Customers + Employees = People. People = Business. Why Business is all about People


customers + employees = people

If you have ever heard me speak in public, it is very likely you will have endured hearing me recount my favourite quote of all time. I know that ‘quotes of the day’ are not everyone’s bag, but sometimes you hear someone say something or are referred to something someone in authority has said and their words touch you. A while ago, I had the pleasure of coming across these wonderful few words uttered by inspirational business author, Simon Sinek:

100% of customers are people. 100% of employees are people. If you don’t understand people, you don’t understand business

This quote is the inspiration behind the image at the head of this post and epitomises the essence of what you are about to read. As I continue my personal journey of learning as a Customer Experience Professional, I am ever increasingly satisfied to discover that the thing that makes businesses successful; the thing that business is all about; is that thing we call PEOPLE.

Sounds obvious right? Maybe…. but ask yourself this. How many PEOPLE do you know work in an organisation that does not feel as though it is all about people? How many work in businesses that feel as though they are more about spreadsheets, or numbers, or tasks, or processes? In a world where there seem to be as many ‘shareholder centric’ organisations as there are ‘customer centric’, it is refreshing to come across businesses who genuinely do put PEOPLE at the very heart of everything they do.

Last week I found myself being fortunate (as I often am) to act as a judge at the first UK Employee Experience Awards.  The awards recognise and celebrate best practice in the delivery and improvement of outstanding employee experience – it is no coincidence that the awards have been created by the excellent Awards International who are also behind the UK Customer Experience Awards.  To deliver consistently good and great Customer Experiences, it is essential to also deliver as good and great employee experiences. To be a brilliant business, you must nurture and cherish all the PEOPLE who interact with you – that means customers and employees.

In London last week, I witnessed shining examples of role models – role models of leaders who were teaching, caring for, guiding, coaching, mentoring, empowering and generally inspiring the people they work with to do the very best for their customers, themselves and their business.  The people I saw were of all shapes and sizes – metaphorically speaking! From front line staff to team managers to CEOs – from financial services to utilities to retail. The thing these PEOPLE all had in common was remarkably easy for me to fathom – they all understand the importance of PEOPLE.

It was when one of the finalists said that his most important business principle was ‘adult to adult communication’ that I realised why the recognition that these awards purvey is so very important. Treating PEOPLE like adults in business sounds so startlingly simple, yet in my experience it is so utterly rare. Remember that I am talking about both customers and employees here. So often businesses talk to their customers as though they are still at school – the parent child relationship is  even more common for the poor employee.

The finalist who talked about ‘adult to adult communication’ was one of the very few CEOs present at the awards ceremony. As far as I am aware, he may have been the only CEO at the ceremony! Is it any surprise that he is the CEO of the company who only last year won an amazing 6 (six) UK Customer Experience Awards! Mark Horsley is the CEO of Northern Gas Networks – a business that the consumer on the street knows very little about, but a business that as a result of Mark’s humbling approach to empowering people is resulting in them becoming one of the most significant role models for any business in the world.

Mark and his people do not sell cutting edge, fashionable technology. Mark and his people do not have a compelling and seamless omni channel offering.  Mark and his people do not spend millions on adverting and big data. Mark and his people are responsible for putting pipes in the ground – pipes that enable energy suppliers to put gas into houses, offices and factories. They do it by a relentless focus on doing what is right for PEOPLE – customers and employees. The results speak for themselves – commercially and through the ever improving perception of customers and employees – PEOPLE!

Mark Horsley, CEO, Northern Gas Networks
Mark Horsley, CEO, Northern Gas Networks

Mark was as deserving a recipient of the award as any I have ever judged. Mark is a role model to anyone who ever aspires to lead a business. Mark accepted the award on behalf of his people (customers and employees) – I would have expected nothing less. This is not the first time I have written about Northern Gas Networks – it is unlikely to be the last. Who would have thought a company that puts pipes in the ground would have been a text book example to others as to how to deliver world class customer and employee experiences? The reality is that I am now teaching Customer Experience Professionals all over the world about this company – the company that as much as any I have ever seen bring Simon Sinek’s inspirational quote to life.

