Shopper Centricity: re-designing the high street store customer experience

Shooper centricity

This is not the first time I have written about bricks and mortar retail stores. The British high street has been under significant pressure for many years now – I have documented its demise since I started writing three years ago – you can read my opinions in the following posts:

There are many factors that are contributing to the steady increase in the closure of bricks and mortar stores every year. Only yesterday (16th March 2015) the BBC reported that ‘Shops desert High Street at faster rate in 2014’ – almost three times the number of stores closed down in 2014 compared to 2013. The demise of the high street is showing no sign of abating. The BBC article which reported the findings of research commissioned by PwC included the following quote from Mark Hudson, retail lead at PwC:

“Customers are embracing new mobile technologies, traditional retail channels to market are being wiped out and new channels are being created, often in the online rather than the ‘real’ world,”

It is difficult to disagree – it is also difficult to deny that this has been the case for many years now – in fact the online revolution has been in full swing since the mid noughties! That being the case, why is it that the experience that consumers have on the high street still ‘feels’ exactly the same as it did in the mid eighties?!!!

In 2015, shopping in a bricks and mortar store is like walking back in to a bygone age. Despite the introduction of a vast array of new technology, it is remarkably rare to see any of the technology we use in our daily lives even being present in the high street store. There are exceptions of course – the Apple store was among the first to change the concept of a physical high street experience – well-informed and knowledgeable staff seamlessly integrating with beautiful technology, using their own products to conduct purchases. I am not personally a user of Apple products, but have always been a fan of the Apple store concept.

The experience of shopping in the high street is often not one that consumers relish in the modern world. From cramped and confusing store layouts, to unhelpful, uninformed staff, to a lack of integration with online offerings. I find shopping in certain stores a real chore – even though I sometimes feel that the brands responsible for the store play a vital role in our high street. It is the nature of the store environment makes for a not very enjoyable shopping experience. Just think of the brands on our high streets who appear to offer a completely different layout in every store. It is like an episode of the Krypton Factor (for these of you who can remember) trying to find the things you need. Surely the experience could be better?

What about the stores that you know even before you have arrived that you are going to have to find a member of staff to show you where the things you need are located. It is annoying, time-consuming and not very enjoyable. It is no wonder that we prefer to sit at home and conduct our shopping in front of a plethora of different size digital screens.

In my opinion, the reason why the ‘bricks and mortar’ shopping experience feels like it has for decades is that the experience we still have as consumers is one that was conceived and designed decades ago – very few retailers have considered how they need to REDESIGN the shopping experience to meet the needs of the shopper in 2015. Even fewer (if any at all) have thought about the changing needs of the consumer in the future. Ultimately, the shopping experience today is NOT ‘shopper centric’ – for the high street to find its purpose again, I urge retailers to consider the need to drive ‘shopper centricity’.

So what do I mean by ‘shopper centricity’? I do not think it is rocket science to consider how to redesign the shopping experience to better fit in to the life of the modern consumer. Being shopper centric means that your store puts the shopper at the ‘heart’ of everything it does. It means that your store is designed to be functional – it allows the shopper to do what she needs to do. It needs to be designed to be as accessible as possible – it enables her to do what she wants in a store as easily as possible. It needs to be designed to leave her feeling as though she has actually had an experience – one that she will remember…… and for the right reasons. To achieve all of these things, retailers need to recognise that technology and channels can/should/must start to integrate seamlessly so the consumer is able to achieve everything they want.

facebook hangers

A retailer in Brazil a few years ago introduced clothes hangers linked to Facebook. The hangers display the number of likes related to the product that adorns it. What a brilliant idea – an idea that I am yet to see in the UK. It is a simple yet powerful example of linking technology and channels together. Walking into a bricks and mortar store CAN feel like the online experience (and vice versa).

In 2013 I delivered a presentation on customer experience to a telecoms business, Pennine Telecom and some of its clients. One of the companies at the presentation was Motorola Technologies. They were developing some amazing things that could transform the experience for companies and customers across a number of industries. They showed me their ‘electronic badge’ technology – see the image below. This replaces current plastic badges that you ‘swipe’ to get in and out of buildings, and that show your name, picture etc.. The badges enable businesses to know where their employees are at any time, delivering real-time tasks. They are looking at getting them into hospitals (replacing pagers), and retailers. Think how the experience could be improved if an employee had an electronic badge to advise you where a product was in the store. Even better – what if the store was enabled with touchscreens that consumers could use themselves to find an item….. or to order it online if not available?


This technology already exists…..yet it is still not present in the experience we have in most bricks and mortar stores. Then we come to mobile. The technology that the majority of consumers use as almost an extension of their physical form! We eat, sleep, run, play, work and SHOP with the things – yet they are still largely not integrated into the physical shopping experience. Mobile technology is a huge opportunity for retailers to radically redesign the shopping experience. The question is who will e the first to do it effectively?

I envisage a world where mobile technology helps the consumer to CHOOSE how they want to shop – rather than the retailer defining how the MUST shop. Imagine this scenario:

  • I need to buy an item of clothing for a party tonight – I need it quickly
  • My mobile tells me where I can find the item (in stock)
  • My mobile tells me independent customer reviews of the item
  • My mobile tells me my transport options to get there and where to park (free and paid)
  • My mobile informs me of payment options
  • On entering the store, my mobile and he store ‘connect’ with each other
  • My mobile tells me where the item is in the store
  • My mobile suggests other items that could complement my purchase
  • I leave the store and my mobile automatically pays for the items in my possession
  • Depending on the time of day, my mobile tells me where I can grab a bite to eat close to store

Madness? Feasible? An experience that would leave you feeling positive – emotionally? Whether this type of scenario is for you or not, we must recognise that the days of the existing high street store experience are numbered. Until or unless retailers recognise that they must redesign the experience to make better use of the technology that their customers are already using, the media will continue to report ever-increasing numbers of shop closures. We must put the shopper back at the heart of the shopping experience again – and design an experience that genuinely is Shopper Centric!

Falling out of love with John Lewis – even the best find it tough to deliver consistently good customer experiences

JL Falling

This is not the first time I have written about John Lewis. A British retailer recognised by many as the epitome of a people (customers and employees) focused brand, their challenge for a long time has been to maintain their position as a Customer Experience leader for others to look up to and admire.

Founded in 1864, the perception of John Lewis as a brand you can trust has been built over many years of hard work – hard work in adapting to the world around it and the ever changing needs of its customers. With its well know ‘Never Knowingly Undersold’ slogan, the retailer will still pay you the difference if you can find an item you purchased from them cheaper elsewhere.

If you have turned your customers into loyal fans of your brand – if they have ‘fallen in love’ with your Customer Experience, it takes a lot of hard work to maintain that love – to maintain their ‘fandom’ and loyal custom. Even if something goes wrong, it is unlikely that your customer will fall out of love with you – especially if you are able to put it right quickly, efficiently and without too much effort.

John Lewis are by no means perfect – like all organisations, it is impossible to get things right 100% of the time, but in general they are well known for dealing with issues in a professional and consistent manner. However, in January 2015, John Lewis’s challenge seems to be getting ever tougher. The challenge for all businesses to maintain our undivided loyalty is becoming extremely difficult as we become ever more demanding. When you are a John Lewis, the expectation is remarkably high.

So the big question in this post is this – is it possible that the British consumer could ‘fall out of love’ with John Lewis? Could a brand with such a strong heritage and reputation lose its differentiation as a Customer Experience leader? In April last year I wrote a post that suggested the ‘omni channel Customer Experience’ is John Lewis’s greatest challenge of the moment. The story I shared demonstrated the risks John Lewis face in failing to connect the different customer channels in its business. The story I would like to share today highlights the significance of this  problem once again. Will this be the experience that sees me personally falling out of love with John Lewis?

On the 5th January 2015, I ordered a  ‘Luxury Memory Foam Mattress Bed Topper’ from John I immediately received an email confirmation advising me that the item would be delivered ‘within 5 working days’ of me placing my order. I was very happy with this as the item was intended as a birthday present for Mrs Golding whose birthday was on the 13th January! Unusually for me, I was working ahead of time with a little leeway!

JL 1

Two days later I received another email. Entitled ‘Back Order Details’, things did not bode well. In fact I was actually quite astonished to open an email from John Lewis advising me that the item ordered was NOT available for delivery. The ‘call to action’ was for me, the customer, to make all of the effort and contact John Lewis by email or telephone to ‘cancel the order’!! Alternatively I could just wait for it to arrive, or have my order cancelled in 4 weeks.

