The Elms Hotel – Customer Experience Review

CX Review - The Elms

Anyone who is lucky enough to have a family with three or more children will be able to empathise with the age old problem of booking hotel accommodation. As the average family size in the UK has continued to rise (1 in 7 families with children in the UK have three or more children), the majority of hotels have steadfastly refused to budge from their belief that two adults come with two children! Every year the Golding family (with our three children) struggle finding both summer and winter accommodation in hotels  – sometimes reduced to ‘smuggling’ one of them into our hotel room, we regularly feel that the travel sector really does not do enough to accommodate larger families.

Travelling with children is tough enough as it is – if you can get past the booking challenges, you then need to determine if the hotel will have everything that little people need. Amazingly, there is less choice than you might imagine. 9 years ago, I took Naomi and our first daughter (Ciara, who was not even two at the time) to a hotel called  The Ickworth – owned by  Luxury Family Hotels, not only had we found an idyllic location to take a break in the Suffolk countryside, we had also found a proposition that catered for everything a family could desire. This review focuses on another of the groups hotels – The Elms Hotel and Spa in Worcestershire. In 2013 we decided to stay at the Elms for Christmas. Having enjoyed ourselves so much, we decided to go back a second time – on this occasion for three nights from the 26th to the 29th December.

The review you are about to read is one that is written in the spirit of all of my reviews – with as open and honest a perspective as possible. The review is based on my own methodology and scoring mechanism and is obviously my opinion – you are completely free to disagree with me!! My intention is to allow anyone who reads it to understand what makes or breaks a good customer experience and to enable those being written about to learn from my expertise as a customer experience specialist. Let the review commence!

Date Review Conducted 26th to 28th December 2014
Hotel Experienced The Elms Hotel & Spa, Stockton Road, Abberley, Worcester, WR6 6AT
CX Review Total Score 32/50
Stars Awarded 3/5

Luxury Family Hotels group of 8 beautiful residences around the UK are a young families dream. Designed to offer fabulous accommodation in idyllic surroundings whilst giving both children and adults everything they could desire,  their proposition is almost too good to be true! Every mum and dad with young children craves relaxation – what better way to do it than in a luxury environment whilst the kids are having fun.

Luxury Family Hotels describe their proposition very well on their website :

Our country house hotels are stylish and sumptuous, yet we welcome the thunder of little feet – and paws too. Babies and young children will love our Ofsted-registered crèches, while older children can make friends in the games room, try outdoor activities, or watch Blockbusters in the cinema room.

Being experts in luxury family breaks, we put family time at the core of your holiday: Make a splash with the kids in the pool, enjoy leisurely family meals, and explore our grand estates and their surroundings. But rest assured there’s plenty of scope for grown-up time too. We offer a complimentary crèche and baby-listening service (or babysitter, if you’d prefer), so you can relax under the spell of a spa treatment, don glad rags for a candlelit dinner, or simply take a walk or some time to yourself.

Our staff will immediately make you feel at home, and are always on hand to give you an insider’s guide to the local area. And to make packing easy, we’ll be in touch to ensure your room is kitted out with everything you need, from cots and sterilsers to toddler steps and bed guards.

Sounds great doesn’t it? The question is, does the experience live up to the proposition. In 2013, when the Goldings (with Naomi’s parents in tow) turned up at the Elms for the first time for Christmas, it certainly did. Luxury, relaxation, happy children, full and satisfied belly’s – there was little to fault it. So when we decided to take another winter break (this time from boxing day), we immediately decided that the Elms would be for us again. The returning customer is exactly what all business crave. The ability to deliver a consistently good experience is the challenge. Were the Elms able to live up to the 2013 experience – read on to find out…..

The Elms

Accessibility – CX Review Score 8/10

In my review process, the definition of accessibility is ‘how easy was it for me to do what I wanted to do’ with the organisation I have chosen to transact with. I have awarded the Elms 8 out of 10 for this category. This is a pretty good score, largely driven by the Elms experience having a significant number of plus points. Not only is booking the accommodation easy, the hotel is as accommodating as you would expect it to be in dealing with a family of five plus a dog! Yes that’s right – not only is this hotel able to cater for the needs of families of all shapes and sizes, it is also able to cater for creatures with four legs. We were given the same rooms as we were in 2013 – two separate rooms parted by a small corridor – the set up was perfect. Dog bowls were waiting for Rosie, and the the kids bedroom set up exactly as we expected for the three little people. All great so far.

Whilst our rooms were housed in separate building (only 30 seconds away), my in laws were booked in to a room in the main house. As we entered their room, things started to take a turn for the worse. It was rather cold on Boxing Day – a fact not lost on my in laws who recognised immediately that the radiator in their room was not working. Additionally, the curtains had been pulled away from the runner and would not close. On inspecting the bathroom, my mother in law realised that whilst the roll top bath might look nice, it was going to be extremely difficult for her to get in to it to have a shower. To say that they were not impressed with their ‘lot’ would be an understatement. The problems identified may sound like little things, but when you are paying a significant amount of money to stay in a hotel like the Elms, you expect basics (such as working radiators) to be operational. Within ten minutes of arriving at the Elms, we found ourselves back at reception asking for help. Issues with ‘the basics’ continued in our rooms. A total of three lamps  contained light bulbs that did not work – again, something that we all take for granted in a hotel, but a basic detail that had been overlooked.

The Elms has wonderfully cosy lounges to relax in – perfect on a freezing cold winters day. Two of the lounges benefit from roaring log fires – we could not wait to settle in front of one and put our feet up ahead of dinner. It was with a real sense of disappointment that we found the fire in one of the lounges to be unmade. The staff showed no willing to set it up and light it. Whether a lack of staff of boxing day was the cause I am not sure. All I know is that we did not quite get the cosy rest we expected.

On the 27th December, The Elms hosted a children’s birthday party. A function room and one of the lounges was blocked off for the event. Additionally, a large space in another lounge was reserved for another party of guests not staying in the hotel. The result is that there was very little space for paying residents to sit in the communal areas of the hotel. We wanted to have some lunch after a delightful winters walk to Abberley clock tower – it was a struggle finding anywhere to sit – we then had a lengthy wait to be served as all the staff were attending to the party. We had a genuine feeling that we had become ‘less important’ to the hotel  – not a great emotion for guests to have.

