Gestures that turn customers into advocates

This week I received an email from the company where I have my car insurance – Admiral – and the subject was “Important information about your Admiral policy”.

Past experience tells customers that an email with this subject rarely brings good news. It usually is to inform that premiums went up, or something of that nature.

But the content of the email was rather surprising. Admiral was telling me that due to COVID-19, and the lock-down measures, there was less cars on the road.

This obviously resulted in fewer claims. So Admiral decided to pro-actively issue premium refunds to their customers. How cool is that?!

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There are a lot of great things about this gesture of goodwill, as well as the way it was communicated, delivering an outstanding Customer Experience.

  1. The gesture is not common in the industry; Surprises the customer with good news in a time of crisis; And puts some money in the pockets of some customers in need.
  2. It shows that even in during a crisis, and whilst the company is dealing with enormous challenges, they are still thinking of the customer.
  3. The communication is personalised, direct, simple and to the point; It not only says how much will be refunded, but is transparent re. the calculation done.
  4. To avoid confusion, anxiety or frustration, it also clarifies how it will be done; And when the customer can expect the refund.
  5. For customers who may need further information, a landing page was created admiral.com/stayathome where it is also easy to get in touch.

I have researched a lot when looking for a car insurance, and one of my criteria was Customer Experience – it seems like Admiral is living up to the positive reviews and brand promises.

I am a loyal customer that, on the back of this experience, turned into an advocate.

How COVID-19 will change restaurant experience

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The world will definitely not be the same after this COVID-19 pandemic, and many aspects of our daily lives – even those that seem trivial – will be impacted. Some of them changed for good and, I will argue, also for the better.

Recent interactions a good friend – Miguel Cizeron, an experienced Chef who is opening a new Restaurant in Portugal – made me think of something everyone experiences and will definitely change soon: going out for a meal with friends or family.

Every time we go out for a meal, we are looking for a enjoyable experience. Either we go to McDonald’s with our kids, expecting to see them happy and having fun. Or we go to a fancy restaurant with friends, for a pleasurable and unique experience.

But many times the experience is below par. The food is great (every McDonald’s has tasty burgers and chips, and all fancy restaurants have delicious dishes) but the experience is so much more than food – it’s the the ambiance, the service, the people around us.

More often than desirable, one of those things ruins the overall experience. You wait before getting seated; there’s so much noise that you need to shout for others to hear; people next to you hear your conversation; staff struggles with so many orders.

The social distancing measures that will need to be put in place, due to the pandemic, will most probably change a dinning experience. And, as far as I’m concerned (I hate crowded places), it will change it for the better.

We don’t know yet what governments and policies will enforce, and what the regulations will look like. But surely people will have to make reservations and arrive on time, avoiding queues and people waiting in cramped entrances.

Restaurants will have to reduce capacity, increasing distance between tables. This means customers will be much more comfortable. There won’t be too much noise, people can have private conversations, staff will be more attentive, etc.

My Chef friend asked a good question: “If restaurants reduce capacity, they’ll probably have to increase prices”. My answer, based on public research, is “No problem” – because most people (like me) will gladly pay more for a more enjoyable experience.

 

4 differentiators and 4 reasons to get CX right

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Charles Tyrwhitt is a British retailer that specialises in mens clothing, and is famous for its shirts. Founded in 1986 by Nicholas Charles Tyrwhitt Wheeler, it has several stores in UK, US and France, and a flagship store in London’s Jermyn Street (the shirtmakers street).

I tend to be very picky when it comes to clothing. And I have only a handful of brands I usually buy from – a few examples are Mike Davis (Portugal), Massimo Dutti (Spain), Asics (Japan), or Banana Republic (USA).

I have been a customer of CT since I moved to London. My loyalty and advocacy of CT surpasses any other brand I do business with. There are a number of reasons – product quality, reasonable price, etc. – but above them all is the customer experience.

1. The Consistency across the different channels is something I cannot find anywhere else. The shops, the catalogues, or the website provide a similar and seamless experience, making it quick and easy, to browse and buy.