JL 2

Sadly this type of ‘broken promise’ event is pretty common with online retailers – the problem is that I have higher expectations of John Lewis than I do of other retailers. I was NOT impressed. As I did not want to have to email or telephone, I reached out to Twitter to vent my frustration:

JL 3

A broken promise of delivery of a birthday present and the first suggestion from John Lewis on Twitter was for me, the customer, to contact my local store. I was starting to get a little hot under the collar now. This is really not what I expect from John Lewis. There was no other option but to pick up the phone and speak to them.

On the 9th January I called the John contact centre – more of my time, effort and cost in telephone calls. For the first time during the transaction, I spoke to someone who gave me faith that I was really dealing with John Lewis and not a bogus website! Zain, the contact centre agent, was excellent. Very apologetic, he did everything he could to understand what had happened and what he could do about it. I was impressed. Zain confirmed the weakness in John Lewis’s operating model. The online business did indeed not have any more of the item I had ordered in stock. The item was due into their warehouse on the 5th January but had not arrived yet. The online warehouse is NOT shared by the stores – they have their own separate stock pool. Zain had to put me on hold while he contacted the stores contact centre to see if they had any of the item available. Still with me?!

If you are confused, I will just clarify that John Lewis is not a joined up, connected, omni channel business. Its stores and online propositions might look the same, but they are separate and disparate. I was suffering as a result. The only solution Zain could come up with was to cancel my online order and reserve the item at my local John Lewis store in Chester. I then had to telephone my local Chester store to confirm my reservation. The whole experience was long winded and ridiculous. I had got to the point of almost no return!

The following day (10th January) I received a message from the Chester store advising that the item had come in to stock again – hurrah – three days before Naomi’s birthday – I could get them to send the item by next day delivery and still have it in time…………or NOT! When I called the store and suggested that they send it by next day delivery, I was advised that this was not an option. I could either have it delivered to home in five working days, or collect it from the store on the 13th January. The back story of the order was irrelevant – the fact that John Lewis were affecting my ability to get my wife her birthday present on time was not important – the computer said no (albeit very politely).

So 7 working days after I placed my online order; three phone calls and one drive to a store later, I arrived at John Lewis Chester to collect Naomi’s birthday present. Amazingly, no apology for the debacle was given by anyone I interacted with. Naomi was with me when we collected it – no-one even had the courtesy to wish her a happy birthday. To say I am unimpressed by the whole experience is an understatement.

The problem with bad experiences is that it only takes one for a customer to choose to fall out of love with a brand. There were so many failings in this experience from a retailer I once trusted implicitly that I have made the conscious decision NOT to use John Lewis online in the future. I will still visit their stores. I still believe that they have an excellent proposition and wonderful people. Yet until they join their channels together, I will shop elsewhere via the internet – this experience has left a sour taste in my mouth.

So is it possible for the consumer to fall out of love with John Lewis? You bet your life it is – they can and must not ever rest on their laurels.

Update – 15th January

Having read this post, I was contacted by John Lewis on Facebook and twitter. This morning I had a telephone conversation with a very nice lady from the customer service team. Not only did the lady acknowledge all of the issues in the experience (without excusing them), she confirmed that they would be addressing the issues with the relevant teams to mitigate the issues in the future. This is further demonstration as to why it is important for organisations to readily accept feedback like this and seize on the opportunity that comes from bad experiences. If good comes out of bad, I am always very happy with the outcome.

If you have two minutes, please take the time to complete my 2 question survey to find out your personal #1 brand for delivering consistently good customer experiences. I also want to know what makes the brand your #1! The research will be used for an upcoming blog post – many thanks for your time!

You can complete the survey by clicking here


‘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!

1914 Vs 2014: When was the best time to be a customer?

0 1914 V 2014

Two years ago my family and I were fortunate and honoured to participate in a BBC1 ‘living history’ programme called Turn Back Time: the Family. An experience like no other, we were transported back in time to the turn of the 20th century to find out how life was like for our ancestors. The essence of the programme was for us to live as our forbears lived with a view to understanding how life for the family unit has changed over time. Whilst there was not a focus on what life was like for the consumer, it is impossible for me not to consider the impact of Customer Experience – whatever the era!! If you want to know more about the programme, you can read all about it here.