Despite these issues, the Elms (in general) does work very well as a hotel to relax with family. The best way to describe it is that the Elms is a ‘home from home’ for children and adults. Kids are free to roam around the hotel in a safe environment without fear of groans and moans from non child loving guests. A brilliant creche and play room provide plenty of stimulus to keep little people amused. An outdoor play area complete with trampoline sits in beautiful gardens – a space that would have been used more if it had not been so cold and wet!

The spa is also fantastic. A lovely heated swimming pool is complimented by a large Jacuzzi pool that sits half inside the building and half outside. Our children would have spent all day every day in the pool without any problem. Naomi and I had a treatment during our stay – the service was excellent. However, the spa showed further evidence of the lack of attention to detail., Both mens and womens changing rooms have seen better days – locks not working on lockers, unclean and stained showers. It almost felt as though has been an absence of tender loving care  in the twelve months since we last stayed there.

To highlight yet further the lack of attention to detail, I want to share with you the daily newsletter that sat on our table at breakfast every morning. A lovely idea for both children and parents. However, please note both the date of the newsletter (the 29th December) and the article in the bottom right hand corner – about an event that finished on Christmas Eve! This article remained firmly in place in all three newsletters we were given during our stay which started on Boxing Day. If someone at the Elms was paying attention, their newsletter would at least be up to date!

The Elms Newsletter

So it is with mixed feelings that I awarded a score of 8 out of 10 for the accessibility category – mixed because in normal circumstances, with the number of issues we encountered, I would have awarded a lower score. However, the brilliance of the proposition of this hotel in making a holiday EASY for children and adults alike has ultimately won me over!

Range/Choice – CX Review Score 7/10

When it comes to Range and Choice, I have awarded the Elms 7 out of 10. The hotel does very well in terms of its ability to offer a huge amount of choice for families in determining how to plan and manage their time there. From room configuration, to facilities to amenities, there is almost anything to suit the needs of anyone! Even dinner was full of choices – the choice to eat as a family, or for the kids to eat earlier and for the adults to enjoy a child free dinner after they had gone to bed (all made possible through the hotel’s ‘baby listening’ service). There is also the option for your children to be looked after early in the morning so mum and dad can have a lie in – fabulous! We observed a number of parents enjoying a quiet child free breakfast before their little ones were returned to them later in the morning.

So why have I only awarded a 7 for this category? When reviewing an end to end experience, I consider range and choice from a number of angles. In this instance, we were staying with the Elms on a ‘dinner, bed and breakfast’ basis. When you commit to something like this, you expect the range and choice of food on offer to be acceptable. We actually had the choice of two types of menu – there was plenty to choose from. However (sadly I have to use that word), although there were options, the Elms were unable to satisfy all of them. For the three nights we dined at the Elms, the steak was not available. On Boxing Day, the hotel could not make a banana split – they had run out of bananas!! My mother in law is a Coeliac (an allergy to Gluten) –  a point we had made clear when booking the holiday. Unfortunately, on our first night, the staff were completely unable to understand the fact that she needed to know what she could eat and could not eat. We had to ask repeatedly for help and for a menu to be marked up by the kitchen staff – it was not a pleasant experience. This was addressed by the second evening – but it should have been sorted from day 1. Additionally, as a customer, I do not care what day it is – I expect a restaurant to have the food it displays on its menu!

People – CX Review Score 7/10

I have awarded a score of 7 out of 10 for the Elms people. I must make it clear that the Elms staff are extremely nice. They are accommodating to children, adults and animals! However, just being nice is not enough to deliver consistently good customer experiences. On our first day (Boxing Day), we were served by staff who whilst being nice, were inefficient, unknowledgeable and actually quite unhelpful. We had to wait twenty minutes for a cup of tea to be delivered to us in the lounge for example. I have already covered the dinner debacle – the lack of understanding and knowledge of the staff made my mother in law feel very uncomfortable. When we asked our waitress about wine, she was unable to answer our questions – she did not look for help either (maybe there was no-one available to ask). It almost felt as though they were understaffed with a number of untrained staff – this was wildly different to our experience a year earlier.

At certain points, one member of staff was visibly ‘stressed’, clearly under pressure and as a result pretty aloof when serving customers. By our third night, all of this had changed. Members of staff we recognised from the year before had reappeared.  The Food and Beverage Manager served us our last meal – he was excellent – it was just a shame he was not present to observe service the previous two nights. In fact I would argue that there was a visible lack of presence of management throughout our first two days at the Elms – I do not recall seeing the General Manager during our whole stay. At one of the busiest times of year, you would expect a hotel to be fully staffed from the top down. I felt as though we were short changed – especially on Boxing Day. If the Elms want to offer a sub standard service on Boxing Day, they should reduce the price to reflect that fact.

All that being said, it is important to point out that that the Elms staff are very nice people. By our third day we finally felt as though we were being looked after. It is this fact that has prevented me from awarding a lower score.

Value – CX Review Score 5/10

The Elms is part of the Luxury Family Hotels group. When you see the word ‘luxury’, you automatically expect it to come at a price to match. It is therefore true to say that the Elms is not a cheap holiday option. It is a beautiful hotel in an idyllic location with amazing facilities. If you are prepared to pay for luxury, it is not unreasonable to expect the experience to match the price tag. That means at a very minimum the basics must be delivered. Luxury does not equal a non working radiator. Luxury does not equal broken light bulbs. Luxury does not equal a stale roll being used for a lunchtime sandwich. Luxury does not equal a customer having to constantly badger staff to find out what they are able to eat. All of these things were experienced by us in our stay at the Elms.

If any organisation fails to deliver on the basics (all of which these issues are), it is impossible to say that you have received good value for money. In many cases I would have awarded a lower score than the 5 out of 10 I have. However, despite the issues, we still felt rested after our three day stay – but we would have felt as though we had got much better value for money if the end to end experience actually matched the price tag.

How did it make me feel? CX Review Score 5/10

As we drove away from the Elms on he 29th December, it was with real mixed emotions. We had enjoyed a lovely break away from normality. Someone else had done the cooking and cleaning for three days and nights. It was lovely being able to go for a swim every day and to walk Rosie in a beautiful environment. These should have been our parting memories. However, as described throughout this review, the EMOTIONAL component of our experience has been tainted by a number of basic FUNCTIONAL and ACCESSIBLE issues that ultimately left a sour taste in our mouths. When we complained about the stale roll used to make a lunchtime sandwich we had ordered, there was barely any acknowledgement of the problem. The whole experience has left us feeling that whilst the circumstances of the hotel are great, the inability of the Elms to deliver a consistently good experience left a stain on our three days there.

