Category Archives: Customer Engagement

What Is The Access To Cultivating Customer Engagement and Customer Relationships?

My eldest son is in the process of buying a car, his first car.  He knows his budget (£6,0000. He knows the make and model of the car (Ford Fiesta).  Given this he knows that he will buy a used car – couple of years old.  His goal is to have this car in place by the end of this month.  His challenge is that he has never bought a car before.

What comes with this goal and challenge?  Concern. What is he concerned about?  He is concerned that he will get it wrong: that he will buy the wrong car – it is not sound; and or that he will pay too much for the car.  What does he want?  He wants help: he wants someone he can count on, who has his best interests at heart, to take the problem off his hands.  So he turned to me.

I have no experience in buying cars. My youngest brother is into cars, has bought-sold many cars, and so I have used his services.  So when my son asked me for help, I found myself telling him that I was not in a position to help him.  This was his reply:

“You’re not any help, are you!” 

It is the way that he said this that got my attention.  It was a voice of mild anger and strong disappointment.  Why?  Is relationship missing?  No, we have a strong relationship and this has been the case since his birth. Is engagement missing? No, we are engaged in each others lives – sometimes more than I’d like it to be and other times less than I’d like it to be.

Reflecting on that which occurred it hit me that we value those who show up as useful to us given our circumstances and the ‘projects’ we are grappling with.  Put differently, if you show up as useful to me then I am open to entering into a conversation with you. And through a series of conversations-interactions a relationship emerges.

Looked at this way, it hits me that all the talk of, and focus, on generating customer engagement and building customer relationships through a variety of tips, tricks and technology is misplaced.  It is misplaced. It is foolish. It is a red herring – distracting from that which matters.

So where should our focus be? On usefulness! It is when we show up as useful that the gate towards conversation and thus engagement opens.  It is only when mutual usefulness is present, does trading occur.  And it is on the basis of the repeated conversations-interactions-trading that a relationship emerges. Consider that when someone no longer ‘shows up as useful’ and they want to engage with you, have a relationship with you, they show up as clingy-needy. What is it that almost all of us do when this occurs?  We distance ourselves from these people. Why?  The simply do not show up as useful to us given our circumstances and our ‘projects’.

Please note that it is not enough to be useful as in have a useful product, service or solution.  It is necessary that one ‘shows up as useful’ to those whom we wish to trade with.  That means that an essential task is to cultivate awareness of our usefulness – to all who matter.  This was brought home to me in a recent conversation when the lady at the table said something to the effect “Where were you three months ago?  Why haven’t I heard of you? You should make sure you are on the Gartner report.”

In 25+ years of business life, I can only remember a handful of conversations where the people who matter in organisational life (Tops, Middles) grappled seriously with the question of usefulness: how can we be useful and show up as useful in the lives of our customers?

 

Halfords Autocentres Co-create a Great Customer Experience

The Situation: An Unexpected Problem Shows Up

I got a phone call to tell me that it had not been possible to get the road tax renewed. Why? Because the MOT had run out. Given that I had asked (and paid for) the car to be ‘road taxed’ over two weeks ago, I was not happy to get this news when the road tax had run out. So I set myself the task of getting the car through its MOT on the next day – the day where I would be working from home.

The Customer Experience

1) Research Phase: Finding A Suitable Local MOT Centre

About 7-8 am I turned up at Google and searched for MOT centres in my part of the world. Halfords Autocentres caught my eye. Why? I know where the local centre is and it is only five minutes drive from my home. And because of the offer.

MOT Only £27.42 – 50% Off

Book Now To Take Advantage Of Our Exclusive Online Deal. Save Today!

The offer – MOT for only £27 and ability to book online – was too good to resist.  So I clicked on the link and ended up on a well designed-helpful web page. Here is screenshot of the middle section of this page:

HalfordsMOTBookingScreen

This one page, answered my key questions-concerns:

1. Can I book online? Yes

2. Can I make an MOT booking for today? Yes, provided there is an open slot at your chosen centre.

3. How long does it take? 45 minutes if no repairs needed, up to 60 minutes if minor repairs needed.

4. What happens if the car fails the MOT?  Most repairs can be carried out at the autocentre on the day of the MOT.

2. Purchase Phase: Booking and Paying Online

Within five minutes I had selected my local Halfords autocentre, entered the details of my wife’s car, selected the ‘MOT’ product, accessed the MOT calendar, found an empty slot for that day, booked that slot, entered my contact details, paid, got a confirmation, and printed off my the relevant documents.  Easy!

