Customer experience: Are you in the short game or long game?

Introduction

My recent visit to Kuala Lumpur for Chinese New Year and some business meetings prompted me to contemplate what real customer success and service is about two customer experiences I had. We know everyone seems to be short term focussed these days but if you take things into perspective, I wanted to prompt some thought around the short term game or long term game businesses are demonstrating in terms of customer experience, customer success and setting the right strategies focussed on effective ways to address retention challenges and also customer lifetime value.

One was from an airline, Qantas, and the other from a leading hotel chain, IHG – Intercontinental Hotel

It led me to think that whether it’s old or new, modern or traditional, human or digital based, customer experience basics are still the same!

Most services still need human to human interaction at the end of the day. Digital is just a channel for connecting and automation interaction which can help streamline the process to handle more volume or increase scalability to service customers.

I will share some recent observations and my customer experiences and insight for customer success which I need to remind myself to apply with habits and business clients.

In relating these basics back to modern day customer success which businesses are investing through people, process and systems  helps gain clarity for sustainable customer centric strategies and growth. It also helps enable decisions based on human values of your well skilled staff, standards and trained culture with maintaining standards of how to deliver exceptional customer experience and service.

The common theme here is personalisation and also consistency of service. This definitely helps differentiate your core services against your competition.

Customer Experience #1

1) Qantas – Melbourne to Jakarta customer-experience-qantas

After a late turnaround and clearly some preparatory challenges from ground crew whilst working on a tight schedule, the Qantas crew were pretty stressed by focused on the customers first.

Peter was excellent in providing service with the Customer Service Manager, Julie. He diffused easier the challenges pre take off they had to ensure the crew were focused on the customers.

Having a record of previous customer data allows for personalisation of the service (this is example of how being informed helps).

That left me impressed in the follow through of the crew at the end of the flight. I know not everything goes according to plan but it’s how you recover. It’s about setting or resetting the expectation and how you manage it along the way with actions, follow through or communication to your customer.

Customer Experience #2

2) Intercontinental Hotel – Kuala Lumpur

customer-experience-ihg

 

customer-experience-IHG

 

 

I have returned to KL, one of my favourite cities which I travel to yearly to visit family over Chinese New Year.

For the past 3 years, while I have been staying at Intercontinental Kuala Lumpur, I have been served by Jason and his team.  The first year I recall Jason coming over and introducing himself to make known that he can assist or be of service not just in the hotel restaurant but other team members who can help during my stay.

I was pleasantly surprised for making the effort to ask about my stay and also intended travels and trip in KL.

Since then as I have known him a bit more with subsequent visits I have observed his own personal standard of service he strives to provide along with his team.

Jason has 46 years of customer service experience in hospitality. For him it’s a hobby and he works 7 days with limited time off. Whether it’s rush hour for breakfast or towards the end of morning service, the approach is the same.

Some basic tips and observations for customer success

Jason prides himself on and sets this example for his team with:.

  • Personal Greetings – Making sure he values you by knowing your first name
  • Consistency – Every morning he follows a routine and ensures level of service.
  • Customer Data Retention – Having a previous knowledge and retention of your customer preferences and interests helps build the customer care and success required. If you underpromise and overdeliver that is one basic element which helps manage your customer expectations.
  • Knowledge and curiosity – He makes and effort to ask many questions and show interest to engage with the customer.
  • Team player and multiple touchpoints  – The co-ordination in sections from his team members including introducing them allows customer service continuity if he isn’t available.
  • Going over and beyond – When nothing is too difficult and there is service with a smile, that can’t be faked. The authenticity and genuine nature comes across.
  • Attention to detail – The team doesn’t miss a beat and knows exactly where and when to attend to customers starting with front of house and a process.
  • Succession planning – He mentions that he is grooming his upcoming customer service talent for the next generation when he retires.
  • Helpfulness in other areas outside his department – customer focussed within a team. Naturally asking and offering help? – Can I get you anything else?

Pay attention to all of your customers proactively!

