A year of great experiences!

If you are reading this, you are almost certainly someone who enjoys reading a good blog. At least I hope that the blog posts you have been reading have been good! It is exactly 1 year since I penned my opening blog post. I started putting my thoughts out in to the ether as a result of advice given to me by a customer experience guru. If you have not come across Mike Wittenstein, I strongly advise you to look him up. Mike runs a company called Storyminers (http://storyminers.mikewittenstein.com/our_approach/index.htm) – he has taught me a lot in my time as a customer experience specialist.

In May 2012, Mike suggested that I might want to start writing a blog – it is therefore his fault that I sit in front of my laptop just over a year later writing my 64th blog post. It was one of the greatest pieces of advice I have ever been given. It has been a great pleasure writing about the subject I feel so passionate about. I genuinely look forward to writing my weekly blog post. Often, as now, I write them at silly times of the day – today, I am in a McDonalds just outside of Worcester – it is 06:15. Some may think I am mad. You are probably not wrong. To me though, I am doing something that gives me a great deal of pleasure. If even a small proportion of the people who come across my blog feel the same way, then all the better.

To ‘celebrate’ my first year as a blogger, I thought I would post a reminder of my TOP 5 most viewed blog posts. The fact they are the most viewed, suggests that they have been the most popular – maybe you can tell me what you think:

1. ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ – it does not matter what you look like, a customer is a customer – 11th February 2013

My most viewed blog post to date was one that was written by a friend of mine. The story of Helen Kewell and her experience with Sainsburys was one that touched many people. It is a story that everyone can associate with, and one that made many think twice about the way all customers are treated. This was also a blog post that led to a direct response from Sainsburys CEO – Justin King. Like all of my blog posts, I write them to be insightful and constructive. If the organisation that is the subject of the article can take appropriate action as a result, then it just makes my blogging all the more worthwhile. I will always be grateful to Helen for being so brave in sharing her story. If anyone reading this would like to feature in a guest post, please let me know.

You can read the post here – http://ijgolding.com/2013/02/11/dont-judge-a-book-by-its-cover-it-does-not-matter-what-you-look-like-a-customer-is-a-customer/

Justin King’s response can be viewed here – http://ijgolding.com/2013/02/25/dont-judge-a-book-by-its-cover-justin-kings-response/

2. STRATEGY – MEASUREMENT – PEOPLE: a simple framework for managing customer experience – 26th March 2013

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I do not like to get too theoretical with my blog posts. However, In March 2013, I decided to create a post that shared my approach to managing and improving the customer experience. In sharing the customer experience framework that is central to the way I operate, I generated a huge amount of interest from all over the globe. The framework that I choose to use is not exclusive to me. There are so many frameworks that exist, I just wanted to demonstrate that creating a framework for any organisation does not need to be complicated. I have used the framework in a variety of organisations, industries and sectors – I know it works. If you have not had a look, I encourage you to do so and assess the state of your own organisation against it.

You can read the post here – http://ijgolding.com/2013/03/26/strategy-measurement-people-a-simple-framework-for-managing-customer-experience/

3. 18 hours – how a loaf of bread helped improve the customer experience – 28th May 2013

Like everything in life, the more you do something, the better you get at doing it (most of the time!!). When I started to write my most recent blog post, I knew that it would be of interest to a great many people. I am often asked how I come up with ideas for my blog posts – especially when I write one on a weekly basis. The truth is that the process is often very impulsive. The idea sometimes just comes to me – and as soon as it does, I just have to write it down. That is what happened last week when I had a ‘bad’ experience in my local Morrisons. What started as a bad experience ended up as an amazingly positive one – one that I had to share with as many people as possible. That is one of the joys of blogging. As long as people are interested in the things I am talking about, it is wonderful to be able to share experiences with people from across the world. The story of my loaf of bread, and the action that Morrisons took is a brilliant example of the new world of ‘social service’ – again, it is a must read…..but I would say that! This is already my third most viewed blog post after just one week – given time, it may make it to number 1.

You can read the post here – http://ijgolding.com/2013/05/28/18-hours-how-a-loaf-of-bread-helped-improve-the-customer-experience/

4. £2,160 a night!!! What can we learn from Claridges? – 11th December 2012

If you are lucky enough, you may have had the pleasure of staying the night at Claridges in London. Even if you have not stayed there, you might have had the good fortune of enjoying afternoon tea there. If you have not had the joy of either, I suggest that you convince someone with enough money to treat you! Last year, the BBC aired a documentary series on the iconic hotel. It was brilliant viewing. Apart from providing good TV entertainment, for customer experience connoisseurs, the programme demonstrated what all organisations could learn from businesses like Claridges. Attention to detail, consistency, innovation, training, memories are all words that can be associated with one of the most famous hotels in the world – but they are also words that could be associated with any business. The programme had such a strong effect on me that I decided to treat Mrs Golding to afternoon tea on her 40th birthday. Can you guess what happened? It went wrong!! Not to worry though, the way Claridges dealt with the problem once again highlighted how well they manage the customer experience.

You can read the post here – http://ijgolding.com/2012/12/11/2160-a-night-what-can-we-learn-from-claridges/

You can read about our afternoon tea ‘problem’ here – http://ijgolding.com/2013/01/28/can-i-offer-you-a-complimentary-glass-of-champagne-sir-now-that-is-how-to-recover-a-customer-experience/

5. Attitude, Passion and Pride – do your people have it?


It is fantastic to see that the fifth most popular post in my first year is one of my very first. The story of ‘Arriva Trains Man’, who I later discovered was called Andrew Tyson captured the imagination of many. The post focussed on the importance of employee engagement. Every organisation needs people like Andrew – they cannot survive without passionate, proud people like him. It is regrettable that every day I hear stories of employees being taken for granted. It is so important to care for the most important asset any organisation has – doing so will ensure that what ever your business does, it will be far more likely to deliver a customer journey that meets or exceeds customer expectation. Andrew was understandably delighted to read a blog post written about him – I only hope that his employers recognise the value he brings as well.

You can read the post here – http://ijgolding.com/2012/06/25/attitude-passion-and-pride-do-your-people-have-it-27/

Just because these are the top 5, does not mean that the other blog posts are of little value. I have enjoyed so much positive feedback over the last twelve months, that I would love to provide a reminder of them all!! Whilst I continue to enjoy writing them, and people continue to enjoy reading them, I will continue to write about the customer experience. We are all consumers. We all experience interactions with organisations on a daily basis. Sometimes these interactions are good, sometimes they are not so good. My job is to help those that recognise that they can be better – that they can deliver better experiences for their customers or clients. It is wonderful to see more and more businesses putting customers at the heart of everything they do. Despite this, there is a very long way to go before the customer experience is genuinely a priority for the majority of organisations across the world.

Thank you for reading, commenting and supporting my blog over the last twelve months – your support for the next twelve will be just as important!!

STRATEGY – MEASUREMENT – PEOPLE: a simple framework for managing customer experience

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Understanding, managing and improving the customer experience is a skill set that has led to the formation of a new profession. The proliferation of customer experience professionals has led to the creation and adoption of a variety of methods, techniques and approaches to putting the customer at the heart of the organisation.

Many ‘customer experience frameworks’ have been formed to help and guide businesses to understand what and how to achieve a customer focussed culture. This post explores how simple a framework for customer experience management can be, and looks at some of the varieties of framework on offer.

Firstly, I must point out that there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to choosing to adopt a ‘framework’. Depending on the ‘state’ of your business, it may not be appropriate to adopt a framework at all. For example, organisations that have very well established customer experience ‘cultures’, may find the structure of a specific framework unnecessary – businesses that are starting their evolution are far more likely to need the formality that a framework provides.

So what exactly do I mean by a customer experience framework? To explain, let me talk you through the framework that I use – and that is embodied by the image at the beginning of this post. In my opinion, all organisations that are looking to be truly and genuinely customer centric, can do so by embedding three core elements of a customer experience framework. The elements of STRATEGY, MEASUREMENT and PEOPLE will together ensure that the organisation is ultimately aligned to understand how well it is able to consistently meet customer expectation with a fully engaged and motivated workforce. I will walk you through the elements, one by one:


The starting point for any business is to determine its ‘customer experience strategy’. This is a concept that is unfortunately lacking in many organisations today. The strategy will incorporate questions such as ‘what is our proposition?’; ‘why do customers transact with us?’; ‘why do customers come back (or not)?’; ‘what do we want our business to be for customers?’.

Defining the CX strategy is not that simple, but it is imperative. If you do not know what your strategy is, your employees will not know – and your customers will certainly not know. Not knowing your strategy means that employees do not know what direction they are going in, and customers are unlikely to know what to expect. The result is that you will fail to meet customer expectation more than you will meet it.