3. MOT Phase: Arrival At Local Autocentre

Five minutes before my appointed slot, I turned up at the local Halford Autocentre. Alex was on reception, he recognised me, he smiled, he welcomed me.  I did not have anything to explain as Alex had a copy of my booking.

Exactly on time, one of the mechanics showed up, took the keys and got on with testing my wife’s car; I could see exactly what was happening because the office and service bays are separated by glass.  Whilst the mechanic was conducting the test, Alex and I were catching up when he was not taking calls (from customers) or serving customers who popped in.

4. MOT Phase: Results and Departure from Local Autocentre

The forty-five minutes flew by. Alex went to talk with the mechanics. Coming back he told me that the car had ‘failed’ its MOT and there was nothing to worry about. Noticing my confusion, Alex explained that the regulations had changed and so the ‘state of wiring’ in-around the engine did not meet regulations. And there was nothing to worry about because the mechanics were tidying up the wiring – the job would be done in the next five to ten minutes.

True to his promise, within 10 minutes Alex had my MOT certificate ready. He went through it including pointing out that two tyres would need to be replaced soon. At the end of this review I was expecting to be charged for the ‘tidying up’ of the wiring. Surprise! No charge.

I thanked Alex. I thanked the mechanic who came into the office at the moment. And I wished them both a great Christmas and the very best for 2014.  What did I get in return?  An early Christmas gift. Both Alex and the mechanic said, with a certain genuineness (conveyed by the tone of their voices) “And the same to you, mate!”

What Made This Such a Great Experience?

It occurs to me that the following factors worked together to make my experience a great one:

  1. Compelling offer (price competitive MOT, online booking) that grabbed my attention

  2. Well designed MOT page that is informative, useful and usable

  3. Easy to find local Halfords autocentre, easy to search for MOT slots by day, one click booking of an empty time slot, easy payment-checkout process, online confirmation of booking, ease of printing out the paperwork.

  4. The right hand knows what the left hand is doing – in this case the local Halfords autocentre knew of my booking, had printed off the paperwork, and were expecting me.

  5. Keeping the promise – the MOT was completed within 45 minutes. And the minor repairs ‘tidying up the wiring’ in-around the engine was completed in the 5 – 10 minutes, and in any case less than the 60 minutes quoted on the website at the time of booking.

  6. A friendly face that I knew, who knew me, and who welcomed me.

  7. Generosity – the chaps at Halfords could have charged me for ‘tidying up’ the wiring. And I would have paid. They didn’t. Most importantly, they made no big deal of it. In a world where I expect to pay for everything, this generosity of spirit was and is welcome.

  8. The humanity right at the end – between myself, Alex and the mechanic. I can still hear the genuine warmth-melody of “And the same to you mate!”

And Finally

It occurs to me that:

whilst there is truth in the saying that customers don’t want relationships with companies, this truth turns out to be falsehood when it comes to the human to human level: between the customer and the employees (flesh and blood human beings) who deal with, serve, and help the customer.

great experience designers craft experiences where hi-touch integrates with and complement hi-tech; hi-tech is great for making it easy to get jobs done; hi-touch is essential for calling forth the kind of emotions that cultivate emotional bonds.

Halfords Autocentres have got it right when it comes to the MOT experience – at least in my case, for this specific experience.

Who Are the UK’s 2013 Customer Experience Leaders and What Can We Learn From Them (Part 3 – Brands That Have “Cracked The Code”)

This third post completes the series of posts based on the Nunwood’s 2013 annual customer experience excellence report (The UK’s Top Customer Brands: How They Achieve Success).  You can find the earlier posts here:

Who Are the UK’s 2013 Customer Experience Leaders And What Can We Learn From Them? (Part 1)

Who Are the UK’s 2013 Customer Experience Leaders And What Can We Learn From Them? (Part 2)

Which UK Brands Have “Cracked The Code”?

