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?

motorola

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!

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


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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 Experience is Dead – the case for the prosecution!


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Over the last ten years, I have observed and been part of a tidal wave of focus on Customer Experience. Despite the fact that customer journeys have always existed (although few actually realised it) and customers have always been willing to give feedback, it is only since the start of the new millennium that organisations began to recognise that doing the right thing by their customers might make sense. In 2014, we are seeing more companies than ever before ask us to tell them what we think. Businesses all over the globe are creating millions of wonderful looking customer journey maps. More employees than ever before have a remuneration package that is affected by improving customer perception. A whole new profession has been created, culminating in the founding of the Customer Experience Professionals Association – we even have a professional qualification in the form of CCXP – Certified Customer Experience Professional. Now more than ever should be a wonderful time to be a customer……………right? Or wrong?

In this blog post I am going to defend the indefensible – I am going to say that my previous statement is wrong. I am going to state a case for claiming that rather than being very much alive, Customer Experience is actually dead (if you will excuse the bluntness of the expression). Rather than being a great time to be a customer, we are sadly having more and more negative and unacceptable customer experiences on a daily basis. Using my own experiences as collateral, let me put forward my case for the prosecution:

Exhibit 1 – the broadband provider

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Two and a half weeks ago the Golding family lost Wi-Fi connection at home. Our Wi-Fi has always been a little bit hit and miss, but it has worked to a degree that we have not had to ask for help for over two years (since we switched from another provider). You do not realise how critical Wi-Fi is in your home until you lose it – a fundamental change in customer needs since the turn of the millennium. As soon as we lost connection, we contacted our provider for assistance.

In the subsequent two and half weeks, we have been lied to, fobbed off, and subject to inept customer service. We were initially advised that there was a problem on the line and it would have to be investigated by Openreach. We were told that someone would contact us when this had happened – no-one did. On re-contacting our provider, we were told that there was not a problem on the line and it was probably our router that was causing the problem – it was nice of someone to tell us. We were told that a new router would be sent, and given a delivery date.

You guessed it – that date arrived, but the router did not. On re-contacting our provider, we were told that a router had not actually been sent. By now, Mrs Golding was getting rather frustrated and upset. I am fortunate to know senior leaders in Customer Service or Customer Experience roles for many large UK companies. Our experience was so poor, I had to resort to contacting the Head of Customer Service for this company via LinkedIn – I hate to think how long resolution of our problem would have taken if I had not done this.

The new router arrived a day later. We finally thought this would bring an end to our Wi-Fi purgatory. You guessed it…..the new router did not work. To cut a long story short, the provider finally agreed to send a Broadband engineer to our home – he sorted the problem in thirty minutes. Why it took two and half weeks for this to happen is beyond me. This experience was as bad as experiences can get for customers. The experience generated a huge amount of unnecessary effort. The experience cost us money. The experience left us feeling frustrated and upset. We will not be customers of this Broadband provider for much longer. This company appears to be ‘sitting on the beach’ whilst the tidal wave of Customer Experience roars on past!

Exhibit 2 – the satellite TV company

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My family is not having much luck with technology at the moment, and around the same time we lost our W-Fi, we also lost the use of our satellite TV. Television, like many things, has changed beyond belief in the last twenty years. When I was the same age as my children, I was very happy to make do with four channels and a machine called a video player! In 2014, we have access to hundreds of channels, with the ability to view and record using the same ‘machine’. We can access ‘box sets’, watch recently released movies, and even view online TV services (such as BBC I-Player via Wi-Fi (if we had Wi-Fi that is!).

Unlike twenty years ago, the customer also has a great deal of choice. We can choose to watch TV for free (technically in the UK it is not free as we pay our TV licence) using a digital ‘freesat’ or ‘freeview’ box. If you want access to more channels, you can choose to buy your service from a number of different providers. We have been a customer of one of these providers for over ten years. In my book, this makes us a loyal customer. Our satellite box came to a grinding halt over two weeks ago – much to the distress of the Golding children (they do not watch much TV, but what they do watch is not available on freeview). Once again, we sometimes take for granted the things we have – once it is gone, you realise how much you rely on it. Like the kids, we do not watch much TV either – we tend to record a small number of things and watch them when we want – it is infuriating when that ability suddenly disappears.

