm, not 4pm as I had thought! My heart started racing again – I knew for certain that I had been told 4pm, but had nothing to prove it. Whether she doubted me or not, it was of no concern to the hostess. She took full responsibility – apologising, and assuring us that if we could wait a few minutes, she would find a table for us. We were Claridges guest, and there was no way she was going to let us feel as though we had done anything wrong – it was wonderful.

Five minutes later, we were sitting at a lovely table at the edge of the room. Fuelled by two glasses of champagne, we took in our surroundings. Fabulous décor, perfect lighting, and impeccable service. The selection of tea was like nothing I have ever seen. Naomi opted for an Earl Grey, whilst I had plumped for an organic green tea with Gingko – wondrous.

I could go on and on about how delectable the sandwiches, scones and cakes were, but you probably do not want to hear that. I do have to say though, that the scones were like nothing I have ever tasted – little bites of heaven. Throughout, we were looked after by people who understand how to look after customers. Unassuming, but attentive – they would have done anything for us.

The start of our experience was a distant memory – Claridges lived up to everything we expected and more. Not only was the service amazing, but they were even brilliant at dealing with a problem. What can we learn from Claridges? We can learn that making customers feel special is a skill – a skill that will leave them talking about their experience for a long time. Would I recommend afternoon tea at Claridges? If you do nothing else in the next 12 months, treat your wife, boyfriend, husband, girlfriend, partner or best friend to afternoon tea at Claridges. They will love you for ever – if you can get a reservation that is!!

As always, your comments are very welcome.

Learn to walk before you start running! – do not bite off more than you can chew in your CX programme

All CX professionals have a plan. It is what defines us as passionate leaders in our field. We have multiple ideas in our minds of what we want to do and how we want to do them when we enter an organisation for the first time. Joining an organisation at the start of its CX journey is a little like putting a six year old with a sweet tooth in an unmanned sweet shop!

Many of us take up a CX related role in a business for a reason – because the business is in need of specialist expertise to support its business strategy. The intent of that strategy is likely to involve a greater focus on the customer. This all sounds great. It can therefore be very tempting for the over enthusiastic CX professional to storm in like an excited puppy. I have been accused by former employers of being emotionally immature – I would like to think that they misunderstood my passion and enthusiasm for immaturity – some would disagree!!

All business improvement professionals – whether they be management consultants, process improvement specialists, or CX professionals run the risk of running too fast – getting carried away with the plethora of potential opportunities laid out in front of them. Without wanting to state the obvious, whilst enthusiasm and passion should never be stunted (even when being called immature!!), for us to be as effective as possible, we must be expert at guiding our ideas and plans at a pace the organisation we are working within, or for, can cope with.

I have written a blog in the past that describes the ‘ups and downs’ of our profession ( – it is common for the CX professional to identify many potential actions that are so obvious!! However, jut because they are obvious to you, it does not mean they are to the people you are trying to help.  I have learned (sometimes painfully) over the last few years, that it pays to slow down and pace yourself!

Using the running analogy, in my personal life, whilst not a great long distance runner, I am a committed one. My big issue with running is that I always, and I mean always, go out too fast. By mile 9 on almost every one of the 21 half marathons I have run to date, I have hit the wall – however much I tell myself that I need to slow down a bit, my brain rebels!! My personality is such, that my running behaviour can spill over into my professional behaviour. There is nothing wrong with my intent or motivation, but the end result can suffer.

When it comes to CX, I have found that working to a framework has helped me to compartmentalise my approach, and thus have the ability to take things step by step. My framework focusses on three pillars (as I call them)

  1. Strategy – what is the business proposition? why do customers transact with them? what is the organisations reason for being?
  2. Measurement – do we know how capable we think we are at delivering the proposition? Do we know how good our customers think we are at delivering the proposition? Do we know the key priorities for improvement in our customer journey?
  3. Engagement & Advocacy – are people fully engaged with our business and its proposition? Are employees advocates (fans) of the brand? Are people appreciated and recognised for the work they do?

There is no particular order in which to tackle these pillars – in fact, every organisation will be completely different. Some will be more advanced in one pillar than another. If you try and tackle all pillars at once, you may be guilty of running too fast. This is where I recognise that you need to determine what the CX framework priorities are for the business you are working in. For example, if the business does not quite know what its proposition is, it may be best to influence senior leaders to clarify it, prior to doing anything else. It is difficult to turn employees into ‘fans’ of a brand, if they do not quite know what the brand exists to do!!

