‘Thank You’! The two most important ‘Customer Experience’ words of all


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‘Thank You’. Two little words. Two words containing a total of eight letters. As a parent you spend most of your life teaching your children to use the words regularly. As a child, you are constantly reminded of their importance. It is unlikely you have ever looked up the dictionary definition of ‘thank you’ – so I have done so for you – you can thank me later:

1. (adjective)

expressing one’s gratitude or thanks: a thank-you note.
2. (noun)

an expression of thanks, as by saying “thank you”: I never got so much as a thank-you for helping him.

You probably did not need to be told something you already knew (hence you may not want to thank me for sharing this with you). So why am I taking the time to talk about words that you possibly; probably; almost certainly use on a daily basis? Let me explain.

People who know me well know that I am not a fan of the TV programme ‘Undercover Boss’. As predictable as an episode of ‘Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares’, I am always irritated by the naivety of senior business leaders at failing to be aware of what is happening in their own organisations. I refuse to believe that going ‘undercover’ on TV is the right way to finally understand, discover or recognise what colleagues and customers experience with your company and quite frankly I never will. However, despite the sour taste the programme leaves in my mouth, I find it fascinating to observe. Having watched a UK episode that I recorded last week, I am compelled to write this post. I want to spend the next few minutes writing about the significance of the words ‘thank you’ – in general, but especially in the world of Customer Experience. I hope you can find the time to read them (thank you in advance if you can).
The Undercover Boss episode in question followed YMCA England’s Director of HR, Bims Alalade. Bims writes passionately on the YMCA website about the experience – she says it is an experience that will stay with her ‘forever’. You can read her thoughts here. In case you do not know, YMCA is a charitable organisation. It is actually the largest and oldest youth charity in the world. Their work is vitally important in providing predominantly young people with a safe place to stay; a fresh start; guidance and support; and facilities to get active. The YMCA relies on full-time staff and a large number of volunteers to keep all of their services running to ‘very high standards’.
Undercover Boss - Bims Alalade
Undercover Boss – Bims Alalade
Unusually for Undercover Boss, I was emotionally moved by this episode. Unlike Bims, I do not (and never have) worked for the YMCA. I did not know or appreciate the amazing things their staff and volunteers do. From cleaning youth hostels for sometimes rude and offensive residents, to providing nightly medical help in city centres, Bims was taken by the passion, pride and motivation of the people working for her organisation. Bims should not have been surprised – she should have already known. Whilst I am comforted by the fact that she now does, I find it astonishing that as the Director of HR, it took a TV programme to open her eyes to the efforts of her own people.
The predictability of the programme leads to the staff subjected to the ‘undercover antics’ being ‘summoned to head office’. Once there, they meet with the real persona – the boss. Cue shock and dismay, humble acknowledgement of the issues from the boss, followed by a ‘gesture of goodwill’ to the member of staff concerned. I am always left wondering what the other hundreds and thousands of employees of the organisations that have participated in the programme are left feeling. Why was I not chosen? Where is my free, all expenses paid holiday to Barbados?
This is where those two words come in – ‘thank you’. What moved the employees and volunteers who participated in this episode of Undercover Boss was the fact that someone was saying ‘thank you’. A senior leader was acknowledging and recognising the work that they do. People are actually quite simple – as children, we usually respond rather well when our parents give us positive feedback. We are no different as adults. The two simple words with a total of eight letters used honestly and often are a good way of keeping employees feeling motivated and valued.
How many bosses do you know that do not say thank you? How many bosses have you worked for that rarely thanked you for anything? I have often written about the importance of acknowledgement and recognition of people as a key component for a customer centric organisation. Saying thank you goes a very long way – and best of all, it costs you absolutely nothing. I believe that ‘thank you’ are the two most important Customer Experience words of all. If your organisational culture is one where it is the norm to appreciate your people and thank them regularly, it is very likely that your customers will feel appreciated as well. The well used mantra of ‘treat your people how you want them to treat your customers’ is very apt.
I hope Bims never graces our TV screens again in this context. I hope she regularly repeats her Undercover experience again – although in future leave the wig and TV cameras at home. Just taking the time to visit, work alongside, experience and appreciate your staff will mean a whole lot more to all of your people than a TV appearance and a free holiday. I hope that Bims continues to thank people in her organisation who are doing a remarkable job – they are remarkable because they do what they do for love, not money. They are remarkable people who deserve to be told ‘thank you’ by every boss that comes their way.
So think back to the last time that you said ‘thank you’ to your own people. When did you last write them a thank you note? When did you last send them a thank you email? When did you last say thank you to them in person. Can’t remember? Do it now – don’t delay. You can thank me later.