2. The Convenience of the services provided is also outstanding. No matter where, when, what or how I’m buying, CT always has an option for the products to be tailored, paid, packaged or delivered, with as much flexibility and less customer effort as possible.

3. The Communications, from marketing or customer service, are just excellent. Carefully prepared, humoured, measured, and put together. Following what I will start calling the “3S” rule – simple, straight to the point, spamless!

4. The Personalisation is second to none. Especially when CT puts emotion on the interaction – the above picture shows the most recent example of that, in a post card I received today, where CT reminds me of my first buy (7 years ago!), my preferred colour and style.

As far as I’m concerned, Personalisation, is the most important of the 4. But CT gets them all right, and I think the reason they do is because they…

  • Understand the customer’s needs
  • Monitor the customer’s behaviour
  • Listen to the customer’s feedback (see this outstanding example)
  • Analyse the customer’s data (X-data and O-data)

It’s all about the customer, it’s all about the data.

5 steps to fix issues and kill lousy excuses

One of the things that annoys me the most in hotels (when traveling for business) is when the key room stops working.

After a long day (typically travel and a full days’ work) you finally get to the hotel, swipe/touch the card on the reader, and the red signal displays.

It can only be worse if it happens every single day of your stay, more than once a day. Forcing you to go back down to reception again and again.

It happened to me recently at the Herbert Park Hotel in Dublin (Ireland). A quite nice and well located hotel, where I stayed 3 nights and had an unexpected below-average experience.

What made it worth a blogpost was the fact that the reception staff blamed it on me, every single of the 4 times it happened: “The problem is that you put the card next to your phone”, without even asking if I had done so – it’s clearly the pre-default lousy excuse!

The fact is my card-holder is always on my jacket’s right-pocket, and phone always on left-pocket. So no, it wasn’t my fault! But even if that was the case, it’s down to the hotel to upgrade/change technology, to avoid it.

This situation frustrates in equal measure customers – forcing them to put unnecessary effort on up/down hikes to reception – as well as staff – who constantly need to deal with annoyed customers and spend time resetting keys.

Clearly something is wrong with the keys’ system. And it happens repeatedly. Why haven’t they fixed it? Simple: Herbert Park Hotel is not focused on the experience it delivers to guests and staff, nor on its own brand reputation.

If they were, they would have put in place:

1. a functioning process for customers to feedback

2. a functioning process for staff to report issues

3. a functioning process to review and action on both

4. a functioning process to fix issues and improve services

5. a functioning process for closing the loop (with guests and staff)

7 best practices for closing the loop

I had stayed in the Iveagh Garden Hotel before and enjoyed it very much. A modern, comfortable, quiet, well decorated and located hotel in the centre of Dublin (Ireland) – where I travel frequently to visit Capventis HQ and clients.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to try their new “City Pod” rooms – which are a carbon copy of the CitizenM hotel rooms (if you know them). It was really nice, and very cost effective, but there was a detail I didn’t like.

The water from the shower would run down into the room, even reaching the bed area. Something wasn’t right, and I fed that back in the customer satisfaction survey, that the hotel sent me 3 days after my stay.

I was pleasantly surprised by the lightning-fast and candid response from the hotel (see in below picture). The response to my feedback followed every single best practice for closing the loop:

  1. Responded within a few hours, with a personalised email
  2. Thanked customer for taking the time to feedback
  3. Emphasized improvement can only come from voice-of-customer
  4. Acknowledged customer’s specific feedback (the shower issue!)
  5. Confirmed it was sent to relevant team for correction and improvement
  6. Showed desire to recover below par experience by offering upgrade
  7. Closed email with personalised signature and job role (accountability)

Despite being a bit more expensive than the various hotels in the same street (there are a hand-full of choices in a few hundred yards), Iveagh Garden Hotel is definitely differentiating itself by focusing and putting some effort in the CX side of things.

P.S. – This reminds me of another similar experience I had and shared in this blog post Close the loop with clients, but mean it! – where, again, you can see how important it is to have personalised and timely closed-loop

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Airport Pricks and Starfish Experiences

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Since the attacks of “September 11” security in airports has become the most important thing, surpassing any other aspect – including the most basic sense of inter-relational behaviour between two people.