The point is that it is the issues we will remember – the emotional component of the experience is what all customers remember. The question is – do you want customers to have negative memories that will result in them never coming back?

Would I use them again? No

It is with regret that I can confidently say I will not be returning to the Elms in the future. I say ‘with regret’ because there are so few hotels that are able to offer the type of break that my family wants and needs. However, if I am going to part with my hard earned cash, I demand that the experience I am promised matches the price I have to pay. The Elms need to have a long hard look at the little details that are absolutely essential in delivering great experiences. Every day of the year is the same – as far as the customer is concerned. Whether it is Boxing Day, Easter Day or any old Tuesday, the price; the service; the experience needs to be the same and at its absolute best. That is not what we experienced in our time at the Elms.

As always, I hope the Elms and Luxury Family Hotel management teams are able to learn from this review. Ultimately the ability of any organisation to react positively to the opportunities offered with positive or negative feedback enables that organisation to continuously improve the experience for customers in the future.

My reviews are based on a format I created to assess experiences I have with a variety organisations. They are intended to act as a demonstration of how Customer Experiences affect the customer in a number of ways. The reviews are based on my opinion as a Customer Experience Specialist – an opinion that readers are perfectly welcome to disagree with!! I always welcome others perspectives and would love to know what you think of the companies I do review.

You can read all of my reviews here.

Norwegian – Customer Experience Review

CX Reviews - Norwegian

Airlines of Europe beware!! There is  a ‘new kid on the block’ – one that could potentially change the face of air travel. If you have not heard of Norwegian, it will not be long before the name of the Nordic airline is as common in ‘budget’ air travel as Ryanair or Easyjet. I flew with Norwegian for the first time this week. I have heard many things about them from friends and colleagues and was keen to test the experience for myself.

Over the last few weeks I have done more European travel than usual. Having flown with a variety of airlines, I wanted to know if Norwegian ‘felt’ like any other airline or if it really did deliver an experience that I would actually remember for positive reasons – how would it compare with others? Let the review commence!

Date Review Conducted 11th December 2014
Flights Experienced London Gatwick to Oslo
CX Review Total Score 41/50
Stars Awarded 4/5

Norwegian is an airline that has been in existence since 1993. It was not until 2008 that is started to make waves in the airline industry with the delivery of a new fleet of aircraft. By 2013 Norwegian had started to receive awards for the best European low-cost carrier – a trend that has continued into 2014. So are the plaudits that Norwegian is receiving reflective of the experience?

Norwegian’s website offers a wealth of insight into the strategy and culture of the business. They publicly share their vision:

Norwegian’s vision is “Everyone should afford to fly”.  The business idea of Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA is to give everybody the opportunity to travel by air, attracting customers by offering competitive, low fares and a high-quality travel experience based on operational excellence and helpful, friendly service.

You can see how this links to their values and business strategy here. As I always remind readers of my reviews, a public statement like this constitutes a promise or promises to customers. If you are telling us that you are offering low fares with a high-quality travel experience, you have set my expectation as such. The question is – did Norwegian meet the expectation?

Accessibility – CX Review Score 7/10

In my review process, the definition of accessibility is ‘how easy was it for me to do what I wanted to do’ with the organisation I am transacting with. Norwegian score 7 out of 10 for this category.

Let me start with the online experience. Norwegian’s website is ok – not great, but ok. It does what it needs to do, but does not offer the most intuitive of online user experiences. For example, online check in is not that easy to figure out. It took me a while to realise that I had to hunt for online check in through the ‘my reservations’ link at the top of the home page. Even then, it was not obvious what I had to do to actually check in and receive my boarding pass. There are definitely improvements Norwegian need to make before this part of the customer journey can be considered a ‘high-quality’ travel experience.

Checking in at London Gatwick was also an interesting experience. If you want to check in from scratch or simply drop a bag, it is all done via self service terminals. In principle I have no problem with this, if the process is simple for the passenger to conduct by themselves. It was not obvious to me what I had to do as a customer conducting a ‘bag drop’. I ended up having a member of staff do everything for me – from entering the details on screen, to attaching my baggage label. It made me wonder why the process is self service – it would have been so much easier and quicker if I could have walked up to a desk and have a member of staff do it the ‘old fashioned way’!! I am all for innovation, but if the innovation does not make the experience better, then why do it?!

It is for both of these reasons that Norwegian only scores 7 out of 10 for accessibility. This is a shame, because there are other things that Norwegian really do excel at. Offering free WiFi on most flights is one of them. I had great fun ‘tweeting’ from 30 thousand feet – it really did add to the experience. Jerry Angrave, a good friend of mine pointed out:

“rail operators should not be surprised that their customers’ expectations are not met when they can’t get reliable w-fi, or even some wi-fi, at just 3 feet in the air”

Experiencing free Wi-Fi on Norwegian makes you question why no-one else does it and why it is so difficult for other industries to do it – especially rail operators! Maybe it is only a matter of time before they do, but until then, Norwegian have a serious differentiator. Norwegian also offer in flight TV rental on its Wi-Fi enabled aircraft – very cool.

Tweeting at 30 thousand feet!
Tweeting at 30 thousand feet!

It is important that Norwegian recognise the importance of the ‘end to end customer journey’ – only when everything we experience can be considered high quality will Norwegian be meeting the expectations set out in their vision.

Range/Choice – CX Review Score 8/10

Norwegian is the second largest airline in Scandinavia and the third largest low-cost airline in Europe.Norwegian operates 416 routes to 126 destinations in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, Thailand and the US.

Choice of flights and their prices is very good and clearly displayed online. You can also select three different fare types according to your requirements:

Norwegian fare types

Despite this, I personally was not able to get flights that met my needs. Living in the North West of England, I would have ideally been able to get a flight from Liverpool or Manchester. I could have flown from Manchester, but the limited choice of flights offered by Norwegian did not work for me. I therefore had to drive to London Gatwick instead.

Norwegian may not quite have the reach or frequency of its better known competitors, but I suspect it will not be long before it is able to offer as many routes and options as any other airline in Europe.

People – CX Review Score 9/10

Norwegian score 9 out of 10 for the people category. I was very impressed with the crew on my flight. I would describe them as relaxed, friendly and polite. They were not too formal or stuffy, but were very attentive to the needs of all passengers.

