‘A picture is worth a thousand words’. Do you know what technology can do for your customer experience?

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Only a couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog post on the subject of technology and how it is having such a significant influence on the customer experience. If you did not get the chance to read it, you can do so here – http://ijgolding.com/2013/10/08/facebook-is-not-even-10-years-old-how-technology-and-innovation-is-influencing-the-customer-experience/.

It is very difficult to dispute the fact that technology is advancing almost as quickly as I will complete this next paragraph! It is also not difficult to dispute that depending on your age, your children will know more about technology than you!! These two simple points suggest that it is very important to have a handle on not just HOW technology and innovation is advancing, but WHAT new technology and innovation is coming into the market place. This post will therefore focus on an example of ‘new’ technology that many of you may not even know exists.

Please allow me to introduce you to Marcio Rodrigues. Marcio is a fellow customer experience professional. Marcio is also the Customer Propositions Director for a company called Vizolution (http://www.vizolution.co.uk/). I will let him explain what they do and how clever it is…..

‘A picture is worth a thousand words’

Vizolution’s mission is to take this adage to the forefront of customer interactions and create the next generation face to face experiences, by enabling people to communicate with people in the most effective way, wherever they are – living room, garden or toilet (Uck!) (75% of mobile users use their phone in the toilet!)

Our clients face the very real problem of either serving customers in a high cost/high service approach (face to face) or low service/low cost approach (internet, call centre). We want our clients to engage their customers in a low-cost/high service approach by providing them with remote face to face tools. Our solution, vScreen, allows a telephony agent to engage with a customer using slides, images, calculators, documents etc all across a secure connection on the internet. vScreen can also completely handle fulfilment by providing electronic signatures; secure file delivery and retrieval etc.

The bottom line is that a telephony agent can genuinely provide all of the benefits of a face to face experience.

Customers are now visually connected via Smart Phones (There are more Smart Phones than Toothbrushes ), Tablets, PC’s, Smart TV’s etc. but the call centre is currently under an invisibility cloak, serving customer via voice or text.

This is the same as going to Buckingham Palace, visiting the Grand Canyon or watching David Attenborough’s Planet Earth blind folded. Yes, someone can describe it to you but you can only really fully “understand” it when you see it. Seeing is, believing!

If you are selling products and services that customers can’t experience for themselves, you should at least be able to show it to customers as well as answer their questions in a way that is convenient and fun. For simple transactions your website and App (if well designed) should do the trick, but as products and services get more and more complex and or you have a large number of options available, customers need to ask questions.

This is where Vizolution fits in. We create a shop window for call centres. This enables your people to visually engage customers in real-time wherever they are.

If you are (like most firms) currently working through your customer-centric digital transformation plan, you should include a bridge between your digital self-serve and traditional channels. This will ensure the delivery of consistent experiences. The last thing you want is for the customer to go to a competitor because they make it easier to buy from them. This means having the same capabilities available to customers via your website/app etc. and telephony channel.

For more information please visit our website www.vizolution.co.uk or contact me on marcio.rodrigues@vizolution.co.uk

This is really clever stuff – and stuff that I did not know was available until Marcio explained it to me. New technology like this enables businesses to deliver a greatly improved customer experience. Why would you not investigate the possibilities.

Let us have a look at another example of technology we may not know about. Recently I delivered a presentation on customer experience to a telecoms business, Pennine Telecom and some of its clients. One of the companies at the presentation was Motorola Technologies. They are developing some amazing things that could transform the experience for companies and customers across a number of industries. They showed me their ‘electronic badge’ technology – see the image below. This replaces current plastic badges that you ‘swipe’ to get in and out of buildings, and that show your name, picture etc.. The badges enable businesses to know where their employees are at any time, delivering real-time tasks. They are looking at getting them into hospitals (replacing pagers), and retailers.

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Just imagine similar technology to this being used in a retail environment like B&Q. I can never find anything in B&Q – the store is just too big. I always have to find a friendly and helpful member of staff to point me in the right direction. It would be great if to make the experience even easier, I could type the product I am looking for into a screen at the front of the store. The screen could then tell me where to go to get the product I need. This kind of technology is (I am told) ready and waiting – implementing it will improve the customer experience.

Motorola also told me that they are close to implementing new technology to vastly improve the physical high street shopping experience – merging the physical with the online/mobile. What would you think of an experience where you could walk into a store, pick up what you want to buy, and leave again – without speaking to anyone, or removing anything from your pocket? Sound crazy? Crazy I may be, but again, this kind of thing is not far away, and all enabled through your smart phone.

