How “Pret a Manger” turned a bad CX into a great CX

I have a morning routine… Leave home > take the bus to the tube station > take the tube to the City > buy a croissant at Pret > go to the office > make a tea > eat the croissant while running through the email inbox.

The morning of Aug 5 wasn’t different… until, on the second to last bite, I found a big hair in my croissant. Wooow! Disgusting! It ruined my breakfast and my morning. I had to tweet and complain about it. So that’s exactly what I did.

@Pret Not sure this is the best way to start the day. A big hair inside my croissant! 😦

I must say that the reaction and response to my complain tweet surprised me.


Pret reacted in a few hours, apologised straight away in public, and tried to take the follow up conversation offline – which is exactly what the social customer service best practices advises. So I sent the DM with my email address and the Pret’s shop location. Within a few minutes the response was there, thanking and advising me that the Customer Service team was informed and would take over.

They surely did, another few minutes and I received an email (with attached incident reference #) apologising again, thanking me for giving them the opportunity to put things right, making me aware of the steps and procedures of the investigation, and advising they would be in touch soon. A few days later they got in touch again, via email. Funnily enough the same customer service rep from the initial conversation. Joanna apologised again, told me that the investigations were complete, and the shop’s manager and team were contacted guaranteeing that it would not happen again – once more, exactly what best practices advises: quick, positive, honest, transparent and diligent customer service.

To make it even better, Pret took a gesture of goodwill… ”I realise that these actions do not detract from the distress and disappointment you have experienced and so I would like to send you a £15.00 Pret Card by way of an apology for this unpleasant incident (…) thank you again for taking the time to contact us and for giving us the opportunity to try and put things right. Considering the circumstances, I really appreciate your calm and constructive feedback”.

Two weeks ago, if anyone had ask me what I thought of Pret, I would have said that they are ok and have nice sandwiches. Today, and after finding a hair in my croissant, I’m writing an email praising them! Proving that a good customer service can have a huge impact in the overall perception and customer experience. And has the power of turning a good customer or a loyal customer into an advocate, even when things go wrong.

LinkedIn use Oracle Service Cloud for “Member First” initiative

Known as its ‘Members First’ initiative, LinkedIn shifted its primary focus from products to members by developing an infrastructure that brings people, processes, and technologies together in an effort to transform operations and enhance engagement.

LinkedIn powered this transformation by partnering with Oracle Service Cloud, which facilitated the capture and analysis of member data. Originally, LinkedIn’s support team was part of the product team, meaning employees often focused on resolving technical issues above all else.

But, because employees were conditioned to work reactively using manual methods, such as spreadsheets and documents, it became difficult for LinkedIn to track cases and maintain knowledge across channels. Ultimately, information remained in silos, hindering the company’s ability to gather, analyze, and react to support issues and member feedback.


LinkedIn also created its Global Customer Operations (GCO) team, which listens to what LinkedIn members are saying, both directly and indirectly, to support its member-centric vision and mission, while also identifying behavioral trends and service gaps that need special attention.

Read full article in 1to1media.


We, customers, demand this from you, companies

The world we live in today is a hyper-competitive, hyper-connected and global world, where the advances in technology gave us more options, more access, and made our expectations higher. People changed their behaviours. We are now always connected, always aware, and always sharing.

The key factors for the changing in our behaviours are the speed at which we adopt new technology, the rise of mobile devices, and the emergence of new channels, in particular the explosion in social media and text-enabled apps. This had a huge impact on the way we interact with our friends and family.

And now we are demanding companies, from which we buy products and services, to do the same. To communicate and interact with us the same way we communicate and interact with our friends and family. And to be available when and where we need them and how is more convenient to us.

Many years ago we would go to the brick and mortar store to buy something or look for help. Then we started to buy in store and ask for support via phone or email. Today we use various channels and touch-points during our journey. Researching in store, buying online, asking for support via live chat.