I’ve observed the way he worked the room and made time to personally attend to each table’s needs and ask questions. Even though it was one of the busiest times of the year, he was able to spend the time talking to guests and not rush. With his experience and wisdom he was still able to keep an eye out for his team and guide/ advise with the detail required for a smooth operations and experience during breakfast service time.

I observed him help a young child at the buffet servery also from care not because he had to as his job. His work and passion becomes a hobby as a reason to continue serving customers. This isn’t just applicable to the F&B sector but to all customer service industries.

Importance of succession planning

All of the younger team members are following suit with being trained with a customer care mindset and aware of digital travel apps like TripAdvisor and other review apps which reflect on their performance and customer experience.

Personalisation

Jason knows me by first name basis, which room number and also some of my preferences. He customised his service towards me, proactively a “teh tarik” and suggesting I try a chef special.

The care is authentic and genuine, not because he has to but because he wants to. This is something natural with sincerity which can’t be faked. I look forward to seeing him again next year at the Intercontinental Hotel.

Outcome

For many businesses, there is a basic level of ability and knowledge in how to increase in customer satisfaction and loyalty , average customer lifetime value, relationship and consistent positive feedback. The ongoing delivery can be a challenge but feedback always help keep standards and the management attitude and support towards the team.

Often the ‘short game’ played these days only achieve transaction goals in that moment but I think a balance is needed today.

By playing the ‘long game’, there is better engagement and the experience sustainable for repeat business and a reflection on the brand awareness and service standard also.

Would you like more happy repeat customer which keep growing with you or many average or less desired customer that you feel you are obligated to but given a choice you may not choose to deal with them?

In closing

What I have seen is that Human factor still applies either in digital or face to face form. When business refer to customer success it requires the dedication and commitment as well as ability to build upon initial relationship by delivering consistently and increasing the experience overall to delight the customer.

Whether it’s manual or digital still requires a human process and awareness of the customer. In saying this many businesses I have seen say they want to deliver customer first service however delivery and execution has been questionable.

One method to look at this is with the Customer Centric Flywheel Model adopted from HubSpot:

Funnel to flywheel

Source: HubSpot

In today’s market, all three elements of customer success, marketing and sales needs to be integrated amongst teams or between front of house and back of house. It’s not just about running your sales, marketing and service departments separately, but to be customer centric you need to place the customer at the centre of your ‘flywheel’ not just a single funnel. To me the customer experience is why I will gladly come back to the Intercontinental Hotel in Kuala Lumpur. l have realistic expectations and this applies across any service based industries where you need to value your staff and team but starts at management level setting the example.

If you would like to explore how well your sales, marketing and customer teams deliver customer experience across all channels, we can help you assess your customer improvement plans.

Simply register for your no obligation initial 1 hour consultation below

 By the way if you missed one of our case studies for the importance of face to face and digital customer experience here is a good read about #poor customer experience to prompt some actions to review in your organisation:

How not to deliver Customer Experience in the retail sector.

My customer experience: 5 ways a major Australian department store failed to deliver

In a tough retail ‘bricks and mortar’ trading environment in Australia, I was very surprised that one of the leading department stores in Australia, David Jones, had failed to deliver a positive customer experience in my first online shopping experience with them and in store last weekend. 

When my old vacuum cleaner decided to fail over the weekend, I started my buying journey online for a new one. After an online comparison between David Jones, Myer, JB HiFi, Harvey Norman and Good Guys, the best offer was listed on the David Jones website after a less known online retail brand stated they had availability and a competitive price. David Jones had advertised $674 from $899 plus a $60 Gift Voucher for all orders over $250 on full price purchases.

During the online search and research based on post code had listed Bourke St, Malvern Central and Southland stores all having and displaying stock availability for in store pickup, click & collect or delivery.

Here is how my customer experience unfolded over the afternoon which took over an hour to get this resolved and complete a purchase engaging multiple channels to attempt to purchase one product.

Perhaps on this occasion I was just an unlucky consumer, however it raised a number questions in my mind about how important a well integrated customer experience strategy is to acquire new customer business revenue growth and ensure a solid customer retention strategy around customer lifetime value can meet business objectives.


CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE FAIL #1 – PHYSICAL IN STORE CHANNEL

Based on this information and convenience, I decided to drive to the Malvern Central store to pick a unit.Retail Customer Experience

In store, I went to the vacuum cleaner section looking for any signage of the special offer or a demonstration unit to look at. Customer service said they were having issues with stock representation and none of the special offer was in store.

Also the gift voucher of $60 was based on FULL purchase price and not off the special price, however a previous customer had managed to order it via the special offer and also received the $60 gift voucher in addition.

The customer service staff advised the best way was to order this online to take advantage of the special offer and also gift voucher deal. 

CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE FAIL #2 – DIGITAL SUPPLY CHAIN CHANNEL

 

Digital-ChannelsIn store, the customer service advised to register an online account and put the order through the online store and complete the payment online.

The distribution centre had stock listed in the warehouse for dispatch but not click and collect and wasn’t an option for this product. The online store highlighted at least three nearby David Jones stores with stock on hand and available.

According to the customer service in house, other David Jones stores who were out of stock were directing customers to their store as highlighted in their supply system seen in store with their POS inventory system.


CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE FAIL #3 – DIGITAL WEB & MOBILE CHANNEL (CX USABILITY)

 

Digital Retail Customer ExperienceUpon attempting to setup my account on davidjones.com.au (in store) on my Samsung Android mobile – the mobile user experience wasn’t great as upon inputting my details, the Confirm my account button wasn’t working.

When I tried to checkout as a guest purchase, the full RRP was still listed without any mention of the discounted price and checkout in the online cart with any adjusted special offer price listed to pay online.

A staff member tried her Apple iPhone 8 login and it was working fine for her to access the discounted price in the shopping cart first time. This showed $674 in the shopping cart.

I tried again to setup the account on the mobile phone and finally after 10 attempts after trying to confirm the account button which wasn’t working, it finally went through to complete the online activation process before going onto the selection in the shopping cart.

The price of $899 was still showing for the item plus the promotion of $60 Gift Card (which doesn’t apply for special offers)

So what next I asked?


CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE FAIL #4 – ONLINE CUSTOMER SERVICE & SYSTEMS

The store customer service who rang up online customer service on my behalf passed me onto the inbound customer agent who proceeded to explain the process. So this became a two step process to even find out how to proceed with this purchase.

Customer Service

I was advised the following steps below given it was Sunday and no IT online support was available. The customer agent had no authority to override or edit the online store or check the shopping cart checkout process.

  • Login to David Jones online account/sign in.
  • Complete the purchase at full price of $899
  • Given it was the weekend, no IT support was available to correct the listing and price issue stated from Customer Support
  • Pay by credit card online for full RRP of $899 and then send an email to a provided customer service email address and request to be credited the difference based on the advertised price of $674 .
  • Only a postal delivery option was offered with no in store pickup for convenience.

By the time I completed this process with the Customer Service assistance this had taken more than one hour of my time on Sunday afternoon in the store. 

I was wondering surely it shouldn’t be that difficult to buy one product that is in high demand and popular.


CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE FAIL #5 – DISTRIBUTION & LOGISTICS

Retail-Supply-Chain-Process
Two days after the order was placed, I was curious if the order would be delivered on time within 5 to 7 days. Coincidentally, I received a phone call this morning from dispatch requesting to confirm what product I ordered and also what price I paid and the reference number of the order invoice. I
t seems like there was a systems or process issue here.


MY CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE: SOME THOUGHTS & REFLECTIONS.

If David Jones still prides themselves on tradition and 180 years history as they advertise in store and in their online brand messaging, then this customer experience certainly doesn’t capture a successful both traditional or digital channels experience to met or even exceed meeting the customer needs, buying journey and experience.

I can only assume the possible challenges in the rollout of digital transformation platform and strategy, implementing customer support process, ensuring a tighter integration of store to warehouse with ERP and POS supply chain processes.

From a digital marketing perspective, online store web design elements for customer usability does form the initial perception and whether a customer wants to complete the conversion process or bounce off altogether to complete the purchase with another retailer who provides a seamless experience and process through the buyer’s journey.