Enterprise Rent-A-Car – Customer Experience Review


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The majority of readers of this Customer Experience Review are likely to have hired a car. Whether it be for business or holiday, hiring a car is commonplace all over the world. Over the years, I have hired a car from a variety of well know (and not so well-known) rental companies. Brand names like Avis, Budget, Hertz, Europcar and Thrifty are often the first we see on entering into a foreign country.

Hiring a car should be a relatively simple and pain-free experience – yet the variation of experiences I have received in the last 2 years alone almost saw me lose my faith in the industry. I have written about a couple of these experiences in the past – from being taken for granted to struggling to get a VAT invoice. I say that stories like these ‘almost’ saw me lose faith – and I say ‘almost’ as my experience with another rental company last week has gone a long way to restoring it. You are about to read my Customer Experience Review of Enterprise Rent-a-Car – another well-known name in the vehicle hire industry. I hope you enjoy reading it.

Date Review Conducted 15th August 2014
Branch Visited Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Unit 5-6, Hartford Way, Sealand Industrial Estate, Chester CH1 4NT
CX Review Total Score 43/50
Stars Awarded 4/5

Enterprise Rent-a-Car is one of the world’s powerhouses when it comes to vehicle rental. Founded in 1957, you can hire a vehicle from Enterprise or a franchise partner almost anywhere in the world. As always, I like to see if the brands I review make any statement about their interaction with customers publicly – or in other words, do they explicitly make promises to their customers? The following statement is publicly available on their website:

Through tremendous leadership and the entrepreneurial spirit of our employees, we have built the largest car rental brand in North America, known for exceptionally low rates and outstanding customer service

Sounds great. A people focussed organisation that is known for low prices and ‘outstanding’ customer service. The question is whether or not this statement holds up in practice.

Before I start the review, I just want to share a little bit of context around why I chose to hire a car from Enterprise last week. I live in Chester in North West England. I have tried almost every car hire company within a 10 mile radius in the last two years. Last week I attempted to reserve a car with one of Enterprise’s competitors. The experience was awful. From failing to get the website to work, to speaking to a disinterested, ignorant employee on the phone, I was literally pulling my hair out. Surely hiring a car should never be that painful. I therefore decided to give Enterprise a go for the first time – you are about to start reading what happened using my tried and tested Customer Experience Review format:

Accessibility – CX Review Score 8/10

How easy was it for me to do what I need to do with the company I am interacting with – the basic premise of this first review category. Having got to the end of my tether with the ‘other’ hire car company, I decided to have a look at Enterprise. Their website is as easy to find as any, clearly visible on the first page of Google when searching for ‘car hire in Chester’. Whilst not the best looking website in the world, it does what it needs to do. In fact, this is quite an important point – Enterprise rents vehicles – it does not really need the best looking, sexiest website in the world. It just needs a website that works and that is intuitive (think Amazon for car hire) – it passes the test. Not only does the website do exactly what you want it to do, it also clearly displays both the address of the branch AND the direct telephone number of the branch. If you want to speak to someone in the branch you are hiring the car from, this is easily doable – not something that is that simple to do with other hire car companies.

I decided to see what car I could hire online as a starter for ten – I was very impressed with the range and price (more about that later). Having had such a bad experience with the other hire car company, I thought it would be best to phone Enterprise and just check to see if hiring with them was as simple as the website made it appear. The phone was answered by a very polite, very friendly lady. I was given a quote that aligned with the website quote, and advised that all I needed to do was come on the day with my driving licence. I did not need any more I.D., although I would have to leave a £200 deposit. I did not have to reserve the car on my credit card either. It all seemed so simple. Compared to my other recent experiences, I was almost as relieved as I was pleasantly surprised.

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With over 350 branches in the UK alone, you are never far from an Enterprise. My closest branch is 2 miles away from my house – as convenient as any other hire car company. The branch is like most other hire car branches. Not the nicest looking of places, but functional. My car was ready at the time I had asked for it and was spotlessly clean inside and out.

The paperwork process was also simple – easy and pain free. There was no hard sell on additional insurances. I was impressed with the little ‘tool’ that Enterprise use to evaluate damage (see image below) – understanding what constitutes damage or not is much easier to understand with Enterprise than any other car hire company I have used.

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As I drove off with the little blue Renault Clio given to me, I was left with a feeling of ‘this all feels just a little bit too simple’ – It is sad to think that I thought that something had to go wrong at some point. I am delighted to report that nothing did go wrong. Returning the car was just as simple as picking it up. Easy and quick, I was handed my VAT invoice without even asking for it – something one of their competitors are unable to do at all! I was even asked if I would like a lift home – I almost fell over!