Two years on, I am continually reminded about our Turn Back Time experience as commemorations for the start of World War I increase in visibility. I personally went on a significant journey getting closer to understanding the sacrifices my family made for me. As I wear my poppy with pride, I will never forget them and the millions of others who have lost (and continue to lose) their lives protecting the future for us all.

1914 has another significance for the Golding family – it is the year my Grandma was born. Wonderfully, Pauline is still with us having celebrated her 100th birthday on the 1st May. To think that she was born BEFORE the war started is quite something. To think what life was really like in 1914 in London is intriguing. Being involved in Turn Back Time gave me enough of a flavour to make a comparison between the Customer Experience then and now. That is why I want to pose the question – 1914 or 2014: when was the best time to be a customer?

0 1914 shops

Let us start by going black and white. Life in pre war Britain was in many ways much simpler for the consumer than it is today. For a customer there was only one predominant way to shop….one ‘channel’. That channel was the channel that in 2014 is continually in decline – Face to Face! With the overwhelming majority of consumers not owning a car most customers would purchase goods with local retailers in the high street (remember them?).

As a father in 1914, I learned how important etiquette was. Manners and politeness was evident in all daily interactions at home, work and as a customer. Shops were very orderly places, manned by smartly dressed shopkeepers stood behind tall counters. Knowing most of their customers by name, products would be picked and packed whilst maintaining friendly conversation. Most of the time the shopkeepers did not even have to ask what their customers wanted to buy – they knew already. There was not a great deal of variety with the products on offer, but that just made the shopping experience more efficient.

Even in 1914 there was an alternative to shopping on the high street. The first iteration of home shopping had been in existence for some time by then – shopping by mail order allowed consumers to purchase products not available on their high street. Payment in 1914 was also pretty simple – cash or cheque with no plastic in sight.

0 2014 shopping

Fast forward 100 years to 2014. Today, consumers do not have two channels to purchase products. In 2014 we have arguably eight (Shops; telephone; web; mobile; live chat; SMS; mail order; TV). I am sure someone will tell me I have forgotten one as well!! We are able to purchase literally everything we need in any way we want from anywhere in the world. We could in theory live our lives without ever talking to anyone or setting foot outside of our front door!

If we do choose to talk to someone, it is often via an automated telephone system. It is not uncommon to conduct an entire transaction without a human being involved and even if one is, they are often just reading back a pre written script. In stores, it is unlikely that anyone will know who the customer is and staff may not even need to help you make your purchase.

That being said, we are able to choose what we want when we want it. We can buy whatever we need seven days a week 24 hours a day. We can buy things online and have them delivered to our door within the hour. We can pay in a multitude of ways without the need to fill our pockets with cash. We are even able to see what others think about the things we might buy before we commit to doing so.

So when was the best time to be a customer? the personal, simple consumer experience of 1914; or the global, convenient consumer led experience of 2014? Many will argue that surely the ‘winner’ has to be the modern-day – 2014. We experience what we do today because consumers have demanded that the organisations we interact with provide a more functional, accessible experience. We wanted the 24/7 society that we now have and will continue to demand more and more from companies.

Is that really the case though? Is everyone really happy with the connected world that we are now all a part of? It is difficult to deny ease and convenience provided by amazing technology is that greatest evolution for the 2014 consumer. To be able to do/get what we want when we need it is a remarkable thing. However, it is also difficult to deny that shopping in 2014 is often not a particularly emotional experience. It does not always feel particularly good being a customer of the global corporations who distribute the products or provide the services we buy.

in 2014, all too often we read and hear about stories of organisations completely failing to connect emotionally with customers. Not only do they not know their names, but very few businesses seem to empathise with the people who want to buy their products or services. It is almost ironic that the consumer is now demanding more and more personalisation in their interactions……a little like we used to have in the good old days.

My answer to the question ‘when was the best time to be a customer?’, is very possibly one you may already have guessed. I think there is much to learn from BOTH eras. The power a consumer has in 2014 has completely changed the relationship between company and customer. Some have adapted to the change better than others. Improved choice and convenience is a good thing. Easily accessible products and services at affordable prices is another. However, if we could consistently add the personal, empathetic, emotional flavour of the shopping experience of the early 1900’s (albeit modernised), then surely we would have an era that all consumers could enjoy with confidence.

As we steadily approach the end of another calendar year, the importance of Customer Experience in all sectors gathers yet more pace. Maybe 2014 is not the best time to be a customer at all – maybe 2015 will be!!