Businesses that have very well-defined CX strategies are not always the ones you expect. I always argue that Ryanair…..yes Ryanair…..have a very well-defined strategy. It is very well-defined because it is so clear and evident to the consumer and employee. We all know who Ryanair are, what they offer (or not!), and how they work. If you do not buy in to the Ryanair proposition, like me, you will not transact with them. However, millions of consumers do, because they are prepared to accept the proposition for the price that is offered. Ryanair meet customer expectation far more consistently than other, more ‘up-market’ airlines.


Once your business has a defined strategy, then next element of my suggested framework must be assessed. I call this element MEASUREMENT. If you know what your proposition is, you should then be able to continuously MEASURE how capable you are of delivering it. Measurement is the part of the framework where you complete the ‘customer’ piece of the jigsaw. It is where a business must consider what insight or fact is necessary to help understand whether or not you are capable of giving customers what they want and need.

I split measurement into four bits. To measure how good you are at doing something, it is first necessary to determine what that ‘something’ is. It is this stage of the framework where it is necessary to have a clear understanding of the ‘customer journey’. Customer journey mapping is a topic that could form a blog post in its own right. It can be as simple or complicated as you need it to be. The key is that you are able to identify the customer touch points, or ‘Moments of Truth’, in the end to end customer journey. These are all the points in your customer journey where a customer directly interacts with you. Once you know this, you are then able to identify what I call ‘internal capability’ – how good do you think you are at delivering the ‘Moments of Truth’?

Measuring customer facing processes is sadly all too uncommon in businesses. Organisations that have not thought about what they do as a ‘customer journey’, are most likely to measure internally focussed processes that are more likely to benefit the internal stakeholder, more than the customer. Creating a transparent view of how capable your customer facing processes are is critical.

Once you have measured the internal view, it should then be possible to correlate it with the external view – what does the customer think. This is where all forms of ‘voice of the customer’ measurement come in to play. Whether you choose CSat, NPS or Customer Effort Score, what is important in this stage of the framework is to be able to capture the true effect of what your journey delivers – customer perception. Granular customer feedback mechanisms will enable you to determine where in the journey the customer thinks your problems are. being able to align this to your internal measurement is the key to determining ‘priorities for improvement’.

This is the final bit of the MEASUREMENT stage of the framework. Measuring is important – but it is a means to find out what it is you must IMPROVE. Continuous improvement of the customer journey is what this stage focusses on. It will show you where you are today, and how far away from achieving your strategic goals you are. A continuous improvement plan will then plot you on the course to closing the gap.


The third stage of my proposed framework is what I will always describe as ‘the most important, but most difficult’. It is very difficult to achieve strategic goals, and/or improve a business, unless or until that business has fully engaged people. Engagement is important to any organisation, but in the terms of a customer experience framework, just being engaged with your job is not enough. A few years ago, O2 – a business that many forget used to be BT Cellnet – invented the principle of the O2 Fanbook. They believed that for their customers to become fans of O2, their employees must become fans first. It is a simple concept that resonates so well. For a business to be truly customer centric, it must have people who care. It must have employees who are passionate advocates of that business. They have become advocates because they believe in he product; the strategy; the customer. They know that the organisation cares for them, and in turn they care for the organisation.

Richard Branson tweeted recently that ‘your employees will treat your customers in the way you treat them’ – wise words from a business legend. Ask yourself the question – are you a fan of the business you work for? People engagement and advocacy is all about the CULTURE that underpins the organisation. This is why it is often so difficult. Changing an organisational culture is not a quick fix. It can take years, and it requires strong and committed leadership.

This customer experience framework works. I can say this as I have deployed it in a variety of businesses – B2C and B2B. But as I said at the beginning of this post, it is just one way of approaching the issue of customer experience management. Below are a variety of other frameworks that are equally as applicable. It all depends on your preference. The web link for all of the featured frameworks is featured below each image:




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If you are interested in the topic of Customer Experience, and would like to find out more, please do not hesitate to contact me at ijgolding@hotmail.com As always, your comments on this or any of my blog posts are very welcome.

‘Are you sure you want a big pizza?’ – How children can be a significant part of your CX strategy

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This is a picture of a bunny shaped pizza. Now that is surely the most original start to any of my blog posts! How can anyone that writes about the subject of customer experience be able to use a picture of a pizza shaped like a rabbit as a source for a post? Well please allow me just a little time to tell you!

I have always believed that children are an extremely important segment of society for many businesses when determining their customer experience strategy. Some industries are more aligned to this than others. Obviously companies like Disney have made an art form out of delivering exceptional customer experiences that align to the minds of children (young and old!). But it is not just the obvious that can benefit from thinking of our little people.

