Customer Experience: 6 lessons from personal experience

The Post Office: the personal touch makes a huge difference

My son is an eager eBay trader and had a large bunch of parcels to post.  Being an empathic human being (most of us are) I decided to help him out.  I took eleven parcels and headed to the local post office – which just happens to reside in the back of the local grocery store.  Truth be told I don’t particularly like going to this local post office because the grocery store is rather dull, the people behind the counter don’t greet anyone coming into the store and I have to navigate around people and shelves to get to the post office counter and inevitably there is queue.  This time I timed it perfectly and there was no queue.

The woman behind the counter greeted me with a smile and we struck up a conversation – a plain old-fashioned conversation.  I shared that I was helping out my son who loves business – buying, selling, dealing with customers, earning a fair reward for his risk taking and hard work.  She went on to tell me that she knew my son, that he’s  such a gentlemen, that he helps out at the local charity shop, that he is likely to be a millionaire.  What really touched me was “You should be proud of him!” Our conversation took around fifteen minutes – it takes that long to ship eleven parcels.  By the time I left the place we were both smiling and each of us wished the other well – genuinely.  I am still smiling inside and out and I can clearly picture that woman in my mind and she has a place in my heart.

Lesson 1:  never underestimate the power of the human touch to deliver a great customer experience and build goodwill between your customers and your organisation

McDonald’s: there is more to good design than making stuff look pretty

My ten year old daughter turned 11 this week and where did she want to go for her evening meal?  McDonald’s.  So that is where we headed and when we got there (around 7pm) it was almost empty.  Whilst my daughter was ordering for the family I was busy taking in the look and feel of the ‘restaurant’.  I got the green, healthy thing by looking at the furniture and the menus.  I also noticed that the seating area was smaller as a young childrens play area had been put into one end of the store.  Whilst I got that the place was in tune with ‘green, healthy, children, family’ mantra I could not help but notice that it felt cold.

With the food trays in our hands we headed to the seating area where the five of us could sit together – two on either side (on the wooden benches) and one to the side on a round stool.  Getting seated was harder than you might imagine.  I had to navigate around the round stool and slide onto the bench on one side of the table.  It was not easy, I struggled – there was not enough room between the bench and the table!  Then we found that we could not place our food trays on the table.  Once I got past my frustration I realised that McDonald’s had reduced the width and the length of the tables. And reduced the distance between the tables and the wooden benches on either side.  I did not enjoy the eating experience and was delighted when we left.

Lesson 2: there is a lot more to human-centred design than looks – you also have to make it easy for your customers to easily (and comfortably) do what they came to do

Radissan SAS: deliver the core services that your customer expects

Whilst I was doing some consulting work in Ireland I stayed at a Radissan SAS.  The hotel was ideally placed for work – only twenty minutes walk from the client’s offices.  The bedroom was clean and spacious. The hotel had free wi-fi, room service was prompt and the hotel staff were friendly and helpful whenever I approached them for some request.  So why am I writing about them?  What are the some of the key moments on the customer journey?  Let me suggest a few: arrival and check in; getting a good nights sleep; breakfast and dinner; and checking-out. I noticed that each time I came to check in (it was in the late evening) there was no-one at the check-in desk and no instructions on how to get hold of someone.  On several occasions there was no-one to ‘great me and seat me’ for breakfast and dinner.  Yet, what ‘upset’ me the most was not being able to get a good nights sleep.  Why?  Because I found that the pillows did not work for me.  I could not help thinking why the Radissan does not offer the option of different types of pillow.

Lesson 3: customers hire you to provide services, figure out what these services are (it is not that hard, really) and get them right including building in flexibility so that you can treat different customers differently.

Santander: be human and helpful

I rang up Santander to request a new chequebook and pretty quickly got through to a friendly chap.  He was patient and friendly with me whilst I walked about the house finding all the stuff I needed to get through the security details.  When I mentioned that I was not in a hurry but I might be driving up his AHT we told me to relax and take my time.  And we talked about call-centres – he works in one and I help improve the way call-centres work to improve the customer experience.  Once he had ordered the chequebook I was ready to say thank you and hang up.  My friend on the other end was not finished.  He had noticed that I had failed the IVR security check and so he asked me if I wanted him to send me over new security details that would allow me to navigate the IVR.  He went further and told me how I could work the IVR in case of certain scenarios – information that I found useful.  Most of all I really appreciated that he was helping me rather than selling stuff to me.

Lesson 4: put yourself in your customer’s shoes and provide information, advice and tools that help your customer – do this without being asked, sense the need/opportunity and resond appropriately.