Companies realised this and started to enable multiple channels in order to deliver a cross-channel experience. But most of the times that experience is not good, because all channels are disjointed. Truth is, as new channels came up companies added them over time, typically using different systems and processes.

Furthermore, companies were putting in place different teams to handle interactions and requests coming from the different channels. The ones that didn’t, and tried to cross train all agents and reps, were giving them a herculean task of flicking through loads of different systems when talking to us, increasing the time we waited.

As customers, what we are demanding is an omni-channel experience, where all channels are natively joined up, where it is easy for us to switch between channels, seamlessly transitioning from one channel to the other during a single interaction, quickly and without having to repeat ourselves over and over again.

We want to receive a seamless and consistent experience across all channels. Be able to web self-serve from a mobile app, live chat with an agent if we cannot find an answer, transition to a telephone conversation with the same agent if needs be, and then receive an email confirmation afterwards.

In order to deliver this experience, companies can only do one thing… adopt a true omni-channel platform where all channels (phone, email, web, chat, SMS, white mail, social) are natively joined up. And that encompasses our entire customer journey, from need (Marketing), to purchase (Sales), to support (Customer Service), as well as our voice (Feedback).

There are only a couple of true omni-channel platforms in the market. As most of you know, I’m a big advocate of the Service Cloud platform from Oracle.

Words that characterise Live Chat, for Consumers and Companies

Most consumers surf the web (vendor websites, fan pages, forums, etc.) trying to resolve their issues before picking up the phone or start writing an email. Once they are online, Live Chat offers them a quick and low-effort way of interacting with a brand or company. Either it is for sales, customer service or technical support.

The millennials (or generation Y) like Live Chat because of its immediate and text-enabled nature (we know how youngsters are into SMS, WhatsApp, and other text messaging apps). The older generations like it because of its simplicity and easiness to use, as well as for the fact that you can do other stuff while chatting.

The 4 words that characterise Live Chat from a consumers’ point of view are therefore:

  • Easy
  • Multi-task
  • Immediate
  • Text-based

But there are also a few words (and advantages) that characterise Live Chat from a brand or company standpoint:

Feedback – There is no doubt in executives and board-members minds, that voice-of-the-customer should be captured and used to improve products and services. It is much easier to capture that feedback immediately after a Live Chat conversation (trigger exit surveys) when a customer is still engaged and things are fresh in his/her mind, than after a phone or email interaction.

Training – One of the ways of training or coaching agents in a contact centre is to go through past interactions, point out what went wrong and teach how and what could be done better. It is much easier and quick to go through a Live Chat transcript than a 15-minute phone conversation. It will take much longer to hear the recording than to read a few transcripts.

Efficiency – There is no better way of reducing costs than increasing efficiency. Live Chat helps companies reduce operational costs by allowing agents to handle more than one interaction at the same time (typically 3 to 4, tops). The possibility of concurrency lets Live Chat agents handle much more interactions than an agent dealing with phone calls or emails, and changes companies perspective when it comes to capacity.

Effectiveness – One of the most important KPIs in a contact centre is FCCR (First Contact Resolution Rate). For obvious reasons, FCCR is much higher in Live Chat than in email, for example. It is true that email is a key channel, but it takes several exchanges (back and forth messages) to resolve an issue that can be easily handled in one Live Chat session.

Web Self-Service: Another great way of reducing costs is to give consumers the possibility to help themselves. Whilst many companies have websites full of content, not many are able to say they are being used as expected. In a Live Chat session agents can provide hyperlinks to consumers, guiding them to the right content for resolution, in the website, making consumers engaged with the website and teaching them where to find answers in the future, driving web self-service.

The only perceived “downside” for the company that is going to roll out Live Chat as a channel is the technology licensing and implementation cost. From that point of view, it is a case of companies choosing cloud solutions, and preferring a strategic multi-channel platform that supports all channels (phone, email, chat, web, social media…). Rather than going for siloed and on-premise solutions or trying to integrate multiple point solutions, ultimately impacting Customer Experience (seamless interactions as consumers jump from a channel to the other).