The restaurant industry was one of the first to recognise the importance of children. Ignore the ethical issues for a moment, but let us just consider McDonalds as an example. The ‘Happy Meal’ was invented by a McDonalds marketer called Dick Brams in 1977. Dick’s idea was to create a meal just for children. At the time this seemed an incredibly novel thing to do – but what a creation it turned out to be. By making children a distinct part of the ‘customer journey’ Dick had now given an even greater reason for parents to visit a McDonalds restaurant. Not only that, but by making the Happy meal such a memorable part of the experience, many of those children have grown into adults who also let their own children indulge in one from time to time. I found a great article in the US version of Time magazine on the history of the Happy meal if you are interested – http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1986073,00.html.

Almost every restaurant in the world now has a ‘kids menu’. It just makes sense. Adults with children (parents that is) are more likely to embark on a customer journey that involves ‘eating out’ if the establishment they happen to visit accommodates and understands children. Some restaurants choose not to have ‘kids menus’. Maybe they do not want children to visit. Maybe they much prefer their bigger spending adult only customers. Whatever the reason, leaving children out of your customer experience strategy is a risky business.

A long time ago I worked for Brakes – Brakes is one of the UKs largest food service providers – supplying many restaurants, hotels, schools and more with fresh and frozen food. I remember visiting a customer with a member of the sales team. The sales person was trying to convince the restaurant owners to launch a children’s menu. ‘This is not a kid friendly restaurant’, the owner replied. ‘How is your business doing?’, the sales person asked. ‘Not very well – lunchtimes are too quiet at the weekend’ – I wonder why!

Children are the PRESENT and FUTURE of customer experience. What they experience now will undoubtedly drive what they want their own children to experience in the future. Companies that understand, promote and look after their younger customers will live in the memory of young children. This is where the rabbit shaped pizza comes in.

This is L’Artista – an Italian restaurant in the centre of Playa Blanca, Lanzarote. For those of you who hail from London, the restaurant is owned by the brother-in-law of the chap who owns restaurants of the same name in England’s capital. During our week-long half term break in February, we visited L’Artista for an evening meal. One thing that we should point out here is that like many businesses, L’Artista is in a very competitive market. Sitting up some steps from the promenade, the restaurant competes with at least 100 others for passing trade. It is therefore essential that it has something to make it stand out – to enable customers to remember it.

The first thing you notice is the rather charismatic owner. Very loud and very friendly, he speaks to everyone that walks past – if they allow him to. He is very engaging and very memorable – not annoying as it may sound. On our visit, Ciara, Caitie and Jack had pre decided that they were going to have pizza for dinner. After a week of tapas, they wanted a night off.

Being 8 and 9, our daughters have now got to the stage where they do not always want the ‘kids menu’ – they are far too grown up for that. ‘What would you like’ the owner asked? ‘A Fiorentina pizza por favor’ (we were in Spain) was Ciara’s response. ‘Do you want a big one or a kids one?’ the owner asked. ‘A big one’ Ciara immediately shot back. ‘Are you sure?’ the owner asked. He then made a big song and dance to convince Ciara not to have a big pizza.

I was intrigued. It is not often you see the owner of an establishment trying to sell something that was cheaper than the thing the customer was asking for. None of us could quite understand why, but he was convincing enough to change Ciara’s mind. When a little under ten minutes later three rabbit shaped pizzas arrived, we understood. Ciara’s face was a picture. Jack and Caitie were equally delighted with their bunny shaped efforts. It was a very simple, yet very clever touch.

The restaurant does not advertise the fact that the pizza chef does this. You would not guess from walking past that it was a particularly child friendly restaurant. What the owner of this pizzeria has managed to do without spending a penny on marketing, is create a wonderful experience that his customers will then market for him. We told everyone about our experience. Our three little people thought it was the best meal of the holiday. They have told their friends about it. The owner of L’Artista has either intentionally or inherently understood how to appeal to the younger generation. In a society where the vast majority of parents want happy and excited children – especially on holiday, he is on to a winner.

L’Artista has been in Lanzarote for years – I remember passing it on previous visits to the island ‘pre-children’. I guarantee that if it is still there in a few years time, Ciara, Caitie and Jack will pay a visit when they bring their own children to Lanzarote. They will never forget their bunny shaped pizzas – it is that simple.