Northern Gas Networks understand that business is all about PEOPLE. The vast majority of PEOPLE present at the awards last week do too. This can only be an encouraging sign as the Customer Experience continues to work its way ever more into the business dictionary. We will never do away with spreadsheets and numbers and tasks and processes completely – nor can we – yet the shift towards a ‘PEOPLE FIRST’ culture in business does seem to be closer to reality than it ever has been.

Guest post – Do not judge a contact centre by its accent!


accents

I remember reading a customer complaint letter whilst I was working with a large UK retailer. The complaints that were listed were all valid and well articulated, yet it was the final comment that sticks in my mind. It was along the lines of, “and when are you going to close down your Indian call centres and bring them back to the UK?”. At that time all of the call centres were based onshore in the UK, and not a single call was answered by anyone other than a UK employee. The call centres were based all over the UK, and had a fair reflection of the local demographic population based at each of its centres.

Now was the comment in the letter a reflection of the customer’s frustration at thinking they were talking to an Indian call centre agent, or the fact that they were struggling with the communication due to the accent? The UK has some pretty extreme accents – think of Glasgow, Liverpool, Newcastle – they all have very strong accents, that to the untrained ear is very difficult to understand. If you cannot understand the person you are trying to communicate with, then of course the customer experience is going to suffer.

Currently I have the privilege of building a 500 seat call centre operation in Durban, South Africa. Our clients are in the UK and Australia, and we specialise in the energy, telco and financial services industries. Our call centre operators differ little to their colleagues in the countries that they serve: similar age groups, similar interests, yet there is one huge difference. The products and services that they are “experts” in servicing are often completely alien to them. Broadband?…they have yet to get ADSL. PPI?….no idea what you mean, have never had credit, let alone insurance to cover it should I lose my job or get sick. … Boiler replacement? Why would you have a boiler in your house?….You get my drift…..South Africa is in some ways behind in terms of technology and advancements you find common in the first world.

Yet with good training and support, there is no reason why these operators cannot become experts, and are able to advise and recommend the best products and services based on the customers needs. Understanding what the customer needs is done with good questioning, listening, play back (summarising what you have heard), and then agreeing on the way forward – not by ramming home the current product that there is an incentive to sell more of for that week.

Yet all of this excellent product, knowledge and skills training is going to be irrelevant if the customer cannot understand what the operator is saying. In South Africa there are currently 25 million unemployed people between the ages of 18-35, they are well educated and have a desire to work, there are just very few opportunities for them to get a job. The BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) industry is one of the growing industries in the South African economy today where there is a clear recognition that to supply the growth the industry needs, there has to be an investment in skills.

We partner with an NPO called Harambee, which is a youth employment accelerator that recruits candidates where existing corporate recruitment networks do not reach, assesses their competencies to match them to the jobs where they are most likely to succeed, and exposes them to a high quality, tailored and cost-effective bridging programme that directly addresses the needs identified by employers.

Harambee offers us a customised work readiness programme to bridge unemployed South Africans into successful agents for our business. This offers an opportunity to break the vicious circle of “can’t get a job because I have no work experience, can’t get any work experience if no one will give me a job”. The work readiness programme focuses on both the resilience and the skills needed to succeed in sales. There is a heavy emphasis on voice and communication to improve clarity and proficiency that allows the agent to be understood by the customer, and to build rapport and empathy. Those that go through the Harambee programme have got an excellent chance of getting a job in both national and international call centres, as they now have the ability to communicate effectively.

The attractiveness to Offshoring BPO is to reduce opex….however there is no point in reducing your opex by 10% if you are churning your customer base by 15%, that is not sustainable. In my opinion there needs to be a better management of expectation between client and BPO…..yes I can offer 100 seats to support a new marketing campaign….but not next week Tuesday…..we need to work on realistic speed to competency plans, with glide paths that are achievable.

Now was the comment in the letter a reflection of the customers frustration at thinking they were talking to an Indian call centre, or the fact that they were struggling with the communication due to the accent? The UK has some pretty extreme accents, Glasgow, Liverpool, Newcastle, to name but a few can all have very strong accents, that to the untrained ear  is very difficult to understand. If you cannot understand the person you are trying to communicate with, then of course the customer experience is going to suffer.