I take my hat off to Enterprise – your branch in Chester did you proud on my first visit. I was very impressed.

Range/Choice – CX Review Score 9/10

So what about the range and choice of cars available. Like all car hire companies, Enterprise have a good range of vehicles from small to large depending on your requirements. One of the things that stands Enterprise out from many of their competitors is that they understand how to deal with businesses. If you want to hire a van from Enterprise you can do so as easily as hiring a car for personal purposes.

Using the car for business, I wanted to keep my costs down to a minimum. I am not that bothered about the car I drive, so I immediately asked for the ‘cheapest’. The cheapest is not always the most appropriate though – fortunately the lady that booked the car for me was able to reserve a better car (with air conditioning) for only a very small amount more.

The car I was given was a Renault Clio. I was very surprised to get a car of this size with cruise control, in-built sat-nav and air conditioning. I did not expect anything other than air conditioning – it was another pleasant surprise. In all my years of hiring cars, only once before has a hire car company provided me with a car that had equipment to match this little Renault Clio.

People – CX Review Score 8/10

I was also very impressed with al of Enterprise’s people. From the lady that spoke to me on the phone, to the chap who gave me the car, to Alex who received the car on my return – all of them were polite, friendly and very helpful. Whilst I have come across people of a similar ilk at other hire car companies, I cannot say that I have found one where all the people appear to be so well trained in delivering such good consistent customer service. It seems as though Enterprise’s online statement of delivering ‘outstanding’ customer service is not too far off the mark.

Throughout all of my interactions, Enterprise actually made me, the customer, feel as though I was actually a little bit important. It is not difficult to deliver good customer service – yet so many are unable to replicate the experience I had with Enterprise last week. If I were the senior leader of an Enterprise competitor, I would ask all of my staff to hire a car from Enterprise for the day and see how it should/could be done.

Value – CX Review Score 10/10

This is where Enterprise really do excel – and absolutely live up to their online claim of being known for ‘exceptionally low rates’. I hired a top spec Renault Clio for 6 days for just over £93. Amazing value. When you consider how good the service was from beginning to end, the price of the hire seems even better value. They even wanted to give me a lift home afterwards without charging me any more. My only complaint when it comes to value is that it took me this long to give Enterprise a try!! It is going to take an almighty effort for any of Enterprise’s competitors to prise me away now I have found them!

How did it make me feel? CX Review Score 8/10

In two words – very good! Maybe it is because my other car hire experiences have been so mixed (and often bad) that this Enterprise experience felt so good. There is no doubt that I was very pleasantly surprised. At the end of the day, we all want to interact with companies that make the transaction as simple and pain free as possible. We all want to be able to achieve what we set out to do. On this occasion, Enterprise allowed me to do what I wanted to do, more easily than any of their competitors and have left me with a warm feeling inside – that is how you want all of your customers to feel.

Would I use Enterprise again? YES

This is a very easy question answer – absolutely. In fact, true to my word, I have already booked another car to pick up tomorrow! The key for me as a new Enterprise customer is that this first experience is repeatable. Was this a one off, or will I have the same experience every time I use them? I sincerely hope and expect that quality of experience I received to be maintained. As you can tell, I am very impressed with Enterprise and the fact that this seems to be a company that is true to its word. If you are looking for a good example of a company that delivers a very good Customer Experience as a benchmark, then I would strongly suggest looking at Enterprise Rent-a-Car.

Enterprise have received a score of 43 out of 50 for my Customer Experience Review. This is an exceptionally high score that is one point better than I awarded the JW Marriott in Kuala Lumpur! The team at their Chester branch are doing an exceptional job.

It is important to remember that my reviews are based on my personal opinion, using my expertise as a Customer Experience specialist to make a judgement on the end to end experience I receive. You are absolutely free to disagree with me!!

‘More than just the product’ – the evolution from product centric to customer centric


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I recently read an interesting article about book stores. The very first sentence of the article stated:

‘Independent bookshops need to make readers feel special in order to compete in the internet age, say book trade experts’

You would find it hard to disagree with the statement. The number of Bookstores physically present on UK high streets have fallen to less than 1000 in 2014 – down over a third in the last ten years. The number of printed books sold in the UK last year dropped almost 10%. During the same period, sales of ‘ebooks’ rose 134%. You can read the article in full here.