We were all born children (that is a fact that some ‘anti children’ adults should remember). Children have surprisingly good memories. Most parents want to have experiences with organisations that make life easier for them – and experiences that are memorable for them and their children. Designing experiences with children in mind is a very sensible thing for organisations to do. It is becoming more commonplace. If your organisation has not, it may be worth thinking about it right now.

What organisations do you think have designed brilliant customer experiences with children in mind? I would love to know. Please feel free to comment on this post as always.

Learn to walk before you start running! – do not bite off more than you can chew in your CX programme

All CX professionals have a plan. It is what defines us as passionate leaders in our field. We have multiple ideas in our minds of what we want to do and how we want to do them when we enter an organisation for the first time. Joining an organisation at the start of its CX journey is a little like putting a six year old with a sweet tooth in an unmanned sweet shop!

Many of us take up a CX related role in a business for a reason – because the business is in need of specialist expertise to support its business strategy. The intent of that strategy is likely to involve a greater focus on the customer. This all sounds great. It can therefore be very tempting for the over enthusiastic CX professional to storm in like an excited puppy. I have been accused by former employers of being emotionally immature – I would like to think that they misunderstood my passion and enthusiasm for immaturity – some would disagree!!

All business improvement professionals – whether they be management consultants, process improvement specialists, or CX professionals run the risk of running too fast – getting carried away with the plethora of potential opportunities laid out in front of them. Without wanting to state the obvious, whilst enthusiasm and passion should never be stunted (even when being called immature!!), for us to be as effective as possible, we must be expert at guiding our ideas and plans at a pace the organisation we are working within, or for, can cope with.

I have written a blog in the past that describes the ‘ups and downs’ of our profession (http://ijgolding.com/2012/08/14/you-cannot-be-serious-why-cx-professionals-must-never-give-up/) – it is common for the CX professional to identify many potential actions that are so obvious!! However, jut because they are obvious to you, it does not mean they are to the people you are trying to help.  I have learned (sometimes painfully) over the last few years, that it pays to slow down and pace yourself!

Using the running analogy, in my personal life, whilst not a great long distance runner, I am a committed one. My big issue with running is that I always, and I mean always, go out too fast. By mile 9 on almost every one of the 21 half marathons I have run to date, I have hit the wall – however much I tell myself that I need to slow down a bit, my brain rebels!! My personality is such, that my running behaviour can spill over into my professional behaviour. There is nothing wrong with my intent or motivation, but the end result can suffer.

When it comes to CX, I have found that working to a framework has helped me to compartmentalise my approach, and thus have the ability to take things step by step. My framework focusses on three pillars (as I call them)

  1. Strategy – what is the business proposition? why do customers transact with them? what is the organisations reason for being?
  2. Measurement – do we know how capable we think we are at delivering the proposition? Do we know how good our customers think we are at delivering the proposition? Do we know the key priorities for improvement in our customer journey?
  3. Engagement & Advocacy – are people fully engaged with our business and its proposition? Are employees advocates (fans) of the brand? Are people appreciated and recognised for the work they do?

There is no particular order in which to tackle these pillars – in fact, every organisation will be completely different. Some will be more advanced in one pillar than another. If you try and tackle all pillars at once, you may be guilty of running too fast. This is where I recognise that you need to determine what the CX framework priorities are for the business you are working in. For example, if the business does not quite know what its proposition is, it may be best to influence senior leaders to clarify it, prior to doing anything else. It is difficult to turn employees into ‘fans’ of a brand, if they do not quite know what the brand exists to do!!

Ultimately, we must always remind ourselves that driving a CX programme can take a significant amount of time – especially in a business that has never been customer centric before. When I mean ‘take time’ , I mean years! Treading carefully, and slowly bringing people at all levels of the organisation with you, will reap huge benefits in the long run. Going too quickly may well scare the pants off people, and set you back. You can not address the three pillars above in three months!

As a CX professional, you must believe in yourself, and in your approach. There will always be setbacks, but if you gently encourage, influence, guide, educate, and teach the business you are working in, step by step, you will ultimately achieve both yours and their goals. So even if you think the things that need to be done are blindingly obvious, and must be done by next week – take a deep breath – slow down, and ensure that you are going at the right pace.

As always, your comments are very welcome.

Pants! What is wrong with Marks & Spencer?

20 years ago, you could walk over London Bridge – make that any bridge in the UK for that matter – and be pretty sure that almost everyone traversing the bridge with you would be wearing something from Marks & Spencer (M&S). The things they would be wearing would very likely be pants (underwear for our US friends) and socks, although many of the men would be wearing an M&S suit, shirt or tie. Please do not get me wrong – I do not spend my time gawping at people and imagining what they are wearing underneath their overcoats – it is just (or was) a fact! The stalwart of the British high street was as common in the lives of men and women all over the UK, as the GE lightbulb is all over the world.

Today, M&S reported a 9.7% fall in profits – this is what the BBC have posted:

“Marks and Spencer, the UK’s biggest clothing retailer, has posted pre-tax profits of £290m for the six months to the end of September, down 9.7% from the same period last year.

Group sales were up 0.9% to £4.7bn, with much of the growth coming from the food side of the business.

Food sales were up 3.4%, or 1.1% on a like-for-like basis, which strips out the effect of new stores.

Clothing and homeware like-for-like sales, were down 4.3%, M&S said

So what exactly is going on at M&S? Can they blame everything on the current economic climate? Is there anything wrong at all? This blog looks at my view (and it is only my opinion) of the situation.

Going back 20 years, M&S were seen in the same light as John Lewis on the high street. Great products, great service and extremely trustworthy. They were predominantly a clothing retailer with a smaller focus on high quality food – it was always a special treat to get your food from M&S. So what happened? In my view, M&S became complacent – they took their customer for granted. There was almost the perception that the M&S management team sat around their board table, all patting themselves on the back, congratulating each other on how wonderful they were.

As a result of their complacency, M&S did not change. It did not evolve its proposition for years – until it was too late to avert the damage. Ten years ago, M&S started to decline – nothing dramatic, but slowly people stopped coming. As the business continued to invest in its food offering, there was little focus (or so it seemed) on its core non food proposition. M&S stores 10 years ago still looked like they did ten years earlier. They had become stagnant – the experience was not evolving with the climate around it. Online retailers were starting their charge, whilst M&S trundled on doing the same thing it had always done.

M&S did appear to recognise this. They started to introduce new clothing ranges – Signature and Per Una to name two – ranges of clothing that maintained the excellent quality that M&S had always been known for. However, it felt as though the inability to move with the times meant that M&S had started to lose a generation of consumers. Today, as M&S continues its decline, my key question is – what is M&S?

Is M&S a bank? Is M&S a supermarket? Is M&S a clothing retailer? The answer is yes to all of them – but what is the collective name for a company that has many specialities, but is not necessarily great at doing them all as one? M&S has separate business units, that all have M&S in the title – but if someone asks you what is M&S and who is M&S for, what would your answer be?

I have not purchased anything from M&S’s core clothing business for well over a year now. My last purchase was a suit – a very nice one as well. In the last five years, I have been in an M&S on  maybe 5 occasions. Twenty years ago, I went in to M&S every couple of months – to buy underwear, casual clothes and work clothes. My frequency of visit has changed as I am no longer sure that M&S is designed for me. Every time I walk past an M&S, the average age of customer entering and leaving looks to be in my parents age range. Looking through the windows, I can understand why. I am told that the quality is still excellent. I am told that the ranges are great – but if I perceive the store to be for the maturer customer, it is unlikely that I personally am ever going to know.

Whilst I do not think the clothes are for me, the food definitely is – the quality of M&S’s food offering is as good as it ever was. It is still a treat to do an M&S food shop – how can M&S make it feel like a treat to do a clothes shop? What M&S needs to do  (in my opinion) is two things:

  1. Clarify their proposition – what is M&S?; what is its proposition?; why would the consumer choose M&S? Until this is clear, neither the consumer, nor M&S’s staff will know. If you are unable to associate with a brand, you will not interact with it. It is critical that M&S addresses this problem and lets the consumer and staff know about it!
  2. Get emotional – if M&S looks at the three elements that make up an experience – it will notice where its problem is. FUNCTIONAL – their functional experience is good – M&S still has what you need and is able to fulfil what the consumer wants. ACCESSIBLE – they tick this box as well – with a good multi channel offering, M&S are able to compete with the rest of the high street. EMOTIONAL – this is the issue – the consumer has forgotten what M&S is and what makes it special. Unlike John Lewis who have maintained their emotional link to the consumer, M&S needs to re-build theirs. What do you remember about M&S? Many people will say ‘it used to be…….’ – they need to say ‘it still is……’

As the British high street continues to struggle, it desperately needs reliable trusted brands to both maintain consumer confidence AND give the consumer what it needs. M&S, like John Lewis, is a brand that we should all be proud of. t is a brand that must never take its customers for granted again. It is a brand that needs to show its customers that it cares. If it really is ‘Your M&S’, let us see it behaving like it.