Ultimately, we must always remind ourselves that driving a CX programme can take a significant amount of time – especially in a business that has never been customer centric before. When I mean ‘take time’ , I mean years! Treading carefully, and slowly bringing people at all levels of the organisation with you, will reap huge benefits in the long run. Going too quickly may well scare the pants off people, and set you back. You can not address the three pillars above in three months!

As a CX professional, you must believe in yourself, and in your approach. There will always be setbacks, but if you gently encourage, influence, guide, educate, and teach the business you are working in, step by step, you will ultimately achieve both yours and their goals. So even if you think the things that need to be done are blindingly obvious, and must be done by next week – take a deep breath – slow down, and ensure that you are going at the right pace.

As always, your comments are very welcome.

‘I cannot get in, its snowing too hard’ – ‘I could have worked from home though’

0 snow

January 2013 is rapidly becoming like December 2010. Many of you based in the UK reading this will have very clear recollections of what happened just over two years ago – the kids may have loved it, but for many businesses, it was not pretty! As I look out of my window watching the snow fall, I am wondering how many organisations have changed since December 2013 – how many businesses altered their business processes to mitigate future problems caused by the weather. I am not sure enough did. So just what did happen in 2010?

In December 2010 the snow fell – and fell. At the most critical time of the year for the majority of businesses, severe snowfall had a very damaging effect on their ability to fulfil their promises to customers. It was the first very heavy snowfall prior to Christmas that the majority of the country had seen since the internet home shopping revolution. One thing that this revolution has ensured is that many of us rely on deliveries being made to our homes. One thing that can prevent that from happening is severe weather. In December 2010, thousands upon thousands of customers did not get their Christmas presents. Many organisations stopped delivering to Scotland altogether!

All businesses struggled, but the way they reacted differed. At the time, I was working as Group Head of Customer Experience for Shop Direct Group (SDG). The business that runs brands such as, Littlewoods and isme, had always been very focussed on ensuring business continuity whatever happens to be thrown at it. In December 2010, SDG was affected by the weather in exactly the same way as anyone else, but it was proactive thinking and innovation that ensured that almost all of their customers that Christmas did get their presents in time – or at least knew exactly what was happening.

One thing that SDG did in Scotland, for example, was to put containers in the car parks of supermarkets. It was too treacherous for them to make door to door deliveries on residential streets, but they could at least get the desperately needed Christmas presents delivered as close to the customer as possible. Whilst most retailers had shut off Scotland completely, SDG found a way.

But when we suffer from inclement weather in this country (and we know how easy and quick it is for us to ‘shut down’), one of the key issues we have is related to our own staff. With heavy snowfall, large numbers of employees become unable to get in to work. Some cannot get there due to issues with public transport; some cannot get there because it is just too dangerous. A lot of parents become unable to get to work due to school closures. Whilst our customers are all in the same situation, they do not necessarily seem to understand that when they dial a company to find out where their parcel is!!

SDGs greatest innovation in 2010 was to be completely and fully prepared for what ended up happening. As a result of the foresight and passion of Nicola Collister – SDGs Customer Experience Director at the time – a relationship with a company called Arise had been instigated. Arise is the world’s leading provider of virtual business process outsourcing and contact center services ( – in other words, the leading company at enabling you to have customer service staff who can operate from the safety and comfort of their own homes. Now that can be a pretty handy thing to have when it becomes impossible for your staff to actually get in to work.

SDGs motivations for introducing ‘homeworking’ as part of their complete contact centre model’ was largely to ensure that they could keep serving customers whatever happened. This proved to be a master stroke in December 2010. Whilst many contact centres were struggling to answer the phone, SDG were able to not just continue ‘business as usual’, they were able to be proactive with customers. Every customer was contacted during the bad weather – some were proactively contacted multiple times. All of SDGs customers knew what was happening to their parcel. The Arise homeworking solution made it possible.

That Christmas, despite the difficulties in delivering parcels to customers, SDGs customer satisfaction increased. Verbatim comments captured from customers detailed how happy they were at being ‘kept in the loop’. Customers commented that they could trust Littlewoods or Very to deliver – they were heart-warming comments that were a reflection of the men and women who made it into the distribution centres; drove the lorries and vans in treacherous conditions; and contacted customers by telephone and email to ensure they knew what was going on.

The brands that comprise SDG are as good as it gets when it comes to ‘home shopping’. What SDG is absolutely best at though is Christmas – having contingencies and solutions to ensure that nothing goes wrong is their absolute reason for being. That Christmas – SDG could not stop the snow from falling – but they made sure that Father Christmas had sufficient presents under the tree. I am pretty sure that they are still out there now delivering woolly jumpers and waterproof coats to customers up and down the land. I can also guarantee that if you have a question, you will have no problem getting through to them. Even if some of the staff cannot get in to the call centres, their Arise agents will be there – whatever the weather!