It is all too easy to dismiss ‘vendors’ when they contact us. We are always too busy to speak to someone trying to ‘sell us something’. However, it is also too easy to stay stuck in the past, and to ‘miss the boat’ on new technologies that could very quickly and easily make the lives of our employees and our customers so much easier. So ask yourself the question – am I up to date with the latest technology? If the answer is ‘no’, do something about it – and quickly!

What new technology is exciting you at then moment – it would be great to know and share knowledge with the customer experience community.

Customer Service or Customer Experience? What exactly does customer experience mean?


I am not the first, and will certainly not be the last professional person to work in and around the ‘customer experience’ field. There are thousands of customer experience professionals all around the world, and our number is growing at a very steady rate – something the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA – http://www.cxpa.org/default.asp) is delighted to see. Organisations of all shapes and sizes, and from every industry imaginable are finally affording their ‘customer experience’ the time and attention it very richly deserves. Much of the focus has been driven by the fact that many business leaders have finally recognised that delivering experiences to customers that consistently meet and exceed customer expectation is ‘good business’. Delivering great customer experiences is now seen as a differentiator, rather than something just spoken about by fluffy and potentially irritating people like me!

Last week, I was very fortunate to be a judge at the UK Customer Experience Awards. Now in its fourth year, the awards have grown to such a size, that I jokingly suggested to Neil Skehel, Managing Director of Awards International, that he consider hiring Wembley Arena next year. My joke may well become a reality! Over 700 guests at the awards ceremony acted as very tangible proof as to how customer experience has become so significant at a professional level.

So let me get to the point. If customer experience as a profession, and as an area of focus for organisations around the globe has become so significant, why do so many people still not understand what it is? Even at the awards last week, I was asked ‘so just what is customer experience? Recently I have conducted a number of radio interviews for the BBC and commercial radio stations. None of them have been comfortable introducing me as a ‘customer experience professional. Instead, they have opted for ‘customer service expert’, or words to that effect. This is a subject I have blogged about before – one of my first blog posts explored exactly what I do for a living http://ijgolding.com/2012/07/26/customer-experience-what/ – very little has changed since I wrote it!!

I am someone who recognises that even if something seems obvious to me, it may not be obvious to others. I therefore would like to have another attempt at clarifying, once and for all, the difference between Customer Service and Customer Experience. To do this, I want to provide you with an example we can all relate to. Last week, my family and I ate out at a well-known restaurant that is part of a nationwide chain. I will not name the restaurant as it is not relevant. We chose the restaurant because of its location – it was very ACCESSIBLE. On arriving at the restaurant, we noticed that it has been recently refurbished. The ambience, decor and overall ENVIRONMENT was very pleasant.

Once seated, we moved onto food and drink selection. Whilst not exceeding expectation, both the adult and children’s menus adequately hit the spot – there was plenty to CHOOSE from. The service – that is CUSTOMER SERVICE that is often confused with Customer Experience – was exceptionally good – in fact so good, that it far outweighed my expectation. I noticed a dish on the children’s menu that was not on the adult menu. When I asked if it could be adapted for an adult, I was met with ‘of course’ from one of the incredibly accommodating waiters. Throughout the meal, we were waited on efficiently, empathetically and professionally.  It was a real pleasure to experience and see.

The less said about the food the better. Quite frankly, it was awful. Although edible, it was clear that this particular restaurant had not invested in QUALITY of ingredients. Bland, tasteless, and devoid of any skill in presentation, it is safe to say that we were rather disappointed. This disappointment further deepened when we received our bill. This restaurant is not what I would describe as ‘budget’. The price did not reflect the quality, and the overall cost of the meal was not what I would consider to be COMPETITIVE.

On leaving the restaurant, we reflected on our overall experience – our abiding memory distilled down to three things:

  1. Amazing Customer Service – the manager and team deserve recognition for their efforts
  2. Terrible food
  3. Overpriced

Our conclusion – we will not be visiting that restaurant again. In fact, it is likely that we will not visit any of this brand of restaurants again. Our decision is based on two key elements within the end to end CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE – food quality and price. CUSTOMER SERVICE was outstanding – yet as an element of the customer experience in its own right was not enough to ensure that we remain a customer of this particular business. The Customer Experience in this example combined 6 elements – customer service was just one element:


A colleague of mine had the reverse of this experience recently. Amazing food and terrible customer service – not at the same restaurant I might add. The conclusion however is the same – she will not be visiting the restaurant again. It is the overall experience (of which customer service is just a part) that determines whether or not we have a one-off or a continuous relationship with a company.

So does this clear up the difference between customer experience and customer service? Just in case there are is any doubt, in my research I found the following blog post that looks at the same question – it is sometimes useful to get another perspective – http://blog.spoken.com/2013/04/customer-service-vs-customer-experience.html

As always, please feel free to comment on this or indeed any of my blog posts.

Customer Effort – it’s like pulling teeth!

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If you have followed my blog posts for a while, you will know that I am a big believer in using my own experiences to demonstrate all aspects of customer experience management. Doing what I do for a living, I am not necessarily the easiest of customers to please – I would argue that I am very easy to please if the organisation I am dealing with meets my expectations!! However, if I do identify something that I believe is detrimental to the customer experience, I will ensure that the company at fault understands what the problem is and why it is causing irritation. I know from past experience that if you receive feedback that enables you to correct or resolve a genuine issue, the benefit to employee, company and customer is immense.

I want to share with you an experience I had last week. The experience acts as the perfect example of why the term ‘customer effort’ has entered the vocabulary of customer experience professionals all over the world. The easiest way to understand exactly what customer effort is, one should look to the phrase ‘pulling teeth’ (hence the introductory photo!). If you have ever uttered physically or mentally the words ‘it’s like pulling teeth’ whilst waiting on hold, or when being asked to do something by a company that you deem unnecessary, you are at the receiving end of ‘excessive customer effort’.

‘How do you define excessive?’, I hear you cry! If you ever feel as though you are literally pulling your teeth (or hair for that matter) out when doing business with an organisation, your relationship with that organisation will be detrimentally affected. It is very likely that you will decide to terminate the relationship, or part ways for an indefinite period of time. If at any point it feels like too much effort in the eyes of the customer, then that in my mind is ‘excessive customer effort’.

So allow me to tell you my story. Because of the nature of my business (I work with a variety of organisations all over the country and internationally), my travelling arrangements need to be flexible. For that reason, I do not own a car – if I did, I would run the risk of it sitting outside my house for long periods of time. On the occasion that I need four wheels to get me to work, I hire one. There are a variety of choices for the car hire customer in Chester, and over the last two years I have tried them all. It has been an interesting experiment that has led to me concluding that they could all do with improving their customer experience in some way. Last year I wrote a blog post about my experiences with Avis – if you have the time to read it, you will understand why I no longer use them….. http://ijgolding.com/2012/09/03/what-a-lovely-mug-the-risks-of-taking-loyal-customers-for-granted/.

Having decided that I did not want to continue my relationship with Avis, I switched to Hertz. Up until now, they have been very professional, meeting expectation but not exceeding. However (there is always one of those), last Friday it all went wrong. Whenever I am purchasing anything that relates to my work, I always need to obtain a VAT receipt. This is pretty standard practice, and a pretty normal request. As an aside, it has always bugged me that you have to ask for a VAT receipt when buying petrol. Surely it would be easier just to put VAT on every receipt. Expecting the customer to ask for a VAT receipt is a form of customer effort in its own right. Interestingly, some petrol stations have now seen the light and started to do that. Anyway – back to the story. Last week I hired a car from Hertz for three days. It was a great car at a great price. All was good in the world – that is until I returned the car and asked for a VAT receipt.

The humble VAT receipt
The humble VAT receipt

‘We do not do those here’ was the response. Thinking the lady behind the counter had miss heard me, I asked again. ‘If you want a VAT receipt you need to go online and get one – that is what other customers do’. I stood at the counter with my mouth slightly ajar. I was in shock. ‘So let me just confirm what you are saying – you are not going to give me a VAT receipt?’. ‘No’ was the response. I genuinely could not believe it. Hertz were expecting me, a customer who had rented a number of vehicles over a number of months, to go home, go online, find the pertinent page on the Hertz website, log in, and then print off a simple VAT receipt!! When I said that I have never had an issue before, she failed to respond. She did offer to show me the relevant page on the website…….for me to go and find when I went home!!!!! She could not understand why I had got so frustrated with her. She could not see what the problem was. I had uttered the immortal phrase – ‘it’s like pulling teeth’!

This is the perfect example of how introducing ‘excessive’ customer effort is dangerous for your business. When I got home, I did not find the Hertz website. Instead, I found the email address of Hertz UK’s General Manager. I told him about my experience – he was horrified. Today, I have spoken to two of Hertz’s senior management team. They both apologised profusely. I have had A VAT invoice emailed to me. They have promised to give training to the lady who served me – ‘she should have said yes’ was their response to my story. The problem is, although their recovery has been absolutely first class, I am afraid it is too late. The effort I have had to exert to get a simple VAT receipt has led to me deciding that I will not be using Hertz again.

Customer effort is more than just a debate about a customer feedback score (made famous by the Harvard Business Review – http://hbr.org/2010/07/stop-trying-to-delight-your-customers) – Customer effort is a very real and tangible thing that will determine if customers will come back to you. If a customer asks you for something and you are tempted to say no – think very hard about the effect that could have. Consumers crave simple and easy to execute experiences. The harder it is, the more complicated it becomes, the more likely it is that they will leave you. Removing the effort from your customer experience will go a long way to delivering he experience your customer expects.