The online revolution has hit the book selling industry harder than many others. Large and small retailers alike have disappeared without a trace. In 2009 one of the most prominent collapses in the industry came with the demise of Borders. The chain of bookstores that was originally part of the US parent group had been struggling for a while. Recognising the impact of online competition, Borders had started to try and change their proposition from being one of just bookselling. By the time they announced their ‘administration’, typical Borders stores contained both a Paperchase stationery and Starbucks café concession. In addition, some branches also contained a RED5 gadget concession and GAME video games concession.

Borders were trying to offer their customers more than just the product. Borders were trying to offer a more varied customer experience. On this occasion it did not work – the question is why? The book selling business has always been a hugely competitive one, even before the existence of Amazon. Operating a bookstore is challenging because of the need to maintain and manage large stocks of physical inventory, tough suppliers and the seasonal nature of demand for books, which peaks during the year-end holidays. Additionally, Borders attempts to adapt to the online phenomenon were limited .

In other words, Borders reacted to the challenge of Amazon far too late. Their attempt to integrate other ‘services’ to adapt the experience for customers was very well intentioned, but not enough to overcome the financial challenges already besetting the group. There are similarities with HMV’s failure to respond to the challenge of Apple’s iTunes  – again, by the time they did, it was too late.

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In 2014, bookstores need to demonstrate that they offer something more than books. If you want a book to read, the easiest and often cheapest way to access one is via a Kindle. For bookstores to still have a place in the lives of consumers, they need to offer an experience – a compelling customer experience that goes beyond just offering a book to read. Jasper Sutcliffe, head of buying at Foyles, was recently quoted as saying that bookshops “just can’t be a book shop any more”. “They need to offer so much more – the bespoke service that booksellers give, the events, the signings, the added value – and we look to publishers to help.”

The book selling industry is not the only one that needs to adapt to the rapidly changing world we live in. Another is the complex market that is Pharmaceuticals. For the last fifty years and more, the Pharmaceutical industry has been remarkably successful. Whilst it has done a huge amount for mankind, it has also benefitted from producing lifesaving medicines that have generated billions and billions of dollars of revenue and profit. To a degree, it has been so easy for the industry to make money, it has almost simply ‘fallen from the sky’.

In 2014 the world for pharmaceutical companies looks very different. The exclusivity that many of their products have benefitted from is expiring. Competition has grown exponentially. Generic products are rife. Differentiation is now a real and genuine challenge. The pharmaceutical industry can no longer rely just on the product alone – one company’s product is now largely the same as another. To survive, Pharmaceutical companies are actually going to have to work to earn their money . They are going to have to evolve their proposition to encompass the customer experience – not just the product. To convince a physician to prescribe their drug, a pharmaceutical company is going to have to work harder to demonstrate value than they ever have done before.

In the world we now live in, few companies can survive on the strength of their product alone. Product centric organisations are becoming fewer in number. To survive in our increasingly customer/consumer driven world, it is vital that all organisations understand the importance and necessity of evolving to becoming customer centric. If a book store simply tries to sell books, it will fail. If a pharmaceutical company just tries to sell a drug, it will struggle. To find, win and keep customers in 2014, all organisations need to demonstrate that they offer and deliver a compelling, consistent and differentiated customer experience.

Book Review – Delivering Effective Social Customer Service: How to Redefine the Way You Manage Customer Experience and Your Corporate Reputation


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It is impossible to ignore the fact that customer service has gone all social on us. Our obsession with Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram and more has led to the humble consumer actively seeking to interact with companies via social networks. Although this is a fact, there are still many organisations who are yet to understand how to manage this new ‘channel’ particularly well. Part of the problem is that customers do not recognise channels – they recognise the company they are interacting with. Customers just expect you to be able to deal as effectively with their problems communicated through Twitter as they do over the phone.

So why are companies still not dealing with ‘social customer service’ very well? Why do we often find the customer service received via Twitter and Facebook to be less than satisfactory? Clearly some businesses have adapted better to the social phenomenon than others – yet the majority have yet to understand their ‘ecosystem’ or develop a suitable ‘framework’ for delivering social customer service. Fortunately, help is at hand.

‘Delivering Effective Social Customer Service’ is a fantastic resource for all customer service professionals looking for help and knowledge in understanding how to best deal with customer service in the social world. The book is written by Carolyn Blunt (Managing Director of Real Results) and Martin Hill-Wilson (Founder of Brainfood Consulting). I first met Martin at a customer service conference in 2009 – his knowledge, passion and expertise is infectious – his collaboration with Carolyn has produced a resource that is a ‘must-read’ in my opinion.

The book follows a logical flow – from how everything changed, to understanding the behaviour of the ‘social customer’, to ‘how to’ guides of delivering social customer service via Facebook and Twitter. There is also valuable advice provided on reputation and crisis management as well as the legalities of social interaction.