Improving CX… What vs How

The advent of internet, mobile and social media transformed the way we live and interact with our family and friends. And we now expect to use the same means and devices to interact with companies. That changed the world of business.

It is now a hyper-competitive world, where companies are no longer competing within the boundaries of their cities, regions or countries. They now have to go head-to-head with companies from all over the world.

A new breed of customers emerged on the first decade of the 21st century. People that are always connected, better informed, extremely demanding and constantly sharing. From anywhere, at anytime, using any device.

To satisfy this type of customer, companies are looking to improve the Customer Experience (CX) they provide. And for that they are listening to what CX gurus have to say. Amongst many opinions, some are very common:

a) “Be where your customers are” – meaning, you should be on social media. Create a Facebook page and Twitter profile, etc.

b) “Customers prefer text-enabled conversations” – meaning, you should open new channels. Offer Live Chat, SMS, etc.

c) “Be trustworthy and transparent” – meaning, provide a service that makes your customer love and be loyal to you.

This is great piece of advice. It tells companies “What” they should do. But it does not tell them “How” they should do it. So many companies get stuck not knowing how to go about this “improving CX” stuff. Many questions arise…

a) What happens after I go to social media and a crisis comes in my direction? How can I manage or even prevent that?

b) Are the new channels going to overload (even more!) my contact centre? Do I need to hire more agents to deal with chat and SMS?

c) How can I, as a company, build trust? Moreover when conversations are increasingly less face-to-face or voice? I can’t even build a human rapport!

This is where technology can help. But be careful! Without a proper consulting exercise, and a specialist support, companies tend to get it wrong. They usually go and buy new (and cheap) application(s) to cope with the need.

Invariably this leads to failure. It only makes companies increase head count in the contact centre, increase disruption between teams/departments/channels, and consequently deliver a poorer service, ultimately loosing customers’ trust.

Technology is like a nuclear weapon – when in wrong hands… What companies need is to work alongside business solutions specialists that know the various options in the market and how to align the technology with the business. Finally complementing the “What” with the “How”.

A customer-centric/omni-channel strategy and platform needs to be put in place. That platform should be able to receive and manage interactions regardless of the channel, in order to allow agents to work cross-channel.

It should enable proactive, consistent and authentic interactions, that ultimately drive trust. It should allow companies not only to be where their customers are but also to monitor and engage them via their preferred channel.

It should give means to better communicate via these new channels, and collect all data and information necessary for agents to better know who, when and how they are talking to, delivering a truly personalised and convenient service.

The IT System as an scapegoat

Customers with complaints about their gas or electricity service typically have to contact their supplier 6 times before their issue is resolved

A report from the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (OFGEM), that regulates the electricity and gas markets in Great Britain, says that “57% of customers who had complained were not satisfied with the response“.

OFGEM’s CEO, Dermot Nolan, said that the research findings were “frankly awful” and approached the energy company bosses demanding an audit to their complaint handling processes, and improvements in their Customer Service, by being proactive, better communicate and quicker in response.

Customer satisfaction was particularly low with Npower and Scottish Power, who blamed the installation of a new IT system, saying that the transition had been “challenging” and claimed to have recruited more than 250 extra staff to deal with the problems.

Now this is something interesting: a) The report’s findings are not breaking news. Energy sector companies have been laggards when it comes to Customer Experience, and the results are out there – see image below; b) The excuse used by that Scottish Power is recurrent. Given by internal Managers to the Board, and by the Board to the public.

I truly believe that Scottish Power – as well as all the other companies that try to improve their Customer Experience by the introduction of new technology – face a real challenge. But it’s so easy to blame the “IT System” because it is not a person and cannot defend itself.

As a Consultant, specialised in Customer Management (CRM/CX) solutions and working with companies to implement those, I ask: What about the people that chose and bought the “IT system”? The people who designed and managed its implementation? The people who actually implemented it? The people that planned and managed the change?