Do you agree or disagree with my point of view? As always, I welcome your comments and views.

Can you tell what it is yet? Do your customers and employees know what your brand stands for?

Who knows how catchphrases take off? Many TV celebrities have them, and for this blog, I am shamelessly going to steal one from the great Rolf Harris (pictured) – brilliant artist and musician who hails from Australia, but has spent most of his life in the UK. For those of you who do not know Rolf, or his famous catchphrase, I will briefly explain. When I was younger, Rolf used to host a children’s TV show called ‘Rolf’s Cartoon Club’. Rolf would sit in front of an easel, and start to draw/paint a picture. The challenge was to try to guess who the picture was of before he would complete the picture – hence ‘can you guess what it is yet?’. Once the picture (of a cartoon character) was complete, the viewing audience would get treated to a cartoon of the character Rolf had just drawn.

So why is a customer experience specialist blogging about an Australian artist drawing cartoon characters? Well let’s come back to the catchphrase ‘can you tell what it is yet?’. Let me ask some questions – have you ever wondered what the company you work for really stands for? Do you always know what to expect from a company you interact with for the first time? Do you ever question whether or not your organisation has reached a consensus on how to treat customers? These are all questions that I have asked myself in the past. These are all questions that we often struggle to answer when working for organisations who  have not fully developed their customer experience strategies – or in other words, are not clear exactly what their brand(s) stand for in the eyes of their customers.

Let me use an example to develop the point I am making. My example is of a brand that excels at making it clear what they are and what they stand for – Virgin. I am currently reading Sir Richard Branson’s book – Like a Virgin. It is a fascinating read – a book I could quote from all day. Sir Richard (if I can be so personal) very simply states what all his brands stand for:

 ‘innovative, fun and quality service at a great price’

Every Virgin brand is founded on the same simple principles – if an idea does not align to this, the idea will not be launched. As a customer, it is pretty simple to know what you are going to get with Virgin, whether it be a train ticket to Glasgow, a flight to New York, or an annual pass to a health club. The branding is the same, the level of service is the same – it is remarkably consistent. You can tell very quickly that it is Virgin. As an employee it is very clear that you are working for an iconic brand. What Sir Richard has ensured is that every Virgin employee (although he thinks far too much of them to call them ’employees’) understands what the business proposition is. They know what Virgin is and stands for, they know what the character of the brand is, and they understand what the customer service principles of the brand are. It is really not complicated.

What Sir Richard has also excelled at is recognising that for a brand to be truly great, and to offer a fantastic experience, it needs to offer something different to its competitors:

‘Apple, like Virgin, must now fight to retain all the cultural elements that will keep it as nimble as its competitors not morph into one of the ponderous giants it managed to overcome.’

This quote refers to the innovative evolution of the Apple and Virgin brands – brands that have fought to maintain their innovation and principles, irrelevant of how big and successful they have become. The reason for this is that their nimbleness has become the reason why customers keep coming back to them. Their nimbleness have enabled them to develop serious brand and customer experience WOW moments. It is the WOW moments that makes them so successful. I did not realise that when Virgin Atlantic was launched, Upper Class (their version of business class) offered a complimentary door to door limousine service. Virgin could offer this because they were so small. Their competitors could not – they were too big. The limousine service was a big WOW moment that is still in place today – and unrivalled by Virgin’s competitors.

It is not suprising that Sir Richard mentions Steve Jobs in his book. Not surprising because there are so many similarities between the two men. Like Sir Richard, Steve Jobs was another shining example of a genius business leader who absolutely understood his brand. Steve Jobs knew what Apple was, stood for, and where it needed to go. Steve Jobs would never compromise on this. Steve Jobs would make decisions that would make the old-fashioned traditional ‘bean’ counting business leader shake and quake in his/her boots. Steve Jobs was so determined to do what he knew was right for his customer, he was even fired for being so ‘maverick’. On his return to the business, Steve Jobs created one of the biggest success stories in the corporate world. Steve Jobs took a brand that was dying, and created a brand that everyone around the world recognises. The essence of its products and its services was clear for the world to see. It is interesting to see what will happen to Apple now he has sadly passed away. Will his successor be such a stickler for maintaining the brand proposition, or will the numbers men come back in to take control?