Currently I have the privilege of building a 500 seat call centre operation in Durban, RSA. Our clients are in UK and Australia, and we specialise in the energy, telco and financial services industries. The call centre operators differ little to their colleagues in the countries that they serve, similar age groups, similar interests etc, yet there is one huge difference. The products and services that they are “experts” in are completely alien to them. Broadband?…they have yet to get ADSL. PPI?….no idea what you mean, have never had credit, let alone an insurance to cover it should I lose my job or get sick. ..Boiler replacement,? why would you have a boiler in your house?….you get my drift…..South Africa is still a third world country and some way behind in terms of technology and 1st world advancements.

Yet with good training and support, there is no reason why these operators cannot become experts, and are able to advise and recommend the best products and services based on the customers needs. Understanding the customers needs is done with good questioning, listening, summarising what you have heard, and agreeing on the way forward….not by ramming home the current product that there is an incentive to sell more of for that week.

Yet all of this excellent product, knowledge and skills training is going to be irrelevant if the customer cannot understand what the operator is saying. In SA there are currently 25 million unemployed people between the ages of 18-35, they are well educated and have a desire to work, there are just very few opportunities for them to get a job. The BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) Industry is one of the growing industries in the SA economy today, and there is a clear recognition, that to supply the growth in the industry there has to be an investment into skills.

We partner with an NPO called Harambee, who offer a 10 week work readiness programme to the unemployed youth of SA. This offers an opportunity to get off of the viscous circle of;  “can’t get a job as have no work experience, can’t get any work experience if no one will give me a job”. The 10 weeks cover a multitude of skills that prepare for the workplace, and one of the most critical is the accent neutralisation. Those that graduate from the programme have got an excellent chance of getting a job in both national and international call centres, as they now have the ability to communicate effectively.

The attractiveness to Offshoring BPO is to reduce opex….however there is no point in reducing your open by 10%  if you are churning your customer base by 15%, that is not sustainable. In my opinion there needs to be a better management of expectation between client and BPO…..yes I can offer 100 seats to support a new marketing campaign….but not next week Tuesday…..we need to work on realistic speed to competency plans, with glide paths that are achievable.


ross telfer

Ross Telfer is the Managing Director of a large BPO based in Durban, South Africa. The operation specialises in Telesales campaigns to the UK and Australia in the Telecoms, Energy and Financial Services sectors.

Ross has held senior roles over the past 20 years in Shop Direct Group, Talk Talk, Yellow Pages and Vodafone and has vast experience of working with Outsource Partners. The challenge and opportunity to build a business from scratch in one of the fastest growing geographies for the BPO industry globally, has been hugely rewarding. South Africa is a great news story at the moment, and Ross is very proud to be a part of it.

Coracall is a full service Contact Centre global operation with facilities across the United Kingdom and South Africa.We’re owned and managed by professionals who possess many years of experience in delivering intelligent customer contact solutions and strong client relationships. As a privately owned company, we offer cost effective and flexible service options, which can be swiftly implemented by our management team to meet your business needs and objectives.

We are passionate about our business and we channel that into generating more sales for our clients retaining customers longer, developing the customer relationship, and increasing your customer’s lifetime value. Coracall operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; providing flexible solutions for your customers and clients, always keeping you connected in a 24/7 world.

coracall

 

The customer is not always right…..BUT be careful how you respond when you think they are not!


47 king street west

It is very likely you have not heard of 47 King Street West – a French restaurant based in Manchester in the UK. Although you may not have heard of it, it is possible that the eatery will become infamous as an example of how NOT to respond to customer feedback. When an organisation considers its strategic approach to Customer Experience, it is important it accepts that ‘perfection’ is not realistic. All businesses will get things wrong – it is inevitable. Customers are now free and able to tell the world when they feel you have got it wrong. It is how you deal with things when they do go wrong that can often be the difference between the best exponents of customer centric behaviour….. and the worst!

So let me fill you in on the 47 King Street Story. In 2013, the restaurant was awarded a Certificate of Excellence by TripAdvisor. At the time of writing this blog post, it still has a ‘four star’ rating on the TripAdvisor site…… whether or not it will still have this rating by the time I finish writing this post is a different matter!! To all intense and purposes, 47 King Street appears to be a restaurant that could quite comfortably feature on your list of places to eat in the North West of England.

However, closer inspection of TripAdvisor reveals that all might not be as well as it seems. You only have to scroll down to the review posted on the 28th February 2015 – it does not make good reading (for the restaurant that is):

47 king street west1.jpg

If you were the owner of this establishment, you would quite rightly be horrified to read this brutally honest feedback from a customer – a customer who had no doubt spent a significant sum of money in your restaurant. You would also appreciate that it in 2015, any customer has the ability to share their experience with millions of others at the click of a mouse.

Anyone reading this review has a choice – a choice to believe everything contained within it, or to look at the balance of all reviews and form a rounded opinion of the restaurant. One would expect that when a negative review of this nature has been posted online that the company concerned would leave a suitable response to clarify the situation – whether the customer was right or wrong. At the end of the day, the internet is now as much of your shop window as your physical premises are.

In the case of 47 King Street West, the manager of the restaurant DID respond to this review……just not in the way you may expect. Although his comments have been removed from their social media streams, here is his unedited response posted on Facebook:

47 king street west2.jpg

Describing customers as ‘the chaviest worst most vile people ever to grace our restaurant’ is perhaps not the best response to their feedback. To dish out a tirade of abuse dismissing those customers as ‘trash’ is almost unbelievable. To  do it so publicly is remarkably naive. The problem with the way that 47 King Street responded is that other potential customers are now likely to base their opinion of the restaurant on his behaviour – even if his customers were wrong, you just cannot do what Mike Hymanson, the owner of 47 King Street has done.

The visibility of this story is only just picking up pace – how viral it will become is yet to be seen. Mr Hymanson has now described the incident as regrettable (not surprising really!) – it is not clear whether he has directly apologised to the poor customer concerned. You can read more about the incident here.

Learning how to deal with customers who you perceive to be wrong is vitally important in maintaining the credibility of your brand and the experience it is intending to deliver. In the same way that you do not want to do something to affect your personal credibility in the future, it is just as important to not ‘retaliate’ in a way that makes the situation worse.

Only yesterday, on an Easyjet flight from Athens to London Gatwick, I witnessed what I saw as completely unacceptable behaviour from a customer. There is no doubt in my mind that I was observing a scenario where the customer was undeniably wrong. The customer was not particularly pleasant from the moment she got on the plane. Carrying her baby daughter, she seemed to expect that the seat next to her should be vacant. The bemused passenger sat in the seat kept her cool remarkably well. The excellent cabin crew managed the situation brilliantly and were able to move the bemused passenger to another seat.

Sensing all was well, I sat back and prepared myself for a restful flight. Shortly after take off, with the fasten seat belt sign still lit, the ‘unpleasant’ passenger unbuckled her belt and vacated her seat to get something from the overhead luggage rack. A member of the cabin crew walked down the aisle and asked her very politely to remain seated until the ‘fasten seat belt sign’ was switched off. A perfectly reasonable request I am sure you will agree. The passenger responded with a torrent of very strong words including – ‘leave me alone’; ‘I am pregnant and you are going to make me miscarry’; ‘why do you treat passengers like this?’

It was really quite unbelievable. The cabin crew members response was in my view the perfect example of how to respond. She replied in a steady, polite, and confident manner – ‘I understand madam’. ‘Please take your seat as quickly as you feel comfortable’. Although quite clearly shaken, the Easyjet employee did exactly the right thing. She did not retaliate. She did not quote policy or procedure that would most likely rile the passenger even more. She quietly left the customer to it.

Now imagine what COULD have happened if she had responded in a different way? What COULD have happened if she demanded that the passenger be seated (as I am sure she had every right to do)? It is perfectly feasible that this lady could have resorted to social media to say how a pregnant lady travelling with a baby was mistreated by Easyjet cabin crew.  It COULD have gone viral, and got in front of the eyes of journalists. Instead, a potentially damaging situation will never be heard of again. In fact the actions of this excellent ambassador for Easyjet almost certainly won her the admiration of other passengers on the plane, thus enhancing the reputation of her company.

Customers will not always be right. Customers who are not right are able to share their thoughts with the world. As the owner of a business, whether you think they are right or they are wrong, it is absolutely critical that you deal with their feedback in a way that does not detrimentally and potentially fatally damage your business. The end to end journey for many consumers now starts with the assessment of feedback found online – the last thing you want is for them to see the public face of your organisation publicly abusing customers who leave what appears to be honest feedback.