In the executive summary section, I noticed the following assertion:

“Overall there was no change in the mean score across all the brands evaluated. This suggests that …… some brands are improving exponentially and others are falling behind……

There are some brands however who have “cracked the code”, and are making major leaps forward notably Butlins, QVC, Tesco Mobile and Giff Gaff.

In the rest of this post, I wish to take a closer look at Giff Gaff . Why? Because Giff Gaff is innovative and because of the way it actually does put customers at the heart of the business.

Giff Gaff

Who leads the “Value Top 10″ table? Giff Gaff.  What allows this brand, this organisation to create this kind of value for its customers?

Giff Gaff is something of an anomaly in the field of mobile communications. A SIM only provider with no high street presence, it is entirely focused on delivering best value. Giff Gaff gives back to their members through savings – cutting away costs that rivals have to cover such as physical stores, customer service teams …..

A quirky company Giff Gaff say you are not a customer – you are a member of the family.  Members of the Giff Gaff family save considerable amounts on their purchases and receive rewards for promoting services and contributing to their on-line care.

The concept of membership, being part of something, is powerful one and for Giff Gaff it leads to a highly engaged and hugely active online community. 

Drawing its name from a Scottish phrase for mutual giving, this community is encouraged to share ideas, potential rewards and price plans via forums. Many unique selling points and technical developments are credited to members…….

Fundamental to its success has been the unique way they have put customers at the very centres of their business…… The notion of a common sense of purpose with your customers is a powerful one.

What I want to draw your attention to the following:

1. It occurs to me that Giff Gaff is inventing-experimenting with-perfecting a new way of doing business.  Not a customer-centred way of doing business. Nor a shareholder centred way of doing business. No, it is deeply immersed in a ‘community-membership’ way of doing business.  In this way of doing business, the customer plays many roles in addition to the role of customer: as marketer, as sales person, as R&D advisor, as customer services agent, as a ‘shareholder’…..

2. I am clear that Giff Gaff has got social right because social is the heart-ethos of the business. Social is not a bolt-on. Social is the business. I say mutual giving is the definitive test of an authentically social way of showing up in the world.

3. Will Giff Gaff do to the mobile industry what the mini-mills did to the US steel industry?  That is to say is Giff Gaff show up for me as an example of a low end disruptive innovator according to Clayton Christensen model. Or will its parent O2 ‘kill’ it like GM did with Saturn when Saturn became a threat to GM’s way of doing business?

As a member of Giff Gaff I notice that Giff Gaff is travelling the path that Amazon/Bezos has travelled. Which path?  The path of listening to customers and using this listening to figure out which products-services to introduce next. For example, Giff Gaff is no longer a SIM only provider. Giff Gaff now sells a small range of the popular phones.

If you want to learn more about Giff Gaff then I recommend reading the following posts:

giffgaff where customers are ‘members’ who sit at the heart of the organisation

giffgaff: what impact will the 8 hour service interrruption have on brand reputation and customer loyalty?

giffgaff: how to generate delight and advocacy without spending a fortune

Want to learn more

If you want to learn more about these brands (Giff Gaff, Butlins, QVC, Tesco Mobile), or any of the other Top 10 UK Customer Experience brands,  I suggest that you download-read Nunwood’s annual Customer Experience report: CEE-Centre-2013-UK-Full-Report

And the table of the Top 100 UK customer experience brands is here:  NUNW00D-CEEC-UK-2013-TOP-1001

Who Are the UK’s 2013 Customer Experience Leaders And What Can We Learn From Them? (Part 2)

This post continues the conversation started in the earlier post which disclosed the UK’s Top 10 Customer Experience brands and provided an analysis of the Top 100 brands by industry.

Nunwood’s Six Pillars of Customer Experience

The folks at Nunwood claim “we have used advanced text analytic techniques to derive and then statistically validate the six most important factors that customers talk about when it comes to great experiences”.  What are these factors?