So let us ask the question again – how many businesses have changed the way they do things since December 2010? It would be interesting to know if some of them have failed to act – have not considered home-working as an option. Why wouldn’t you consider it as part of your customer contact strategy? It is never too late to start!

As always, I welcome your comments on any of my blogs.

How did he do that!!! – Great experiences come in all shapes and sizes!

This handsome young man is called Daniel Rhodes. Last weekend at my wife Naomi’s 40th birthday celebrations, Dan (as he prefers to be called) literally wowed everyone he met. At 9 years old, there is no doubting that he has a huge talent. There is no doubting that he will become extremely well-known (hopefully). But what is absolutely clear is that Dan Dan the Magic Man knows how to deliver an amazing customer experience.

I have written blogs before about the significance of creating memories with customers – positive memories that live with you for a long time. Experiences that affect you emotionally are experiences that lead to loyalty and recommendation. Dan Dan the Magic Man is the epitome of this. It is not the fact that he is only 9 years old that allows Dan to connect with his audience. Dan is naturally very very funny. He has the broadest Lancashire accent (hailing from Rochdale), and delivers his expertise with deadpan comedic vigour.

On Saturday night, Dan not only entertained our guests, he moved on to other customers in the establishments we visited. In fact people were intrigued to know what all the fuss was about. Dan made a lot of friends on Saturday – many of whom connected with him on his Facebook page – – I guarantee that these people will talk to their friends about him. They will recommend him to others – this is the result of delivering a brilliant memorable experience.

Dan’s reputation is taking pace. On Sunday he entertained the guests of the board at Preston North End Football club. He has already done the same at Oldham Football club. Good on him. It makes the experience all the better to know that he is achieving all of this through hard work and determination. Dan’s mum Lisa – whilst incredibly supportive – is not pushy. Lisa is not forcing him to do this. Magic is Dan’s passion – he spends hours studying YouTube clips of professional magicians and practices every spare minute he gets. Lisa is wonderfully encouraging to Dan and his equally talented film making brother Harrison – her encouragement is paying off.

I was most taken by Dan’s ‘lifting trick’ He asked me to lift him up – I did with ease. He then got me to ‘look in to his eyes’, whilst he positioned his hands on my arms. Dan then asked me to lift him again – you have probably already guessed that I could not. How did he do that!!!!! Here is a YouTube video of Dan in action –

Dan formed one component of what was a brilliant birthday for Naomi, made up of a series of excellent customer experiences. We invited 70 guests (yes 70) to a birthday meal at a local Italian restaurant in Chester called La Fattoria. We are regulars of the restaurant, but have never arrived with so many people! The staff were quite simply amazing. Never flustered, they seamlessly and effortlessly coped with hordes of noisy people, delivering food quickly and efficiently. Every guest commented on how good the food and service was. La Fattoria will see many of these guests again. It was a great opportunity to show people who had not been before how good their restaurant is – they succeeded.

After the meal, we moved on to phase two of Naomi’s celebrations. Oddfellows Chester ( is a Hotel with a bar and restaurant. It is in a historic building opposite La Fattoria. It has recently been renovated to a very high standard. We had hired a private room for our guests with a DJ.

Like La Fattoria, the staff were brilliant. Personable, friendly and helpful, their proactive attention to us and our guests made the occasion very special. The room we hired was amazing – again, every guest commented on it. The emotional connection came through two people in particular. Oddfellows have a barman called Mattias Horseman. I am told by the females in our group that he is ‘very good looking’ – that might be why some of them will remember him. However most will remember him because he was amazing.

Mattias said to me that he works to be ‘whoever the person on the other side of the bar wants him to be’. Mattias really means it. So friendly and accommodating, he delivered the most memorable experience of any barman I have ever met. Mattias is a credit to Oddfellows – he will have made them a lot of money on Saturday – he will make them a lot more going forward.

The DJ was also brilliant. Paul McGuire of Wedding Jam ( was not your normal 80’s style DJ. Paul looked at me in horror when I asked if he had a microphone!! ‘We do not do that kind of thing these days’ he gently told me. Paul was the epitome of cool, whilst at the same time delivering the style and level of music that our guests demanded. It was like having a genuinely professional top club DJ of our very own. The only shame was that his performance was cut short at the request of the hotel (who did not want to disturb other guests). Once again, Paul delivered a very memorable experience.