On contacting the company concerned, it was confirmed that the box, which was over seven years old, had come to the end of its life. We were given the option to replace the box – but to do so, we would have to ‘upgrade’ to a new package. This would cost us £5 more a month than our current package. In other words, if you want a new box, you have to pay us more money.

I have been a customer of this company for over ten years. I have the potential to continue being a customer for another ten, twenty and possibly more years. Yet when I ask for the replacement of the box that provides the service, I am forced to ‘upgrade’ to a package I do not want! I felt as though the company were holding us to ransom – each time I phoned them I was given a slightly different story. It took two weeks of conversation for them to offer me a ‘compromise’ – we will pay £1.80 more a month for the new package we did not want in the first place. They will also replace the box for ‘free’.

Customers should not have to fight to remain a customer. I have always thought it wrong for new customers to be offered a better deal than long-standing loyal customers. The whole experience has left a very sour taste in my mouth. I do not trust this company and do not like the way they treat their loyal customers. When the deal comes to an end, they will lose this particular customer for good – and with it, the opportunity to receive twenty+ years more income from me.

Exhibit 3 – the ‘4 star’ hotel

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It is not just the world of technology that has served up unacceptable experiences for me over the last two weeks. Last week, I stayed for two nights on business at a stunning hotel in Surrey. I say stunning as from the outside, that is exactly what it was. I would go as far to say as it is one of the most beautiful looking hotels I have ever visited. Very sadly, the inside of the hotel is very very different. Stunning it is not.

Regular readers of my blog will have viewed my standard ‘Customer Experience Review’ format. I wrote a review of this hotel – if you want to read the detail, you can do so here. If you do not want to read the detail, I will briefly summarise. The hotel is part of a group that promises to deliver ‘quality, service and attention to every last detail’. You are right in guessing that they radically fail to deliver on all of these promises.

In three days and two nights, I received unacceptable service from disengaged employees. The accommodation was outdated, of poor quality and lacking on comfort. Basic facilities – such as the only lift on the hotel – did not work. I even bumped into a friendly cockroach in the hallway. I have read a number of publicly available customer reviews on this hotel – I am not the only one who has thought badly of it. I have also experienced other hotels owned by this particular group – my experience across two of their hotels is sadly consistent.

This hotel group have obviously missed the tidal wave of Customer Experience – either that, or their definition of ‘quality, service and attention to every last detail’ is VERY different to mine!


 

So there it is – my case for the prosecution. Broken promises; disengaged employees; unnecessary effort; customer dissatisfaction – sufficient evidence to suggest that Customer Experience is a very long way from being embedded in the culture of businesses. The question is, is this enough evidence to suggest that Customer Experience is therefore dead altogether? You will be pleased to hear that there is also a case for the defence – a case to prove that Customer Experience is very much alive – I will save that evidence for a future blog post.

As someone who benefits from helping organisations that have a desire to transform their organisation to deliver better customer experiences, I should be pleased that there are still so many businesses falling short of doing so. It actually gives me no pleasure to highlight examples like those you have just read. In doing so though, I genuinely hope that I am able to bring to life why a focus on Customer Experience is not yet something that we, the paying customer, can expect to receive on a regular and consistent basis. Despite the fact that the last ten years have seen a Customer Experience tidal wave, the wave is only gaining height and speed – it is yet to break. Customer Experience is not a fad – it is not a project. Customer Experience is why our organisations exist – failure to recognise that could be fatal. Customer Experience will never die – it is the businesses that fail to recognise the importance of it that will.

Do you have more evidence for the prosecution? I would love to hear it if you do. Just to re-iterate – I will be writing the case for the defence very soon!