The importance in retail is to provide ease of customer engagement and purchase across all channels. The online digital front end as well as having a customer support backend systems environment needs to be able to keep attracting, engaging, delivering and delighting the customer.

As a consumer on the customer buying journey,  I feel more businesses can improve their inbound sales and marketing approach with the right data analytics and active customer feedback. 

The positive from this experience, I found that having a retail store assistant to have a human to human interaction with customer service skills to facilitate assistance by phone in reaching internal online store customer support to provide a suggested process which seemed like it was a workaround for their systems and process limitations to help deliver the order.

My takeaway from this basic consumer customer experience example is that when a business is planning and delivering an omni-channel strategy or a digital transformation exercise, an aligned team collaboration and horizontally integrated customer centric approach should always be front of mind with the right processes and systems data to ensure a consistent customer experience and a continuous feedback loop is available. 

In this disruptive retail environment, perhaps suppliers may choose alternative or direct distribution strategies and consider only the best stockists who can consistently deliver more volume but also raise the profile of their brand (other than cheaper price) with a high level of customer experience whether it be through an online retailer or “bricks and mortar” retailer channel.

The future of Australian retail on a global scale is tough as we keep hearing and will become tougher for survival. Both retail shareholders and the end customer need to be shown value through high standards of customer experience as well as ongoing innovation and customer service.

How can the leadership team address some of their current strategy, people, process and systems challenges to improve their customer experience and engagement?

For the time being, I wonder what the real business impact is and how many other consumers nationally both online and in store have similar customer experiences which I did.  I would be keen to hear some industry leaders thoughts and opinions as to how some of these retail customer experience challenges can be addressed if anyone would like to share.

In the meantime, I will look forward to receiving delivery of the Dyson vacuum cleaner ordered in the next 5 to 7 days with a rebate of the special price advertised. The positive upside of my experience last weekend was that my cleaning chores at home has been postponed for at least another week until the new vacuum cleaner arrives!

How do you shift from a brand centric to customer centric approach?

This overview article is written with B2B companies in mind, for those who are in business services and professional services sectors who have high value services, or some level of complexity such as traditional technology companies or business services like lawyers and accounting firms.

If I am talking to a marketing professional they are generally already aware of the importance of digital presence and marketing strategies to drive more brand awareness. For a business owner or director or partner, the way you need to market your value and specific services should be focused first on your prospective client who is looking to solve a particular challenge and how to help them.

Commonly many websites have a standard menu and content flow along the lines of:

  • About us:
  • What we can do:
  • Our capabilities:
  • Why us:

This is what we call a brand or product centric approach which proves very challenging to differentiate your digital identity and presence from your competitors to attract interest and relevance from prospective clients.

Your competitors are also sounding and writing the same way within their website and content, so how can you present, be relevant and differentiate your services?

Times have changed with how buyers choose to buy and deal with suppliers. A brand and product centric approach that lacks the implementation of inbound marketing and the buyer’s journey may not be working for you as well as a sales approach and you’ll find it tougher to develop new business opportunities in a competitive, price-driven market.

If you want to drive a competitive advantage or find a way to differentiate, just take a look at your competitors and how they may be approaching their digital marketing with a customer problem centric approach.

Here is one example of a website content page which focuses on the customer first and their challenges:

customer centric

Reference: www.maxsum.com/your-potential

There is a clear distinction in the flow of your webpage content to focus on your prospective client and their challenges, and to be overall customer centric.

Why the buyer’s journey is so important 

It is evident that buyers are much more informed and smarter when they are progressing through the sales cycle and have already completed their research before wanting to engage in a sales conversation.

Buyer-Journey
If you think about the car buying experience and the use of the internet to research and collect all the data you need first before picking up the phone to talk to, or emailing, a sales person to negotiate the best price.

Before you buy a car you may well already know what model and type of car you want, what features and specifications you want, your budget range and the ideal price you would like to pay. All you need to do before you speak to a sales representative at a dealership is to know if it is in stock and can you potentially negotiate the right deal. Only then you will reach out to your preferred dealership when you are ready to buy.

If you look at the Tesla model, they don’t have any traditional dealerships or showrooms as you can do all your research online and virtual tours to be able to make an informed decision whether or not to buy.

