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!

6 ways NBN resellers can differentiate themselves

It appears that in talking to many telecommunications, NBN resellers and ISP businesses, the most common challenge is how to acquire new business and retain customers.  Typically with new business development, this challenge can be competency, cultural, skills or resource-related or external market driven.

If you have been in the telecommunications business for several years, the economics and dynamics of the NBN resellers market is very dynamic and more price sensitive than ever before to gain market share. An industry benchmark of customer Net Promoter Scores (NPS) is even more important to track and survey your customers.

Many business claim they are servicing their existing clients very well and have “never” lost a client! That said, often the next statement made is one around the desire to acquire and grow new business, however many owners or sales/marketing managers cannot articulate, when asked, how they go about it. Often there is a look of uncertainty or a shrug of the shoulders, and the following responses are common:

  • We never lose a customer
  • It’s difficult to find good sales people or traditional “hunters”
  • We are busy enough with servicing our existing customers and growing within our client base
  • We don’t have good leads coming in from marketing

Even if customers are being comfortably retained, it is important to not become complacent as business and economic conditions can quickly change, potentially affecting customers’ situations and ability to maintain the relationship. While these circumstances are beyond your control, if you are a business owner or director of a NBN provider there are proactive steps to be considered in this market.

Here are 6 questions to consider for NBN resellers:

  • Are you investing in sufficient branding and marketing initiatives to ensure your are front of mind for NBN consumers to consider your business?
  • How are you going to protect your customer base from churn and other NBN provider competition?
  • How will you differentiate your services aside from a price driven conversation?
  • Are you offering no lock-in contracts with NBN services or month-to-month fees?
  • Have you completed a profit and revenue scenario analysis on subscriber ROI as part of your Go to Market strategy?
  • How will you streamline your customer engagement to increase your customer lifetime value and NPS ratings?

1) Consistently develop brand awareness for NBN B2C market

Rather than putting all your eggs in one basket, relying on larger and/or existing clients for your revenue stream, new business development strategy is required to be continually developing and securing new business. Without developing sufficient brand awareness and understanding your buyer’s behaviour it is difficult to create customer loyalty and retention. Find out how to understand this first as part of your brand messaging go to market strategy.

2) Differentiate your NBN business

Your sales opportunities and pipeline, and new customer acquisition should not be left to generate (or not) organically, rather they will flourish with the correct strategy and investment implemented across the business. Don’t forget from a customers’ view, what are you going to keep doing to add value for them and personalise their experience and therefore minimise churn as NBN resellers.

3) Focus on customer experience and NPS

There are more than 100 NBN resellers/providers approved by NBN as of the last listing on the NBN website.

The risk if you are selling on price and low profit margin offers means that this is not sustainable for cashflow and growth, given NBN pricing plans don’t have a fixed contractual obligations.  A lack of diversification of new business revenue streams can quickly place the business and employees in a dire situation. Hence the cost of the acquisition of a new customer is more than improving customer experience and cost of retaining a good customer with service.

NBN-resellers

If you conduct regular NPS surveys to your customers and use digital channels to match the way your customers interact, you will be able to use those insights to respond to their changing needs and wants from consumer feedback. Too often this regular and personalised service is overlooked after the first sale and not followed up until a technical or customer issue happens or contract resign or extension is needed to be discussed. Don’t let this happen to you!

Recently an ISP client mentioned they had 7000 clients over 10 years but only 2000 had been reached out to over the last year only by email newsletter distribution. There needs to be a more efficient way to communicate with your customers regularly or to provide relevant information of value to them with the right channels.

4) Invest in more sales and marketing automation technology

The market today presents so many technologies, platforms and cloud-based, to provide a very customer centric experience from first contact right through, using AI to service customer support and sales.

A good use of CRM, workflows and marketing automation with your brand and content strategy can help you drive your business forward. Being proactive in contacting your customer base will naturally help provide value such as NBN network and service information.

A CRM should be used as a dedicated tool for sales and marketing tracking activities. A common part of this alignment is to consider an integrated sales and marketing automation system with CRM included, which may be cost effective to consider if you don’t have any current platform for your sales team.

Pick a system that suits your business processes and strategy first rather than the other way around. Sales teams need a “single source of truth” for everyone to access and see historic sales data, contract renewal dates, history and marketing activity as well as contact profile information.

Talking to small business owners, I often find that they use MYOB or another accounting/service delivery package, yet these are a static resource, not an active and interactive CRM that can be used to facilitate business development and growth.

5) Hire the right people to join your customer services team 

It’s hard to hire the right people unless there is a willingness to invest in the right talent acquisition strategy and appropriate hire.

If you hire Business Development Managers incorrectly, the cost of employment and time in the market to sell gets diminished to fall behind sales targets.

How to hire the right salesperson is a balance of understanding the right type of person suited to your culture.

Simply hiring someone from a Tier 1 organisation based on their experience may not suit if your organization is young, in start up or growth mode and/or more unstructured in terms of business culture.

Similarly, paying someone to bring in their rolodex of contacts doesn’t apply anymore. While there is still value in having contacts and existing relationships, this still carries risk to your brand and reputation if their inherent values do not align to what you can offer, and how you offer it.

Ideally someone who is motivated and hungry for success with the right energy and ability to still pick up the phone and establish rapport and relationships is still relevant, despite the shift to the digital marketing focus for lead generation. Effective sales engagement is still face-to-face or over the phone and being able to deliver superior customer service is central, no matter the approach.

6) Differentiate through implementing the right customer delivery processes and optimisation

The progress of self service portals and support have been seen in telecommunications and customer service platforms. NBN resellers need to think about how to evolve your response times, provisioning and activation processes. Have you thought about how to use advance call centre inbound chat or digital and social media channels to service your client demographic preferences?

It also requires an understanding of what type of clients you are seeking and who is a good fit for your products and services. Often marketing campaigns and research with customer profiling can help with the segmentation process of where the sales teams engage for new business development.

We strongly advise reaching an agreement between sales and marketing on relevant details (such as leads, the nurture process and sales cycle, and handovers), but even more important is for the business owner/director to support the sales engagement process and to ensure that expectations are realistic.

Investment in your brand and delivering cost efficiencies within operational departments are required to preserve your profits from a customer lifetime value perspective.

Summary:

Here, I’ve aimed to highlight that, in the NBN provider market, resellers are finding it increasingly challenging to generate or develop profitable new business in a competitive marketplace. For the NBN services, customer experience and knowing what your NBN consumers are looking for in a service provider is an important part of your go to market strategy planning.

Here is a NBN provider list for internet and phone services published from NBN Co website (*current as of 7th February 2018).

For further details on any of these points above with a confidential discussion on how we can assist you for new NBN Marketing or Business Development strategies, please contact us at info@alchemiseconsulting.com or register for a free initial consultation.