Two weeks ago I wrote a blog post suggesting that Customer Experience as a concept and a reality was very much dead. Citing three ‘exhibits’ as evidence, I made the case for there being no hope for the profession that I am proud to be a part of. Fuelled by the simple fact that consumers all over the world are subjected to awful customer experiences on a daily basis, the depressing truth is that customers are still a very long way from being central to the thoughts of too many companies.
I have to admit, the post was a depressing one to write. However, the fact that I call myself a Customer Experience Professional suggests that it is not all doom and gloom. In fact, as we all know, there are two sides to every story. In this post, I want to make the case for the defence – I want to explore why Customer Experience is actually very much alive, and hopefully cheer you all up! To do this I am going to share the experiences of friends and acquaintances as well as my own.
Exhibit 1 – the car insurance company
Yes – it is true – the first exhibit is about a car insurance company! This may not have been what you were expecting when I said I would share positive customer experiences, but examples of organisations bringing customer experience to life often come from places we least expect.
Last week a friend of mine was so impressed with the interaction they had just experienced with their car insurer, they contacted me directly on Facebook to tell me. The company concerned was Elephant.co.uk. My friend’s Facebook post said the following:
Called elephant.co.uk to tell them my car wouldn’t start and not only did a lovely man come out VERY quickly but they called me to check on me as I had 2 kids in the car and they wanted to know I was ok – hows that for customer service?!!
When you think about it, this is what you would HOPE your car insurer would do. Their actions are almost something I would ‘take as given’ when signing up with an insurer. However, personal experiences tell me that actually, these actions are quite impressive – impressive enough for a customer to go to Facebook to tell everyone about it. Elephant make a number of customer promises on their website – have a look at this…
My friend’s experience suggests that this is not just marketing gobbledygook – this actually happens – and with a little extra sprinkling of care and attention. In a world where we find it hard to trust financial services companies, it is a breath of fresh air to hear of experiences like this.
Exhibit 2 – the luxury boat manufacturer
Now I know what you are thinking – luxury brands ALWAYS deliver experiences to match the unfathomable price tags that accompany their products. You are right in thinking that is the case most of the time. However this second exhibit demonstrates that this particular luxury brands ability to deliver amazing experiences is honest and genuine…..as it stretches to those who may never be a paying customer.
Last week I was contacted by an acquaintance of mine – a fellow Customer Experience Professional who is doing great things at one of our energy businesses – but that is a different story! My acquaintance’s email said the following:
Not sure if I’ve forwarded this to you already, but thought it was a nice touch to receive a ‘closing the loop’ message from the CEO of Sunseeker, the yacht building company! A luxury product with a wonderful attitude!
The story relates to a visit to the London Boat Show – my friend visited the annual exhibition with her Father – a retired man who has spent his life in the merchant navy and maintained his passion for the sea and everything that goes on it. Unfortunately, because his career exposed him to asbestos, he has recently been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Visiting the boat show to see the large yachts was one of the things that he had on his ‘bucket list’ (as my acquaintance describes it). However, in poor health and with shortness of breath, it looked as though it would be difficult for him to actually get on to the boats he was so excited to see.
Fortunately for him, Sunseeker had thought of all potential guests when designing the London Boat Show experience. They had contracted a specialist company to assist guests with mobility problems during the show. A wonderful, caring, empathetic man helped my acquaintance’s father from the second he saw them approach the stand. This is what was written in a letter to the Sunseeker CEO after the event:
I cannot thank you enough for the kind consideration your team paid to my father, which in no small part, was what made his day so special. In particular, I want to thank for you considering people with mobility issues. The fact that you had employed someone to specifically cater for those in wheelchairs was outstanding. Unfortunately, this sort of attention to detail is missing in so much of today’s world and too many companies make assumptions about what people are able to do, without considering that first and foremost, they are actually still people who want the same opportunities to enjoy life’s experiences as everyone else.
Your competitors at the Boat Show could learn a lot from you. Your stand was the only one who provided such outstanding service. The reps on the other large motor yacht stand could not have been less interested, in fact, they bordered on rude.
The simple act of taking into account the needs of all customers led to a wonderfully memorable customer experience. The simple fact that it is being described in this blog post demonstrates the ongoing value that behaviour like this can have on the credibility of a brand. The Sunseeker CEO also responded to the letter – personally, ensuring that my acquaintance knew how much her feedback meant to the organisation and to assure her that the employees who made the experience had been told.
Exhibit 3 – the 5 star hotel
In my case for the prosecution, I cited an exhibit of a hotel – so in the interests of balance, I will do the same in making my case for the defence. Last week I was fortunate enough to spend two nights in the JW Marriott in Kuala Lumpur. You might take as given that a 5 star hotel should deliver a 5 star experience – this is not always the case. However, the JW Marriott did not disappoint.
Great rooms with excellent facilities in a great location – the hotel had the full package. What made the experience all the more special though was the people. It is rare these days to be made to feel special in our interactions with any organisation – if you are staying at this JW Marriott, the staff go out of their way to make you feel welcome. On my way to Malaysia, I watched a documentary about the Marriott hotel empire on the plane. In the documentary, Bill Marriott was quoted as saying ‘we don’t sell widgets, we sell experiences’ – I can confirm that this is absolutely the case.
I wrote a Customer Experience Review about the hotel – you can read it here.
That concludes my case for the defence. Three stories that prove to me that customer experience is living and breathing – it is alive and well. I am sure you could share many more stories that demonstrate what it truly means to be customer centric.
My two blog posts prove that Customer Experience is still very much an evolution. To many it is a natural component that makes their companies tick – to others, it is still a long way off being a consideration, let alone a reality. I believe it is important that we continually share as many experiences (on both sides of the coin) as possible. Hopefully those that are still to start their transformation will be inspired by the art of the possible, while those who are already doing great things, will continue to do so.
Please feel free to share you stories with me – the more the merrier!