The two chapters that I would like to draw your attention to and potentially whet your appetite are as follows:

1. The Ecosystem for Social Customer Service

I am a big fan of models and frameworks. This chapter leads to the painting of a picture that looks at the demand for service that is being generated in the social space and how your business intends to serve it. The suggested visual map allows you to understand where demand is coming from and thus what you may need to do to influence the variety of ‘inputs’ that comprise your social ecosystem. When you see the example in the book, it makes you realise just how many ‘inputs’ there are – from self help forums, to corporate blogs, to ecommerce reviews. It is quite frightening!

Carolyn and Martin suggest that most organisations fail to visualise the ecosystem – they strongly recommend that you do not fall in to the same trap. Understanding your ecosystem means that you will be better able to design your approach to influencing all elements of it. Like every chapter in the book, a helpful ‘summary action list’ is provided as well as an interesting interview with the CEO of Conversocial, Joshua March.

2. The Roadmap for Social Customer Service

This excellent chapter provides readers with a framework for producing a roadmap for social customer service. The framework suggests that the best way to start is by conducting a self-assessment of the key competencies in delivering effective Social Customer Service. The assessment contains 15 competencies that are scored on three criteria – current capability; importance of the competency for your next generation strategy; and urgency of operationalizing the competency on your roadmap. Here is an example of 2 of the 15 competencies:

  • We know how to recruit, train and manage Social Customer Service Teams
  • We are ready for unexpected volumes of ‘social’ traffic: resourcing, escalation, house style

Every competency is walked through in detail looking at its importance, consequences, issues, quick wins, follow up actions and tips. The chapter serves as a comprehensive examination of what it takes to effectively manage your customer experience on social media.

As a Customer Experience Specialist, I am constantly looking to refresh my knowledge and expertise. Learning from others is as important as learning from my own experiences. I am not an expert in social customer service and have found this book to be an excellent summary of not just what ‘social customer service’ is, but more importantly what to do about it. I have no hesitation in recommending it to others, and strongly encourage you to have a read.

Social Customer Service is only going to become more and more significant over time. Do not be fooled into thinking that you already know what to do. Pick up a copy of Delivering Effective Customer Service to either re-assure yourself that you are doing the right thing, or to learn what you can do to develop an even more robust social customer service strategy. You can buy the book online here.

Out of interest, Martin runs a number of workshops on the subject of social customer service – if you like the book, you can find information about his workshops here.

 

Fullers Doric Arch – Customer Experience Review


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The great British Pub. Whether you live or have ever visited the UK, you are likely to have frequented many. If you are looking for a quiet romantic place to meet up for a drink; a location to watch the football with your mates; or a venue to take the family for Sunday lunch, the multi purpose experience maker that is the British pub can tick most boxes. Like many, the industry has struggled over the last decade for a variety of reasons. Increased duty on alcohol combined with tightening wallets/purses has seen many public houses across the land shut up shop. According to the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), the UK boasted 60,100 pubs in 2002. By 2012, the number had declined to 49,433. In 2014, a staggering number of 28 pubs are still being closed every week.

Although it is easy to point the finger of blame at the government and the economy, it must not be ignored that the behaviour of the British consumer has changed radically. What they/we expect from a pub is on the whole different in 2014 to 2002. We expect the experience we have in a pub to meet and sometimes exceed our expectations. We want to feel welcome; enjoy a wide variety of alcoholic and non alcoholic beverages; dine on good value but well cooked food; relax in a beer garden on a sunny day; for many a pub is no longer just about beer – it is about the end to end experience. This Customer Experience Review is the first I have conducted on a pub – the Doric Arch in Euston. How will it fare?

Date Review Conducted 30th July 2014
Pub Visited Fullers Doric Arch, 1 Eversholt Street, Euston Square, London NW1 1DN
CX Review Total Score 37/50
Stars Awarded 3.5/5

One of the most respected names in the pub trade is Fullers. Fuller’s Brewery (Fuller, Smith & Turner P.L.C.) is an independent family brewery founded in 1845 and based in London. With close to 400 pubs from Birmingham to the Isle of Wight, Fullers pubs come in all shapes and sizes. The Fullers logo contains three words – ‘Quality – Service – Pride’. One assumes that they strive to achieve these three things – as always, this constitutes a promise to customers; an expectation that on visiting a Fullers pub we should expect to receive great quality products with excellent customer service from employees proud to work for the Fullers brand. Fullers website makes a number of important statements to prospective employees. I would like to share two of these statements with you:

Our aim is simple: We want to be the best. How do we achieve this? We make sure we have the very best people working for us. Passion and pride for our products and our customers are a must.