“IT System” implementation failures are common. But it’s not the “IT System” fault, is people’s fault! Because people forget to focus on Customer and User Experience. Because people forget to put themselves on the shoes of the customer, and analyse his/her journey, in order to have an outside-in perspective of their internal processes and procedures.

Because people forget that such a project should be owned, led and managed by the business (not by the IT department), and implemented with the business. Because people forget to start by the desired outcomes and get it wrong when it comes to scoping. Because people assume that the project has to be big, long and complex, with a big-bang deployment.

Because people build an “IT System” rather than a “Business Solution”. Because people try to adapt their business to the technology, and not the other way around. Because people try to shove all siloed departments into a monster “IT System”, rather than having a broader and strategic approach, re-designing processes and changing the way they do things.

Technology and IT Systems are the best way to improve Customer Experience. They can enable omni-channel, quick, consistent and proactive communications. They can provide a 360-degree view of the customer. They can offer an end-to-end view of the customer journey. But they need to be handled with care, by people who have the right knowledge, experience, specialism and skills.


A future proof Customer Service solution that delivers outstanding CX

A recent Gartner report talks about “Customer Service Predictions” and gives 4 strategic planning assumptions that Gartner thinks must be followed by those companies that want to succeed by delivering an outstanding Customer Experience (CX).

Gartner’s summary is very clear: “Customer service is (…) the core business strategy to create a winning CX. Great service needs to be consistent across all mobile devices, as well as social and digital media channels. It also needs to be personalized (…)“.

The report outlines that in 2 years’ time…

  • Facebook and Twitter will have their own social media engagement applications for enterprise customer service.
  • At least 60% of the Internet users will opt for mobile customer service applications as their first option.
  • 50% of peer-to-peer community offerings will be packaged and sold alongside Web self-service offerings.

Among the key recommendations from Gartner is the need to have C-level buy-in, design a strategy and build the necessary skills/competencies. But obviously this has to be enabled by technology, and Gartner says: “expect best-of-breed software providers to be a key part of this journey

Oracle owns one of the best – if not The Best – technologies in the area of Customer Service. It is called Oracle Service Cloud (formerly RightNow CX), often recognised as a leader in Customer Service solutions for Small, Midsize and Enterprise organisations.

This technology combines web, social and contact centre experiences for a unified, omni-channel solution in the cloud. And it already addresses most of the things that Gartner is now saying that companies should focus on, probably making it the wisest technology choice.

Oracle Service Cloud social features enable organisations to manage social interactions as a fully integrated part of the CX. Companies can use the “Social Cloud” functionality to monitor and engage their customers via social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Blogs.

From a customer service perspective, Oracle Service Cloud allows a contact centre agent to create an incident (or Service Request) directly from a tweet, a post or a comment, and deal with that customer in his preferred social channel – or take it off-line as and when necessary.

Oracle Service Cloud also has a special Facebook application called “Self-Service for Facebook” that delivers the same exceptional support from other channels right from a Facebook page. And this works both in standard and mobile interfaces.

“Mobile” is another of Gartner’s predictions that Oracle Service Cloud is already prepared to address. The Oracle Service Cloud Customer Portal – that customers use to self-serve, manage accounts or engage with the company – not only provides a superior CX on full-featured browsers, but also includes an out-of-the-box set of pages designed specifically for mobile devices.

The third Gartner prediction is related to peer-to-peer communities. Once more Oracle Service Cloud is a step ahead. It offers community features integrated with its Customer Portal. Actually, it goes even further. It offers two different types of community: Support and Innovation.

The Support Community allows customers to ask questions and find answers in an peer-to-peer-type community, helping themselves and making them feel valued, without adding a single call or email to the company contact centre’s workload (perhaps even lighten it).

The Innovation Community is designed to give customers a voice in the company’s product/service innovation process, so they can help the company identify the new opportunities and bug fixes, or even guide the roadmap, prioritize/refine ideas and develop the next breakthrough.