 

Innovating the market research industry – a startup perspective


One thing is certain in the environment we live in today – innovation is essential if organisations want to achieve sustainable growth. Innovation will help ensure that our ever changing and more demanding needs as consumers are met. In this guest blog post, I am delighted to introduce you to Ben Claxton – Ben is the Founder and CEO of a new, innovative company called nativeye – a mobile research platform that in his words ‘helps your business stay relevant’. Ben talks us through his thoughts as to how innovation can help to transform the way we seek feedback from customers…..

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Anyone who has tried to get traction for an innovation – whether startup or internal initiative – will recognise the challenge. You have a view of a better future for your customers, if only you can convince them. Sticking doggedly to your grand vision on the one hand may not bring along enough people to achieve market success, while being too customer-centric limits your potential and fail to deliver the game-changer.

The trick of course if navigating a third way of market-driven innovation that meets people’s unarticulated and unmet needs – giving them the thing they didn’t even know they wanted but from which there’s no going back.

The following are some personal experiences from the last 3 years of launching and growing a mobile research platform – a tool that seeks to transform the market research industry. The examples are specific but hopefully the lessons are relevant to anyone trying to get their innovation off the ground.

Mobile – the next frontier in market research

When asked at the recent Insight Innovation Exchange in Amsterdam when the time of mobile market research is coming, Ray Pointer of Vision Critical replied, “About 18 months ago”.

This anecdote gives you some insight as to a market that has been hotly tipped for a while now but is still waiting to catch fire. (that said Survey Monkey recently reported that they had seen x14 increase in their mobile traffic in the last 3 years).

The case for mobile is various but includes: massive smartphone penetration and usage, an intimate and ‘in the moment’ channel,  the richer data made possible by smartphones’ communication, multimedia and location functions. This all adds up to a new way of engaging and learning from customers. At nativeye we talk about doing research that doesn’t feel like research.

Predicting real need is hard but vital

Prior to coding a single line we put together a clickable prototype and received strong encouragement to proceed. However those nodding heads we had initially were not necessarily our first customers. In fact, some are only starting to buy now, 3 years on. Possibly there was more we could have done to validate need, but there are a whole host of other factors beyond your control that dictate when people are ready to buy.

A clue to validating real current need is to look at whether people are already trying to solve the problem right now. They might be using other products, hiring people or inventing workarounds to try and do the thing that your product does.

Find your tribe

Some people resist just change (including new technology). This is certainly the case in the market research industry. Either because it requires effort to learn new techniques or because people feel threatened by it (which is probably justified if you are an Amazon warehouse picker). David A. Aaker advises innovators to ‘beware the pessimist’ that will attempt to derail innovation projects based solely of their irrational fear of the new (interesting to note that he also mentions to be aware of the over-optimist).

Some people you’re just not going to win over. The best you can hope for is to quickly identify them and move on. For others to try something new the Benefit must > Pain. Pain comes in many forms – the mental effort to work out where your product fits, the risk of an untried approach, bugs in a new product.

However, some people are much more inclined to give something new a whirl – the benefit to them being the potential transformation of their day-to-day. These people are like gold and will be your champions. I think Seth Godin provides the best advice here which is, “find your tribe and grow out from there.”

Learn to explain innovations in terms people currently understand

Of those that do embrace technology, many initially consider it in old frames of reference. Initially nativeye was seen as a mobile survey tool. Common questions included, “How will I get all the survey questions I want on a screen that size?” This made our spirit sink somewhat as we didn’t see nativeye this way – we saw it as a two-way customer channel that captured people’s experience in unprecedented richness and timeliness.

It’s sometimes frustrating when trying to push things forward only to be pulled back into old frames. But if your product is truly transformational and you can get people to try you out, then this should bubble to the surface and they will tell others of their great experience. In the MR world a tool has to deliver on old measures such as ‘response rate’ before people will countenance the new stuff. It’s a reality that you have to navigate this while still not losing track of the larger potential.