The phrase ‘feedback is a gift’ is often an overused term. I personally believe it is and always will be the perfect phrase for describing feedback. Like all gifts, handle it with care!

‘Happy Birthday Mr Glodnig’!! How NOT to create a good impression with customers!


Mr Glodnig

In life there are a number of certainties. The annual celebration of our birth is one of them. For me, the 6th December each and every year marks my birthday. When it comes to the world of Customer Experience, there are also a number of certainties that can be counted on. John Lewis being recognised as one of the UKs most trusted brands is one. Ryanair sounding their bugle when arriving at a destination on time is another. Virgin trains WiFi failing to work is also an annoying certainty!

A few years ago (I think it was 2010), I purchased a pair of Converse trainers from online retailer JD Williams. The purchase (actually conducted as a mystery shopping exercise whilst in my role as Head of Group Customer Experience at Shop Direct) has led to me experiencing another certainty in my life – my annual ‘Happy Birthday’ email from JD Williams.

We are all used to receiving random emails from organisations we interact with for both business and as consumers. Sometimes the emails are welcomed – if they hit our ‘in boxes’ at the right time, they may just catch our eye and lead to us investigating the subject in more detail. Enticing discounts in the subject line can prove too good to ignore. Often emails are unwelcome – a little like inbox ‘vomit’ which we are very happy to consign to the trash as quickly as possible!

Marketing emails have actually become as big a certainty as anything else in the continuously connected world we now live in – and that brings me nicely back to the subject of this blog post. Some businesses are very good at linking key events in a customer’s life to their strategic marketing campaigns. As consumers demand more and more personalisation in the experiences they have, this seems like a perfectly sensible strategy. The most significant event that a company can connect with is the certainty that is a birthday.

Every 6th December, I receive an increase in email traffic. Some of the emails are from my wonderful friends and family wishing me ‘many happy returns’. However many of the emails are from companies eager to show me how important I am as a customer. One example is the email I received from NH Hotels this year – it has been a while since I stayed in one, but in my opinion, their email was good and welcome. It was clear, simple and to the point:

NH Hotels

I do not have a problem with companies I have interacted with contacting me on a special occasion to make me feel as though I should interact with them again. It is all part of developing ongoing relationships with customers. The key is to get the timing, tone and content of the email right.

NH Hotels demonstrated how to get it RIGHT and create a good impression with the customer. Sadly, JD Williams did not. You will have noticed that the title of this blog post is ‘Happy Birthday Mr Glodnig’. I have been called many things in my 42 years. It is only JD Williams who decided that my real name is not suitable. When I placed my one and only order with JD Williams – online – they decided to change my name (fortunately not by deed poll!).

I know that I entered my details correctly as I personally entered them. I also entered my credit card details using my real name (obviously) – my payment would not have gone through otherwise. This was clearly not noticed by JD Williams computer systems. Ever since I placed my one and only order with them, JD Williams have been communicating with Mr Glodnig. Every 6th December, Mr Glodnig receives a special birthday email from JD Williams. Interestingly, JD Williams offer Mr Glodnig the same ‘gift’ that NH Hotels offered Mr Golding (that’s me!).

JD Williams are not the only company to get a customers name wrong. A name like Golding is easy to ‘mis-hear’ over the phone – in the past I have received correspondence for Mr Goulding and Mr Goldring. However since the ‘digital revolution’, it has become very rare for my name to be misspelt – almost certainly because it is me, the consumer, entering my name for myself online. What is certain though is that I do NOT appreciate receiving communication from a company that cannot even spell my name correctly – especially on my birthday!!!

If a business wants to create the right impression with a customer they must be able to get the BASICS right. I consider the correct spelling of a customers name to be a pretty fundamental basic. If a business wants to create the right impression, it can also consider trying to EXCEED customer expectations. Sending a ‘special’ email on a customers birthday with a ‘gift’ can be considered a good example of this. HOWEVER, if you try to ‘sprinkle fairy dust’ on something that is very badly broken, the effect could be fatal.