We’re progressive. Yes, we are extremely proud of our heritage, but we’re always looking to develop and push ourselves forward, whether that be through new methods of creating our beers to creating unique and memorable experiences in our pubs

I am sure you would agree that this sounds great. Passion for customers. Memorable experiences in our pubs. As I approached the Doric Arch pub in Euston last week, I wondered whether or not I would get the sense that these ambitions are being realised or if they are just words on a website. Let the review begin!

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Accessibility – CX Review Score 7/10

In my review process, the definition of accessibility is ‘how easy was it for me to do what I wanted to do’ with the organisation I have chosen to transact with. I have awarded Fullers Doric Arch 7 out of 10 for this category. If you have ever visited Euston railway station, you would be forgiven for not knowing that the Doric Arch existed. Having a pub close to a railway station is a sensible move. With a constant flow of commuters and tourists, the potential footfall is significant. This is dependant on your pub being situated in a desirable location. There is little that Fullers can do about the slightly unappealing situation that the Doric Arch finds itself in. Named after the famous Arch that fronts Euston station, the pub is based in a nondescript building in what can be best described as an alleyway between the bus stops and the train concourse.

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Unless you walk down the ‘alleyway’ you would not necessarily know it is there. Additionally, the pub suffers from being located on the first floor – from street level all you can see are stairs going up or down – it is a difficult location to entice potential customers into. The stairs lead to another problem. This is not a venue for those that are unable to use stairs – whether you have children in a buggy or are unable to walk, the pub’s accessibility is limited. The real shame is that it means the majority of people walking past the Doric Arch will have no idea what it is like inside.

I have been visiting Euston station for the last 8 years on a regular basis. This is the first time I have ever stepped inside the Doric Arch. On doing so, I was pleasantly surprised. Nicely furnished, the pub has a clean, traditional and almost homely feel to it. As soon as I got to the top of the stairs I started to question why I had never been in before! I decided to find a table before ordering something to eat and drink. This created my next problem. Like many others, when I visit a pub, coffee shop or restaurant whilst travelling alone, I like to do some work. I therefore am keen to find a spot where I can sit next to a plug socket. Finding one in the Doric Arch was a challenge. I eventually found one on the wall next to a high table with bar stools. Not really where I wanted to sit, but my only option. The lack of plug sockets is a weakness in my opinion and one that may affect my decision to re-visit.  (Please note: since originally posting this review, I have been advised that the Doric Arch has 17 plug sockets – when I visited, it was obvious that is what I was looking for, yet neither member of staff offered to help. The 17 sockets are not that easy to find in my experience!)

Although a small pub, I could see two TV screens. On the day I visited the Doric Arch, an England cricket test match was in full flow. Many of the customers were glued to the TV screens – a good reason to visit the Doric Arch if you like that sort of thing. The sound was not on, so the TVs did not seem detrimental to the experience of those who did not want to watch them. The rest of the experience was as you would expect as I ordered at the bar; ate and drank; and finally settled my bill at the bar. All in all, a good score of 7, but not really a score that looks to create a memorable experience.

Range/Choice – CX Review Score 8/10

For range and choice I have awarded the Doric Arch a score of 8 out of 10. Fullers are almost better known for the quality of their beer than they are anything else and the Doric Arch does not disappoint. If you want a decent pint before boarding a train to the North of England, you would find it hard to beat it. Complemented by a good range of soft drinks, the Doric Arch is also able to serve you up a freshly brewed Cappuccino or Latte – I am not sure how many potential customers know that. When you consider what a nice environment the pub is, if you just want a coffee, the Doric Arch is a far better location to enjoy one than the alternative venues elsewhere in and around the station. The food choice is also good. A nice simple menu on one sheet of paper offers a variety of starters, mains and deserts that will appeal to most. There is also a children’s menu In my eight years of regularly visiting Euston station, I would conclude that the Doric Arch is the best place to enjoy a drink and a meal within the station grounds.

People – CX Review Score 7/10

Let me remind you of one of the ambitions stated on Fullers website – ‘Passion and pride for our products and our customers are a must’. Perhaps my biggest criticism of my experience at the Doric Arch relates to its staff. The first thing I noticed on approaching the bar was the lack of engagement between the two staff members and customers. The bar tender appeared almost disinterested, whilst neither member of staff raised a smile. There was no warm welcome to customers entering the pub. It was only on my approach to the bar that the lady serving me looked up and smiled. She was perfectly pleasant from that point on, but I feel that there is some way to go before I would class their behaviour as being passionate about customers. A bit more warmth, engagement and friendliness from the Doric Arch’s people will go a long way to making a good pub an even better one.