Don’t sell features, solve jobs

Clay Christensen talks about innovating by solving the jobs people want to do. Selling in these terms also makes your proposition much more compelling whereas only talking about features leads you to sell yourself short. This is why about 18 months in we started selling “relevance”. This is the bigger benefit that helps bring people on board by speaking language they can understand. As a customer, I don’t know if I want a ‘mobile research platform’ or to ‘open up a channel to my customers’ but I certainly want my brand to stay relevant to its customers.

Ben Claxton is the founder of nativeye, a mobile research platform that helps your business stay relevant. http://nativeye.com/

Contact Ben for ideas on how nativeye can help you ben@nativeye.com

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I just want to charge my phone!! Innovation is critical in continually improving the customer experience


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There are many occasions when I am at risk of sounding like a stuck record. Akin to a ‘grumpy old man’, poor Mrs Golding has to constantly endure my expressions of dissatisfaction whenever I experience something that I perceive to be unacceptable to us and others as customers. It is in my opinion an occupational hazard – and a hazard that rears its head all too often. If the world was able to more consistently offer great experiences, I would have less to be grumpy about!

No industry is able to escape scrutiny. As I go about my daily business, some are experienced more by me than others. Over the last two years, I have spent a considerable amount of my working life travelling – around the UK and the rest of the world. My office has become almost virtual – from the car, to the airport to the train station – you name it, and I have worked from it. In our technology enabled world, it has become increasingly easy to work from anywhere – as long as I have my laptop, my phone and an internet connection, I can do whatever I want to do, whenever I want to do it…….well almost.

The problem with technology is that it requires one key ingredient to work. That ingredient is POWER. The bigger problem is that as technology has evolved, and our reliance on our smart devices has increased, access to power has not changed at the same rate. Last year I travelled to Malaysia to deliver a two day Customer Experience workshop. I had a six hour stop over in Abu Dhabi. Travelling in economy, I did not have a nice comfy lounge to relax in. What I wanted to do was work, but I only had a couple of hours battery life in my not very sophisticated laptop. After a considerable search the only locations where I could access a power socket were in the smoking lounge or in the corridor opposite the departure gates. I ended up sitting on the floor with my laptop perched on my knees. Most unsatisfactory, but a problem that I am experiencing all the time.

The problem rears its head most often at night. As more and more of us go to bed with our smartphones (and hopefully our partners!!), we now NEED (rather than just ‘would like’) a power socket next to the bed. Apart from the fact that we need to see the vital emails that are received during the night, our phone has also become our alarm clock. Despite this fact, the sight of a power socket next to the bed in hotel room is almost as rare as a complimentary bottle of champagne! I find it astonishing that even in newly refurbished hotels, the nearest power socket to the bed is the opposite side of the room. Does the person who designed the room not own a phone? Do they not live in the current century?

Lovely bedside table, but where is the plug socket?!!
Lovely bedside table, but where is the plug socket?!!

Hotels are not the only problem. Our desire for POWER is constant. I regularly meet colleagues and clients in coffee shops up and down the land. I find myself having to carefully select the coffee shop knowing that it may have a power socket I can sit next to. So many coffee shops and restaurants are lacking on this front. I am a regular traveller on the rail network in the UK – some of the trains I travel on have power sockets – many do not. It is so frustrating. Having a virtual office is fine……but not if I cannot access power when I need it!

We live in a society where our expectations have grown to new levels. I expect organisations to have thought about the way our behaviour has changed and re-design the experiences we receive as customers accordingly. A coffee shop that has a plug socket next to every table is one I guarantee will be occupied continuously throughout the day – and more so than its rival next door that does not. In my mind it is not complicated, and it is not impossible.

Last week I attended a very interesting conference on the future of the high street (in the UK). One of the companies exhibiting provided my inspiration for this blog post. Qiconnect (http://qiconnect.co.uk/index.html) are a lovely small business based in Portsmouth. I very much hope they succeed in their mission to provide us with the power we need so much. They have the solution to the problems I have described, and deserve visibility. Their solution is easy and economical to implement. Their website describes what I want perfectly:

Imagine sitting down for a cup of coffee, and placing your phone on the table.  The phone lights up, and starts to automatically charge – without connectors or cables. You could simply grab your phone on your way out in the morning, and charge it wherever you needed to – at home, the office, the airport, the local coffee shop, or  in the car.  It would be even better if you didn’t ever need a charger –  simply forget about USB cables, chargers and adapters when travelling.