PC World: don’t assume, check

I order the wrong PC fan from Amazon and did not have time to send it back and wait for a new one.  The issue was not the fan but the connector.  So I headed to the nearest PC World superstore and started to look for a converter – something that would allow me to convert a three pin into a four pin.  I found something that looked like it might work.  Wanting to make sure that it did work I headed to the service/repair desk and asked for help.  The chap on the other side of the desk was cheerful and helpful.  He categorically assured me that it would work so I opened the bag an tried fitting the converter onto the fan – it did not work.

The chap behind the desk got into action. He left his counter and went looking for other converters.  He found one and told me that it should work – I opened the bag tested it out and it did not fit.  The friendly chap recognised his mistake, took his time and found another converter.  He was categorical: this will work – no doubt about it.  I tested it out: it should have worked but it did not work the designs were compatible but bits of stuff got in the way and so the converter would not fit onto the fan cable.  The friendly chap was not put off – he went to work and found another converted.  This time he opened up the bag and tested it out with my fan.  It worked!  I thanked him – truly grateful for his help – and left the store.  Next time I needed something I headed to that exact store and looked for that friendly chap.

Lesson 5: don’t assume, check – build a prototype, try it out, check what does and does not work, refine until it does work; and remember what should work in theory does not necessarily work in practice.

Lesson 6: if you want to cultivate gratitude and generate repeat business then focus on being totally committed to helping your customer get his needs met.

Author: Maz Iqbal

Experienced management consultant. Passionate about enabling customer-centricity by calling forth the best from those that work in the organisation and the intelligent application of digital technologies. Subject matter expert with regards to customer strategy, customer insight, customer experience (CX), customer relationship management (CRM), and relationship marketing. Working at the intersection of the Customer, the Enterprise (marketing, sales, service), and Technology.

5 thoughts on “Customer Experience: 6 lessons from personal experience”

  1. From a personal POV; I’ve recently had a bit of fun with Virgin Mobile. A tale of a faulty handset, two engineering send-outs, and a replacement not fit for purpose (looked chewed and had probably rattled around in a handbag for a good few months).

    2 weeks without a working mobile, and now replaced with one that had seen better days.

    To top it off, the letter I received (along with the standard corporate junk) said “Sorry we can’t fix your mobile, we hope you’re happy with your replacement” and claimed it had been “refurbished” to the highest standards (paraphrasing).

    My attitude at this point was negative and hyper-criticial.

    To my surprise customer services on the phone were exceptionally helpful, honest, and sympathetic to my complaints to the extent that I may not complain about the lost 2 weeks service. By accepting that there was a clear failure with the level of service I received (the mail return system is much improved over yesteryear it must be said) he was able to immediately work towards a resolution.

    I may have been exceptionally fortunate in the particular individual I had help me, but his performance was such that it has left me in a far more positive mood towards Virgin brands as a whole.

    Good customer service can never be underestimated.


    1. Hello David
      I cannot agree MORE with your last statement “Good customer service can never be underestimated”. It makes you and I feel cared for and that matters to us.

      Your experience also goes to show that most customers are reasonable people- they do not expect the earth, just courteous and considerate service.

      Thanks for sharing your story



  2. Hi Maz, lessons 1, 4 and 5 fascinate me

    These people all went out of their way to help, yet usually in these environments the staff are down trodden, miserable and can’t get away fast enough (maybe a gross stereotype but no doubt one you recognise).

    What do you think was so different in those environments that the staff went out of their way to engage with you?



    1. Hello James

      I know that the post office was empty and so I assume that the lady serving me had no pressure simply to take care of the task and move on to the next person. I also know that PC World was almost empty and the chap who helped me did not have a queue of people to serve. As for Santander, I was told that I had called at a great time – non-busy time for the call centre. So I’d sum that up by saying that situation did not prevent these three people from acting their best. But that is not all.

      I also believe that I came across three people who were suited to their roles. All three of them displayed people skills – actually enjoyed talking with / helping people.

      Finally, I believe that I helped to co-create a personal relationship. In the case of the Post Office I started the conversation knowing that it is easy to do so in a ‘village’. In the case of PC World the friendly chap and I hailed from the same part of the world: the Indian subcontinent and I am sure that played a part – “a brother helping a brother”. And for the friendly chap at Santander, I believe that I showed concern for his well-being – an acknowledgement that he is being measured on AHT and I was driving that up.



  3. Hi Maz,
    I like Lesson 1 the most but see elements of the human experience in every one. When I read your post it reminded me of a quote from Maya Angelou when she said ‘People will seldom remember what you did or what you said but will always remember how you made them feel’. It seems to me that if we want to build better relations with our people and our customers we should use this as a yardstick and ask ourselves: How will this make the person, whether employee or customer, feel AND, on the back of this, what are they likely to do in the future?

    The answers to these questions, I believe, will tell us much about what we want to know and what to do to building a healthy, growing and sustainable business.



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