What I found interesting about them is that even though they were performing the same tasks as millions of cabin crew on airlines around the world, they did not seem to do so in the ‘stiff’ or ‘forced’ way that many make it feel. It is almost as though they have been trained to ‘chill out’ and have fun. It was nice. I would also say that they were the least ‘pushy’ cabin crew I have experienced in recent times. They did not try and SELL SELL SELL at every opportunity. They quietly and unobtrusively glided through the cabin with food, drink and gifts.

From my recent experiences, Ryanair could learn a lot from the crew of Norwegian!

Value – CX Review Score 8/10

Whilst the cost of flights is generally good, I do not think that they can be considered as ‘low cost’ as their better known competitors at the moment. My flights were not that cheap (£300) although this price was competitive with other carriers – this therefore does meet the expectation set out in their vision.

However, despite this, I do feel that Norwegian offer good value for money. It is amazing what good service and free Wi-Fi can do! The funny thing is, I was not bothered about not having a free cup of tea or a dry sandwich – what some airlines consider to be ‘added value’ does not have much effect on me. I would much prefer the service to be high quality with a few unexpected moments where my expectations are exceeded – such as free Wi-Fi.

I have therefore awarded Norwegian a score of 8 out of 10 for Value – not as high as I awarded Ryanair, but not far off.

How did it make me feel? CX Review Score 9/10

My first ever flight with Norwegian left me feeling pleasantly surprised. Having flown a lot recently, I have become used to feeling ambivalent and uninspired by my airline experiences. If flying with airlines were to be compared with a blind food taste test, I would say that they all taste exactly the same!!

Flying with Norwegian did feel different though. The modern planes are very light and airy – the decor is excellent and lighting very good. When I compare the Norwegian cabin with the oppressive yellow and blue of Ryanair, it does make me realise how important the environment we travel in actually is.

The friendly, relaxed crew made me feel as though I was on my way to a fortnight in the Canaries, rather than a couple of working days in Norway. Then I come back again to the free Wi-Fi. It is often the simple things that make experiences better…..different. I felt like a little kid being able to tweet and post pictures on Facebook whilst flying overhead. I guess the excitement will wear off eventually, but for now, this element of the Norwegian experience is incredibly memorable.

All in all, I would say that Norwegian are creating positive, memorable experiences – something their competitors are finding difficult to do. For this reason, I have scored Norwegian 9 out of 10 for how they made me feel.

Would I use them again? Yes

An easy question to answer – a big fat YES! I was impressed with Norwegian – I have not been impressed with a short haul airline for many years. In fact, Norwegians total score for this review – 41 – is the same I awarded to Etihad. This score is higher than I awarded to Emirates, British Airways and Ryanair. If you have not flown with them, you must give Norwegian a go. I think that their competitors should be very afraid of what they are offering.

There are still improvements that they need to make to the experience for it to genuinely be ‘high quality’ throughout. However right now, Norwegian are offering something slightly different in an industry where differentiation is not very common. I will be flying Norwegian again – very soon!

My reviews are based on a format I created to assess experiences I have with a variety organisations. They are intended to act as a demonstration of how Customer Experiences affect the customer in a number of ways. The reviews are based on my opinion as a Customer Experience Specialist – an opinion that readers are perfectly welcome to disagree with!! I always welcome others perspectives and would love to know what you think of the companies I do review.

You can read all of my reviews here.


Emirates Vs Etihad – Customer Experience Review

0 cx review Emirates V Etihad2

Many dinner table conversations about customer experience will end up talking about the airline industry. It is almost impossible to find a human who does not have an airline ‘story’ – and most of the time the stories are not particularly positive. An industry that appears to be amongst the most glamorous has consistently struggled over the years to deliver consistently good experiences. Some of the biggest customer experience horror stories have been served up by airlines. I have already subjected two heavyweight brands in the industry to my Customer Experience Review process – you can read how British Airways and Ryanair fared should you be interested in doing so!

This review is a first for me – rather than reviewing one brand, I am reviewing two at the same time – I see it almost as a two for the price of one offer!! I am very fortunate to travel a great deal as I help and guide organisations on their customer centric journeys. Last week I had the pleasure of travelling to Kuala Lumpur. Due to a complicated schedule, I ended up travelling out to Kuala Lumpur with Emirates and home again with Etihad. It has given me the perfect opportunity to directly compare two brands delivering a similar experience – the results may (or may not) surprise you.

Before I get started, I must reiterate (as I always do with every review) – this process is one that I have developed personally. It is entirely subjective, based solely on my opinion as a seasoned customer experience specialist having one experience with a brand at a moment in time. However, I am confident that the method I adopt can help both the brands involved and others learn about the significance of the end to end Customer Experience. You can read all of my Customer Experience Reviews here.

Date Review Conducted 24th September 2014
Flight Details EmiratesDublin to Kuala Lumpur (via Dubai)Etihad – Kuala Lumpur to Manchester (via Abu Dhabi)
CX Review Total Score Emirates 35/50Etihad 41/50
Stars Awarded Emirates 3.5/5Etihad 4/5

So let’s get started! In the last two years, I have travelled to the Far East with three different companies – Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways. I have never been too concerned about the choice of airline – my primary focus has been on selecting the airline that offers the most effective timings to align to my travel plans. Living in the North West of England, my options are more limited than if I were based in London. I have always thought the experiences I have had with the three airlines to be broadly similar, but it is only now that I have made the conscious decision to formally review my interactions with two of them.

Whilst I usually travel out and back with the same airline, due to me having to start my journey in Dublin and finish in Manchester, I ended up going out to Malaysia with Emirates and back to Manchester with Etihad. Many people think that international travel on business is incredibly glamorous – it may be for the lucky few who end up in business class! I am one of the many who must experience the delights of being a second class citizen (as that is how the airlines often make it feel) in good old economy! To give you the context – in both directions I had to experience two 6.5 to 7.5 hour flights with a layover in Dubai (on the way out) and Abu Dhabi (on the way back). All in all I experienced approximately 30 hours of flights over a four day period – more than enough for me to form an opinion.

I often refer to the airline industry as a great example of the importance of differentiation – when every company in one industry uses the same aircraft flying to the same airports, there has to be something that makes them different. The reviews that you are about to read hopefully demonstrate that it is the end to end customer experience that may provide the answer! So who comes out on top – Emirates or Etihad?

Accessibility – CX Review Score Emirates 6/10; Etihad 7/10

In my review process, the definition of accessibility is ‘how easy was it for me to do what I wanted to do’ with the organisation I have chosen to transact with? In this category, Etihad takes a slim advantage over its rival. The question is why? When you consider the customer journey for interacting with an airline, the start of the journey is usually the identification of suitable flights. With a variety of online sources available as well as the airlines own websites themselves, identifying flights to Kuala Lumpur is very easy. Finding and booking flights with Emirates and Etihad is very similar – I would argue so similar, that it almost makes no difference to the experience at all.

In my experience last week, the first advantage went to Emirates. When flying to another country where a stop over is necessary, the length of the stop over can have a significant effect on the overall travel time. In the case of both Dublin and Manchester, the stop over with Etihad is at least two hours longer than the stop over with Etihad. To make matters worse for Etihad, Abu Dhabi airport is currently being reconstructed – the old terminal buildings do not make for a pleasant environment to spend two to four hours of your time. The length of the stop over will have an effect on the perception of the overall experience – especially when there is little difference in price and travel times.

On the next issue, both Emirates and Etihad share a similar problem with other carriers. Neither airline would allow me to print my boarding passes until 24 hours before my flight was due to leave. As a result, on three occasions I had to beg, borrow and steal to arrange for my boarding passes to be printed. I am an individual who does not like to rely on using my phone as a boarding pass – I like the security a paper copy gives me. I am also a person who does not own a portable printer!! Emirates and Etihad are not alone in this – but until the airlines make it easier for passengers to ‘check in’, I will continue to mark them down on the delivery of the experience.

Similarly, ‘baggage drop’ at the airport is another irritation to the overall experience. In both cases, bags are not permitted to be ‘dropped’ in the airport until three hours before the flight is due to depart – and not a second before!! How annoying!! Why not?!! Travelling to different parts of the world takes long enough – why subject poor customers to standing in a queue for an eternity waiting for ground crew to turn on their monitors?! On my return home in Abu Dhabi, I was able to drop off my bag in the centre of Kuala Lumpur…. 5 hours before departure! Emirates offered the same service. So why can it be done in certain circumstances but not others?

Let us move on to the flights themselves. The difference between all four aircraft was so small, that I am tempted to say that the only difference was the colour scheme! However, Etihad gains the advantage over Emirates for some important ‘attention to detail’ points. Firstly the entertainment system – both airlines have them – the entertainment on them is almost identical. The difference I experienced was in the quality of the screens. The Emirates screens were not particularly well defined and very dark – this made it difficult to watch movies and TV programmes. I was fortunate to have empty seats either side of me on both my outbound flights – all the screens were the same. The Etihad screens were much clearer and well defined. Additionally, the Emirates headphones were awful – the fact they were uncomfortable was minor – the fact that four out of five headphones I tried to use did not work properly was major. The headphones on Etihad were a class above – far more comfortable and worked perfectly – it made for a much more enjoyable entertainment experience.

Everything else I experienced was too similar to be any different – from the meals, to seat comfort to disembarkation etc. However, on both of my Emirates flights, I was seated in a row with a broken table – as I have already stated – due to being on aircraft that were half full, this was not an issue. What would have happened if the aircraft had have been full? I do not expect to have anything being broken, damaged or not working on a flight – it surprised me to experience this on two separate flights with Emirates.

So in summary, both airlines have room for improvement in a number of areas when it comes to making the experience as accessible as possible – 6 and 7 out of 10 are low scores for brands of this calibre. However, in my opinion, the Etihad experience shades it – at least everything worked as expected!!

Range/Choice – CX Review Score Emirates 7/10; Etihad 8/10

I thought it would be very difficult to find any differentiation between the two airlines when it came to range and choice. Both have the same ‘classes’ of travel; the same offers; the same sort of loyalty programmes. As I have already said, they both fly the same routes using the same planes using the same airports. Perhaps I am being harsh on Emirates here – they have a more modern fleet than Etihad with the world’s largest stock of the new A380 superjumbo aircraft – but I was a passenger who could not benefit from the double decker plane on the routes I needed to travel.

The reason why Etihad comes out on top here is because the experience they offer recognises the importance of giving customers the option to have flexibility. Travel plans often change – sometimes well ahead of travelling – often at short notice. The peace of mind that we can get from purchasing flexible tickets is reassuring. Emirates do not offer flexible options (at least I could not find them!) – Etihad do – it puts them significantly ahead in this category in my opinion. I have noticed more airlines going this way – Easyjet for example now offer flexible tickets that enable customers to change their flights up to two hours before departure. Emirates need to emulate this if they are to keep pace with their rivals.

Etihad 'branded fares'
Etihad ‘branded fares’

People – CX Review Score Emirates 7/10; Etihad 9/10

It is with their people that I personally recognised the greatest difference in my experiences with the two airlines. I base this statement on having interacted with four different crews on four flights. Emirates have always been heralded for their ‘world class’ customer service. In fact both airlines during their ‘in flight’ announcements mention the fact that they are ‘award winning’. From the minute I entered the cabin, I noticed a difference between the crews of the two airlines.

Emirates cabin crew are very well presented. With not a hair out of place, they look as though they have walked straight out of a catalogue. However not only do their uniforms look well starched, so do their smiles. Although they said all the right things – ‘Welcome to Emirates Mr Golding’ etc.., it very much felt to me as though it was being said through clenched teeth. In almost 15 hours of flying with Emirates crew, I did not see a lot of smiling going on. They just felt indifferent to my presence – as though they were not that bothered. They were not rude or impolite, just indifferent. I will say that the male crew seemed more indifferent than the female – I am not sure why, but it was evident to me. They left me feeling as though I should not ask them anything; I shouldn’t disturb them from their tasks – not really what I expected from Emirates.

Etihad felt very different. The crew said the same things as Emirates – the BIG difference is that they said it as though they meant it. With warm smiles always present, they glided around the cabin constantly looking to see if passengers needed help. I actually felt more relaxed than on my Emirates flights – it was the crew that made me feel that way. On my fourth flight – my final leg with Etihad, I had the pleasure of being looked after by two lovely crew hailing from Portugal. Maria and Martha were ever smiling, kind, courteous and very helpful.

As can sometimes happen, I was among the last passengers to be served their meal on this particular flight. Being tired and grouchy, I expressed my distinct displeasure to Martha. I must admit, I was a little rude – something I imagine cabin crew have to face on a regular basis.  What happened next exceeded my expectation. Having told Martha that I would take the option I did not want (as I had no choice!), Maria appeared by my side. ‘We are so sorry that this has happened sir’, she said. ‘We have had a look at the crew meals and I would be delighted if you would have the meal that has been secured for me’. I was touched – Maria and Martha had held counsel in the galley, and decided that even though the passenger had been a grouch, it was still their role to try to make me happy. This highlighted for me the significant difference in the way I experienced the Emirates and Etihad crews. As readers of my blogs know, the importance in people delivering empathetic experiences must never be underestimated – Etihad’s people in my experience were a cut above Emirates.