Value – CX Review Score 8/10

From a value perspective, the Doric Arch scores well. In many cases, when at an airport, service station or train station, consumers are charged inflated prices. The Doric Arch will serve you drink and food at as competitive a price as anywhere in London. You can quite comfortably have a nice three course meal and a drink for £25- £30. The food is good – not great, but good. The Doric Arch is good value for money, increasing the likelihood of a return visit.

How did it make me feel? CX Review Score 710

When I left the Doric Arch to catch my train back to Chester, I considered how I felt about my 90 minute visit. The best word I could use to describe it was ‘ok’. I thought the Doric Arch was ‘ok’. This might not sound very good on first reflection, but ‘ok’ is not ‘bad’! I was pleasantly surprised by it. Unlike the alternative venues in and around Euston, the Doric Arch is a nice place to go – but it is not a great place to go. I was not excited by it, yet I was not disappointed either. Would I prefer to spend my time waiting for a train in the Doric Arch than other restaurants, pubs or coffee shops in Euston? The answer is yes. Would I like the Doric Arch to be more engaging? The answer is yes? Would I like the Doric Arch to have more plug sockets? The answer is yes? Do I feel the Doric Arch is passionate about customers? The answer is ‘not enough’. Is the Doric Arch capable of creating memorable experiences? The answer is ‘it has the potential to do so’. This is a good pub, but it has the potential to be much better.

Would I use the Doric Arch again? Maybe

The killer question – will I go back? It took me 8 years to try the Doric Arch but I doubt it will be another 8 years before I try it again. Although I am likely to re-visit the pub, my answer to the killer question is ‘Maybe’. It all depends. I am not left with an overriding feeling of warmth that compels me to want to go back. If I just want to grab a coffee, it is unlikely. If I have a little more time on my hands then it is more likely. If I could be confident I could get a comfortable seat near to a plug socket then I am almost certain to be a regular customer. As always, my reviews are subjective – they are based on my personal opinion and my view as a Customer Experience specialist. I think that if you visit the Doric Arch for the first time, you may well go back. A little more attention to detail may make the ‘maybe’ become a ‘definitely’.

Online Customer Reviews : “Sorry – Your review didn’t quite meet our guidelines”


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This week I am delighted to feature a new guest blogger. Steve Drake is a Retail Director with a wealth of international and UK experience, across both the strategic and operational aspects of the customer experience mix.  His post is a personal story that questions the lack of transparency that some retailers have with their online customer reviews, with potential unintended consequences for their brands – I am sure you will very much enjoy reading it….


“Sorry – Your review didn’t quite meet our guidelines”. Or in other words, “We really value your feedback, but we will only publish the bits that we like!”

Many brands use Customer Reviews to talk up how great their products and service are. Nothing wrong with that. Indeed, it is also a useful service appreciated by customers when making their own online purchase decisions. Research shows that customers treat these reviews, from other customers, as a strong recommendation (or warning) of what to expect when you deal with these brands. People believe that the reviews are truthful and that the balance of positive and negative comments about a product or an experience are a true reflection of the genuine feedback given.

However, what if this was not entirely the case? what if brands were to “sanitise” the feedback? Would you bother taking the time to share your personal experience of purchasing a product? What would you think of the brand?

These questions came to mind after a recent experience with an online purchase from a well-known British retailer. Like many busy households, over the years we have accumulated an eclectic range of mugs. My wife decided that it was time for a change and she set about ordering a set of 10 new Spotted Mugs from the said retailer’s website. All was well. She liked the mugs and was certainly looking forward to “accidently” dropping my assorted Sports Direct “jugs” on the tiled kitchen floor when these new beauties arrived!

When the package arrived, within the specified delivery period, all was not well. Of the 10 mugs only 2 had survived the journey. 8 had broken handles, cracks, chips or were in several pieces in the box. They had not been well packaged for such fragile items. My wife duly got in touch with the retailer and was quickly refunded for the 10 mugs and told that she could keep the 2. She did, however, decline the invitation to order again for a home delivery!

As she appreciates others reviews of their online purchase experience – which includes getting the product to you in one piece and fit for use – she wrote a review for the retailer’s website. Here it is:

0 steve drake review

Seems fair enough, doesn’t it? Praising the product, but warning others that actually getting them in one usable piece may be an issue. Not unreasonable from a customer (my wife) who chose the online purchase route for convenience. After all, the brand experience is not just about the product!

A few days later she received “The Email”. It came from a “no-reply” email address used by the retailer. The subject line read: “Your review has been rejected”. It went on:

Sorry

Your review didn’t quite meet our guidelines.