There is also a very interesting finding in this report. Gartner states that “Many small or midsize businesses (SMBs) and enterprises have still not invested in multichannel customer service strategies and, instead, opt for a conglomeration of point solutions“.

My experience tells me that this is one of the main reasons why many companies strive to deliver a CX that differentiates them from the competition, and allows them to take the leap that will transform the business and make them a solid player in the market.

Oracle Service Cloud is that unified and omni-channel customer service platform that not only addresses today’s challenges and requirements, but is also future proof, offering the features and functionalities that customers are starting to require/expect and will demand in a near future.

Good design leads to outstanding CX

The Comcast-gate is still very much fresh in our memories. Thousands of opinions have been written about it, and shared (I did to – “Aggressive CC agents deliver outrageous CX”). The ones who nailed it are those who didn’t blame the employee, but the way the service model was built by the company.

In one of my latest posts (“You don’t buy customer loyalty… You earn it”) I point out that the delivery of a great Customer Experience is first and foremost dependent on the design of a good model. One that will allow, even the most junior or less apt / capable employee, to deliver an outstanding service.

We all had many bad experiences with contact centre agents. And we obviously got angry with them. The thing is we were calling because we had a problem, and the way we were (mis)treated by the contact centre agent made it even worse. Naturally we blamed it on him, because he is the one dealing with us.

But this is what is happening in the other side of the line: the contact centre agent is looking at three screens and flicking through tens of applications (KB, CRM, ERP, OMS, etc…) trying to find the solution or the answer for our enquiry/issue, regarding that one particular product/service (out of the hundreds his company provides).

When an employee is delivering a poor Customer Experience it is probably not his fault. It is more likely to be because the company set him up to fail. The service model was poorly designed. Sometimes it might have even started well, but the addition of new services, products or channels led to more policies, processes, procedures, systems… which increased the complexity of the job.

Believe me, I have been in many contact centres, and this is what I have seen in most of them. A few years ago I also had the opportunity to be part of a project in a telecom company, where we were building a CRM system for the sales force. The system was so complex that many times I thought “how can an average contact centre agent get his head around this system?

These cases are prolific in Telecom companies, as they provide hundreds of products, services, bundles, etc. There is one American telecom company (not the same I mentioned above) whose system is so complex that it took 12 months for a new employee to be completely proficient. But the truth was most of them left the company after 9 months (one can wonder why!).

The service model design must be good, in order to simplify the job, so that employees focus on the customer and his issue. The design of good IT systems is obviously part of that. A system that is user-friendly and easy-to-use can be swimmingly operated and free employees to focus on the customer and the service they are providing.

A good and well-designed IT system reduces the complexity of the job, and can even eliminate the need for long, intensive and costly training – consequently reducing costs for on-boarding and change management. An intuitive IT system can be operated with almost no experience and enables employees to do their job almost from day one.

Most companies tend to hold off great spending in the implementation of IT systems, dismissing the early design phase and jumping directly into the configuration of the software. They have not yet realised that a good design is exactly what will make the IT system simplify their employees’ job, and hence enable them to deliver an outstanding Customer Experience.

You don’t buy customer loyalty… You earn it

Even though sometimes they do things we don’t like, we are always loyal to our family and friends. This is what companies should aim for… to get loyal customers, that will not leave just because once something went wrong (Let’s not be utopian, even with the best products, processes or people, things will go wrong at some point).

The majority of companies will probably say that they have started looking at customer loyalty a long time ago. But allow me to strongly disagree. Loyalty cannot be bought. You cannot expect to have a loyal customer just because you were able to make him or her sign up for a loyalty card, and you offer £5 off the next buy after they spend £1,000.

Loyalty is a sentiment. It is an emotional attachment that cannot be bought with offers, discounts or promotions. It is more than that. It is an emotion that normally is consequence of a positive and pleasant feeling… i.e. satisfaction! And actually many studies and researches show exactly that. In business loyalty is directly proportional to Customer Satisfaction.