I do not know who Mr Glodnig is. Hence, every time I receive an email for him in my inbox it will be instantly DELETED. I would prefer JD Williams not to ‘vomit’ things addressed to him into my inbox – especially on my birthday. If JD Williams want to communicate with Mr Golding, I MAY consider having a look at what they have on offer. Until that time, I do NOT consider myself as a customer who has a relationship with them – and that is the point. Create the WRONG impression and you may end up with no customers at all.

What funny names have you been called in communications from companies? If you are happy to share, I am sure readers will be very happy to read and enjoy!

The big ‘Wi-Fi’ conundrum: a way to make money or a way to give customers what they need?


0 free wifi

Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs  is a psychological theory proposed by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation”. The theory is most commonly portrayed in the shape of a pyramid with the largest, most fundamental levels of human needs at the bottom and with the ultimate need for self-actualization at the top.

71 years later, it could be argued that Maslow’s perception of what constituted basic physical needs has been surpassed by something even more fundamental. Those of you who have ever seen the reaction of teenagers who have experienced a failing Wi-Fi connection will know exactly what I am talking about.  Fellow Customer Experience specialist, Dr Nicola Millard, once said that the best way to reprimand your misbehaving children is not to send them to their room – it is to remove their Wi-Fi!!

In 2014, Wi-Fi has become such a critical part of our day to day lives that it is difficult to imagine how we might exist without it. We need W-Fi for work; at school; to order our shopping; to control our heating; to stream our entertainment – it literally is an essential part of day to day living. We have become so dependant on Wi-Fi, it is becoming increasingly frustrating when we are unable to access it – a problem that is still very common. What is even worse is when we are lured in to thinking we can access it, only for our hopes to be dashed!

I travel regularly with Virgin trains – their Wi-Fi has not worked properly for the last couple of years – it is Soooooo frustrating!!! Our need for Wi-Fi has become so critical that most consumers see it as a basic requirement when interacting with organisations – unfortunately, many businesses do not quite see it that way. As we approach the end of 2014, I am amazed at the number of companies who fall into one of the following three categories:

  • We have Wi-Fi but if you want to use it you must pay for it
  • We will let you use our Wi-Fi for a short period of time for free before you must start paying for it
  • We do not have Wi-Fi available for our customers

There are a growing number of companies who fall into this category

  • We provide free unlimited Wi-Fi to all of our customers

However, how many companies could/should be in this category?

  • We provide free unlimited Wi-Fi to all of our customers whilst collecting hugely valuable data and insight about them to help us serve them better

The provision of Wi-Fi has led to the creation of a Customer Experience Conundrum – should my company look at it as a way of making money out of customers (revenue stream), or should I offer it completely free to my customers as they consider it a basic requirement (customer experience advocacy driver).

Companies that see Wi-Fi as a revenue stream will ultimately have to change their perspective. The key driver of customer dissatisfaction with Premier Inn, one of the UKs biggest hotel chains is that fact that their wi-fi is not free – it is for 30 minutes, but that is not good enough. The hotel industry is one that needs to recognise the importance of Wi-Fi as a driver of customer dissatisfaction. You may not know that there is a website that enables consumers to check the wi-fi provision at hotels all around the world – the fact this website exists suggests how important wi-fi is.

Companies that have incorporated free wi-fi into their experience are reaping the benefits. It is not often you will see an empty McDonald’s – at any time of the day or night. Last year I wrote about the influence free Wi-Fi has had on their proposition – you can read it here. Free Wi-Fi will give your customers a reason to keep coming back to you. If you are faced with a decision of visiting two cafés – one has Wi-Fi and one does not – which one are you more likely to enter?

What to do about Wi-Fi is a similar conundrum to the subject of ‘free delivery’ faced by retailers four to five years ago. Reluctant to give up a ‘revenue stream’, would failure to offer a free delivery option ultimately lead to losing customers altogether? In 2014, the vast majority of retailers now offer a free delivery option – free delivery became a basic…… in the same way free Wi-Fi is today.