Would you like to try again?

Mmmmmm. So, she clicked through to read the guidelines. This is what they said:

0 steve drake review 2

Or in other words, “We really value your feedback, but we will only publish the bits about our products … not the bits about the total customer experience of buying online with us”

The guidelines are comprehensive for sure, and I completely get the “reserve the right not to post” for the reasons given about obscenities, advertising etc. However, to edit out the genuine, honest feedback of customers who have had the full experience (which means you do not get the product in a usable form) seems at odds with really wanting to engage with your customers.

How many other customers have had the same poor experience with the delivery of these lovely mugs? What other fragile products in their extensive range are also affected? What is the point of online purchasing and home delivery if the lovely products do not survive the journey? Does the retailer have a supply chain issue they need to address? If, as a potential customer, you knew this was more widespread would that affect your decision about making the purchase?

In fairness, I am sure that this retailer is not the only brand that takes this approach. However, it is the freshest in my mind through witnessing my wife’s irritation about how this was handled.

We still do not have our mugs (because we have not had time to get to the store), my wife’s review has not been posted, but she does have a very good dinner-party story … but not the kind that the good folk at this respected British retailer (or other brands for that matter) would like to see on their website!

 

‘Without customers you would not exist’ – an open letter to all CEOs on behalf of customers everywhere


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Dear Chief Executive Officers (of all companies in all industries everywhere)

I am writing this letter on behalf of your customers – consumers; businesses; young; old; male; female. For centuries, people have purchased goods and services from those able to provide things that are needed. From food to clothes to technology to construction to medicines. Companies have and still are being created to fulfil the needs of customers all over the world.

The reason that your business exists is because it is providing products or services that we – your customers need/want. If we did not need or want your goods or services, you would not exist. No business can exist without customers – a statement of the blindingly obvious, but one that too many companies fail to acknowledge. I say that companies fail to acknowledge it, as this is the only explanation for the appalling experiences that customers have on a daily basis.

Over the last few years, you (CEOs of organisations giving us what we want) have recognised the opportunities afforded by new technology. The phenomenon that is the internet has revolutionised the way your businesses are able to interact with customers. During this time, our (the customer) expectations have changed. We, the customer, now know much more than we ever did before. We know as much about your products and services as your own employees do, yet you still continue to serve up experiences that fall way short of what we expect.

Only yesterday, I was advised by the employee of a company to visit a website to ‘place my order’. This employee refused to help me ‘over the phone’. The website he referred me to did not even exist. Unbelievable. Recently I interacted with a large financial services business. They claim they are helping consumers – their actions could not have been more contradictory.

Well the customer has had enough. Stop treating us like fools. Stop taking advantage of us. Stop telling us how important the customer is but doing nothing to demonstrate that you actually mean it. If you carry on giving us bad experiences, we will go and find our products and services somewhere else. Is your company guilty of any of the following?

  1. Poor value for money
  2. Delivering unacceptable customer service
  3. Failing to keep promises (unreliable)
  4. Poor quality
  5. Difficult to do business with

If you can honestly say you are 100% perfect with all of these – we will not believe you. What are you doing to get better at these things? Get your head out of the sand and wake up and smell the coffee. Our expectations will only get higher and higher as time goes on. You need to demonstrate to us that your company is serious about caring about us – caring about the things we need. We want the whole experience to be good. Consistently good. If you fail to give us good experiences, we will stop using your company. No customers = no company.

There is plenty of evidence to suggest that your attention as CEO is focussed almost entirely on your shareholders. Good luck to you in continuing to obsess about share prices whilst your company fails to deliver the experiences that your customers want. All the creative accounting in the world will ultimately fall down when you realise that in focussing on shareholders you have ignored what is happening to customers.

When did you last experience what your customer experiences? When did you last sit at a checkout or deal with a  complaint over the phone or go to a meeting with a customer? It is not good enough to simply agree to go on ‘Undercover Boss’ – you need to be understanding what it is to be an employee and a customer continuously. You need to ensure that your leadership team do the same. Feel what we feel and you should understand what works and what doesn’t work.

You need to keep reminding yourself and your teams that they too are consumers. Do you like it when you have a bad experience with a company? So why is it acceptable for you to do to your customers what you do not want to happen to you?

We are sick and tired of having terrible experiences. I hope (on behalf of customers) that you take notice of the essence of this letter. I hope (on behalf of customers) that you really listen to what it, and your customers are saying. The big question is this – if you carry on doing what you are doing today, do you think you will still exist in 1 year, 5 years or ten years?

Yours Sincerely

 

Ian Golding