Loyalty = k x CSAT

Customer Satisfaction is collected through surveys, where companies ask customers whether the product or service has failed, met or exceeded expectations. When customers have high expectations and the reality falls short, they will be disappointed and less satisfied. On the other hand, if expectations are low, customers could be extremely satisfied with no more than ordinary service.

Customer satisfaction is therefore the difference between the customer’s expectation and what was actually delivered by the company.

CSAT = Delivery – Expectation

Companies normally use one of two ways to set customer’s expectations: by intent or by accuracy. John Lewis (well-known UK giant that tops every CX ranking in the retail industry) uses the first: “Never Knowingly Undersold”. Others prefer to use the latter: “Delivery in 48 hours”. Regardless of the tactic companies need to make sure expectations are exceeded or, at least, met.

A good delivery is dependent on a couple of factors. First and foremost, designing a good model. Companies cannot expect every employee to perform heroically, all day, every day, and forever. They cannot expect everyone to be outstanding, available and willing to make a huge effort and always go the extra mile. Companies need to design a model that allows everyone to deliver good service.

That design can have two main dimensions: A blueprint of the company (its organisation structure, processes and procedures, information/data model, main KPI’s, technology), and a mapping of the customer journey (his steps, attitudes, emotions, needs, goals). A good model will leave employees no choice but to deliver a good service as an everyday routine.

The other factor is the culture. And that culture must be aligned with the model. Culture will not tell employees what to do. It will rather tell them how to think.

Delivery Excellence = Good Design + Great Culture

Setting up the company with a model and a culture that enables an outstanding delivery, will definitely make customer expectations be met or even exceeded. This guarantees a positive and high customer satisfaction that in turn will make customers loyal to the company. Loyalty ensures that customer’s lifecycle is the desired CX infinite loop.

20140725 CX Infinite Loop

Don’t censor your critics, thank them!

One of the key steps to deliver a better Customer Experience is to listen to what the customers have to say and, on top of that, be responsive.

Today, social media is the main location for complaints or praises. And it has been, without any question, the most potent amplifier of customer voicing in recent years. Customers go to Twitter, Facebook, Blogs or review sites to share experiences.

Things that before would require loads of power, people, money, media lobbying, and huge marketing campaigns, are now created, organised, amplified and spread much more efficiently and quickly by the use of a #hashtag.

And it does not matter how insignificant is the customer and how big is the company. Everyone, including the media, loves a good David vs Goliath story. By default, everyone is sympathetic with the weak customer and distrusts the powerful company.

Companies cannot afford to ignore this explosion and this change. And today’s hyper-competitive and hyper-connected world demands presence, monitoring, accountability and responsiveness.

Customer’s feedback, either positive or negative, is invaluable, as it offers companies a veracious and real sense of how they are performing. And it is also one of the main ingredients of the perception that others (potential customers) have of the company in question.

But more importantly, customer’s feedback offer companies the possibility to turn around a bad experience, or to thank and amplify a praise for a good experience.

If companies do not listen to an unsatisfied customer, they are not only losing the opportunity of making it right (and most likely lose the customer forever), they are also letting the customer damage the company’s image and influence other’s perceptions.

And remember that the new world of media has shown us that truth is many times less important than people’s perception of the truth. A person or group can create a crisis over a false issue or an issue that no one has never thought about.

On the other hand, if companies do not listen to a loyal customer, they are losing the opportunity of capitalising on a good story, making the customer feel valuable, integrated in the process and part of the company, and possibly turning this customer into an advocate.

Voice-of-the-customer when captured, reviewed, analysed and evaluated, helps companies to identify trends, business opportunities, service needs, and sometimes even innovations for its products and services.

It is much faster to discover faults or bugs in a product from immediate customer feedback, than waiting for the poor quarterly sales results. Contrariwise, positive feedback gives potential customers a validation for their decision.

Take the example of two beloved companies, that score very high in Customer Experience rankings. Southwest Airlines and Dell. They don’t censor critics, they thank them.