Daniel Rhodes, Mattias Horseman and Paul McGuire did something on Saturday night that should happen every time we venture outside our homes to be entertained. These three people, of all shapes and sizes, did something that unfortunately is not common enough – they created magic! They created an experience that Naomi, I and all of our guests will remember for a long, long time. Their ability to meet and exceed our expectations has ensured that we will not only remember what they gave us, but we will tell a lot of people about it as well. The staff in La Fattoria and Oddfellows did the same.

To highlight the significance of the experiences we had on Saturday, let me contrast them with the experience we had on Sunday (the day of Naomi’s birthday itself). We had booked lunch at a new pub in Chester. It is also in a lovely old building, overlooking Chester racecourse. It is the place to be at the moment in Chester, and booking a table is not easy. Fortunately we had booked well in advance for twelve of us.

Unlike the night before, the experience was dreadful – from start to finish. From putting us in a location in the pub we had not asked for; to forgetting to give us menus; to taking ten minutes to deliver our drinks – the experience did not start well. When my brother Mark received a burger (£13 worth) that had been cremated, we were starting to worry that everything would go wrong. The waitress defended the cremation – and went to get the manager. The manager acknowledged that it had been overcooked, whilst agreeing that the chips had not been cooked enough. But the line he delivered to us demonstrates the contrast between the experiences of the night before. Naomi told him that everything was very disappointing – especially as we were celebrating her 40th birthday. The manager’s response was:

Well I can assure you that my day is a lot worse than yours

I kid you not – that is what he said. Removing items off the bill and giving us a bottle of wine is unfortunately too little too late. It will be a long time before I re-visit that establishment again. I will also be telling a lot of people about the experience we had.

We will however remember Naomi’s birthday for the right reasons. We will remember her birthday because of the wonderful people who made it special. From our friends, to Dan, to Mattias, to Paul, to the staff at Oddfellows and La Fattoria. Thank you all.

‘Why would customers shop with us?’ – the question HMV should have asked!!

It gives me absolutely no pleasure to write a blog about an organisation that is in significant financial difficulty. It is at times like this that our thoughts should be with the employees that may not have employment for much longer, and the suppliers, some of whom run small companies, that will potentially be out of pocket. However, it is important to learn from unfortunate events, and I feel that many organisations can learn from what is happening/happened to yet another icon of the high street – HMV.

I have listened to many debates today, both online and on the radio, as to why HMV finds itself in administration. Some experts blame new competition from the likes of Amazon and Apple. Some blame the management of HMV who knew five years ago that their business model may not be suitable in the new digital world. Some blame the increasing rental costs of the properties that the business currently occupies. Yet it was listening to BBC Radio 5 Live this morning that inspired me to write this blog. Rachel Burden (one of the presenters of the breakfast programme) suggested that it was potentially the ‘shopping experience’ that did not work anymore – Rachel, in my opinion, hit the nail on the head.

HMV’s problem is that they have lost sight of why they actually exist. They seem to be unclear as to what their proposition is. There does not seem to be a sense of what they do that drives ‘real value’ for their customers. I believe that any organisation should be able to very easily answer one key question:

Why do our customers transact with us?

It is a simple question. It is a question that defines an organisation’s reason for being. If you find it difficult to answer the question, you may have a problem. HMV is in the position it is in for a whole myriad of reasons. But fundamentally, it’s most significant issue is that not enough consumers want to transact with it. You and I are now able to purchase everything HMV can offer from multiple sources. We can download products online. We can order product to be delivered to home. We can buy products whilst doing our weekly grocery shopping. These methods are often more convenient and better value for money than doing the same with HMV. So why would anyone shop with HMV today?

I have heard some people (celebrities mainly) say that they feel guilty about purchasing their music elsewhere. No-one should feel guilty – no-one except HMV’s management team that is. Consumers should never feel guilty for doing what is right for them. The reason why we have all started to purchase music and film elsewhere is down to ‘elsewhere’ being better suited to our needs. Amazon, Apple et al, all understood this. There was a better way, and they provided it. These organisations should not be lambasted for giving us what we ultimately wanted. HMV on the other hand, and as I have already alluded, knew years ago that they had a problem. Whether they stuck their heads in the sand, reacted too late, or were just plain ignorant is only for them to admit.

The ‘end to end’ customer journey is what defines an organisation. The world renowned customer experience expert, Bruce Temkin, says that all customer experiences have three components – three components that explain how capable the experience is:

  1. ACCESSIBLE – how easy is it for people to do what they want to do?
  2. FUNCTIONAL – does it do what people want it to do?
  3. EMOTIONAL – how does it make people feel?