Value – CX Review Score Emirates 7/10; Etihad 8/10

When it coms to value, there is little to choose between the two airlines – the cost of a return ticket to Kuala Lumpur is as low as £500 – not a lot of money when you consider the distances involved. However, Etihad’s ability to offer a variety of fares based on Customers requirements for flexibility gives it the edge again over Emirates.

How did it make me feel? Review Score Emirates 8/10; Etihad 9/10

Prior to thinking about conducting reviews of both airlines, I assumed that I would attribute the same score to both when it came to the way interacting with them made me feel. I did not think that there would be significant enough differences to differentiate between the two. I was wrong.The Etihad experience just felt better to me – almost entirely down to the attitude and behaviour of their people. It was a warmer, friendlier more relaxing experience – I can still recall members of the crew from both Etihad flights – I cannot recall any crew member from my Emirates flights. In my experience, the difference between the two airlines is their people and as a result, Etihad wins the emotional component of the experience.

Would I use Emirates and Etihad again? YES and YES

If you have made it this far, you will have noticed that the Etihad experience has surpassed that of Emirates. Four flights spread over a few days – whilst both experiences were good, Etihad’s was better. As they so often are, people have proven to be the biggest differentiator of them all – and in my experiences, Etihad’s people are delivering a better, more empathetic experience than those of Emirates.

In all likelihood, I will use both Emirates and Etihad again – the key is that if I have the choice to use either – my primary choice would be to use Etihad – this is the most important thing. In an industry were differentiation is so difficult and where choice is increasing, it is often fine margins that will determine the advocacy of your customers. If Emirates want to compete for my business, the next time I board one of their aircraft, the crew need to convince me that they are genuinely enjoying what they do and then sit me at a seat where everything works!


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

Enterprise Rent-A-Car – Customer Experience Review

0 cx review enterprise rent a car

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Accessibility – CX Review Score 8/10

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

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

0 entrpise chester

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

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

0 enterprise damage evaluator

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

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

Range/Choice – CX Review Score 9/10

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

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

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

People – CX Review Score 8/10

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

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

Value – CX Review Score 10/10

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

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

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

Would I use Enterprise again? YES

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

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

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

Fullers Doric Arch – Customer Experience Review

0 cx review fullers doric arch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

0 doric arch front

Accessibility – CX Review Score 7/10

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

0 doric arch side

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

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

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

Range/Choice – CX Review Score 8/10

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

People – CX Review Score 7/10

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

Value – CX Review Score 8/10

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

How did it make me feel? CX Review Score 710

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

Would I use the Doric Arch again? Maybe

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

Wallacespace – Customer Experience Review

0 cx review wallacespace2

I have attended countless number of workshops, briefings, seminars, masterclasses and conferences over the last 19 years. During that time I have had the pleasure (most of the time) of attending these events at locations all over the world – from St Louis to Singapore – from Munich to Manchester. More often than not I have experienced the delights of a windowless hotel meeting room with only lukewarm watery coffee to look forward to during a break. For a long time hotels have been seen as the best option for organisations needing to hold a meeting that is either too large or inappropriate to have in their own offices. Specialist conference centres exist, but I am yet to visit one where the experience has felt any different to the blandness of a hotel…..that is until yesterday. On the 8th July 2014, I ran a Customer Experience seminar at Wallacespace in Covent Garden, London – and it is the experience that I had that is the subject of this review.

Date Review Conducted 8th July 2014
Hotel Visited Wallacespace Covent Garden, 2 Dryden St, London WC2E 9NA
CX Review Total Score 45/50
Stars Awarded 4/5

Rather than me attempt to describe who Wallacespace are and what they do, I thought I would just download their own description – it goes like this:

Offsite meeting space is what we do and it’s all we do. Our spaces in Covent Garden, St Pancras and Clerkenwell Green are designed for meetings, training, research, events, conferences, workshops… our rooms are a blank canvas for you to use as creatively as you like. We won’t hide you away in a dingy basement while we focus on something or someone else. Originally coming from a training background ourselves, we aim to think of everything to ensure that you will get more from your day at wallacespace than you would anywhere else. Flooded with natural daylight and with all the little touches that make for a great day (from super-fast free wifi to all-you-can-eat wagon wheels), our buildings are designed to help facilitate creative thinking and minimise distractions, while our people aim to think of absolutely everything with a refreshing, ‘can-do, will-do’ attitude to ensure you can focus on delivering success.