Steve Jobs and Richard Branson created brands underpinned by cast iron principles. If you ask anyone you meet today, ‘do you know Apple and Virgin, and do you know what they stand for?’ – most people will be able to answer you. If you ask another question, ‘do you know why people buy things from their brands?’, you will almost certainly get a good response as well. Now ask the same questions of other brands – it is not appropriate for me to name any – but how many brands will you perform the test on where you are unable to answer the questions?

Not many of us are lucky enough to work in a business led by a Richard Branson or a Steve Jobs. If you are in a business where you do not know the reasons why customers keep transacting with you, or you do not have clarity on what your brand stands for, you will not be able to deliver a consistently good customer experience. By working with all of the relevant key stakeholders in your organisation, ensure that you create a CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE STRATEGY, and ensure that it is linked to the overall business strategy. Make sure that everyone knows what the brand proposition is, and what makes your brand different to the competition – detail the WOW moments that will keep your customers coming back to you, time and time again. It will really make a difference – just ask Sir Richard.

Your comments are very welcome on this, or any other of my blogs.

‘We tried our best’ – is this statement ever good enough?

If you live in Britain, you cannot fail to have been gripped by Olympic fever. Even if you have not been gripped by it, you will not have been able to avoid it. Olympic coverage is almost 24 hours a day, and with the medals rolling in, most Brits are delighted to ‘lap it up’.

Sporting success certainly makes every nation extremely proud. Whether it is weightlifting, fencing, athletics or Greco-Roman wrestling; winning a medal of any colour at an Olympic games is a monumental achievement that us mere mortals can only dream about. However – for every athlete that is fortunate enough to win a medal, there are many more who do not.

To be able to compete at an Olympic games, or on the global stage at any event, it goes without saying that a human being will have to demonstrate almost superhuman levels of commitment. It is no good waking up one morning and saying to yourself ‘I cannot be bothered today’ – procrastination does not work for world-class sports people. It is therefore very emotional to see athletes that have not quite made it to the podium, or not quite getting to the top step, being interviewed. In general, most of them will say that as long as they did everything in their power on the day, they could not ask for more. They tried their best – but sometimes their best is just not good enough.

The picture at the start of this blog is of two British rowers – Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter – narrowly missing out on a gold medal – being consoled by Sir Steve Redgrave. These two amazing athletes were gold medallists in Beijing – and now they were heartbroken at missing out on another gold. The emotion and pain in their faces is all we need to know when it comes to considering if they ‘tried hard enough’ – of course they did. Sometimes your best is just not good enough on the day – but at least they gave it everything.

Their picture, and interviews of other defeated athletes at London 2012, got me thinking about the analogy of customer experience failure. All of us have had experiences of dealing with organisations where things have not gone to plan. The delivery was late; the product was damaged; the installation did not work. We know things will go wrong – BUT – do we know if the organisations we interact with actually ‘tried their best’. Are we happy to accept failure if a business we deals with tried their best? Is their best actually good enough?

‘Sorry Mr Golding, we tried to deliver your parcel the other day (which contained Jack’s birthday present), but could not get there – we tried our best though’.

I have just made this up, but if it had actually happened, would coming second best be good enough for me? Absolutely not. As consumers, we expect companies we spend our hard-earned money with, to behave like Olympic athletes – always striving to get to the to the top of the podium – every single time we interact with them. If they do not get to the top of the podium, then they need to try harder next time – that is what will be going through an Olympians mind. But in the analogy of customer experience – there may not be a next time if we choose to take our business elsewhere. There will be Olympians in London for whom this was the last time to compete at this level – they tried their best, but it was not good enough.

When creating and embedding customer experience strategies, it is vital for companies to think like Olympians – striving for the gold medal – the silver is not good enough – cheesy, but absolutely true. The British culture – any culture – needs to learn from our Olympians – trying your best is admirable. For an Olympian, trying your best is what is expected. Being the best is what you strive for.

These pictures are of a lady called Rebecca Romero:

I am honoured ro know Rebecca – she is an amazing athlete – the first British Olympian to win medals in two different sports – a silver in Athens (2004) in rowing, and a gold in cycling in Beijing (2008). Rebecca did not quite make it in 2004 – her best (albeit an amazing achievement for you and me) was not quite good enough. So Rebecca changed sports, and got to the top step four years later – an incredible achievement. Rebecca had the confidence in her abilities to know that if she worked hard and focussed, she could be the best – she changed her strategy – to become the best. How many organisations could do the same thing with their focus on customer experience?

The next time you interact with an organisation, consider whether or not their best is good enough. If you are a customer experience professional, re-look at your CX strategy and ask the same question.

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