Next week, I will be knocking on Budget Rent a Car’s front door with my fingers firmly crossed. They had better be good – I am fast running out of options!!

Facebook is not even 10 years old! How technology and innovation is influencing the customer experience

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My eldest daughter Ciara is 10. When she came into the world, Facebook did not exist. It was still just an innovative idea being developed in the mind of its founder, Mark Zuckerberg. A little over three years ago, the iPad did not exist. First launched in April 2010, it is hard to remember what life was like without tablet devices. If we look further back in advancements in technology, it was only in 1993 that Mosaic became the web browser credited with popularising the World Wide Web.

Technology is advancing so quickly, it is almost as though it has created a time dimension of its own. I am constantly in awe of the genius minds that are able to create things that continually make our lives easier. Every time new technology is introduced into our lives, the majority of the time it is simplifying or speeding up our ability to do things that we need to do on a daily basis. That is why technology has become such a fundamental and vital ingredient in an organisations ability to deliver better customer experiences.

A few months ago, I came across an amazing ‘infographic’ created by Intel (see below). It is astonishing how the evolution of technology is transforming our lives – at work and at home. 204 million emails are sent every minute of every day. 20 million photos are viewed online – every single minute. By 2015, the number of connected devices will be twice the number of the global population!!! Hands up if you have more than three devices that can connect to the internet?!

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Technology, both physical (i.e. products), and online is changing our culture. It is changing the way we behave, and what we expect when we interact with organisations. According to Forrester, it is estimated that by 2015, 48% of consumers will access the internet every day on their phone, 74% by 2020. Forrester, like many research experts point to the advance in mobile technology as the most significant of all innovation in the next few years:

  • 37% of mobile users browse product information and check prices and offers, while 17% have buy products/services on their phones
  • 8% of Tesco.com grocery orders involve the iPhone app at some stage
  • 4% of Ocado.com sales come through their iPhone app
  • eBay saw mobile users to generate approx $2 billion in transactions in 2010

Yesterday, I spotted an article whilst travelling down to London in Metro newspaper. According to them, 1 minute in every 12 is spent online. The numbers are staggering. Apparently, on average, we touch our phones at least 150 times a day! I am sure Mrs Golding would argue that I am on my phone far more often than that!

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This calendar year, consumers are expected to spend $2.1 trillion (I am not sure how many zeros that constitutes!) on mobile phones, computing and entertainment, media and other smart devices, the services that are required to make these devices connected to the appropriate network, and software and media content that are consumed via these devices. It is not hard to see why this is happening.

I think that all of this makes it clear that it is therefore vital for all organisations to consider whether or not the technology that powers their customer journeys is in line with the quickly changing expectations of customers. I recently conducted some independent research on the ‘things that are important to customers’ when interacting with organisations. Although I have not yet concluded my analysis of the results, the following are looking like being the top three most important requirements:

  • Competitiveness – you must be!
  • Reliability – you must do what you say you will and keep your promises
  • Ease – you must be easy to do business with

These three expectations are driven by a number of factors. Societal and economic issues are obviously at play. Yet it is technology that is best placed to positively effect all three of these needs. Technology is making it more economical for companies to provide services to customers. Technology is having a huge affect on our ability to transact with businesses. We can do almost everything and anything we want with a smart phone – from shopping, to watching a movie, to paying for goods or services to name but three. Reliability is a greater challenge, that although aided by more sophisticated technology, is reliant on business processes being designed and managed appropriately to deliver the required expectation. There is also the problem that in many cases, customer technology is more advanced than the business they are transacting with.

This is one of the greatest challenges that businesses must address – and now. If your employees do not have access to the same technology your customer does, it is likely that they will be unable to deliver the customer journey your customer expects. If your customer is researching information online, but your contact centre is unable to access the internet, your customer is one step ahead of you. Sustaining and growing a business in today’s economy is tougher than ever before. We live in a world of the ‘connected customer’ who has changed the rules of business engagement. Competition is therefore bigger than ever before.

Last week I had the pleasure of delivering a presentation on this subject to a technology company and their clients. I was asked if ‘technology can change culture?’ My reply was as follows:

For us, the consumer, it already has……..

For our businesses………’no change’ is no longer an option

As a closing thought, when talking about change in culture and consumer behaviour, I am always reminded of something the brilliant Dr Nicola Millard, BT’s Customer Experience Futurologist, said at a conference last year. It used to be that when your children were naughty, you could send them to their bedroom as a punishment. Today, they WANT to be sent to their room – that is where their technology lives. What we must do today to discipline our children is ‘disconnect them’!

As always, your thoughts on this or any of my blog posts are encouraged and very welcome.