Personalisation: using individualised attention to drive emotional engagement

Time & Effort: valuing the customers time – minimising the effort and creating frictionless processes

Expectations: managing, meeting and exceeding customer expectations

Integrity: being trustworthy and engendering trust

Resolution: turning a poor customer experience into a great one

Empathy: achieving an understanding of the customer’s circumstances to drive deep rapport

What can we learn about these six pillars of Customer Experience by looking at the Top 10 brands?

In their report Nunwood list the top brands by each of the Customer Experience pillars. So:

  • Amazon sits at the very top for the Personalisation and Time & Effort pillars;
  • Virgin Atlantic is the leader in the Expectations pillar;
  • John Lewis leads when it comes to the Integrity pillar; and
  • QVC leads in both the Resolution and Empathy pillars.

What is not easy to do, from the report, is to see at one glance what each of the Top 10 brands does in terms of these six pillars. So I have taken some time to piece that together for you and here it is:

Top10 CEE Six Pillars Analysis

Coming Next

In the next and last post, I will share with you details of the “brands that have cracked the code” and are making major leaps forward – according to Nunwood. And in particular I will single out one brand that shows up for as being truly innovative in its business model, in customer engagement, in being social and making online community work, in putting its customers truly at the centre of its way of doing business.  I also happen to be a customer of this brand.

Vizolution: A great way to drive sales conversions and improve the customer experience?

I have mixed relationship with corporate technology given my first hand experience of it. It is true that technology is essential and it brings many benefits. It is also true that most corporate technology is complex and expensive to set-up and operate. Last, and perhaps most important is that it does not show up as being usable nor useful to the people on the front lines that have to use the technology. Put differently, from the user perspective the disadvantages outweigh the benefits. A great example of such a technology is enterprise CRM systems. Can Vizolution prove me wrong?

I met up with Marcio Rodrigues, Customer Propositions Director, at Vizolution to learn about this technology. Here is what I learned:

  • Vizolution technology is being used by three of the top five UK banks and two of the top 5 insurance companies;
  • According to customer surveys, customers (95% of them) like the experience that is generated through Vizolution;
  • By using this technology financial services companies have increased sales conversions anywhere from 14% (mortgage conversion) to 93% (life insurance and critical illness); and
  • The folks in compliance love Vizolution as it sends/receives files using 128 bit encryption, allows complex issues to be explained properly, and enables a consistent sales process.

Ok, the banks and insurance companies like it because it improves sales conversion and improves compliance.  What I was interested in was the customer. Why do customers like it? What does Vizolution bring to the customer experience? This is what I learned:

  • By being able to see what the sales agent is talking about customers feel more engaged in the process;
  • The on screen visuals make it easier for the customer to understand the financial product being discussed; and
  • The process of signing-up for a financial product is so much easier and quicker – there is no waiting for the paperwork to arrive by post, reviewing and signing it, waiting for approval.

By now you might be wondering what is Vizolution and what does it do.  As I understand it, Vizolution:

  • Is patent pending software that allows businesses to engage their customers in sales conversations through an instant, easy, screen sharing session via the internet;
  • Is  simple and quick – with just one click the sales agent can initiate a Vizolution session and it is just as easy for the customer; and
  • bypasses the typical issues in installing screen sharing software locally and navigating around-through corporate firewalls.

My last question to Marcio was on costs: purchasing, installation, and use. What I can tell you is that the pricing showed up for me as being modest even cheap given the difference that this technology has made to sales conversion rates. At this point I could not help being a ‘strategic consultant’ and so I advised Marcio and his team to rethink the pricing!

If you want to learn more about Vizolution then I suggest that you contact Marcio. His email address is marcio.rodrigues@vizolution.co.uk

If you have used this software solution either as a manager, a sales agent or a customer then I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment.

Please note that I am taking a holiday over August and as such I do not expect to be writing any posts until September. I thank you for reading and hope you make August a great month for yourself and all the people you ‘touch’.

Disclosure: I am happy to write about Vizolution as it occurs to me that this is a simple useful technology. I am not being paid, in any way, for writing this post. Please note that I am not promoting Vizolution and with every technology I encourage you to do your research before you buy.

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