The wonderful thing about Wi-Fi is that it is becoming easier and easier for companies to make it accessible for free to customers whilst at the same time maximising the benefits of doing so. Last year I met a lovely lady called Lisa Rhodes. Lisa works for a company called Express Data who is helping thousands of organisations in the UK understand how free Wi-Fi can benefit both customers and the businesses that offer it to them. Essentially, Lisa helps to put in place a Social W-Fi and Analytics solution. The principal of Airtight Wi-Fi is to combine Social Media with Wi-Fi and Analytics – all with the objective of driving better engagement with customers. To achieve the ultimate goal of more loyal customers, giving them free Wi-Fi is now imperative!!

0 airtight social wifi

It is really quite clever stuff – that gives customers what they NEED, whilst at the same time delivering a wealth of insight and knowledge to help you maximise your relationship with them. This is why the answer to the conundrum is a simple one for me. Offering free Wi-Fi to customers is a no brainer – fail to do so and your customers will eventually go to someone else who offers it for nothing. Offering free Wi-Fi without utilising any information it can give you is a huge missed opportunity. In 2014, it is not only our basic needs as humans that have changed. If you can use technology better to help you understand how to engage more closely with customers, your future will look even rosier.

If you want to know more about Airtight Wi-Fi, you can contact Lisa on +447762 887716 or email her at Lisa.Rhodes@expressdata.co.uk

Customer Empathy – ignore it at your peril!


0 empathy

Have you ever looked up the definition of the word Empathy? I would suspect that you have not! It is not often that we take the time to read dictionaries!! If you read the definition above, it is also likely that you will find it difficult to correlate many of the words used with organisations that you interact with on a daily basis. I often tell people how rare I think it is for companies to demonstrate ‘customer empathy’ on a consistent basis. There are many reasons why this is the case – organisational culture being the predominant one.

Customer empathy is a critical element that will have a significant effect on the experience customers have with a business. The EMOTIONAL component of all experiences (how the experience made us feel) is the one that we are most likely to remember (rather than the FUNCTIONAL or ACCESSIBLE components). We will often forgive an experience that is not as slick as it might be if it is delivered by engaging, empathetic people. Failure to display customer empathy (which can often be seen as the application of common sense!) can have significant detrimental effects on a business.

To bring this to life, I am going to share a story that was shared with me on Facebook yesterday. Brian Ward’s story is one that in principle we should be able to be empathetic towards – what you are about to read is likely to shock you…..or maybe not. I must point out that I do not know Brian, but feel that the story is so compelling, that many should read it to understand the consequences of failing to be empathetic towards customers. These words were posted on Irish airline Aer Lingus’s Facebook page on the 17th September (2 days ago):

It unfortunately has had to come to this. After many years of loyal custom from my parents William & Marie Ward, your actions and absolute disregard of their wellbeing is quite upsetting. My parents book their flights specifically with Aer Lingus twice yearly and up to now your service has never made them question this.

Unfortunately their plans this year were completely thrown off course when in July after a series of tests my dad, William, was diagnosed with cancer. Like any family, this is the news we never wanted to hear. My Dad is currently undergoing his treatment with a rigorous course of Radiotherapy and Chemotherapy.

Albeit not top of the list of to-do’s when anyone is dealt a blow like this, we set about making arrangements to cancel their eagerly anticipated 40th Wedding Anniversary trip. As you would expect their hotel, transfer company and tour agent all were extremely compassionate and assisted in any way possible. They recognised my parents’ loyal custom and they saw them as more than just a number. They completely refunded my parents trip and wished my Dad all the best with his treatment.

This could not be said for Aer Lingus, a company which seemingly prides itself on being customer focused. My dad contacted your reservations team to discuss his options and as you have probably guessed – this was worthless. Apart from claiming back the flight taxes, or swapping flights for a shorter flight option; Aer Lingus have been happy to wash their hands of the reservation and my parents’ custom. My sister has also communicated with your team who were less than friendly on three specific occasions. We have sent an email detailing our parents request on the 26th of August and to date there is still no response.

The way you have treated our parents, proves that Aer Lingus customers are just numbers, your mission statements aren’t worth the paper they’re written on and your powers that be have seem to have never encountered cancer and everything that it entails.

For a company who are on course to match your last year’s profits of €60 million, it’s sickening to think that our parents reservation costing just less than €500.00 is non-refundable. We have been more than willing to furnish a consultant’s letter to confirm the above and his inability to travel.