Hence the role of the marketing function and sales function has shifted significantly in the way you interact with your prospective buyer.

Traditional approach –
Brand 
and product centric approach

Many people are aware they need to market their business online and have a digital presence with an ‘About Us’ focus on themselves with self praise and noting award wins and recognitions. Also when you look at their website, many still take a ‘Features and Benefits’ approach with their branding or product to try to attract and eventually sell to their prospect with a demo, and aggressively following up when the sales person is actually intruding on their prospect.

This is what we describe as a brand centric or product centric approach.

All about the customer –
Problem and solution centric approach

With a progressive approach, it should be about the prospective customers’ solution to their problems and how you can add value and help – being customer centric.

This is a fundamental shift towards how you can serve your customer not what you can gain from them. The same applies to referring or being helpful to someone you can’t help but recognising that someone in your network could help solve their problem or address their challenge.

What end problem is the buyer trying to solve with your product/services?

If you can reflect this in your sales efforts and even start in the way you market your business ability to help solve the kinds of problems your prospective clients are challenged with, then you will resonate with your target audience, whether that be a CIO/CTO/CFO or another key stakeholder.

It could be a technical, operational or financial problem you can solve. Once you identify it, then only you can progress to build the relationship in person and or online to provide them with possible solutions.

6 tips for customer centric marketing and sales

  • Identify the problem or challenge first that your ideal client is looking to solve.
  • Ensure you provide your digital content around the specific challenge and solution which might help the prospective client.
  • If you think you can help them solve this problem or challenge, you must be able to offer or add value first with the right information or thought leadership in your field of expertise.
  • Once you have built an online or offline rapport and earned the right for them to trust or see value in what you offer, then you can talk about solutions to their problem.
  • Your solution to their problem can be shared with them if it can provide value, whether it be a product or service to deliver they outcome they are seeking. 
  • The best outcome is when they come back to you for your advice, and the best way of acknowledgment is through a referral.

In case you missed our earlier insights video tip series discussing why you need to shift from a product centric approach to a customer centric approach, here are the links to view them:

Insights Video: Is your website brand or customer focussed?

Insights Video: How to turn your website into a customer centric approach

For further information on how you can increase your client engagement from your digital presence and website, we can review this for you and share our recommendations  as part of our complementary digital readiness assessment.


Contact us at Twitter@alchemise_cons,  email info@alchemiseconsulting.com or phone us +61(3) 9225 5022

Insights Video #2 – How to turn your website into a customer centric approach

Here is an example of how you can change your website to a customer centric approach from an Australian IT company website we found – Maxsum IT.

Did you miss Insights Video #1 – Is your website brand centric or customer focussed? Watch it here now.

Hear from our Marketing and Sales Insight consultant, Andrew McFayden about why this is our advice for people thinking of a website redesign project or content marketing campaign using an example of how to approach it.

 If you are tired of your content marketing campaigns failing with no ROI, find out how Alchemise Consulting can drive more effective leads for your business.

We are a boutique business growth consultancy based in Melbourne, focused on delivering high value business and sales consulting in APAC with an outcome based focus and shared risk approach.

For further details on any of these points above with a confidential discussion on how we can assist you for business partnership or growth/exit strategies, please contact us on info@alchemiseconsulting.com or register for free initial consultation.

Insights Video #1 – Is your website brand centric or customer focussed?

Hear our latest marketing insights from our Marketing and Sales Insights Consultant, Andrew McFayden, in this short video about why many business website designs and content are brand centric and NOT effective in attracting or engaging with your customers.

Stay tuned for our next video of an example IT services website that started the process of being customer centric, as opposed to brand centric – available to watch right now, HERE!


 If you are tired of your content marketing campaigns failing with no ROI, find out how Alchemise Consulting can drive more effective leads for your business.

We are a boutique business growth consultancy based in Melbourne, focused on delivering high value business sales and marketing consulting in APAC with an outcome based focus and shared risk approach.

For further details on any of these points above with a confidential discussion on how we can assist you for business partnership or growth/exit strategies, please contact us on info@alchemiseconsulting.com or register for a free initial consultation.