In the world of Customer Experience, where an organisation makes statements like those above, they constitute a promise or series of promises. When you read something like this, you immediately have the expectation that the words are a direct representation of the experience you will have. The question is…..does the experience match the promise? Read on to find out. 0 wallacespace front.png Accessibility – CX Review Score 9/10 In my review process, the definition of accessibility is ‘how easy was it for me to do what I wanted to do’ with the organisation I have chosen to transact with. I have awarded Wallacespace 9 out of 10 for this category – almost perfection! From the minute you start to engage with this organisation, you get the sense that your experience is going to be a good one. With three locations in London (Covent Garden, St Pancras and Clerkenwell Green), all of their ‘spaces’ are easily accessible in our capital city. I have to admit that I cannot take the credit for selecting Wallacespace in Covent Garden to be the location for a Custerian Customer Experience Seminar this week – that must go to my esteemed colleague Jerry Angrave. Jerry was supremely confident that I would be impressed – and confident he was right to be. The booking process was easy and hassle free. Wallacespace were happy to accommodate our every whim. Our delegate numbers went up and down. Our room requirements changed more than a few times – but nothing was a problem. We were even given the option to ‘choose our room’ on the day if we felt the space that had been selected for us was not to our liking. Within easy reach of a multitude of tube stations, Wallacespace Covent Garden is a stones throw from shops, cafes and theatres. I usually arrive VERY early at the location where I am going to be delivering training – yesterday was no different. Usually I am either refused entry, met with a locked door, or greeted by a space with no staff, no lights and sometimes no tables and chairs!! As Jerry and I approached the front door of the building 20 minutes before it was due to open, I suspected that we would be out of luck. How wrong my cynicism turned out to be. A lovely, smiling lady came to the door and let us in – she did not even bat an eyelid that we were too early. It drives me nuts when companies will not open the door until the millisecond stipulated by their opening hours. This made for such a refreshing change. As she led us through the reception area, I could not help noticing some pictures on a shelf. The pictures were of the Wallacespace staff – a lovely touch: 0 wallacespace staff Walking over the bright green floor, you can immediately tell that you are in a space designed to deliver a memorable experience. Brightly coloured furniture, high ceilings, light airy rooms – I was smiling already. The Plum Room that had been selected for us was lovely. Although the room was ready for us, it was not quite as we had asked for. Despite this, the Wallacespace staff were completely unfazed by our demands for unnecessary tables and chairs to be replaced by some comfy furniture. Sofas, armchairs and even a nice green rug were brought into the room without any bother or fuss. 0 wallacespace conference room Every detail has been considered. Facilities in the meetings rooms are excellent – paper, pads, post its, marker pens and more flip charts than you can physically use. It is obvious that the people who created these spaces have used the spaces themselves. Everywhere you looked there was something else to see. Directly outside the plum room was a fridge – stocked to the brim full of drinks – from green tea cocktails to sparkling water to energy drinks. Once you walk through the front door of the building, all of this is included in the price. I did not think it could get any better than this….but it did. On the top floor is the Wallacespace café – as I climbed the stairs, the waft of breakfast odours started to fill my nostrils. With a breakfast selection to rival any hotel, the conservatory like café is wonderful. Everywhere you look there is something else to see – from huge jars of sweets on one table to a wonderful range of tea and coffee on another. At Wallacespace, whatever you want, they are likely to have.   I regularly bemoan organisations of not paying enough attention to the little details – Wallacespace cannot be accused of this. Even the toilet facilities impress. Forgotten to apply your deodorant this morning? At Wallacespace they can solve that problem!! So why only 9 out of 10? It may sound like nitpicking, but to have achieved perfection, Wallacespace would have got the room layout right the first time. I would also love to see Wallacespace with more spaces accessible outside of London. However, a score of 9 out of 10 for accessibility is VERY VERY good – this is a very impressive company. Range/Choice – CX Review Score 9/10 Rooms of all shapes and sizes at Wallacespace locations. All of them are decorated beautifully and can be filled with the furniture of your choice. The spaces are not quite big enough for conferences – the largest on offer can accommodate 120 people (theatre style) in St Pancras. However, if you require a space to hold a meeting; run a training course or deliver a workshop, it is very likely that Wallacespace will have exactly what you are looking for. People – CX Review Score 9/10 Wallacespaces people are lovely. Nice, polite, friendly with a no nonsense attitude. They are as their promise states. They will do anything you want them to do without any fuss. Sadly I cannot remember the names of the people who served and supported us throughout the day. It would have been nice for there to be a little more of the personal touch in the way they tended to us. I suspect that their intention is to provide service that is not intrusive. However, I would have liked to know which member of staff corresponded to the baby pictures in reception! Value – CX Review Score 8/10 You will not have failed to notice that I have already become a fan of Wallacespace. However, the delights I have depicted do come at a price. Wallacespace is not cheap – we paid £88 a head for our event. There is absolutely no doubt that we could have found a cheaper location. This category is not specifically about price though – it is about value. We wanted our delegates to have an experience – not just in the delivery of the seminar, but with the whole experience. For a company running a seminar, the location they are running it from is a key touchpoint. We thought very carefully about that. Our delegates were VERY impressed. They loved Wallacespace as much as we did. We are delighted that they will remember a number of things about their experience with us – one of those will most definitely be Wallacespace. So I think we did get great value for money – but if you are on a budget, Wallacespace may be out of your reach. How did it make me feel? CX Review Score 10/10 In a word – fantastic. Let me remind you of the fact that this is the best location I have ever had the pleasure of attending or delivering a workshop from in 19 years. If you are a trainer yourself, you will LOVE it. If you are a delegate you will LOVE it. This business has nailed all three elements that make customer experiences. It does exactly what you want it to do (FUNCTIONAL); they make it very easy and hassle free to do what you want to do (ACCESSIBLE); and you will feel as though you have flown business class to New York at the end of it (EMOTIONAL). They brilliantly meet their promises and deliver an experience that does not just meet your expectation, it exceeds it. Would I use them again? Yes YES, YES, YES, YES, YES. Wallacespace will be seeing a lot more of me and Custerian. I would not be surprised if they see more our the delegates who attended our seminar yesterday. I will also be telling a lot of people about them. This is the effect of a customer having a great experience. Wallacespace are doing what they doing brilliantly. All I ask is that they think about creating more spaces outside London and soon. If they could stretch to creating one in Chester, that would be the icing on the cake!!

JW Marriott Kuala Lumpur – Customer Experience Review

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This is the second Customer Experience Review I have conducted in the last couple of weeks. Two weeks ago, I wrote my first review of a hotel – Wotton House in Surrey. If you have read that review, you will already know that the experience fell a long way short of meeting my expectations (you can read the review here). The review that you are now about to read looks at another hotel – a few thousand miles away from Wotton House. I am very fortunate to travel a lot with my work and sometimes that sees me visiting distant shores. This week I spent three days in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – my board and lodgings were provided by the JW Marriott Hotel. It is often useful to compare reviews of businesses in the same industry and that is why I thought it would be an interesting exercise to apply my Customer Experience Review format on the JW Marriott. The question is – would my conclusions be similar to Wotton House….or not!

Date Review Conducted 6th June 2014
Hotel Visited JW Marriott Kuala Lumpur
CX Review Total Score 42/50
Stars Awarded 4/5

Much of the time when I am travelling, hotels are selected for me. As with Wotton House two weeks ago, I did not choose to stay at the JW Marriott in Kuala Lumpur. I was visiting Malaysia to deliver a Customer Experience workshop, and my accommodation was selected by the training company. One similarity between Wotton House and the JW Marriott is that both hotels are owned by groups – they are not independent. The multi-national Marriott Empire is significantly bigger than Principal Hayley (who own Wotton House) – the Marriott Group own a number of different brands, including one of the most customer centric organisations on the planet – the Ritz Carlton. My expectations of the JW Marriott in Kuala Lumpur were therefore quite high – I was very much hoping that they would not let me down. Let the review commence…

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Accessibility – CX Review Score 8/10

How easy was it for me to do what I needed to do with the JW Marriott in Kuala Lumpur? For this category I have awarded the JW (for short!) a good score of 8 out of 10. Although I was not responsible for booking the hotel, having reviewed the JW Marriott website, if I had of completed the reservation process myself, it would not have been an issue. Easy to find, intuitive to use, it is as good as any hotel website I have seen.