I would ask you to review the above and to contact me directly to obtain a resolution.

P.S….It might also be beneficial to check out last Friday (12th September) Irish independent letter section, whereby the low cost airline Ryanair dealt quite respectfully with a similar situation.

At the time of writing (00:30 on the 19th September), the post has been ‘Liked’ on Facebook over 8,000 times – is has been ‘shared’ over 1,100 times. I suspect these numbers will continue to rise rapidly. The backlash against Aer Lingus is huge – comment after comment laments the airline. The incident is incredibly damaging – the question is how damaging? Have a look at the Facebook post if you are interested in reading the comments.

This story should act as a lesson to all organisations. If you stick to the ‘rules’, fail to empower your people to do the ‘right thing’ and fail to recognise the importance of customer empathy, in the connected world we now live in, the consumer will bite back. Please share this post and ensure that this does not happen to your business.

Just to conclude the story, Aer Lingus have since been in contact with Brian to resolve the issue – see below:

0 aer lingus response

I join many others in sending my best wishes to Brian and his parents.

 

The magic of Disney – now that’s what I call a Customer Experience!


0 lorna hann

I have often said in the past how lucky I am to have so many people share their customer experience stories with me. Sometimes the stories are difficult to hear. Sometimes the stories are inspiring. In all cases I believe that through the use of storytelling, it is possible to bring to life the significance of the customer experience in the organisations we work and interact with.

This week I am absolutely thrilled to be able to share an inspiring story with you. On occasion I am told a story that sends a shiver down my spine – a story that instantly puts a grin on my face. This is one of those occassions. The little lady in the picture is called Lorna Hann. Lorna is the daughter of the lovely Brian Hann – an ex colleague of mine. The minute I started reading Lorna’s story at the weekend, I knew it was one that had to be shared with many. I am over the moon that Brian was happy for me to do so. I really hope you enjoy reading about it as much as I did.

Two weeks ago Lorna received a Tiana animator Disney doll for her birthday. You can see Lorna holding Tiana in the picture. Lorna has wanted it for some time and Brian bought it for her from the Disney store in Trafford Manchester. Three days later the doll was taken along on a trip. On the journey one of the shoes was lost. Lorna was devastated.

On Thursday the 4th September Brian contacted the Disney Store head office to enquire about buying a replacement shoe. The Disney employee explained to him that they would look into it. That is how it was left – like many of us making an enquiry like this, we would wait in anticipation for a response from the organisation, hopeful (more than expectant) that they may be able to do something.

On Saturday 6th September a letter arrived in the post with a Disney stamp. Brian opened it – wrapped in Disney tissue paper was a replacement pair of shoes and socks, along with a little hand written letter offering Lorna a magical day (and also some frozen stickers).

Wow! That is not what Brian expected. The Disney Store knew all along what they were going to do – they just had their own special way of doing it. What a phenomenal way of dealing with a customer enquiry!! Not only did Brian receive a postal response, he also received the following email:

Subject
Disney Store

Correspondence
Response via Email 06/09/2014 10:37
Dear Brian,

Thank you very much for your recent contact with us.

Magical news! Evangeline has been able to find a new pair of shoes and socks for Tiana. These have been sent to the address held on record, and these shall be arriving with your Princess soon!

If you require any further assistance, or have any further queries, please not hesitate to be in touch!

Wishing you an Enchanting day!

With kindest regards,
Adrienne
My Favourite Disney Character is Alice

As Brian said in his Facebook post about the experience – no charge, no hassle, just amazing customer service. This is an absolutely wonderful example of how to deliver empathetic and emotionally engaging customer experiences. Whilst there will have been a financial cost to the Disney Store for delivering this experience, the return that they will receive will be exponentially greater. Disney is a brand that is synonymous with great ‘branded customer experiences’ – this highlights exactly why.

In a world where it is difficult for companies to get the basics right, it is heart warming to read a story of a company exceeding customer expectations in such an emphatic way. I hope that this story is shared with as wide an audience as possible. The Disney Store deserve the recognition. Disney will continue to deliver magic to children and adults all over the world for many years to come – but that magic is not just through the delivery of films and fun – it is also through the magic of amazing customer experiences.

Thanks again Brian and Lorna for sharing the story.