How right Bruce is. In the case of HMV, how would they answer these three questions today? If they had asked themselves these questions five years ago, they may have had a fighting chance. All organisations need to understand if their proposition actually meets the requirements of their customers. Failure to do this, and continually sense check, can be fatal.

HMV’s heart is still beating for now – just. The future looks very bleak though. If only they had been open and honest about their business. If only they had been bold enough to question whether or not the consumer still wanted the customer journey they could provide. If only they had asked customers themselves. If your business does not know why customers shop with it – make sure that you ask the question – and quick. We can all learn from the HMV’s of this world. Give customers what they want and they will keep coming back – it is not complicated.

Just one footnote here – it can be extremely frustrating when a business gets into financial difficulty – whilst HMV is still trading, spare a thought for the innocent employees who are still keeping the shops open. Do not get cross with them – this is not their fault.

As always, your comments are very welcome.

Hats off to you Boden……but it depends what you do with the insight!

On the day that a stalwart of the British High Street, Marks & Spencer, announces poor Christmas trading figures, I think it is apt that I should write a blog about another British retailer. In some respects Boden is very different to M&S – it is predominantly a distance retailer (catalogue and web) – but many of Boden’s customers will have, or still do shop at M&S as well. So what it is about Boden that has compelled me to write this blog?

Without giving away too much personal Golding information, the inspiration came to me whilst lying in bed with Naomi last night. It is not uncommon for Naomi to catch up on everything on her iPhone, whilst I read a book on my Kindle. It is also not uncommon for Naomi to relay all the things she is catching up on whilst I am trying to read. On occasion this can get slightly irritating – reading and listening cannot be done at the same time – well not by a bloke like me!. However, Naomi is often reciting things that are very interesting – and last night, she was telling me what she saw on Boden’s Facebook page.

Yesterday, Boden posted a question – it went like this:

“We love you all of course! But what is it you love (or hate) about Boden?”

In fact, here is the Facebook post itself.


Now this seems like a perfectly legitimate question. In fact, it is a very good question that most organisations would like to know the answer to. Many organisations attempt to find out the answer by installing customer feedback mechanisms. Customers are regularly asked to complete online surveys that literally ‘pop up’ in front of their very eyes, or are often sent emails asking them to participate. We have all seen them, but we only ever get to see the things we say or feedback. It is not a common occurrence to see an organisation ask for feedback in this way so publicly.

Do not get me wrong – this is in no way a criticism of Boden – in fact quite the opposite. I take my hat off to them for so openly and transparantley asking customers what they think (it is also a very low cost way of capturing feedback) – in a way that anyone can see the response. I am sure it will be very interesting for other retailers to see what customers are saying. In the screen shot of the Facebook page above, you can see some positive feedback – but let me show you some of the negative. Here are some ‘negative’ verbatims:

Love the mini Boden clothes not over keen on your prices,do you look how much other companies are selling same kinda a item for ?

Love MB but hate the prices.

I’d love to buy more boden but the prices are way to high and the quality is not that great. I work for a family who live in boden so wash and iron your clothes on a regular basis. They lose there shape quickly and wool items bobble so much so my son only wore his very expensive skull jumper twice.

Pay full price for mini Boden then a week later you reduce the price 😦

Love the clothes but irritating when a catalogue arrives, go online to order and all out of stock . Happens frequently.

Dislike the super skinny models

Mini Boden clothes are lovely, but find the trousers are too short in the waist for my tall girls, we always have to go a size or two bigger to get the length and  they get builders’ bums, because they are too big around the waist.  Did not buy anything from the women’s range this winter as the colours and patterns seemed dull compared to usual and not so quirky. For the price, I want something a bit different.

I could go on – but you get the point. This is incredibly powerful and insightful stuff for the powers that be at Boden. I will state again here that they are VERY brave in gathering feedback in this way. Now they have done it, there is no going back. Despite being such an admirable thing to do, it will completely worthless UNLESS Boden demonstrate to their customers what they are going to do with the information. It is all well and good asking for it, but if they fail to do anything with it, the effect will be potentially detrimental to their business. On the other hand, if Boden take this insight and act on the key themes in a way that they can communicate back to customers – it could be an incredibly powerful tool for Boden to drive greater loyalty with their customer base.

Asking for customer feedback is now extremely common in all industries. Demonstrating to customers what you have done with the feedback they give is unfortunately not very common. Boden have an opportunity here to show the way – to lead from the front and be as transparent with their actions as they are in asking customers what they think. Do nothing though, and this will be a very damp squib.

So for now, I have become an even greater fan of Boden (Naomi and I are both Boden customers) – but I await with interest to see what will come of the simple Facebook post from the 9th January 2013.

As always, your comments are welcome.