Sounds great doesn’t it? The even greater thing is that this is available to buy and do right now – at the conference last week, the coffee tables were wirelessly enabled to charge my phone. During the breaks, I placed my phone on the table, and it miraculously started charging – it is amazing! Imagine if the bedside table in your hotel was enabled with this technology, or the tables in your local coffee shop? No longer do we need to care about plug sockets, or power cables – we can just put it on a suitable surface and it starts to charge. So simple, and so possible.

Technology like that provided by Qiconnect is absolutely vital in continually improving the customer experience. If your organisation is not in the position to be able to afford to redesign the infrastructure that provides your experience, then solutions like theirs still make improving the customer experience an affordable reality. Inventors and innovators identify changes in the way we behave and develop solutions to address those changes. The first challenge is to identify the change. If you put yourself in your customers shoes, you will see the changes happening in front of your very eyes.

 

Verified by Visa – security or stupidity? Are we unintentionally making customer experiences too inaccessible?


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As a consumer, there are occasions when I am interacting with an organisation that my heart genuinely sinks. There are times when I think to myself, ‘oh no – not again’. Sometimes I will even express my despair out loud. More often than not, the cause of my anguish is driven by poor customer service. Incompetence (employee behaviour) is another key factor. In fact the things that make my knees shake are perfectly summarised in the top 5 things that irritate us most as customers – http://ijgolding.com/2013/11/19/what-irritates-customers-most-the-top-five-irritations-revealed/- revealed in research I conducted late last year.

Number 5 on the list of ‘irritations’ is ‘poorly designed experiences’, and it is this irritation that I would like to focus on. It is an irritation that is increasingly rearing its head in our ever-changing fast paced virtualised world. As consumers, we expect the experiences we have to be as simple and easy to execute as possible. The reason why many organisations have started to consider ‘customer effort’ alongside ‘satisfaction’ and ‘likelihood to recommend’ is that there is growing recognition that the more complicated the customer will perceive their interaction with an organisation, the less likely it is that they will return.

When we consider the principle of ‘designing’ customer experiences, I often wonder whether businesses do actually design them for the benefit of the customer who will be the recipient of the experience. Whilst many experiences are very well-intentioned, it feels to me as though the organisation delivering them may never have actually ‘been through it’ themselves. How many times have you visited a hotel that has recently been renovated, only to discover that the plug sockets are nowhere near the bed? This infuriates me. Designing great experiences is often about getting the attention to detail spot on.

I like to remind people that all experiences are made up of three core components – components that the Customer Experience expert and my mentor, Bruce Temkin introduced to me a long time ago. The elements are:

  • Functional – does the experience do what you want it to do?
  • Accessible – how easy is it for you to do it?
  • Emotional – how does it make you feel?

Many, although not all, organisations invest a lot of time and effort in getting the functional and accessible experience right. Few invest enough time and effort in the emotional element. However a focus on all three is essential if you have an ambition to consistently deliver customer experiences that do what customers want, as easily as possible leaving them to only remember just how easy and hassle free the experience was. If you do not consider these components when designing an experience, you will be at risk of delivering experiences that will fall short of customer expectation in some way. You could be at risk of irritating current and future customers.