The hotel is located in the centre of the city – it is attached to a shopping Mall, and directly opposite another shopping Mall. The iconic Petronas Towers are only a ten minute stroll along an air conditioned walkway! The choice of restaurants and bars within a 100 metre radius is endless. JW have negotiated a 10% discount for guests of the hotel at many of the restaurants, so you are not even restricted to room service or a lifeless hotel dining room.  It is very difficult to find fault with the location.

The hotel itself has everything you would expect from a JW Marriott in addition to the excellent dining variety. A Spa is complimented by a very well stocked gym – a gym that is very sensibly open 24 hours a day – something that satisfies me greatly. There is also a lovely swimming pool. The conference facilities are excellent, and nothing was too much trouble – I never once felt guilty asking the staff for help (something I often feel in other hotels I have frequented).

The hotel is fully Wi-Fi enabled (as you would expect), but this is where the JW does lose points in my scoring. The ‘free’ Wi-Fi’ given to guests as standard is so slow, that it is almost not worth having it in the first place. It was taking me almost 30 seconds to open an email. When I contacted reception, they immediately apologised and offered to ‘upgrade’ me to the premium Wi-Fi service free of charge. In my opinion, the premium Wi-Fi should be standard – I should not have had to ask. Wi-Fi has become a basic for hotel experiences – making it difficult for customers to connect to the internet will be detrimental to most customer experiences.

My bedroom was very nice – not the best room I have ever stayed in, but very good. Well furnished, the super king-size bed was incredibly comfortable, with plenty of different types of pillow to satisfy the requirements of all guests. A huge ‘up to date’ TV was complemented by a DVD player. The bathroom was fabulous, sporting a separate shower from the bath – not enough hotels (especially in the UK) have separate showers.

All in all, the JW in Kuala Lumpur was very good on the accessibility front – hence the high score.

Range/Choice – CX Review Score 7/10

When looking at Range and Choice in the context of a hotel, there are a number of things that I deem to be important. I believe that the hotel should offer a variety of room formats – from a ‘basic’ option; to rooms with single or double beds; to family friendly rooms; to rooms that are easily accessible for people who need it. As a family of 5, I am also very keen to know if a hotel would be able to accommodate us – either in one room, or via interconnecting rooms. You would be amazed how many hotels in the world will not do either.

The JW in Kuala Lumpur has plenty of variety and choice. I stayed in a Deluxe room with a City View – the cheapest option – quite frankly, it is not worth spending any more. If you want more, you can go for an Executive room, a Studio Suite or a Junior Suite. They also have rooms for those that require easy access, and are still able to offer smoking rooms.

The JW falls down on the family front. It does not matter if you have a two bedroom suite or a ‘basic’ deluxe room – the maximum occupancy for a room in this hotel is three people. That means a family of four of five would have to pay for two rooms. When there is no legal reason why more than three people cannot stay in one room, this is a ‘policy’ that enables hotels to make more money out of guests – or at least that is how it feels. It is not clear if the hotel even has inter-connecting rooms.

For the JW to increase their score in this category, they need to consider making their hotel a more effective option for a family of four or more.

People – CX Review Score 9/10

The Ritz Carlton are famous for delivering world class customer service – so famous in fact, that other brands send their staff to be trained by them. Having interacted with the staff at the JW in Kuala Lumpur, it is clear that the Ritz Carlton is not the only part of the Marriott Group who ‘get’ customer service. From the minute I approached the front door of the hotel, to the second I got in my taxi to return to the airport, I was met with smiling, polite, friendly, helpful staff. Their behaviour was exemplary.

Every time I spoke to someone, they addressed me as ‘Sir’. Every employee I came across made eye contact with me – from the cleaning staff to the concierge to the receptionists. If their mission was to make you feel welcome, they succeeded with flying colours.

Even speaking to hotel employees on the phone was a pleasant experience. It was difficult to find fault. Being picky, the only thing I would say is that there is a risk that they take their customer focussed behaviour slightly too far. I actually found it quite difficult to end a phone conversation the other night – the lovely ladies I spoke to were overdoing it – ‘is there anything else I can help you with’; enjoy your evening; please contact me if you need anything else; thank you so much for calling – I kid you not, all of this was delivered at the end of one telephone call – all I wanted was to arrange a wakeup call! It is lovely, but too much kindness can get a little irritating.

I do not want to end on a minor negative though – the JW Kuala Lumpur employees are a credit to the company and to the brand – others (including Wotton House) could learn a lot from the way they conduct their business.

Value – CX Review Score 9/10

The JW in Kuala Lumpur is not the cheapest hotel in the city – but it is also not what I would consider expensive. One night in a Deluxe room can cost as little as £144 a night – that is amazing value for a city centre hotel of this quality. An equivalent quality hotel in London would cost three times the amount.

Value is defined by more than just price – in this case, the quality of the product and the service mean that a score of 9 out of 10 is very well deserved.

How did it make me feel? – CX Review Score 9/10

The best word to describe how my JW Marriott experience made me feel is ‘great’! Lovely location; very good room; very good facilities; and excellent customer service. It felt like I was staying in a hotel that knew what it was doing. My high expectations of the JW brand had been met – I was delighted. This is how all companies should aspire to make their customers feel.

It is important to note that despite this, the JW in Kuala Lumpur still have room for improvement. They scored 42/50 in my Customer Experience Review process – continuous tinkering with some of the things I have described would see that score rise. It is always a good thing to have room to improve – as long as the brand recognises that improvement is always necessary!

Would I use them again? YES

It was pretty easy to guess my answer to this question. If I come to Kuala Lumpur again – on business or for pleasure, I would be very happy to stay at the JW. Not only that, but if friends or colleagues were to ask me for hotel recommendations in Kuala Lumpur, what do you think I am likely to say? I would have no hesitation in recommending the JW – as long as it met the budget of the person asking me!!

My experience has also reinforced my perception of the Marriott Group. Whilst the CEO is no longer a Marriott by name, the family influence is still significant – Bill Marriott would probably not be happy that the JW in Kuala Lumpur only scored 42/50 – but that is because he expects perfection – and that is a good thing. Bill Marriott once said – ‘we’re not selling widgets. We’re selling experiences’ – my experience demonstrates that the experiences they are serving up are pretty good!

The portrait of the Marriott's that looks over the reception desk of their hotels
The portrait of the Marriott’s that looks over the reception desk of their hotels