Shareholder or Customer First? The difference between Tesco and Amazon

0 amazon V tesco

October 2014 was not the best day to be a shareholder of two of the world’s retail giants. Tesco continued their unfortunate journey from world domination to public implosion. The company who convinced the UK and beyond that ‘every little helps’ are going to need all the help they can get to fight through their greatest ever crisis. Whilst the plight of Tesco was very visibly reported in the UK, the performance of an even bigger retail juggernaut was less so. On the day that the BBC reported Tesco shares ‘plunging’ by more than 8%, Amazon shares ‘plunged’ by 10%. All is not rosy in the supersize retail world it seems.

As someone who spends every working day influencing organisations to focus on people (customers and employees), I am always intrigued that the reporting of business performance seems to spend more time empathising with shareholders than it does with customers and employees. Do not get me wrong – I obviously recognise that the financial performance of any business will determine its very existence – declining financial performance is big news, especially if the decline is significant. However I think it is important to focus less on the effect on shareholders and more on what is behind the decline in the first place.

Too many businesses worry about Shareholders first, automatically placing concerns for customers and employees lower down the list of priorities. Businesses cannot operate without shareholders and investors – that is true – yet I believe that it is vital for companies to focus on getting things right for customers and employees first so that in turn, shareholders will benefit from the improving financial performance of the business. This is a subtle but very significant reversal of what we see reported in the business pages on a regular basis.

Although both Tesco and Amazon saw their declining financial performance very clearly displayed in the car headlights yesterday, the reasons behind the declines are very very different – in my opinion, the reasons highlight brilliant why their business models/cultures have been so very very different over the last few years.

I wrote about the ‘Bursting of the Tesco bubble’ in July 2014. In my blog post I argued that whilst they publicly claimed that ‘no-one tries harder for their customers’, the reality is that they were trying too hard to please their shareholders. Their obsession with growth led them to taking their eye off the ball of why they really exist and what their customers want. They are now in a situation where the behaviour has led to an almost complete erosion of trust with the very consumer that they believed they were working so hard to please. Perhaps the greatest challenge now facing the new CEO, Dave Lewis, is to be able to stand up to shareholders and allow them to understand why the needs of customers and colleagues must be put back ahead of their own.

Let us look at the contrast with Amazon. A company that has famously been focussed more on growth than profit, there are many similarities with the trajectory that Tesco have taken over the last few years. Still led by their founder, Jeff Bezos, unlike Tesco their entire business model is based on meeting and exceeding customer expectations. Shareholders need to be in it for the long term. Yesterday the BBC reported the following:

Investors have long been wondering when Amazon will turn its significant revenues into profits for shareholders. Amazon has been spending heavily in various new initiatives, including its Amazon Fresh grocery delivery service in the US, and its $1bn acquisition of video game streaming site Twitch.That has hurt profits at the firm, with operating expenses growing to $21.1bn, compared with the $17.1bn last year. Investors have been tolerant of Amazon’s policy of reinvesting profits back into the firm. But patience has been wearing thin in recent months. Shares in the firm have fallen nearly 20% since the beginning of this year.

Unhappy, restless shareholders whose patience is wearing thin. The response of many large corporations would be to immediately address their concerns and do whatever it takes to deliver them a return in the short term. That may be the response from many, but not from Amazon and Mr Bezos. Rather than pandering to shareholders, Jeff Bezos’s public statement when talking about their financial performance was as follows:

“As we get ready for this upcoming holiday season, we are focused on making the customer experience easier and more stress-free than ever,”

This is why Customer Experience Professionals love Jeff Bezos!! Amazon is about long term relationships – with customers, employees and shareholders. The returns will come in time. In order to sustain and grow a business, Mr Bezos understands that it MUST be done so by delivering a stress free experience that just keeps getting better and better. It is not difficult to understand. Of course the investors and shareholders deserve to receive a healthy return on their investment – I am completely confident that will come (as I am sure Mr Bezos is) – they just need to be patient and recognise that continually focussing on improving the customer experience will secure both the returns and the sustainability of the business for a very long time.

As the dust settles, I am sure that Jeff Bezos is a far more relaxed business leader than Dave Lewis. Businesses need shareholders, but they need customers more. If both organisations can influence their investors to recognise that greater returns come from consistently getting better at giving customers what they want and need, the media will very soon be reporting a very different story.


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:

Disney Store

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,
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.