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This is where ‘Verified by Visa’ and the title of this blog post comes in. I remember when I first encountered the online security mechanism a few years ago. Designed to make online transactions in Europe more secure, retailers intentionally adopted the use of Verified by Visa to make consumers feel safer using their credit cards online. The official description of the system is as follows:

Verified by Visa protects your card against unauthorised use and gives you peace of mind when shopping online. Once you’ve signed up to Verified by Visa, you’ll be protected whenever you make an online payment with your Visa card at any one of more than 300,000 web sites across Europe

Sounds great – the intent is very clear – why wouldn’t you sign up? Whilst the intent is without doubt, the execution is very different. rather than giving me peace of mind, Verified by Visa is one of those things that makes my heart sink. As soon as I see the Verified by Visa logo, I sometimes consider whether I can be bothered attempting to complete the transaction at all. Verified by Visa is the perfect example of a mechanism that is designed with the best of intentions, but that makes the experience too difficult (and too much hassle) to carry out. The main issue is that I am not very good at remembering passwords. I am sure I am not alone. The older I get, the worse my memory becomes. Every time I interact with a company that uses Verified by Visa, I have to go through the process of re-setting my password – it is infuriating. I would not mind if it was easy to do – it is not. If you try to use Verified by Visa on an iPad, you cannot even see the characters correctly. Whoever created Verified by Visa, has either never used it, or does not care how complicated it is to use. Verified by Visa fails the ‘Accessible’ component of experience (in my opinion).

Have you ever considered why Amazon is so successful? It is not because of the ground breaking design of their website. It is not because they have the friendliest, most knowledgeable staff on the planet. It is because they are so good and consistent at getting the functional and accessible components of the experience right, all we remember is the satisfaction of how hassle free dealing with them is. Amazon do not use Verified by Visa. In fact Amazon are still the only retailer who can get you what you want with just one click of your mouse. As a famous Meerkat would say ‘simples’. Are we concerned that we do not have to go through a fifteen step (excuse the exaggeration!) verification process? No. We just want to do what we want as simply as possible.

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Last week Mrs Golding wanted to purchase some clothes for our children online with River Island. Attracted by an email she had been sent, Naomi entered their website and spent an hour browsing and selecting a number of items. She was very impressed with the products on offer. Happy with her selection, Naomi made her way to the checkout. If she had been transacting with Amazon, one click later her transaction would have been complete. Two weeks later, and the transaction has not, and will not ever be completed.

The problem started when Naomi selected PayPal as the payment option. We will never quite understand whether it was down to River Island or PayPal – what we do know is that the website links just did not work. Having failed on that front, we selected the traditional ‘pay by credit card’ route. We spotted the Verified by Visa logo, and knew that it was coming. Naomi entered the correct characters for the password, even though she could not see them on the iPad screen. ‘Your password is incorrect’ flashed up in red on the screen. Naomi tried again – the same message was returned. Knowing that a third wrong answer might disable the card, I took over and entered my card details. The same message was returned. Try as we might, this well-intentioned process had made it impossible for us to complete the transaction.

The following day, whilst delivering a customer experience training course (in which I described our River Island experience), I received a message from Naomi despairing that our credit card had been blocked. As the primary card holder, I would have to phone the credit card provider to unblock it. Having waited four minutes listening to music, I was put through to an agent. The very nice man wanted me to quote two digits from my six digit password – I did not even know I had a six digit password!! To cut a very long story short, It took over forty minutes of blood sweat and tears to get the block removed on our credit card. What started as a desire to purchase some clothes from River Island ended in an emotional roller coaster. All I will remember from the experience is that shopping online with River Island is NOT EASY! If only Amazon sold River Island clothes!!

I wonder if the senior leadership team from River Island have actually been through the online shopping experience themselves. I wonder if they have compared their experience to the Amazon experience. If they did or had, they might be able to empathise with the experience we had. I am all for creating a secure trading environment – especially online, but it is important that it is done in a way that enhances the experience. Verified by Visa makes perfect sense if it does not make a transaction mind numbingly frustrating – you cannot excuse its poor design in the name of good security.

So the next time you consider the experience that your organisation delivers, or you act out your own experiences as a customer, consider whether or not the design of the experience is well intended or not. If it is not well intended, you have a problem. If it is well intended, that does not necessarily mean it meets the needs and wants of your customers. If your good intention is to the detriment of the functional, accessible or emotional components of your customer experience, you will need to consider re-designing the journey.

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


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

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

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

‘A picture is worth a thousand words’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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