Those of you who travel quite a bit are surely fed up of being treated like starfish – and by that I mean brainless, irrational and emotionless animals. I have my fair share of airports and I sure as hell am tired of being treated badly and unfairly.

It’s not really due to the way we need to move inside the airport (always between queue and belt barriers) as I appreciate that’s done to manage large amounts of passengers. It’s due to the way staff, in every role, mistreats us.

From security to passport control, or from check-in to gate. We are constantly being treated in a condescending, discourteous, indelicate and even rude way. By staff that, in some instances, wear Customer Ambassador vests (see picture) or Customer Service badges.

I can only think of two reasons why staff behave the way they do towards passengers. Either there’s a hiring policy in airports that require people to be pricks, or a complete lack of awareness for passengers and their experiences.

I’m almost sure it is the latter. Which puts the focus entirely on the operational processes. Leaving the staff, from management to front-line, imbue a culture where they feel empowered to do whatever it takes to enforce “the rules” regardless.

This ends up in a significant amount of situations where staff is completely unreasonable towards people, in particular those who are most vulnerable. Not long ago, at Dublin Airport, I witnessed a disgraceful situation.

A 10-12 year old girl who suffered from schizophrenia didn’t want to pass the metal detector without her mother. And even after both parents explained the situation to security staff, they forced her to do it.

Crying and visibly upset, the girl passed the metal detector running only to hug her mother on the other side. Unfortunately, the metal detector went off. The girl was hugging the mother crying whilst the security guard grabbed and pulled her, so she could search and scan her.

Voices were raised, some were screaming. I don’t know what happened after that. I was too upset and outraged to see more of it. And there were already enough people (the parents, the older brother, and other passengers) manifesting their dislike.

Airports and other organisations, should know that sending surveys to people, installing happiness-meter/smiley panels, or dressing staff with Customer Ambassador vests or Customer Service badges, does not mean they care about passengers and their experiences at all.

If they really want to be customer-centric, they should not only change their strategy and approach, training their staff, but also, and above all, look at the information they have to make passengers’ experiences much more agreeable, smooth and seamless.

After all, they are in a unique position – as my friend Ian Golding pointed out in a recent CX workshop. Unlike many other organisations, airports know exactly how many people are going to be at the airport, and when. And if they work with airlines, they could even know who those people are, and where they are going.

Does the NHS have any Promoters?

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After a visit to the St Thomas’ hospital A&E department, I received a request for feedback via SMS. For the second time this year (the first was with Rosa’s Thai Cafe) I was surprised with what was clearly the NPS question, but with a scale of 1 to 6.

It seems that the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK is so bad that they assume, straight off the bat, everyone will be a detractor!

Despite all efforts from CX specialists, we still see misuse of well designed, considered and established CX metrics, created to measure customers experience, but also to ensure the market has standard and consistent metrics, that allow comparisons.

I’m all for people being creative when measuring customers experience, and using whatever scores and calculations work for their organisations. Ultimately, the goal is not the metric, the calculation or the score itself, but the actions or improvements they trigger.

However, certain metrics are used for more than that. And they should serve the important purpose of benchmark. NPS was created, and is a trade mark of Bain and Satmetrix. The way it should be used is well explained in the official website – with Detractors (0-6), Passives (7-8) and Promoters (9-10).

I’m unsure if there are CX guidelines from the NHS, or if each of the NHS agencies has its own program (NHS England, NHS Scotland, NHS Wales, HSC Northern Ireland), or even if each trust does as it pleases.

A quick Google search throws things like “Patient experience book” or “Patient experience improvement framework” where lots of right things are said “Good experience of care, treatment and support is increasingly seen as an essential part of an excellent health and social care service, alongside clinical effectiveness and safety“.

However, there doesn’t seem to be a joined up and consistent approach to measuring the patient experience, which will surely make it harder for the trusts, and the NHS as a whole, to improve the experience of patients – as well as their families and the staff.

After all, the NHS is not as bad as this “bastardised” St. Thomas’ NPS question scale question makes it. I, for one, am a Promoter of the services of Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust.